Manobaz was the oldest son of Mama Baba. He was a curious fellow, like his friend Raven. Between the two of them, they had got The People kicked out of the First World before they were ready. The Middle World was still half covered with ice. Life was very hard, even in summer. Many people died when winter came. Manobaz wept until his eyes bled because he felt so bad for all of them. It was his fault that they suffered--he could have minded his own business.

"What can I do," he cried out to the spirits in his anguish. "How can I help my people to live?"

No one answered him. It was not easy to talk to the Good Spirits any more, now that he was here in the Middle World. There were no drums in those days and people had no guiding spirits to help them.

But Manobaz still had his old friend Raven. One day Raven came to visit him and found him weeping and crying out. "Hai, my friend, what troubles you so?" he asked.

"Ah, Raven, what can I do? My people are dying of the cold! Your brothers the crows will have us all to eat soon if we don't find a way to keep warm."

That would be all right for the crows, but Raven did not want The People to die out. The Middle World would be a very dull place without their laughter. Besides, Manobaz was his friend, and he felt bad for helping him get into trouble.

"Fire is what you need," Raven said after thinking about it a while. "Go to Baradezhada's lodge and ask her for some."

Hope and fear sprang up side by side in Manobaz's bleeding heart. Fire was indeed warm, but it was a devouring force that destroyed anything in its path. He had seen Baradezhada's spears of fire strike old trees or dry grass and start a raging blaze that left a blackened wasteland in its wake. He had also tasted the flesh of an animal killed by the fire, and it had been delicious and tender. If mere humans could control such great power, they would surely be able to overcome all difficulties.

What if his request was refused? Manobaz didn't think it would be granted easily, not after the crap he and Raven had pulled back in the First World. The knowledge he had gained then had been paid for with great loss and they were still paying. He expressed his doubts to Raven.

"You can ask," Raven replied, with a shrug.

There seemed to be nothing else he could do, so Manobaz set out on the long and difficult journey. The lodge of Baradezhada was on top of a high mountain on the western edge of the world. There were many dangers on the way. All Manobaz had was his spear, his knife, and his mother's blessing.

He went as fast as he could, only stopping to dig a few roots or catch a fish when he got hungry. One day he passed by a badger that was trying to dig a hole with only one front foot. The badger called to him, "Hai, Manobaz, please help me."

Manobaz stopped, because the badger called him by name and it sounded so pitiful. "What's the matter, Badger?"

"I need to dig a new den for my children, but I hurt my foot and I can't dig fast enough. I'm afraid some other animal will eat my babies if I don't get the hole dug before nightfall. Will you help me?"

"Well...I'm in a bit of a hurry myself, but--all right, I'll lend a hand."

He stayed to dig, and it took what little was left of the day. The badger was very grateful. Next morning when he left, she told him that if he ever needed any help, he should just ask. He didn't think there was anything a badger could do for him, but he told her thank you anyway.

It was not long before he encountered another animal with a problem. A foal, much too young to be without its mother, stood in his path. Much to Manobaz's surprise, it did not run away when he approached, but blocked his way. "Hai, little horse," he said, "what do you want?"

The shy little foal said nothing, but it took a few steps off to one side and then looked back.

"Ah, you want me to follow you," Manobaz said, and he followed where it led. The foal took him to a low, swampy place. It stopped by a hole in the ground. Down in the hole was a mare, up to her belly in muddy water. Manobaz could see that she must have been stuck in there for a while, she looked exhausted from trying in vain to get out.

Manobaz was not happy about this second delay, but he pitied the poor creatures. He studied the situation for a bit and then set about helping the mare get out.

First he cut many branches from trees and bushes and brought them to the hole. One armload at a time he dropped the branches in, and the mare stomped them down into the muck. Soon she had a floor of packed-down branches to stand on. She still could not get up the side of the mudhole, but Manobaz reached out and caught her by the mane. He pulled with all his great strength and she made one last effort--and out she came.

The mare was so tired that she had to lie down. Manobaz stayed with the horses until the next day. Then he went his way and they went theirs.

On and on Manobaz walked, Yet it seemed as though he would never reach the edge of the world. Something always came up to slow him down. There were rivers, and sometimes he had to go a long way to find a place to cross. Steep cliffs had to be gone around as the land got higher and rockier. It took time to gather food, too, as he could not go long or far without eating now and then.

One day he stopped in a small valley where he managed to dig up a lot of parsnips, so many that he wove a bag out of grass to carry what he didn't need to eat right away. They would last him many days, he hoped. The next day he had barely set out when he heard someone call his name.

"Hai, Manobaz, will you stop a moment?" It was a very old mammoth.

Manobaz stopped to speak with her. "What can I do for you, Old Mother?"

"May all good be with you, Manobaz. Are you carrying parsnips? I can smell them."

"Yes, I have a bag full of them."

"Ah, if only I had some parsnips." The old mammoth sighed. "I am old, as you can see, and I have hardly a tooth left. I can't chew grass any more. That is why I am traveling alone. But I am afraid that my strength will give out before I reach the burial place of my ancestors. There are no tender plants here in this rocky land."

In those days, mammoths all went to the same place to die when they got old, a secret valley in the mountains near the edge of the world that was filled with bones and tusks. "Do you have far to go?" Manobaz asked her.

"Not far, but too far for me--I am weak with hunger. Oh, please, could I have some of your parsnips?"

Manobaz sighed and set down his bag of parsnips. He opened it up and the mammoth took a bunch in her trunk. Ah, how happy she looked, chewing those succulent roots. She took another bunch, and another. When she was finished eating, there was one skinny root left for Manobaz.

He had little more to eat after that, since it was as the mammoth had said, there was not much to be had. But he was not sorry that he had given away his food. He had made the old mammoth happy, and her spirit would be content.

At last he came to the foot of the Mountain of Fire where Baradezhada had her dwelling-place in the Middle World. As he was making his way up a long, narrow ravine, Manobaz found his way blocked by a spider's web. He was about to brush it away, when he heard a voice call out.

"Hai, Manobaz, please don't destroy my web! It took a long time to build, and I need it to catch my food." It was a spider, sitting in a crevice in the rocky wall of the ravine.

"What, you can build another," Manobaz snapped back. But he looked again at the web. It was a marvel to see, shining in the sun, every strand perfectly placed to form a map of the inner and outer worlds. With a great sigh, he turned around and went back to find another way up the mountain.

One good thing about not having enough to eat and getting as skinny as his spear was that Manobaz had less weight to carry hauling his own ass uphill. Still, he was getting awfully hungry. He thought he had it made when he saw a nice big egg sitting in a patch of soft moss at the bottom of a cliff.

He picked up the egg, and his mouth had just begun to water when he heard someone say, "Oh, thank you, Manobaz. It is so good of you to come to help me get my child back into our nest." Sure enough, there was an eagle sitting on a ledge far above where Manobaz found the egg.

"Good day to you, Mother of the skies," Manobaz said politely. "It's a long way up to your nest, but I suppose I can try." He couldn't very well eat the egg with its mother watching.

He still had the empty bag that had once been filled with parsnips, so he put the egg in it, cushioned with some moss, and tied the bag to his belt. Then he started climbing. The cliff had enough cracks in it for footholds, so he made it all the way up to the nest. The eagle thanked him and wished him all good. She nestled down on her egg. Manobaz rested a few moments, and then climbed down. He was so tired that he had to rest until the next day, sleeping on a bed of moss.

In the morning he continued up the mountainside. He found a few berries to eat, which restored his strength enough for the climb.

The lodge of Baradezhada sat on the very top of the mountain, and it was guarded night and day by fierce thunder giants. The moment they saw Manobaz approaching, they shouted in their mighty voices and shook their fiery spears threateningly at him. Manobaz hid behind a big rock.

"How ever am I going to even get near the lodge?" he said to himself. "There's no talking to those fellows, they will kill me and I will never see my people again." He wept in despair.

"Hai, Manobaz," a quiet voice said quite close to him. "What makes you weep?"

Manobaz looked up. It was a badger. "Ah, good day, brother Badger," he said. "I am without hope. I have come a long, long way and nearly starved to death, only to find that I can't even get near the lodge of Baradezhada, much less into it."

"Why do you need to get in?"

"I have come to get fire so that all of my people will not die of the cold in winter. Too many have died already. There are very few grandmothers and grandfathers left. Little babies die because their mothers can't keep them warm enough."

"Ah, that is terrible," said the badger. "Let me show you a way in. You helped my kin in need, now I will help you."

The badger led him to a hole in the mountainside behind the great lodge of the Lady of Fire. Manobaz was so thin now that he had no trouble slithering through a badger-hole. The hole went all the way under the lodge and there was an opening in the floor. It was covered with a flat stone, which he pushed aside.

Manobaz crept cautiously up into the lodge. In a hearth in the center was a great shining stone with flames dancing all over it. There it is, thought Manobaz, but how do I take some home with me? He reached toward it, but the heat was terrible and blistered his skin. Then he heard the thunder giants bellow a greeting. The goddess of fire was coming! Manobaz was very afraid--what would she do when she found that he had sneaked into her lodge?

He looked around and saw a big basket with a lid. There was nothing in it, so he got in and pulled the lid down. He could see and hear through small holes in it.

The woman who came into the lodge was an awesome sight. Her eyes were every color of the sky, her hair coiled like smoke around her head, and she wore nothing but strands of amber beads--so many that she needed no other clothing.

She looked around and noticed that the hole in the floor had been left uncovered. "Hai, who has come to visit me?" she said. "It is not Badger, he has no need to hide."

Manobaz was a brave man, but the sight of her and the power of her voice made him shake. Baradezhada saw the basket quivering and went straight to it. She lifted off the lid.

"Who are you, and what are you doing in my lodge?" she demanded.

Manobaz pulled himself together and answered, "I am Manobaz, O Great One, eldest son of Mama Baba. My people are in a terrible state because they cannot keep warm. They will all die when winter comes again, unless I can bring them some fire to heat their poor dwellings. I ask nothing for myself, O Lady of Fire. I only wish to save my people." He bowed his head and awaited her judgement.

"You have entered my lodge without my permission and hid from me. Death should be your reward. But I will spare you if anyone can tell me some good of you. "Hai!" she cried out in a voice that sounded like it could pierce the walls of the world. "Who will speak for this man?"

"I will speak for him," said a familiar voice. Manobaz looked up. There was the spirit of the old mammoth. He could see the fire right through her, but she spoke as she had in life.

"Good day, Old Mother," Baradezhada said. "I see that you have passed on into the Spirit World. What have you to say?"

"This man helped me to get to my final resting place so that my spirit would not have to roam the Middle World forever. He gave me all of his food so that I would have the strength to go on. Do not strike him dead, O Great One. He deserves to live."

Baradezhada looked down on Manobaz, who still crouched in the basket. "Very well," she said. "You shall live, and you shall have your fire. As for getting back home with it, that is none of my affair. You will have to manage on your own as you did coming here. I will warn you, though--beware of my thunder giants. If they see you leaving here with any of my fire, they will pursue you. That is not my will, it is simply the way things are. Thunder giants are not very smart, they only do what they know to do."

Manobaz thanked her humbly. Baradezhada reached into the flames and broke off a small piece of the shining stone. She held it out to him. He was fearful of touching it, having been burnt by merely putting his hand near it, but he had no choice. Much to his surprise, the small piece of stone did not burn him; it actually felt cool. "There is fire in this?" he asked her.

"Yes, but it is locked inside. You must strike it with a piece of flint to release a little of the fire. Go now, Manobaz, and may all good go with you."

Manobaz put the precious fire stone in his bag and tied it securely to his belt. Then he slipped back into the badger hole and wriggled all the way out into the open.

He was as careful as he could be, but the way down was not easy and he could not always choose his path. His heart chilled when he heard the voice of a thunder giant behind him--"Hai! Stop, you thief!" The shout rattled his teeth and made stones fall. Manobaz tried to run, but he came to the edge of a cliff. Trapped!

The thunder giants were getting closer and closer, and the only way he could escape was by leaping off the cliff. Either way, he was dead and his people would have no fire. With a cry of despair, he leaped out into the air.

"Hai! You can't fly," came the scream of an eagle. Strong talons grabbed his arms, and instead of falling onto the rocks below Manobaz sailed along beneath the wings of an eagle.

"You are very light," the eagle said. "I will bear you as far as I can, and the thunder giants will have a hard time catching up with you."

"Thank you, Eagle," Manobaz replied. "I owe you my life and the lives of all my people."

"Pah! You are only being repaid. To save one life is to save all."

Then Manobaz recalled the egg that he had laboriously carried up a cliff. Never would he have dreamed that his life depended on such a deed. But so it was.

The eagle soared well beyond the rugged mountain country and set him down by a river where there were plenty of good things to eat. He thanked the eagle as she took off again, and then he stuffed himself with raspberries.

Manobaz hastened on his way, trying to go as straight as he could toward the rising sun. By and by he came to a wide river that he had had trouble crossing before. He knew that the thunder giants were still following him so he had little time, he couldn't go upstream looking for a ford. He would have to try to swim across, but he was so thin and weary that he was not sure he would make it halfway.

Suddenly he heard a sound like thunder coming from behind him! But it was not the thunder giants, it was a herd of horses. The stallion of this herd was as white as a summer cloud.

"Hai, Manobaz," the white horse called to him. "You look troubled, what is wrong?"

"I need to cross this river, but I am afraid I haven't got the strength to do it now. This will be the end of me--either I will drown, or the thunder giants will strike me with their spears of fire when they catch up."

"That will not happen," the stallion declared. "We are going to cross this river now. We have done it many times, there is good grazing on the other side. Hold onto my tail, Manobaz, and I will tow you across." Raising his head high, he called out to the mares, "Come, into the water with us."

So Manobaz crossed the river hanging onto the horse's tail. He felt more refreshed than tired when they reached the other side. "Thank you, Horse," he said. "I owe you my life."

"Nonsense," the horse whinnied. "You helped one of my mares and saved her life and that of her child. It is the least I could do to get you across a river safely. Go with all good, and with the good will of all." With that, the white horse turned and led his prancing herd off to a lush meadow to graze.

Manobaz went on his way, amazed at all his good fortune that had sometimes seemed bad.

He was getting pretty close to home now. The land was familiar. He climbed up to the top of a high hill for a look around. Vahé The thunder giants were approaching! Manobaz cast about for a hiding-place. He saw an opening amidst the rocky outcrops on the hill's top. Perhaps they would not find him in a cave. It was all the hope he had, at any rate. He dashed into the dark hole, covering his tracks the best he could, and stumbled on down into the lightless depths. There he cowered in fear while the giants combed the nearby hills and valleys searching for him. He could hear their roaring and rumbling even below the ground.

The thunder giants searched everywhere. At last one of them saw the cave entrance and called to his companions. They would have gone in, but they saw that the cavern mouth was covered with a big spiderweb. Certainly no one could have gone in recently, they thought. They moved on. Eventually they gave up, finding no trace of Manobaz on the face of the Earth.

When he was certain that he could hear not the slightest sound of the thunder giants' booming voices, Manobaz crept slowly toward the mouth of the cave. He was surprised to see the veil of cobwebs that sealed it. Then he saw that not one spider but hands of hands of them had created the web. The spiders began to pull their web apart then, so that he could pass through.

Manobaz wept with gratitude for what the spiders had done for him. "What can I do to repay you," he asked them. "You saved my life by making it look as though no one had gone through that opening in a long time."

"You respected our mother," the spiders replied in a chorus of tiny voices. "You spared her web, the labor of her heart, built so that she could feed well and give birth to us. We sailed on the wind on our fine strands to this place. When we saw you hiding, we thought to do you this small favor. That is all. Go with all good, Manobaz."

And so Manobaz returned safely to his people and showed them how to make fire that they could control and warm themselves with. From that fire came many other good things, and the best is that we are alive now.

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Spider Legends

Even more spider legends

There are even a few tales in which a spider is the one who brings home the fire. However, I got the idea to put the concealing web scene in here because of the story of the Polish king, Wladislaw Łokietek, who supposedly hid in one of the caves of Ojcow (Spirit Valley, in my prehistory) and was saved by the old web trick. In the Bible, it saved the future King David's ass, and there are other versions. So what the hey, I used it too.