Building a Myth

I wrote this in my Western Lit class. It’s a creation myth written in the style of the Native American spoken storytelling tradition. It has its flaws but I haven’t shared anything I’ve written in ages and thought this would be fun. Enjoy!

How the Frog Got His Spots

By

Tina Shelton

 

Once Raven bathed the world in light, everyone saw how drab and gray it was. The woman who had birthed Raven was sad, now that she had knowledge of the way things were. She yearned for something, but she knew not what. She yearned for something, but she knew not what. She roamed the land, climbing over rocks and visiting the river that flowed down into the ocean. She saw birds and fish, but it wasn’t enough.

One day while she was hunting firewood, she came across a strange flower. It grew tall and proud, and was not gray or black or white. Carefully she took one of the plants, but while she retrieved it, she dropped it. The ground beneath her feet changed as well. When she picked up the flower, she too changed, and with the change came the knowledge. This was a paintbrush, and it provided color.

Well, once word got out all the things wanted color. Except for Raven, oh-no. He was proud of his fine black feathers, and he intended them to stay that way.

Lady Paintbrush spent her days painting the creatures. She painted Bear, and Moose, and Deer, and Mouse. She painted Swan and Goose. However, each of the animals were one color, from the tip of their tail to the tip of their nose. Thus was the paintbrush’s magic.

She spent so much time painting the animals, that she neglected the trees of the forest, or the bushes, or the flowers. Each time she finished one animal, another hopped into place. One of those animals was Frog.

Frog was a proud animal, and he demanded that he be given a special color. He noticed that most of the animals being painted were brown. No brown for him! He wanted to be attractive to a mate. He wanted to be a vibrant green.

Lady Paintbrush chuckled and gave him his wish. He hopped off in the gray grass, proud of himself for his cleverness.

Raven liked his cleverness too. It made it so much easier to hunt the frog this way!

Hungry Raven swooped down, trying to scoop up Frog. While he was easy to see, he was a fast little hopper and knew to keep to the tall grass. He would have been impossible to find had he been the same dull gray. Raven watched intently and saw flashes of green to keep him going.

Frog was terrified! How could this have happened? He was clever, but he had not foreseen his new color getting him into trouble! He had to figure out a way to ditch Raven!

Lady Paintbrush was weary from painting the creatures. Her last job for the day had been painting Salmon. She felt he’d turned a delightful shade of silver. But now she needed to go back to her home and rest, and she could begin painting the animals tomorrow. As she was walking, she heard the startled cries of Frog. “Lady Paintbrush! I changed my mind!”

“I cannot help you.” She shook her head. “My paintbrush gives color, it cannot take it away.”

“Then make the grass green!” Frog pleaded. “Please, Raven is about to eat me!”

Lady Paintbrush wasn’t so inclined to Raven, as he had tricked her into having him rather than asking for her help. He had also denied her by letting her paint him. Still, she had a problem. “I cannot, for I am out of color!”

“Take mine!” Frog begged. “Any you need!”

Uncertain as to what would happen, Lady Paintbrush gently waved her paintbrush over his back. His color seemed to form cracks, tiny webs like a glass bead.

“Hurry!” Frog hopped in his impatience.

Raven, who had gotten a bit lazy in his certainty, flew by at that moment, and saw the frog talking to Lady Paintbrush. Just as he wondered what the frog was up to, Lady Paintbrush brought her flower down to the nearest blade of grass, and they touched.

Like wildfire, the curl of gray grass changed hue to a marvelous emerald color, the same as the Frog’s hide. Raven lost sight of him amid the greenery.

“No!” Raven croaked. He was incensed. His easy meal had out-clevered him! This would NEVER do!

“You don’t like it?” Lady Paintbrush asked innocently. “I think it’s rather pretty.”

“I’ll find that Frog!” Raven shouted, and dove to where he had last seen Frog.

Which was where Frog was, hiding.

Frog whooped in fear as the ground flew far beneath him. His color had gone strange, the green still present but loose in places, like a cracking shell.

Raven did not care about Frog’s back, he simply scooped him up and scarfed him down, eating him in one gulp.

Frog felt funny. He imagined it was being inside the darkest bird of all the world, but his back itched. He tried to scratch but he couldn’t see what he was doing. Finally he rubbed himself against the walls of Raven’s tummy, trying to scratch his back. Big flakes of color came off of his back.

Raven was feeling pretty fine about his nice, fat dinner. Then he looked down to see that his feathers were turning green! Oh, this would NEVER do!

Raven raced back to Lady Paintbrush, who was at home by now, sipping at tea and eating some fine Salmon that Bear had brought her in thanks. Her cheeks pulled back into a smile that was littered with amusement. Raven didn’t like to be the butt of someone’s joke, he did not! But he had to make her fix this.

“Lady, I would be black again!” Raven cried.

She chuckled. “I cannot paint you black, my flower needs to rest. My thought is to spit out Frog.”

“How did you know it was Frog?” Raven asked, surprised.

“He’s the only one whose color is broken.” She answered, sipping tea.

Raven sighed. “Do you have a tea to help me?”

The Lady Paintbrush mixed up a batch of tea to help Raven, who drank it and spat Frog out. Frog looked all right, save for now on his back he had quite large, black spots where he had once been all green.

“Look at me!” Frog declared, as though he hadn’t been dinner for Raven. “I’m all broken!”

“No, you’re fixed.” Lady Paintbrush gently picked up Frog. “You are also quite handsome this way. I believe I shall try mixing colors on the animals tomorrow.”

“What about me!” Raven demanded. “I’m still stuck looking like a duck!”

But it wasn’t true. When they turned to look, Raven was as black as night. Although in the firelight, glimpses of green could be seen glittering in his plumage.

“Now, off with both of you.” Lady Paintbrush said. “Whatever quarrel you have, kindly save it for tomorrow.”

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