Native American Tales

Daughter of the Sun

Daughter of the SunDaughter of the Sun

Cherokee

The sun had a daughter who lived up above the sky. Each day she would stop there to see her daughter. She didn’t like the people of Earth though because they squinted at her every time they looked at her. As a result, she shone very hard on the people of Earth and many got sick and died. The people went to the little men for help.

A plan was hatched. If they killed the sun they could save themselves. They sent two men first, who were transformed into animals to try and kill the sun, but it didn’t work out. Then two more men were sent. One was transformed into a rattle snake and the other was Uktena. The rattlesnake got ahead of himself and bit the first person he saw, which was the Sun’s daughter.

Uktena was angry and became very venomous and was sent away from the people. The Sun became depressed because her daughter was dead and shut herself up in her house. The people lived in the dark. The people went to the little men who told the people they had to coax the Sun out be retrieving her daughter from the land of the dead. They were supposed to catch her and put her in a box, but they were not supposed to open the box until they were there.

People went and caught the Sun’s daughter and put her in a box. At first, it was fine to keep her in the box. They were not tempted to open it, but at one point the Sun’s daughter said she could not breathe and she was suffocating, so they opened the box, just a little, and something fluttered out. When they got to the sun, there was nothing in the box. The Sun’s daughter had become a redbird. If they hadn’t opened the box, we would be able to bring out loved ones back today.

The Sun was upset that the plan didn’t work. She cried great tears that flooded the land. The people once again had to find something to do to appease the Sun. They sent out their best-looking people to dance for the Sun. The people danced for a long time, but the Sun finally turned and looked upon the people and smiled.

Observations

…and yet another flood story.

Some people personify the Sun. If the Sun is angry, you’re not getting what you want. The Sun, in many cultures, is a god of some sort. People have made human sacrifices to the Sun. They weren’t sure the Sun was going to keep coming up. What if the Sun stopped shining? If you didn’t know the science behind the Sun, you might be awfully worried if the Sun didn’t shine for an extended rainy patch of weather or if there was a lot of smog in the sky, or volcanic ash is more like it. These people were trying to make the sun happy and also not too hot.

Again, you have to consider that there were periods in the history of these peoples where the weather was different. It was a lot hotter or a lot cooler. The people passed the stories of how hot, or how cold it had been, down through the generations.

Themes

This is a story of why we can’t bring our family members back from the dead. I’ve actually read a version of this story before, a long time ago, when I was in primary school. We could never bring our dead family members back, but if their spirit is still around, why not have the possibility? It doesn’t seem that complicated to bring a body and a soul back together; we’re just talking about two and two, but it’s not that simple. We don’t have exact reasons for why we can’t take a person’s consciousness and shove it back into their body. Seems like it could be relatively simple, but it’s obviously not. We can’t resurrect people. We don’t have an entirely good reason why, so we might as well have a story about why we can’t.

Overall

Make the sun happy.

Weigh In

If you didn’t understand that the Sun came back every day, would you be worried that it wouldn’t come back one day?

Do you think it’s better to have a story than to just say, “We don’t know”?

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