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A Tale of the Southern Mewuk
A long time ago there were two countries, the Valley Country and the Foothills Country, and each had its own kind of people. The Valley Country was the big flat land which the white people call the San Joaquin Plain; it had no trees and no Sun but was always enveloped in fog and was always cold and dark. The Foothills Country began on the east side of the valley and reached up into the mountains; it was covered with trees and had the Sun.
Two versions of the story have been obtained: (1) How Ah-ha'-le stole the Sun, told by the Mariposa Mewuk; and (2) How Ah-ha'-le stole the Morning, told by the Chowchilla Mewuk.
How Ah-ha'-le stole the Sun
As told by the Mariposa Mewuk
Ah-hā'-le the Coyote-man
As told by the Mariposa Mewuk
To'-to'-kan-no the Sandhill Crane was chief of the Valley People and Ah-hā'-le, the Coyote-man lived with him. Their country was cold and dark and full of fog.
Ah-hā'-le was discontented and traveled all about, trying to find a better place for the people. After a while he came to the Foothills Country where it began to be light. He went on a little farther and for the first time in his life saw trees, and found the country dry and warm, and good to look at. Soon he saw the Foothills People and found their village. He was himself a magician or witch doctor, so he turned into one of the Foothills People and mingled with them to see what they had and what they were doing. He saw that they had fire, which made light and became Wut'-too the Sun. He saw also that there were both men and women, that the women pounded acorns and cooked acorn mush in baskets, and that everybody ate food. He ate with them and learned that food was good.
When his belly was full he went home and told the chief To-to'-kan-no that he had found a good
place where there were people who had the sun and moon and stars, and women, and things to eat. He then asked To-to'-kan-no, “What are we going to do? Are we going to stay down here in the dark and never eat? The people up there have wives and children; the women make acorn soup and other things; the men have light and can see to hunt and kill deer. We live down here in the dark and have no women and nothing to eat. What are we going to do?”
Chief To-to'-kan-no answered; “Those things are not worth having. I don’t want the Sun, nor the light, nor any of those things. Go back up there if you want to.”
Ah-hā'-le went back to the foothills and did as he had done before, and liked the country and the people. Then he returned and told To-to'-kan-no what he had told him before, and again asked, “What are we going to do? Can’t we buy the Sun? The people up there send the Sun away nights so they can sleep, and it comes back every day so they can see to hunt and get things to eat and have a good time. I like the Sun. Let us buy him.”
To-to'-kan-no answered, “What is the matter with you? What would you do with the Sun; how would you use it?” But Ah-hā'-le was not satisfied. He went back to the Foothills People several times, and the more he saw of the Sun the more he wanted it. But To-to'-kan-no always said
The Foothills Country. “Ah-ha'-le went on a little farther and for the first time in his life
saw trees, and found the country dry and good to look at."
Ah-hā'-le went and found that the people would not sell it; that if he got it he would have to steal it. And this would be very difficult, for Ah-wahn'-dah the Turtle, keeper of the Sun, was most watchful; he slept only a few minutes at a time and then stood up and looked around; besides, when he slept he always kept one eye open. If Ah-hā'-le moved his foot Ah-wahn'-dah would pick up his bow and arrow. Ah-hā'-le felt discouraged and did not know what to do. He feared that in order to get the Sun he would have to take Ah-wahn'-dah also.
But he decided to try once more, so he went again and turned into a man of the Foothills People. About four o’clock in the afternoon all the hunters went off to hunt deer. Then Ah-hā'-le turned into a big oak limb and fell down on the trail, and wished that Ah-wahn'-dah the Sun’s keeper would come along first. And so it happened, for soon Ah-wahn'-dah came along the trail, saw the crooked limb, picked it up, carried it home on his shoulder, and threw it down on the ground. After supper he picked it up again and threw it against the fire, but it would not lay flat for it was very crooked and always turned up. Finally Ah-wahn'-dah threw it right into the middle of the fire. Then he looked all around, but could not see anybody. Ah-hā'-le who was now in the fire did not burn, but kept perfectly still and wished the keeper, Ah-wahn'-dah, would go to sleep.
Soon this happened and Ah-wahn'-dah fell fast asleep. Then Ah-hā'-le changed back into his own form and seized the Sun and ran quickly away with it.
Ah-wahn'-dah awoke and saw that the Sun was gone and called everybody to come quick and find it, but they could not for Ah-hā'-le had taken it down through the fog to the Valley People.
But when the Valley People saw it they were afraid and turned away from it, for it was too bright and hurt their eyes, and they said they could never sleep.
Ah-hā'-le took it to the chief, To-to'-kan-no, but To-to'-kan-no would not have it; he said he didn’t understand it; that Ah-hā'-le must make it go, for he had seen how the Foothills People did it.
When To-to'-kan-no refused to have anything to do with the Sun, Ah-hā'-le was disappointed, for he had worked very hard to get it.
Still he said, “Well, I’ll make it go.”
So he carried the Sun west to the place where the sky comes down to the earth, and found the west hole in the sky, and told Wut'-too to go through the hole and down under the earth and come up on the east side and climb up through the east bole in the sky, and work in two places—to make light over the Foothills People first, then come on down and make light over the Valley People, and then go
The Valley People shrinking from the Light. “Ah-ha-le stole the
Sun and brought it down through the fog and darkness to the
Valley People, but they were afraid and turned from it."
Wut'-too the Sun did as he was told. Then To-to'-kan-no and all the Valley People were glad, because they could see to hunt, and the Foothills People were satisfied too, for they had the light in the daytime so they could see, and at night the Sun went away so all the people could sleep.
After this, when the Sun was in the sky as it is now, all the FIRST PEOPLE turned into animals.