Wampanoag - Maushop and Grandfather Sun
Taken from The Children of the Morning Light - Wampanoag Tales
As Told by Manitonquat [Medicine Story]
This is the story of Maushop and Grandfather Sun.
There was a time long ago, in the morning of the world, when the sun went away and only showed up for a few minutes every day. At first our people didn't notice that the sun was going away because it all happened so gradually. One day there'd be a few minutes less of daylight, and the next there would be a few minutes less, and so on. And it kept on like this until people began to get worried.
"There's not enough time to plant our corn and beans and squash," they said. "We don't have enough light to hunt," they said. "There's only night fishing now, and the children can't go out and play because it's dark all the time, and they're getting bored and restless."
Everyone was getting restless because they had to sit inside the lodges and keep fires going all the time so that they could see. They were running out of firewood and running out of food. The children had heard all the stories there were, over and over, and sung all the songs there were, over and over, and played all the indoor games they knew, over and over. Everybody was restless and bored and hungry. They kept waiting for Grand-father Sun to come back. Now Grandfather Sun was coming for only about a minute; he had only just pulled all of himself out of the sea in the southeast when he dipped back down under the sea in the southwest.
"Something is certainly not right; it seems that Nepaushet Keesukwand, our grandfather, has abandoned us. We must talk to Maushop."
Now you know, Maushop was created helper, the one who had helped make all the plant people and the animal people and the human people and taught them all how to survive and live in harmony on the earth. He taught people how to find Grand-father Sun's power in the flint, the dry grass, the moss, and the wood, and how to make their fires from that. He taught them how to make spears and harden the points in the fire and how to hunt and fish with these. He taught them how to make knives and hatchets and arrows and spearheads and bowls and mortars out of stones. He taught them how to make their houses by cutting young trees and standing them in the ground, bending and tying them together and covering them with bark in winter and cattail rushes in summer. He taught them how to make their clothes and blankets and bowstrings and fish lines and fishnets from the skins of animals. He taught them how to make canoes by burning and scraping out the insides of big trees. Now the people again came to Maushop, as they did in those times when they were in trouble. After Maushop heard about the sun, he promised to speak to him as he rose from the sea the next morning.
When the first pale light began to dim the stars above the eastern sea, Maushop made himself tall as a giant and waded out into the ocean. In the southeast the sky went from dark blue to turquoise to pink to orange, and when the fiery tip of the sun poked up over the horizon, Maushop began to address him like this:
"0 great Nepaushet Keesukwand, Grandfather Sun, the people have asked me to come and speak to you. They notice that you come now for only a few minutes every day, and the rest of the time they are in darkness, and they cannot hunt or grow their corn and beans and squash. They live on fish, which they catch by torchlight; they have little food and little firewood because fires burn all the time; the children cannot go out to play; and they are restless and bored and hungry." Well, that is what Maushop wanted to say, but before he could get all that out. Grandfather Sun had already slipped away into the hills of the southwest, and it was dark again.
Maushop waited through the long darkness, and when it grew light again in the southeast, he waded deep into the ocean, and when the first rays shot over the horizon, he began to speak very quickly.
"Grandfather, the people have asked me to speak to you because they notice you only come for a few minutes every day, and the rest of the time they cannot hunt or plant their beans and squash and corn, and they have little food or firewood, and everyone is bored and restless and hungry." But Grandfather Sun had disappeared again.
And the third time Maushop went to speak to Grandfather Sun, it was the same story. So Maushop took a lot of long, thin strands of seaweed and he wove them together into a huge net, the biggest net there ever was, a fishing net big enough to catch the sun. Maushop took the net and waded way out into the ocean, near the horizon where the sun appeared, and waited there up to his waist in the dark water, swinging his net slowly, while the stars wheeled above him.
When the sky grew light in the southeast, he got ready and began to whirl the great net around his head. Around and around and around and around he whirled the net. And then when the fiery head of the sun bobbed up from the horizon, he let the net loose, and it flew circling around and around till it fell right on top of the sun. The sun was completely caught in the net and began to struggle to get out. But Maushop grabbed the ends of the net and pulled them tight and held them so that there could be no escape. The harder the sun struggled, the harder Maushop pulled on the net and held him fast. "Let me go. What's going on? What is this thing? What's- how did-what is this thing, anyway? Let me go!"
"Grandfather, I'm very sorry to have to do this, but you would not listen to me. I will let you go if you promise to hear me out." "Oh, very well, I promise." "All right, I'll let you out, but you must sit still now and listen." "Yes, yes, I'll listen and just move along slowly so that I don't burn the sea and set it boiling. Now, what is it?"
And Maushop told Grandfather Sun all that the people had told him. "That's very interesting," said Grandfather Sun. "I didn t even know those people cared. Nobody used to pay any attention to me when I used to spend a lot of time there. When I came in the morning, everyone was asleep. And I watched them all day, but no one ever looked up to talk to me, and at night no one ever came to say good-bye to me, or even ask me to come back. They all just ignored me. I thought they didn't like me. It's a lonely job that way, you know. But around on the other side of the world there are people who are very friendly and greet me every morning and smile at me all day and wave good-bye to me at night. So I began to spend more and more time there and less and less time over here. Now I just put in a quick appearance here because the Creator said I have to be here some every day."
"Well, Grandfather, you certainly have a good point there. I'll go and talk to the people and see what they have to say. Please don't go away again, and I'll be right back."
The people were glad to see the sun come back, but when Maushop told them what he had said, they all looked very sheepish and ashamed and kicked their toes in the dirt.
"What can we say? He's right."
"We haven't been very friendly at all."
"I guess we didn't realize that Grandfather Sun might have feelings."
"We certainly wouldn't like to be treated that way ourselves."
"What shall we do?"
So Maushop went back to Grandfather Sun and said, "The people are very ashamed and say they are very sorry. They're glad you told them what was wrong so that they can do something about it. They have decided that from now on they will wait in their doorways to greet you when you come, keep you company during the day, and come to say good-bye at sunset."
And from that time on, our people have taught their children to say, "Good morning. Grandfather Sun. It's good to see you again today. Thank you for coming back and giving us a good day in which to be alive and to learn." And in the middle of the day the people stop their work in the village and in the sea and look up and greet Grandfather sometimes: "Hello up there, Grandfather. It's good seeing you rolling around in the sky. Thank you for making us warm and for making everything so beautiful." And at the end of the day they stand on a hill and look at where the sun is going down in the west and say, "Good-bye, Grandfather. Thank you for this beautiful day. Have a good journey to that other side, but hurry on back tomorrow. We'll be waiting for you."
After that the sun never stayed away so long again. During part of the year he spends more time in that other part of the world, and our days here are shorter and the nights longer, but then he spends more time here to make up for that, and then we have longer days and shorter nights for our summer. During the times that the sun begins to go away or begins to come back, our people have ceremonies, and then we tell our children this story so that they will always know how important is Nepaushet Keesukwand, Grandfather Sun, bringer of all warmth and energy and the light of beauty.