In Cherokee Creation stories the story fo the The water spider is often called the Story of the First Fire. These stories are woven together.
In the beginning all of the animals lived together in harmony on an island and when it rained they were wet and cold.
The animals were cold so the bear had called a council and gathered all the animals, birds, and insects to discuss how they could keep from freezing in the winter.
Many ideas were passed back and forth, some suggested maybe we should get the sun to come out of the sky. Nothing was resolved, and so taking a break the animals walked out of the council house.
A storm had come up, and across the water they could see a small island.
The lightning flashed and they could see it striking in the forest on the distant island. Something began to glow there, and the bear asked the falcon, “What is that?”
The falcon said, “It glows like the sun,” so the animals called it fire.
The wolf suggested, “Maybe it will keep us warm, like the sun.”
So the bear immediately called all the animals back into the council, and asked who would like to go and get the fire. Many of the animals, birds, and insects all raised their hands, wanting to go and get the fire.
Now the water spider was not the first choice, in fact other animals had tried and failed, first the Raven, then the Snakes and the Owl too.
The water spider was small but she was smart. She had watched and learned from the failures of the other animals.
When she offered to try, the bear looked down at her and said
"you're too small. How can you get the fire?"
and the little spider said "let me try ''
She was small but clever and had a plan.
The fire was on an island across from the animals so the water spider dove under water and swam to the island. After a while she came out near the roots of the sycamore tree where the lightning had struck.
She took two small sticks and fished out a small ember. Having done so, she made a pot and put it on her back. She placed the ember inside the pot, then blew an air bubble around it to protect it from the water, and made her way back to the council. The animals were surprised to see her and the bear asked her,
“Where is the fire?”
She took out the ember from her pot and set it in the center of the council room.
Quickly, she gathered small bits of kindling and began to blow upon the ember.
Smoke began to rise from the kindling she was burning, and all the animals became excited. The smoke became thicker and she asked the animals to gather smaller sticks. Soon the flames caught and as more and more sticks were added, the heat filled up the council house.
And so the little water spider brought back the fire. And the moral of the story is, “Never take someone smaller than you for granted, because a small person can still save the world."
Did you know the Water Spider creates an air pocket around itself? That is how it brought back the first fire, in the air pocket.
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