The First Drum

It was after The People came out from the First World for the second time that they learned how to make and use drums. It happened like this.

The Great Ice Spirit had gone back to sleep in his den in the north, but the Middle World was still very cold. The People huddled together at night shivering. Some of them died of the cold. After Manobaz brought them the gift of fire from Baradezhada's great lodge in the sky, they were better off. But it was still a very hard life. The animals all had warm coats of fur, of course, and the hunters would wrap their feet in bits of hide so their toes didn't freeze off. They used the hides for shelter in bad weather too. But the hides got stiff, or they rotted, and the fur fell out.

Then Mama Baba saw how a hide that was smoked over a fire--because it was part of a tent--got softer and didn't rot. She tried doing it on purpose, and put all her daughters to work fooling around with hides. They learned how to clean them better, and how to soften them by rubbing fat into them, and how to get the hair off on purpose so they would make better tents and so on.

The hides that were treated properly could be made into clothing. The People no longer froze their butts off. They got even more clever when they weren't shivering all the time, and learned to carve and paint. They sang better songs, which pleased the spirits.

Raven often came to visit Mama Baba's big camp to listen to the singing and pick up an easy meal. They gave him nice bits of meat so his luck would come to them.

One day he got curious about a hide that was stretched to dry by one of the lodges. It was a nice clean one with the hair removed, stretched real tight on a wood frame. Raven saw that the sun's light shone right through it onto the ground.

He sat on the roof of the lodge to admire it. "That is a fine hide," he said to the woman who sat nearby making a basket. "What are you going to make from it?"

"I don't know yet," she replied. "Probably something to put food in. Hai, don't you go and plop on it, bird." She laughed, because she was only joking.

Just to tease her, Raven flew over to the hide and landed on it. He started to do a little dance. The hide was quite dry, and stretched so tight it bent the wood frame. Every time his feet hit it, the hide went Boom! Boom! It scared the crap out of him! He flew off and landed back on the lodge.

The woman got up and shouted at him, "Vahé! Look what you've done! I can't use the hide to put food in now you've shat on it." She put down her basket and took some dry grass to wipe the big wet streak of plop off of the hide.

All the people in the camp heard the sound of Raven's feet on the hide and wondered what it was. They thought it was thunder, but the sky was clear. What were thunder-spirits doing here away from their home in the clouds? Some of them hid in their lodges, too afraid to look.

The shaman was not afraid of spirits. He came right over to where the woman was glaring at Raven. "What tricks are you up to now, Raven?" he said.

"Tricks? Me?" Raven ruffled up his feathers and settled them flat again. "I was just dancing on that pretty hide, and it shouted at me."

"It did, ah?" The shaman took a look at the stretched hide. "Let me see you dance."

Raven flapped his wings and glided down onto the hide. It was nice and clean and dry again, so it made a good loud noise. He took a few more steps. Boom! Boom! Pahm! Boom! Now he kind of liked it, and he had no more shit in him anyway, so he kept dancing.

"Hai, this is good," the shaman said. "Now I will have a new way to call the spirits; they will always be able to hear this sound. You have brought us a fine gift, Raven."

Raven was happy. He danced and sang. The hide went Boom! Pahm! Boom! Everyone came out then to see what it was all about. The shaman told them that Raven had brought them this new way to speak to the spirits.

Raven sang:

"Cruck! Craaawk! I am clever!
I make thunder with my feet.
Drum is the sound of thunder.
Give me something to eat!"

They gave Raven a whole roast pig. It was more than he could eat, but he shared it with them in a big feast.

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