Raven and the Man that sits on the tides
A Telling by Eldrbarry
This tale comes from the Haida People who live in the Pacific Northwest
Long ago the oceans had no tides and the shores no shallows. Raven knew there was lots of food in the sea – oysters and clams, mussels and crabs. But how to get to it? He was lazy and preferred getting into mischief.. Raven wondered, “If only there was a way to move the water out of the way, so I could gather food from the sea!”
Raven, he knew nothing about the sea, but knew the Fog Man did. He would find the Fog man and ask him. Raven started asking around. He asked the sandpipers, and like a single bird, the flock darted and swooped this way and that, but Raven could not figure out which way they wanted him to go. Raven asked the gulls, but they seemed to be lost souls endlessly searching themselves. Raven asked the Cormorants, perched like lonely sentinels on the offshore rocks but they didn’t know where The Fog Man was to be found either.
Finally Raven decided to look far to the north, where the fogs came from. He searched until one day he saw a island bouncing from wave to wave, like a raft free of its moorings. On it was a wrinkled old man with a long straggly beard. When he saw the Raven coming, he snatched up his hat and pulled it down on his head. Fog began to pour out from under it’s brim, hiding the fog man and his island.
Raven swooped down and snatched off his hat. “What, do you throw a fog in a friend’s face.”
“Hey, Raven! Give me my hat, I’ve fog to make.” He cried.
Raven asked: “Why do you make fog anyway.”
“It’s my job. It’s what I do, I’m the Fog Man.”
“Well do you know how the sea can be moved away from the shore?”
“I don’t know, please give me my hat, the sun is getting too warm.”
“Do you know someone I could ask?”
“Go ask the Man who sits on the Tide.”
“What is the tide? And why does he sit on it? Where do I find him?”
The Fog Man pleaded: “Please leave me my hat, and go to where the sun sleeps.”
Raven laughed “I’ll just take your hat. It’s time we had a sunny day”
Leaving the Fog Man cursing on the shore, Raven flew towards the setting sun. For many days, he pursued the sun and was just about to give up his search when he spotted a solitary Rock crag, with sea birds swooping around its head and shoulders. Raven was about to ask the birds, when the crag yawned, then it blinked. What looked like a rock, was a giant man, sitting in the water. Three times Raven asked him: “Have you seen the man who sits on the Tide?” with no answer, but the fourth the Giant roared “I AM THE MAN WHO SITS ON THE TIDE!!” His breath blew Raven back several miles.
Avoiding his mouth, Raven shouted in his ear. “Do you know the secret of how to move the sea aside?”
“I KNOW MANY SECRETS, BUT I CAN’T REMEMBER THEM”
“Well maybe if you told me one, it would jog your memory.”
“GO AWAY I CAN’T REMEMBER ANY?”
“Well what is the tide, and why do you sit on it?”
“IT’S MY JOB, IT’S WHAT I DO. I AM THE MAN WHO SITS ON THE TIDE.”
Curious, Raven tried to see what he was sitting on. “Maybe if you stood on it”
“NO, I HAVE ALWAYS SAT ON THE TIDE – IT’S WHAT I DO!”
“Come on, get up.”
“GO AWAY, YOU BOTHER ME.”
Raven began circling him. Raven spotted an exposed portion of his “backside” and got an idea. Flying up high in the sky, he pointed his sharp beak right at it and dropped like hawk, jabbing the giant real good. With a mighty roar, the giant rose up and started howling in pain, jumping around and holding his “backside”. But his wail was drown out by the sound of a hundred waterfalls, as the sea poured into a large hole where he had sat. The giant danced around in pain. The sea was almost all gone, leaving sand and floundering fish as far as the eye could see. Finally, rubbing the “tender spot” the giant sat down. As he did the sea spurted up and refilled to its former water line.
Raven knew the giant’s secret. “So that’s what the tide is, now if we can just teach him some new habits.”
Raven perched on his shoulder and with his most persuasive trickster voice suggested: “From now on, how about taking a little stretch twice a day – just a short one, so the people can gather food from the sea.”
“NO, SITTING IS WHAT I DO, I AM THE MAN WHO SITS ON THE TIDE. I HAVE ALWAYS DONE THIS AND ALWAYS WILL. IT’S MY JOB.”
“Come on, everybody needs a break now and then, just a short stretch twice a day?”
“GO AWAY, YOU’RE UPSETTING ME.”
“I know, it’s my job. It’s what I do. I am the Raven. I upset things. I upset the darkness when I stole the sun and put it in the sky. I upset the cold when I stole fire from Owl and gave it to the people, and now I will upset you twice a day.”
As Raven began circling for another jab, the giant roared “WHY I CAN SWAT YOU LIKE A MOSQUITO! YOU ARE NO BIGGER TO ME THAN A MINNOW TO A WHALE.” He began to swing his arms wildly at the circling Raven. Giant waves were formed. As the two struggled, Raven trying to jab the giant, the giant trying to crush the Raven, a great storm struck the shores, and they say that this was when Mountain Goat first tasted salt and why sea shells are found in the mountains.
Trying as hard as he could Raven could not get near a tender spot on the Giant. Then Raven remembered Fog Man’s hat. Raven pulled the hat down on his head. Fog began pouring out, thicker and thicker. A fog bank enveloped the Giant. He looked around, trying to spot Raven, but all he could see was Fog. Then, “YEOWWW!” Raven jabbed him good. For a little while, he jumped and danced around, then settled back on his spot.
Meanwhile as the waters receded, Raven was able to gather food from the sea shore. The waters were shallow enough to fish, and there were oysters and clams and mussels and crabs. The Sandpipers and gulls and cormorants found plenty to eat. Then as the giant had settled down, the waters returned to their former level. Raven began to visit the giant twice a day at different times to catch him by surprise, upsetting him each time. Sometimes he used Fog Man’s hat, or came in the dark of the moon. And as the tide went out and came in, there was plenty of food to eat.
Finally, one day, as the Raven was about to pull on the fog man’s hat, he saw a surprising sight. All by himself, without Raven’s reminder, the Giant stood up, stretched, looked around and after a bit, sat down. Raven was puzzled. He disguised himself as a sea bird and flew to the giant’s shoulder. “Why did you just stand up and sit down?”
“IT’S MY JOB. IT’S WHAT I DO. AS LONG AS I REMEMBER IT’S WHAT I HAVE DONE. I AM THE MAN WHO MAKES THE TIDE GO OUT AND COME IN.”
And as Raven flew off, relieved he would have to upset the Giant no longer, he laughed. “I am the Raven. I upset things. It’s my job. It’s what I do!”