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Rainbow Crow - A Native American Legend

Updated on January 15, 2012

None of the animals had ever seen snow before, and for a while they they frolicked and played in it, and when all the lakes and ponds froze they slipped and slid, all the while having fun. However, soon more of the snow fell from the heavens and along with it fell the temperature. Before long, the smaller animals were completely buried by the soft white powder, and the larger animals found it difficult to walk. The creatures began to worry that they would all perish if something were not done about the snow.

Wise Owl suggested that they send a messenger to Kijiamuh Ka'ong, and ask him to make the snow spirit leave them in peace. All the creatures agreed, as the great being who created things simply by thinking of them would surely be able to help. They puzzled over who should take the important journey - it could not be Wise Owl, as he could not see well enough durring the daytime, and while Turtle was sturdy and trustworthy, he was too slow. Coyote couldn't be given the responsibility as he liked to play tricks, and would easily become distracted. It was decided that Rainbow Crow, the most beautiful of all the birds with his enchanting song and shimmering rainbow feathers, would be their best option.

It was not an easy journey, as Rainbow Crow had to fly directly upwards for three days - he flew over the trees and clouds, past the sun, beyond the moon, and even above the stars. The winds pulled at his beautiful slender body and there was no place for him to rest, but the delicate bird persisted until he reached the gates of heaven. He called the Creator's name, but he was too busy deciding what to conjour up next to notice a small bird, even one so lovely as Rainbow Crow. He stopped yelling, and instead began to sing in his charming and melodious tones.


Instantly, the Creator was awoken from his musings by the mezmorising, captivating voice, and approached Rainbow Crow. He desperately wanted to grant the bird a wish for treating him to such an entrancing verse. Rainbow Crow asked the great Creator to un-think the snow, so the animals of earth might be free from it's icy grasp. The Creator explained that he could not do that, as the snow and ice both had their own spirits, and so could not be destroyed.

"What are we to do, then?" enquired Rainbow Crow, who was suddenly disheartened.

"Do not worry," answered the Creator, "as I will think of fire, which will melt the snow."

The great being retrieved a wooden stick from the ground at his feet, and plunged it into the blazing sun. The tip of the staff glowed with a fierce intensity, and Rainbow Crow could feel the warmth already penetrate his body.

"This is my gift to you, Rainbow Crow. It is fire. You must fly to Earth as quick as you can, for if you take too long, the stick will burn up and you will lose the fire."

Wasting no time, Rainbow Crow took the piece of blazing wood and thanked the Creator, before beginning his descent back down to Earth. He was worried he would not be able to fly quickly enough, but the flame warmed his colourful feathers, and spurred him on.


Just as the stars came into sight, the flames reached Rainbow Crow's tail feathers, and turned them black. As he passed the sun, his entire body was singed and dark, and as he neared Earth's surface, the smoke generated by the fire curled into his throat and strangled his beautiful singing voice. Poor Rainbow Crow was black as pitch when he landed on Earth, and now had the ability only to caw, rather than sing. He delivered the fire to the shivering animals, and they used it to melt the snow and ice, saving the smallest animals from their powdery prisons.

When everyone had warmed themselves around the fire, they celebrated. It was a time to rejoyce, as Tindeh-Fire had arrived on Earth. Rainbow Crow did not join in the festivities, however. He sat alone, quietly sobbing and gazing at his ruined plumage. Suddenly, he felt a gentle gust of wind on his face, and he looked up to see the Creator striding in his direction.

"Please Rainbow Crow, do not be sad," he said. "You will be honoured by all animals for your noble sacrifice. When man comes to this world, they will not hunt you, as your flesh will taste of ashes, and they will not put you in a cage as your feathers are blackened and your voice is hoarse. You will be free for all eternity."

Then the great Creator pointed a long finger at Rainbow Crow's feathers, and the bird saw that they glistened internaly with all the colours of the rainbow.

"These colours will forever mark you as the noble creature you are, and will remind every animal who sees you of the great service you have done for them."

And so shall it ever be.


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    • VendettaVixen profile image

      VendettaVixen 5 years ago from Ireland

      Thank you very much for the kind words, Frogyfish. I've only recently discovered Native American folktales, and I can't get over how beautifully simplistic they are.

      I'm glad you feel the same way, and I'm honoured that my retelling of such a lovely legend is up to scratch, in your opinion.

      Thanks for reading and leaving me a comment.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

      An interesting story told, with touches of disappointment that became beautiful. Have never heart this legend, but you wrote it beautifully.

    • VendettaVixen profile image

      VendettaVixen 5 years ago from Ireland

      I'm very glad you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing this hub, Eddy.

      Thanks for your lovely comment, and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Best of luck~

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub and here's to many more to share on here.

      Thank you for sharing this gem.

      Take care;


    • VendettaVixen profile image

      VendettaVixen 5 years ago from Ireland


      I'm happy I could entertain you, even if it was only for a few minutes. Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

      Angie, thanks for your lovely comment. I'm definatly a fellow fan. I've always liked birds, and there's just something mysterious and brooding about a crow.

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      I found this legend very moving, VV. I have a rare liking for the crow family ...

    • profile image

      gogogo 6 years ago

      I enjoyed this hub, wonderful story, well told