Why There is Day and Night


As told by Lynn Moroney

Before there were people, there were only the animals and the birds. And in those days, the day and the night were exactly the same. One time, when Rabbit was going along, he began to think about the days and the nights and how they were alike and how there wasn't enough light. And then, in a loud voice, he said, "There is not enough light. I can not see where I'm going. I need more light."

Just then, Rabbit heard a voice, and it said, "There is plenty of light." Rabbit could not see who was talking and so he called out "Who is there, who is speaking to me?" "It is I. It is Owl. And I say there is enough light in the world." Then Rabbit said, "Well I say there is not enough light, and I will call the animals together. We will have a council. And I will ask them. I will ask them if they think there is enough light and they will agree with me and then you will know that there is not enough light in the world." But then Owl said, "I will invite all the birds of the air. We will join in the council and then you will see that the birds will agree with me and then you will note that there is enough light in the world."

Well, all the animals and all the birds came together and they all sat around in a great circle and waited for Rabbit and Owl to speak. Rabbit stepped forward and said "There is not enough light in the world. We need more light." Then Owl stepped forward and then he said, "There is too much light. We do not need more light."

Well, with that, all the animals and birds began to talk to one another. Bear said that there was way too much light, that he liked to sleep in the dark and, if there were more light, it would interrupt his rest. Some of the birds said that they wanted more light so that they could see to gather twigs for their nests. Racoon said that he agreed with Owl. Racoon did not want light. Frog said that there was enough light, and that he couldn't sing well when there was too much light. Then Buffalo said that, with so little light, he couldn't find enough grass and that he was often hungry. Then all of the animals and birds began to talk at once. Some of them agreed with Owl and some of them agreed with Rabbit.

Finally, Rabbit and Owl decided that they would settle the argument by seeing which of them had the strongest medicine. And whoever had the greatest power, well, that person would have his way. So Owl began to say "Night, night, night, night." And then Rabbit spoke faster, "Light, light, light, light." And then Owl spoke even faster, "Night, night, night, night." Rabbit's friends warned him, "Rabbit, do not say Owl's word, or it will be night all the time." And Owls' friends warned him, "Owl, be careful. Do not say Rabbit's word or there will be light all the time."

Owl was saying "Night, night, night, night, night, night, night...." when he heard his friends say the word "light". And he accidentally said, "Night, night, night, night, light ... oh, oh," said Owl. But it was too late, he had already said the word "light".

And so it was that Rabbit won. And since that time, the day has had lots of light. But because some of the animals could not hunt or sleep with so much light, Rabbit declared that part of the time would be night after all. And that is why, in these days, we have both day and night.


Variants found throughout North American Indian lore

Tale courtesy of Lynn Moroney.

Background was created by Brad Snowder of the Western Washington University Planetarium . Used with permission. The raven is a head-dress produced by the Haida tribe. It is owned by the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institutes. Washington D.C. The photographer is Don Eiler.

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