How Lizard found fire and saved the people

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Last Updated: 11 months

In the beginning, the different people all spoke different languages, so they were always fighting because they could not understand each other. There was no fire, so they were also very cold and could not speak clearly.

Then one day Lizard climbed to the top of a big hill to lay on top of a rock to sun himself. As he lay there, he looked into the valley below. It was then that he found the fire.

He saw the flames coming from the smoke hole in the top of a large assembly house. Lizard told Coyote that he saw fire below. Coyote doubted him. Lizard said, “Come up here on top of the rock,  and you will see sparks coming from the assembly house.”

Coyote asked, “Where do you see the fire? I don’t see any fire in that direction.” Then Lizard said, “Watch. There goes another spark.” Coyote said to the Geese, “It is strange that we cannot see it.” Then Lizard saw it again.’ The Geese did not believe him. They said that he was trying to trick them.

After sundown Coyote finally saw the fire, so he hurried down the hill to the village’s assembly house, and told everyone about it. Mouse, who was the flute player,  said nothing. The people told Mouse to go out and look at the fire. The Flute Player took four flutes with him, but told no one when he left. He played two flutes while he journeyed into the valley on the other side of the hill.

When he arrived at the assembly house in the valley, he did not know how to enter. Bear, Rattlesnake, and Mountain Lion guarded the door, so that none might enter. So Flute Player climbed on top of the assembly house. There he found Eagle with his wing over the smoke hole, so that none might enter. Eagle was asleep. Flute Player didn’t know how to enter the house undetected. Finally, he cut two feathers from Eagle’s wing, creating a hole big enough for him to enter.

When he descended into the assembly house, he found the people asleep. He went to the fire and filled two of his flutes with coals. Again he visited the fire, filling two more. He filled his  four flutes with the fire. Then he started for home. 

All of the people awoke and looked for him. They ran all over the hills, but did not find him. Eagle sent Wind to catch him, then Rain, then Hail. Hail caught the Flute Player, but he placed his flutes in the water before Hail caught him. He told Hail that he had nothing. He said that he would take no one’s fire. Hail believed him and departed.

Flute-player then recovered his flutes and played upon them after Hail left, and found he still had his fire.

He started the long journey home. When he had nearly arrived back at the village with his fire, Coyote came to search for him, for he was afraid something had happened to him. Flute-player sent Coyote back ahead of him to tell the people that he was returning with the fire. Coyote ran back and told the people to gather wood, because Flute Player was bringing the fire.

Flute-player proceeded slowly, careful to keep the coals alive. Coyote, becoming impatient, went to meet him again. He met him just outside the village.

When  Flute Player finally arrived, he climbed on top of the assembly house and began to play one of his flutes. Everyone inside was so cold that they could barely move their lips to talk. When Flute-player finished playing one flute he dropped coals through the smoke hole into the assembly house. Then he started to play a second flute. Before he finished the second song, Coyote interrupted him by shouting.

The people in the middle received the big fire first, while the north people, south people, east people, and the west people received only a little fire. The west people did not talk very distinctly, because they received so little fire; the east people the same; the north people and the south people the same. Those who were close to the fire talked distinctly. Coyote, who stayed at the door, received but little fire. He tried to talk, but shouted instead.

The people in the middle cooked their food. The, others ate theirs raw. They talked different languages from the people in the middle. The west people talked differently; the south people talked differently; the north people talked differently; the east people talked differently. The middle people talked correctly, for they were around the fire.

The people in the middle had gathered acorns and the manzanita. The others had little to eat, and what they had they always had to eat it raw. It was Coyote’s fault, that the others talked incorrectly. If Coyote had said nothing, all would have received fire. He spoiled the scheme, when he shouted at Flute-player in the middle of the second flute song, for Flute-player stopped playing before he had played all of his flutes and before he had distributed all of the fire.

All of those who received the fire talked the same language. All of those who were close to the fire had the same language. Some received the fire. Some did not receive it. That is why they still do not speak the same language.

If Lizard had not found the fire, all would have died. Lizard’s sharp eyes saved the people. Flute-player’s courage to go below to steal the fire made the difference.Then the  impatient Coyote had shouted to Flute-player to drop one coal in front of him. Then he dropped the coal and one went without fire. All of the middle people understand each other. The others do not hear one another very plainly. They would all have talked correctly, if they had all received fire. Some of the people still do not understand each other’s speech to this day.