A Gift of Light
Written by Anne Anderson
Long, long ago when the earth was still quite young, the human beings who roamed the land were very happy. The sun shone bright and hot each day. At night the warm winds encircled their near-naked bodies, while the golden flames of the fire leapt and danced to keep away any fierce beasts.
Among one tribe lived a wise man and woman. Their youngest son was named Minya, so called as he was much smaller than his brothers. Minya knew many bush sounds and his sharp eyes saw everything that moved, near and far, for he was a gatherer. But still his brothers would not let him hunt with them.
One night, as everyone sat around the crackling fire, out of the darkness swooped old crow. He screeched, “We need a new leader. Give your youngest son to us. He can see like an eagle. Do as we say, or darkness shall surround you forever more! But as crow moved towards Minya, the fire spirits leapt up singing:
“The sun shall journey far away,
Bringing crisp and cold to all who stay,
But when the darkest day is done,
The light will return for everyone!”
Crow snatched at the fire sticks and grasping them in his pointed beak, flew away into the night.
Early the next morning the brothers padded silently across the valley floor. Minya kept up at first, for he too wanted to find old crow and the fire spirits. Now Minya was alone, but suddenly he could hear all the bush sounds he knew so well. ‘ZZ-ZZ’, came to his ears. Stealthily he moved towards the soft, humming sound. There, within reach of his slender arms, was a beehive. Now everyone could have a sweet delight after their meal. But although the brothers hunted all day, nothing could they find, but an old emu’s egg and that they left behind.
As the first sunbeams danced into the cool valley, the following day, the brothers set out again, determined to hunt the crow. Minya was soon left behind, seeking darkened places where secrets could sleep. His keen eyes caught a flash of red and then another. However, all he found were succulent berries, juicy to eat. He gathered enough berries for a feast for everyone, but although the brothers hunted all day, nothing could they find, but an old crocodile and he they left behind.
The days became shorter, the chilly air nipped at fingers and toes. Food was not easily found. Many animals were hiding in darkened burrows. Still old crow and the fire spirits had not been found.
Early one morning, when the valley was clothed in mist, Minya crept away. Swiftly and surely his feet moved over boulders, making his way up the ragged mountainside to the mighty eagle’s lair. He heard the cawing of the old crow and became as still as the very rocks he was near.
Reaching the eagles nest Minya cried: “Eagle so great and true, can you tell me where to find the fire spirits to save our kind?” The wise eagle replied, “Crow like the darkness, here there is light. Seek the wombat brave and bold; he goes into the earth’s depths. He may know.”
Minya climbed upon the eagle’s back and together the soared high above the winding valley. Below, Minya could see his brothers, spears in hand, searching far and wide. The eagle descended to a small cave near the valley floor. Crawling along in the darkness, Minya could hear the echoing snores of the wombat. Softly Minya spoke to the wombat. “Wombat, so brave and bold, can you tell me where to find the spirits to save our kind?” Wombat stretched and mumbled, “Deep in the earth below, I hear sounds like no other. Within this darkness live earthly beings, they may know. Come let us go.”
Minya grasped wombat’s soft brown fur and let wombat guide him to the depths of the earth below. In the great cavern worked many earthly beings, cracking rocks and stones and making paths for the roots descending from above. Here, in the dark, light sparkled and shone like the stars in the heavens. Minya stepped forward and asked, “Dear sir, so old and wise, can you tell me where to find the fires spirits to save our kind?” The ancient being replied, “Take out light from the earth within. Guard it well and it will shine into your world, bringing your golden sun back to you.”
Minya cradled the glimmering spark in its hard stony bed. Night had descended over the land, as he made his way back to the camp. The spark began to glow, brighter and brighter. As Minya bent down to the pile of dry sticks in the middl of the camp, the fire spirits leapt up and danced once more. The elders stirred in their sleep knowing that the darkest day had passed and the light would now return.
‘Minya’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘small’