How Raven Lost His Beak

In the early days, it is said, Raven flew from village to village making mischief and playing tricks on the animals who lived like people.

He stole dry fish off the racks and dropped dirty stones into drinking cups. He walked over people's faces when they were sleeping and tipped over pails full of berries.

Raven's favourite trick was to swoop down from a tree and pluck hair out of a woman's head. The woman would search and Raven would cry "Caw Caw Caw" through his closed beak as he flew off to line his nest.

Each time Raven played another trick, the people got angrier and angrier. When they heard Raven's squawking cry coming through the trees, people scurried to hide in their teepees. Raven told people so many lies that no one could believe anything he said anymore, even though people had always respected his wisdom of all the things he had seen as he flew.

Then one day Raven went too far. Wolf and Bear caught snatching a piece of dry meat right out of a baby's mouth. Not only did Raven grab the meat, his beak scratched the baby's cheek so the blood came. Wolf and Bear got so angry they moved like thunder. Wolf grabbed Raven's tail and Bear grabbed a wing and before Raven could let out two squawks, the hunters had wrestled him to the ground and yanked his beak right out of his face.

All Raven had left was a nozzle where the beak had been.


Did Raven ever squawk then. Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw! For three nights and two days Raven cawed and squawked.

"Please give my beak back," he begged Wolf. Wolf just shrugged his shoulders and covered his ears. "Please Bear," he begged. "I need my beak back." Bear spread open his hands to show he didn't have the beak and covered his ears too. They were hurting from Raven's endless squawking.

The Raven got silent. He stopped begging. People noticed him slipping off through the bush.

"He must be going to the lake to wet his nozzle," said Duck. "A dried out nozzle hurts more than a toothache," said Elder Woman. "Serves him right," said Fox, "after all the tricks he played on us."

Raven heard the villagers talking, so he made sure he was moaning in pain each time he came back to the village. He also moaned each time he left. But as soon as he was out of sight, he hurried to his secret point on the lakeshore.

Raven stole some trees a beaver had cut down for a dam and in two days he had built a raft. He took branches and mud and dried grass and shaped them into figures. When he set the figures on the raft, they looked like people paddling. Now all he had to do was wait for the right wind.

People noticed Raven heading out through the bush more often, six, seven times in a day. Each time he left and came back, he was moaning and groaning. "His nozzle must be very painful," said Elder Women. "Serves him right," said Fox. "I wonder if he will die," said Duck.

Raven headed out through the bush again to stand on his secret point where his raft was hidden. He checked the wind. The wind was right. It was blowing toward the village. Raven laughed a squawky laugh through his nozzle and pushed the raft out onto the lake. As soon as he saw it was drifting as planned, he rushed back, going into his moaning and groaning act as he entered the village.

Raven watched the villagers out of the corner of his eye. He waited for the raft to appear. "Look!" shouted Marten.

"Where?" said Wolf. "There! Coming around the point!" "It looks like a raft," said Fox. "People are paddling it," said Bear. "Who could they be?" said Wolf.

Bear noticed Raven watching the raft too. "Raven," he said. "You are an old timer and know these things. There are people coming. What are they doing?" Raven squawked painfully through his nozzle, "Yes, at times these things happen." "Who are these people?" asked Wolf. "These are wanderers in search of people," said Raven. "What do they want?" asked Marten. "Will they kill us?" asked Duck. "What should we do?" asked Wolf. Raven shielded his eyes and looked out onto the lake where the raft was drifting closer to the shore. "Don't be frightened," he said. "Here's what to do. When wanderers come, all the people of the village should go to the edge of the lake and stand on the shore to greet them. This is the proper way to treat wanderers. If you do this, nothing bad will happen." "Let's do that then," said Wolf. And he led the people down to the water's edge. They shielded their eyes and watched as the raft with the paddling figures drifted toward them.

As soon as the people had turned their backs on the village, Raven started searching from tent to tent. He rummaged through blankets and food bags and pails of berries. "Where is it?" he muttered. "Where did they hide it?"

Each time he came out of a teepee, he glanced quickly at the lake to make sure the people were still watching the raft. Then he ducked into the next opening to rummage through another tent. But Raven didn't find what he was looking for.

Then in the last teepee Raven was startled to see an old lady sitting in her tent. "What are you doing here?" he squawked, but even as he spoke he remembered that the old lady was blind. "Granny," he said. "There are strangers coming. Why haven't you gone to greet them?" "Well, grandchild," said the old lady. "You see, I was given Raven's beak to keep safe. But if strangers are coming, what should I do with it?"

Raven almost laughed, he was so happy to hear this, but he calmed himself enough to say, "Granny, Granny, let me keep it for you, let me keep it for you." "Well, let me look for it," she said. So the old lady started to look. Raven could hardly stand still as she fumbled around under her clothing until she found a little bundle tied to her body with a strip of hide.

Raven danced with excitement as the old lady untied the string. She opened the bundle and pulled out Raven's beak. Faster then lightning Raven snatched it from her fingers and jammed it back on his nozzle.

"Caw! Caw! Caw! he squawked as he flew from the teepee, wings rushing over the heads of the villagers on the beach. They had just discovered that the wanderers were only branches covered with mud and grass. The blind old lady hobbled out of her teepee yelling, "May the wolf eat you alive! May the wolf eat you alive!"

Raven settled on a treetop, cawing and squawking at the top of his lungs, laughing at the angry people shaking their fists at him from the ground. Then he closed his beak. Something's not quite right, Raven thought. In his rush to put his beak back on he had jammed it on crooked. That is why, even to this day, if you look closely you will see Raven's beak is a bit out of place.

Download How Raven Lost His Beak (PDF) here.

This story was published by the Teaching and Learning Centre of the Tłįcho Community Services Agency. It is based on a story told by David Chocolate which was recorded and translated by Francis Zoe. Armin Wiebe wrote the English text. Tłįcho text was written by Rosa Mantla and Mary Siemens. The illustrations were painted by Johnny Wetrade.