Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
February 12, 2000 - Issue 03

The Theft of Fire
Ojibwe Legend

Here is the story of how Manabozho disguised himself as a rabbit in order to bring the gift of fire to his people, the Ojibwe.

Once, many years ago, Manabozho asked his grandmother, Nolomis, why the people had to freeze all winter long, in the cold, northern weather. He wanted to know if there was not some way in which the people could manage to stay warm and cozy, through the long winters.

Nokomis answered that it was rumored that, in a far off land, an old man had the gift of fire. However, he was a selfish person, and refused to give it to anyone else. Instead, he kept it hidden, to be used only by himself and his daughters.

Manabozho told Nokomis that he wanted to journey to this land, in order, to get some of this fire, from the old man. Nokomis didn't want Manabozho to travel so far, but she knew that he would go anyone, once his mind was set. So, she wished him well, as he set off. As Manabozho left their camp, he told his grandmother to be ready with the kindling, when he returned.

When Manabozho came close, to the camp, of the old man, he decided to stop and think of a plan for getting inside. He decided to disguise himself as a rabbit, hoping that the man's daughters would feel sorry for him and carry him inside, away from the cold.

Manabozho's plan worked just as he had expected and the younger daughter, seeing him shivering in the cold, tucked him under her shawl, and carried him inside.

The old man, however, was very angry about this. He did not allow any strange beings in his lodge, not even a rabbit. Growing drowsy from the fire's warmth, however, the old man fell asleep and didn't think of the rabbit again.

The girls put the rabbit (Now, remember, this was really Manabozho) near the fire to warm and left him to prepare their father's dinner. No sooner had the girls turned their backs, than Manabozho caught a spark of fire, on his back, and ran off. When the girls realized that they had been fooled, there was quite a commotion, but by then, there was nothing that they could do about it.

Manabozho ran and ran. As he neared the camp, he called out to Nokomis to have the kindling ready. Of course, she did. She took the spark of fire from the rabbit's back, and soon had the fire burning, in their lodge.

By now, Manabozho had changed back into himself and he went outside and called, to the people, to come and take a spark, from the fire. He told them that in that manner, they would be able to keep themselves, and their children warm, throughout the long, cold winter months.

That is all. 

Now, read the story again, and see if you can answer these questions.......NO PEEKING!!!

  1. Who was Manabozho's grandmother?
  2. Why were the people cold all winter long?
  3. Who had the gift of fire?
  4. Why didn't the old man want to share it?
  5. What animal did Manabozho become in order to trick the old man?
  6. Who brought the rabbit inside?
  7. How did Manabozho carry the spark of fire back to Nokomis?
  8. Did Manabozho and Nokomis share the gift of fire with the other people in the tribe?

Print and color this picture of Manabozho

What animal did Manabozho become?--connect the dots

Help Manabozho find his way home---a maze to print and color

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