And so it is said . . . in the long-ago time . . . that one day Kochininako was strolling through the woods and over the hills near the village. Somewhat tired, she sat down under a mighty oak tree. It was a warm spring day and she soon went to sleep.
As she lay sleeping, light from the sun glittered on her from between the leaves. Osrats Paitummu, the Great Sun, seeing Kochininako asleep, came down on a beam of sunlight to look at her more closely. It was then that Kochininako awoke.
In that first instant, she was extremely afraid. But Osrats Paitummu began speaking in a soothing way as he dazzled within the ray of sunlight and soon Kochininako was laughing and her fear was completely gone. When the sun began to set behind Blue Mountain, Osrats Paitummu departed and Kochininako walked back to the village.
Every day after that first meeting, Kochininako returned to the oak tree and every day Osrats Paitummu returned on a beam of sunlight only to leave when the sun began to set. Finally, after they had spent many days together under the oak tree, Kochininako and Osrats Paitummu were married.
Fearing that the people of her village wouldn't understand, Kochininako decided to keep her marriage secret. Because Osrats Paitummu had the power to remain invisible to those he did not want to have see him, keeping the secret of their marriage was very easy for Kochininako.
And while Kochininako was very happy being married to Osrats Paitummu, the people of the village were suffering. They were starving because there was no rain for the corn to grow. To avoid the horror of starvation, the people decided that they would all move south to a better land.
A little after sunset on the night before the departure of all the people of the village, a child was born to Kochininako. Because the boy's birth would reveal the secret of her marriage to Osrats Paitummu, Kochininako decided her only choice was to remain in the now-empty village.
Unable to find enough food for herself and her child, the mother became weaker and weaker until she finally died. But her infant son, who was fed by the birds that came every morning bringing grain and seeds, continued to live and soon grew into a young man.
Every day the young man would wander across the land in search of game. He would also work every day in the field tending to the corn which grew green and tall because the rains had returned to nourish them. Since his earliest childhood, the young man was especially attentive to his duties and would scatter corn meal before the door every morning at sunrise as an offering.
One morning while he was scattering corn meal, he noticed a smooth black stone in the container which held the corn meal. Carefully, he picked the stone out of the container and as he held it in his hand, a voice began to speak from the stone.
"I am your grandmother and I live in the stone. Kochininako, the daughter of the sovereign of the village, was your mother. Osrats Paitummu, the sovereign of the sky, is your father."
Throughout that long day, the young man thought about the strange event which had occurred. He tried to remember if he had ever heard the sound of any voice other than his since being born, but he could not. As the day stretched into night, he was overwhelmed by loneliness. Finally he want to sleep engulfed in his need for companionship.
The next morning, the young man began to scatter corn meal as he had always done at sunrise, but the sun seemed to have come extremely close to the earth. Rising from a high mountain in the east close to the place where the young man lived, the sun dazzled him and he fell on the ground filled with wonder and fear. Then he heard the sun calling to him.
"Sah-mu-tii." (My son.)
"Ny-s-tii-ah!" (My father!) the young man exclaimed.
Then the sun continued to speak to the young man. "When I rise from the east four times, I shall take you with me because I have wanted to show you to the people and prove to them that I have a son. From this time forward you will be called Paischun-nimoot (child of the sun)."
When the fourth day finally arrived, the Osrats Paitummu rose from behind the eastern mountain where he waited for Paischun-nimoot. The young man quickly climbed the mountain and was welcomed by Osrats Paitummu. Then they traveled together until noontime when they arrived in the middle of a great realm where all the peoples of the earth were gathered.
Osrats Paitummu spoke. "My people, this is my son, Paischun-nimoot. I have brought him for you to see and welcome among you."
They talked among themselves and after a time said to Osrats Paitummu, "We shall examine him to see if he is indeed the child of the sun."
First they took the young man into a chamber in the north which was filled with bees. Paischun-nimoot caught the bees and took their honey but they did not sting him. Then he was taken into a chamber in the west that was filled with Wa-waka, who are fierce water animals. These he caught as he had the bees and was unharmed. Then they took Paischun-nimoot to a room in the south where the most ferocious of captive bears were held. Not once was he attacked or bitten as he rode the bears in that great room. Finally, Paischun-nimoot was taken to a room in the east filled with lions who stopped their roaring after he petted and stroked all of them in turn.
When the people of the earth saw all this, they spoke with one voice: "This is indeed Paischun-nimoot, the child of the sun."
Reprinted from The Telling of the World: Native American Stories and Art, W. S. Penn, (Editor), Stewart, Tabori & Chang.
© 1994 Lee Francis
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