Not Just Black and White

The main theme I have chosen to focus on from Maria Williams’ version of the well-known creation myth of how Raven steals the sun is purity, and how sometimes it must be sacrificed for the greater good. Elements of this theme are abundant throughout the story. One example is the chief’s daughter. Raven deceives her, using shape shifting, into believing that he is her infant child. She is symbolic of purity, and how it can be taken away through deception. The child is also a clear representation of innocence, for we are born in our purest form.

In the beginning of this version of the myth, Raven starts out purely white. However, it is his escape at the end of the story, when he bursts through the chief’s chimney, which turns his feathers as black as coal. It leaves him as dark as the world was before he freed the light. This represents the loss of Ravens purity and virtue, for in this tale, he deceives the people. His wrongdoing causes him to lose his purity, paralleling the trick he played on the chiefs daughter that made her lose hers. When it was dark, no one was able to admire Raven’s pure white feathers, and now that they can see him, he is as black as soot.
Although Raven has helped the world by bringing light and understanding, he had to make a great sacrifice for the good of all creatures in the world. The sacrifice was lying to the people, and taking something that was not his. Because of this though, he brought forth light to the world, which is a symbol of the enlightening. His image has changed entirely, from the pure, virtuous bird of the beginning of the story, to the mischievous, dark one in the end. The overriding message is that we must make great sacrifices in order to make the world a better place.

Williams, Maria, and Felix Vigil. How Raven Stole the Sun. New York: Abbeville, 2001. Print.

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5 thoughts on “Not Just Black and White

  1. I had not considered this particular interpretation before, and it is pretty interesting. The ‘Good out of Evil’ idea is one that is not usually seen, and I really like how you point out that the sacrifices we make to improve the world can be more than just our material gain. The idea of someone sacrificing their morality for the greater good is a really novel approach. Prior to reading this I had not considered Raven to be a character once innocent – he was always ‘Raven the Trickster.’ Seeing how he became that way through necessity puts a different light on it, and gives me pause to consider the moral adaptions of people I know and of myself. We all do things for a reason, and sometimes that means changing our morals for someone else’s benefit (or for the greater good) but does that have to be permanent and why or why not?
    Good thoughts!

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  2. Definitely like the correlation of the sacrifice for the greater good staining the Raven and diminishing it’s purity. One thing you might consider is how we perceive purity? White is typical for the ‘purity’ in stories because it is untainted and uncolored, pure even. My thought is, what if the staining of the Raven instead of destroying it’s purity, it instead gives the Raven an identity, not a bland and infallible coat of white, but a dark coat that is pure as the night. Instead of corrupting the Raven, it honors him, it gives him a physical representation of it’s good deed. I only raise this question because I know that White is synonymous with purity and holiness in Western Culture, but what are the Native American interpretations of White? Is it the same? Different?

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  3. This is a good analysis. It definitely helps the reader see ravens in a new way, which is awesome! I am interested in hearing more about the idea of purity in the story. Do the authors hint at how they conceive of purity and innocence? One way to explore this might be to go deeper into analysis about the chief’s daughter, as long as it comes back to the raven. Do you agree with the authors’ thoughts on the concept? One thing that might help your reader really see the point you are making is to use specific quotes from the story. Overall, good job.

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  4. I went back to look over a few blog posts, its so cool that this project got to continue onward. I really enjoy how you all have a story, and a poem, and just a jumble of other ideas and things like the basket weavers. That you all have your own special talent that you want to share with not only the rest of the class but whomever we are presenting to at the museum! Kudos!

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  5. I think that your story has great profound meaning. the tie it has to good and evil is really solid. One thing that I think is important is how many cultures have a sense of write and wrong and good and evil. For example, If you could do some analysis and relate this to the ying and yang and relate how this story to different culture i believe that it would allow people to look and see how similar we all are especially since when these stories were related many cultures didn’t even know each other.

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