For this week’s ‘Stories Speak’, I’ve selected this Siberian folktale to accompany my notes on the permaculture principle of ‘Capturing and Storing Energy’. As the creation of biomass areas for regenerating plant growth, soil building, and harnessing the sun’s energy, I felt that permaculture offers an opportunity to rescue the sun, hence this folktale.
This story is taken from The Sun Maiden and the Crescent Moon: Siberian Folk Tales, collected and translated by James Riordan. New York: Interlink Books, 1991.
Thus it was.
Once upon a time, evil spirits stole the Sun from the tundra dwellers. And in the everlasting gloom that followed all the birds and beasts stumbled about seeking their food by touch.
Soon the birds and the beasts decided to call a grand council; envoys were dispatched to the council from every species of animal and bird.
The old raven whom all considered wise spoke up: “My friends, how much longer must we dwell in darkness? I have heard that close to our land, in a great cavern, live the evil spirits who have stolen the Sun. They keep it in a white stone pot. If we steal back the Sun from the evil spirits we can light up our world again. So I, old raven, advise you to send the biggest and strongest among you, the big Polar bear, to fetch the Sun.”
“The bear, the bear!” cried all the animals.
At that moment, the ancient, half-deaf owl was busy repairing her sledge and noticed all the commotion. Asking the little snow bunting nearby for news, she was told that the polar bear was to be sent to fetch the Sun.
“Oh, no, no, no!” cried the owl. “That won’t do at all. No sooner will he come upon some scrap of food than he’ll forget all about his mission. And we’ll never get the Sun back.”
With that they all had to agree: “True enough, the bear will find some scrap of food and forget about everything else.”
“Eh, what’s that they’re saying?” the owl asked the snow bunting.
“They’ve decided on the wolf,” replied the bunting. “He is the strongest and swiftest of us all after the bear.”
“Fiddlesticks!” snapped the owl. “That wolf is greedy and will stop at the first deer he sees and gobble it up; and he’ll forget all about the Sun.”
Hearing the owl’s words, the animals had to agree. “Quite true, quite true,” they said. “That wolf is greedy and when he sees a deer he will stop to kill it, and forget about the Sun. But whom shall we send for the sun?”
Just then a tiny mouse raised her squeaky voice: “We should send the hare; he’s the best runner amongst us; he’ll fetch the Sun back for us.”
Once more the birds and beasts cried out: “The hare, the hare, the hare!”
And for the third time the deaf old owl asked the snow bunting what they were saying. Back came the answer: “They want to send the hare for the Sun, for he is the best runner and he may catch the Sun on his way.”
The owl thought for a bit, then said: “Yes, he may indeed steal back the Sun. He hops well and skips well, and is not selfish. Nobody will be able to catch him.”
So the hare was chosen. Without more ado, he went on his way guided by the raven. He hopped and skipped for many days across the land until at last he spied a shaft of light far ahead.
As he came closer he saw that rays of light were coming from under the earth through a narrow crack. When he put his eye to the crack he was able to make out a ball of fire lying in a great white stone pot, its rays lighting up a vast underground cavern.
“That must be the Sun,” thought the hare. “And over there must be the evil spirits, lying on those soft reindeer hides in the corner. ”
The brave little hare squeezed through the crack, let himself down on to the floor of the cavern and hopped over to where the ball of fire lay. Then he snatched it up from the stone pot, banged the ground hard with his hind legs and sprang up through the crack.
At once the evil spirits rushed about trying to squeeze through the crack in pursuit of the hare.
In the meantime the little hare ran as fast as his legs would carry him. All the same, it was not long before the evil spirits were on his heels. Just as they were about to grab him, he gave the ball of fire a hard kick with his hind legs, breaking it in two: one part small, the other big. With a second kick, he sent the smaller part flying high into the air until it reached the heavens.
And there it became the Moon.
He then kicked the big part even higher so that it soared into another region of the sky to become the Sun.
How bright it then became on earth.
The evil spirits were blinded by the light and scampered back underground, never to appear on earth again. And all the birds and the beasts praised the brave little hare who had rescued the Sun.
This folktale can also be found here: Windows to the Universe