This is a story of Magpie’s, who is happy to tell tales if you are patient to listen. It is about Raven, though he is quiet and modest and doesn’t volunteer stories about himself unless you ask him directly.
Long ago our world was still young and people and animals talked freely with one another. One evening, two young men – Verdaz and Orgullo – were walking together to their village. They passed through the great forest where they came upon Old Raven, perched high in a tree.
“Greetings, Raven,” said Verdaz.
“Hail, great Raven,” said Orgullo.
“Good evening, Verdaz and Orgullo,” said great Raven. In those days, Raven not only spoke but knew the names and natures of all creatures.
“You look majestic in that tree, dear friend,” Verdaz said to Raven. “The evening light fills the skies behind you with beautiful strokes of color.”
“Thank you, Verdaz,” spoke Raven.
“Raven, if we are well met, would you give us a gift?” asked Orgullo.
“What would you have?” asked Raven.
“You have the power to create,” Orgullo replied. “I would very much like that power, too.”
Verdas added, “Yes, great Raven to create such beauty as we see tonight would be a wondrous gift.”
Raven looked at the two young men, and saw them well. Raven saw what was in their hearts as much as what was on the outside.
“I see what beauty you may create, and it makes me glad,” Raven said. He did not share that he saw other things, too. “As a gift from me to you, this ability to create will not be something I can take back from you. I will give you this gift with these words of wisdom, so heed them well: Know that despite the beauty you may see around you, you can only create from the beauty within you.”
And with that Raven flapped his mighty wings, and a wind blew across the young men as Raven lifted into the sky and flew away. Raven flew to alight on a high mountain, where he could watch what might become of them.
Verdaz and Orgullo spoke happily as they walked to their village. They both spoke of the many beautiful things they hoped to create. They imagined figures carved of stone and wood, depicting others who filled their world: raven, of course, but also wolf and bear, eagle and rabbit. They talked of shaping soapstone, jade, and abalone shell. They imagined beautiful towering totems and intricate baskets. They promised to share their works with one another.
The next day, as the sun cleared the eastern mountains and filled the valley with light, they both set about creating their first item.
Verdaz took a lump of obsidian about the size of his palm, and he carefully chipped and carved at it all day. Meanwhile, Orgullo worked more quickly. He took a large piece of driftwood and chipped away at it. Then he took soapstone and carved and chipped at it. Finally, he took an old walrus tusk that he carved.
In the evening, when the sun was low, the two young men met to compare their work.
Orgullo shared his work first. He showed Verdaz that he had crafted a man’s head out of the driftwood; a head that looked quite a bit like his own. From the soapstone he had made the figure of a man. And finally, on the walrus tusk, he had carved two men standing before the rising sun. “It is us, dear brother,” Orgullo told Verdaz, “at the start of a new day.”
Verdaz took his time looking at the beautiful work that Orgullo had created, admiring it.
Then it was Verdaz’s time to share. Unlike Orgullo, Verdaz had only created one piece. He had intricately carved the black obsidian into Old Raven. It was beautiful and well crafted.
Orgullo saw the beautiful work that Verdaz had created, but he did not feel admiration. Instead, Orgullo felt a desire to create his own raven.
The next day both young men went back to work creating new things, as they had the day before.
Verdaz spent his day working on a large cedar log. He chipped and carved at it with skill and unusual speed.
Meanwhile, Orgullo sought out a piece of obsidian larger than that of Verdaz’s. Once found, he chipped and carved at it, working to create his own raven. Halfway through the day, he set it aside to find another, larger piece of obsidian the he carved and carved until sundown.
It was just past sundown when Orgullo came and met Verdaz. Verdaz stood beside a towering, majestic totem. Raven sat at the top, his wings outstretched, with wolf and bear below him. On one side the sun rose over the eastern mountains, and on the other it set into the western sea.
Orgullo looked at the mighty totem, but not with admiration. Instead, he felt angry, and wanted to make his own.
Meanwhile, Verdaz looked at and marveled at Orgullo’s two carvings of Raven. Both were well rendered, but Verdaz was puzzled to see Raven’s face scowling. And there were deep cut marks that marred the wings of each carving. Still, he shared his admiration for what Orgullo had created.
Night came and went, and one more time the two young men went to work.
Orgullo found a cedar log mightier than that of Verdaz’s, and he set to carve his own mighty totem. He worked ferociously, with greater speed than has ever been seen since. Meanwhile, Verdaz carved the antler of an elk and forged a piece of steel, crafting a beautiful knife.
Sundown came, and Verdaz had to go look for Orgullo. He was still at work in the waning light, furiously carving his mighty totem. Verdaz viewed the totem, admiring it, but also conflicted by it.
Orgullo had indeed carved a mighty totem, taller than Verdaz’s. At the top stood Orgullo himself, the sun his crown, as he stood upon the shoulders of Verdaz! Orgullo’s face, in the totem, was carved with a smile, but did not seem happy. Indeed, Verdaz thought it looked more like the face was sneering. Verdaz’s face, meanwhile, though it looked content had clearly been scarred by the carving blade. Verdaz was standing atop Raven, whose wings were bent to the ground.
Verdaz shared the knife he had carved with Orgullo. “It is for you, brother,” he said. The knife’s metal blade was curved and sharp, with the image of a bear carved into the metal to suggest its strength. The elk antler handle was intricately carved into the head of a wolf at the end. Never has there been such a beautiful knife in all the world.
Enraged, Orgullo took the knife and threw it to the ground, where he crushed it with a boulder; shattering the handle and bending the blade. Verdaz looked at his friend with shock. Orgullo turned his anger toward Verdaz, lifting the rock high above his head to strike him down. Just then Raven, who had been watching from the mountain, flew down and landed atop the tortured face at the top of Orgullo’s totem.
“Enough,” Old Raven spoke, his voice echoing like the thunder overhead. Both men stopped. Orgullo dropped the rock he had been holding off to one side, and his shoulders slumped.
“What has happened, dear Orgullo?” Verdaz asked. Orgullo hung his head in shame.
It was Old Raven who spoke next.
“I warned you both, ‘despite the beauty you may see around you, you can only create from the beauty within you.’
“Dear Verdaz, you see such wonders and have created them fresh from your own view. You honored me and my gift to you with your first carving. Then, your totem showed the glory of the day from the rising to the setting sun. And even as you crafted the most exquisite of knives, you thought only of sharing it with Orgullo.
But alas, dear Orgullo, each time you saw the beauty that Verdaz had created, you saw only that it was not of you. And you could not bear such a thought. Such pride marred your further creations, robbing them of beauty, scarring them with pride.”
“Yes, Old Raven,” Orgullo said, sadly. “I wanted my work to be better than Verdaz’s.” He paused for a few moments, and then added, “But it wasn’t. I am sorry. I am not worthy of your gift.”
Old Raven was quiet for a time, regarding Orgullo.
“I have given you the gift to create, which I would not take back even if I could,” Raven finally said. “But now I will give you both an additional gift, one that may help.”
A wind blew across the meadow, surrounding the boys. Raven spoke again. “I give you the need for patience. You may still create, bringing beauty into the world from the beauty within you; but you must take your time. In taking your time, dear Orgullo, remember to see that all around you is good. Do not worry that others may also create wonders. See what good there is, and celebrate that.”
And Old Raven flapped his wings and flew away. The next day the two young men rose and once again began to create, each taking their time and each thinking about the many good things in the world. And as time went on, both grew as accomplished artists who taught others how to see and depict the wonders of the world.