Once long ago but very near, four boys lived on Earth. One boy lived in a cave in the mountain. One boy lived in a tree. One boy lived on the plain. And one boy lived by the river.
The boy who lived in the cave was warm all spring and summer and halfway through the autumn. His cave was cold in winter, but sheltered from the freezing rain and frost. He ate the snakes, grubs and roots that burrowed into the cave, and dressed himself in the mud of his cave, and snakeskin shoes and hats.
The boy who lived in the tree was cool and shaded all summer long, and most of the spring and autumn. In the winter he would pile his trees fallen leaves into a soft matt and cover fallen branches he’d weaved until he had a soft nest. He’d shiver most of the time, but he could stay pretty dry. All summer long he ate fruit and seeds from his tree and an occasional bird’s egg he could grab. and dressed himself in feathers and sticky tree gum.
The boy who lived on the plain lounged in a meadow full of flowers for the summer and spring, jumping and playing with the deer and the sheep. Winter and autumn had wild winds and freezing rain though, and he burrowed under a big rock to stay dry. It was hot and dry in the summer as well and he had to be careful to keep cool enough. His skin turned a crispy brown in the sun and he dressed in furry animal skins he found. He had lovely meals of strawberries and blackberries, and ate and ate till his belly ached. Then he ate some cooling mint and mallow, and roots of burdock and salsify.
The boy who lived by the river swam and splashed all spring and summer. He ate fish and eels that he caught with his quick little hands, and let them dry on rocks till they were chewy and just right. He ate watercress and miner’s lettuce, mushrooms and cat tail roots. When the river turned brown and cold rain splashed down, the river boy stayed warm and dry on a raft of reeds and river moss. He dressed himself and his shelter with the river’s bounty: cattails and rushes that he first dried and then wove carefully. But in stormy winter and spring he would get washed away and land shivering and soaked at the muddy shore.
One very sunny spring day, an old woman arrived, and she called out to the four boys. “Nana Sun is here, Nana Sun is here, come running, come running!” The four boys had never heard of Nana Sun, and they’d never heard such a voice, and they cautiously came towards the sound, timidly hiding behind rocks and trees, coming from the four directions.
Now Nana Sun was a special old woman, and she was very wise. In her old age she needed someone to take over her job of guarding the fire, and there were no other people but these four boys. She had done such a good job of guarding the fire that no one knew there was such a thing. Whenever a bolt of lightning had lit a tree on fire, she had rushed to capture and hide the fire. Whenever the fields had smouldered with heat and twigs had ignited from rubbing together, she had rushed with her cape to hide the smoke, and make herself and the fire invisible. Whenever a rockslide had rubbed two rocks enough to form a spark, she had intervened.
“Four Boys,” she said, “You must come together and form a tribe to guard my fire.” She proceeded to show the boys fire, and their eyes opened wide.
“I will guard fire from the wind and always protect it.” Said the Cave Boy
“I will feed fire and it will never perish as I will always feed it with my twigs and dried leaves, old branches and logs.” Said the Tree Boy.
“I will keep fire in check with my water, so it will not burn everything, and keep us all safe.” Said the River Boy
“I will do the most important of all,” said Plainsboy, “I will free the fire as torches to carry it to the far ends of the earth so that all may partake of the blessings of fire!”
Nana Sun was very happy with the generosity of the boys, and the fire in their midst danced and hissed, as she gave them all her blessings. “And I will give you one more blessing so that your kind will always carry fire inside of you as well.” and she stepped into the fire.
The fire leaped to the sky and the sky god reached down and scooped Nana Sun to his bosom. But as he did, from Nana’s pocket slipped sparks which rolled and leaped from the fire.
The sparks landed on the ground and a beautiful maiden arose from each of four sparks:
A White-skinned maiden for the boy of the cave.
A Brown-skinned maiden for the boy of the plain.
A Yellow-skinned maiden for the boy of the tree.
And A Blue-skinned maiden for the boy of the river.
And these were the great great great grandmothers and great great great grandfathers of us all.