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How Tol-le-loo Stole Fire

Categories : Miwok , Miwok Stories

Long before the Alisal rancheria was established, the Valley People lived in California's San Joaquin Valley, about a day's walk from the eventual site of Alisal and not far from the present town of Stockton. Their chiefs were Wek-wek, the Falcon, and We-pi-ah-gah, the Golden Eagle.

Their neighbors to the east, the Mountain People, lived in darkness in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Although, they wanted fire, the Mountain People did not know where or how to obtain it. O-la-choo, the Coyote-man, tried to find it but failed. Eventually, Tol-le-loo, the White-footed Mouse, discovered that the Valley People had fire, and O-la-choo sent him to steal it.

Taking his elderberry flute with him, Tol-le-loo traveled west until he reached the homes of the Valley People. Arriving outside their roundhouse, Tol-le-loo sat down and began to play his flute. Finding the music pleasant to listen to, the Valley People invited Tol-le-loo to come inside and continue his playing. Soon all the people began to feel sleepy. Now Wit-tah-bah the Robin was pretty sure that Tol-le-loo was planning on stealing their fire, so he spread himself over the embers to protect it. And that is why the robin's is breast is red today.

Tol-le-loo kept playing his flute, and pretty soon everyone, including Wit-tah-bah the Robin, had fallen asleep. Seizing this opportunity, Tol-le-loo ran up to the sleeping Wit-tah-bah, and cut a small hole in his wing. Then he crawled through the hole and placed the fire inside his flute. Running out of the roundhouse, he climbed to the top of Mount Diablo, where he built a great fire that lit up the entire countryside, including the blue Sierra Nevada mountains to the east where the Mountain People lived.

When Wek-wek the Falcon awoke and saw the fire on Mount Diablo, he knew that Tol-le-loo had stolen the Valley People's fire. So he set out after Tol-le-loo, and eventually caught him. Tol-le-loo denied having taken the fire, and told Wek-wek to search him if he doubted him. Wek-wek searched but could not find the fire because it was inside Tol-le-loo's flute. So Wek-wek tossed Tol-le-loo into some water and let him go on his way.

Tol-le-loo climbed out of the water, and continued east to the mountains, all the while carrying the fire in his flute. Arriving home, he took the fire out of the flute, and placed it on the ground. Then covering it with leaves and pine needles, he wrapped it up in a small bundle.

Le-che-che the Hummingbird and another bird went after it, but they could not catch it and returned empty-handed.

O-la-choo the Coyote-man could smell the fire, and wanted to steal it. He approached the bundle, and pushed it with his nose, preparing to swallow it. Suddenly, however, the fire shot up into the sky and became the Sun.

The people took the fire that was left and put it into two trees, the buckeye and the incense cedar, where legend says it still resides. From that time on, the Mountain People made their fire drills from the wood of these two trees.

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