One Day, One Night

By Master Storyteller Joe Hayes

From his book "Here Comes the Storyteller"

Here is a story that goes way back to the beginning of time. They say that way back then things were very different. There was not a steady rhythm of days and nights like there is now. Instead it might be dark for 10 years in a row. And then light for one day. And then it could be dark again for eight long years. And then light for one day.

Some of the animals were happy with the way things were. They were the animals that liked the darkness. But many animals were unhappy. They preferred the light.

Rabbit was an unhappy animal because she would feel a lot safer if she could see her enemies creeping up on her.

Squirrel didn't like it, either. She liked to run down one tree branch to the very end and then take a long, flying leap and catch another branch and run up it. But in the dark Squirrel would miss the second branch and fall and hit her head almost every time.

Nor did the birds like it. Well, one bird, Owl, was happy, but not the rest of them, not even Hawk and Eagle. They could hunt better when it was light.

So one day when Sun happened to be shining, Eagle flew clear up to Sun and told him that many animals were unhappy. There wasn't enough daylight.

Sun said he wanted all animals to be happy. He told Eagle to call the animals together and let them talk about it. However, they wanted things to be-however much darkness and daylight they wanted-Sun said he would make things that way.

Eagle called the animals together, and each animal stood up and said how he thought things should be arranged. The biggest and strongest animals were the first ones to talk. So Bear stood up first and growled, "Ten years of darkness, then one day of light."

But other animals had different ideas. Skunk said, "I think there should be four years of darkness, and then-n-n . two days of light."

Badger grumbled, "Ah, why can't it just be dark all the time?"

But Rabbit jumped up and said, "No! It should be light all the time."

Then Bluebird chirped, "My children need daylight! My children need daylight!"

There were many different ideas. The last animal to speak was Frog, with an idea no one else had thought of. Frog stood and croaked, "One day, one night. One day, one night."

Right away most of the animals saw that this was the best idea of all. The day and the night should just follow one another like black and white beads along a string.

But Bear wasn't going to let the weak little frog tell him how things should be. Bear kept growling, "Ten years of darkness, one day of light."

Before long all the animals were in two groups: the few that agreed with Bear and all the rest, who agreed with Frog. And they could not settle their difference.

Eagle had to fly back to Sun and tell him that now all the animals were in two groups, unable to come to an agreement. Sun said there was one way to resolve the argument. Each group would choose one animal to speak for it. And the animal who could speak the longest without stopping, saying how he wanted things to be, would be granted his way.

Eagle told the animals, and right away Bear said he would talk for his group. He laughed and laughed when he heard that Frog would talk for the other group. Bear was sure he could roar so loud that Sun would not even hear Frog.

When the time for the contest came, Bear went and stood on one bank of the river. Frog hopped onto the other. Bear didn't even wait for the signal to begin. Right away he began growling, "Ten years of darkness, one day of light!"

Only after the signal came did Frog begin: "One day, one night. One day, one night."

At first Sun could hardly hear Frog, because Bear was so loud. But Bear was not used to talking all the time, and his throat started getting sore. His voice grew hoarse, but he kept repeating, "Ten years of darkness, one day of light!"

Bear slurped some water from the river. His voice then came back strong. "Ten years of darkness, one day of light!" But it did not hold up long. He started losing it again. And soon Bear's mouth was moving, but no sound was coming out: "__________________!"

On the other side of the river, however, Frog was just getting warmed up: "One day, one night. One day, one night."

Finally Bear had to admit he had been beaten. He walked away grumbling.

But Frog never did stop talking! Even now, if you go outside on a warm evening, you can hear Frog out there by the water. If you could speak his language, you would hear him say: "One day, one night. One day, one night."

And that's how things have been ever since: a day followed by a night, and then another day and another night.

Yet when the weather gets cool in the fall of the year, Frog hides under a rock and goes to sleep. Then Bear starts grumbling again, "Ten years of darkness, one day of light!" And then Sun can hear Bear. A little bit frightened of Bear, Sun starts traveling a little more quickly across the sky each day. So the days get shorter and shorter all through the fall.

But when the really cold weather sets in, Bear finds a cave in the mountains and goes to sleep. When he does, Sun feels braver, and starts traveling more slowly across the sky each day. Then the days get longer and longer.

All of this happened a long time ago. But ever since that time, among all the animals, and especially among the people, it isn't the one who is biggest and strongest who gets things his way. The one who gets things his way is the one who has a good idea and then says what he wants over and over and over. That's how to get things your way in the end!

Copyright © Joe Hayes
Order Joe Hayes Books at Cinco Puntos Press

Joe Hayes, Storyteller

Joe Hayes, professional storyteller and SFAOL contributor, has performed in hundreds of schools, libraries, museums and parks. He tells folktales from many cultures, and among his favorites are the local cuentos, the Hispanic tales of New Mexico. A highlight of every summer in Santa Fe, for children and adults alike, are his storytelling sessions outside the tepee at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe.

In 1982, Mariposa Printing and Publishing company in Santa Fe presented 10 of these stories in "The Day It Snowed Tortillas." Now in its ninth printing, the book has become a regional favorite and has brought delight to readers throughout the country.

From the melodic song of "La Hormiguita"to the classic lament of "La Llorana," "The Day It Snowed Tortillas" is a collection that will captivate hearts for years to come. If you enjoy the stories of Joe Hayes on SFAOL, you can order this book or others he has written by visiting Cinco Puntos Press.

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