Scavengers

The ball of daylight

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am

Since the beginning of the world, there had been no light in the northern lands of the Inuit. The snow, the ice, the sky were black and the people lived in perpetual gloom. They believed that all lands were dark and frozen like theirs.

Anja hated the everlasting darkness. She even kept her little oil lantern lit when she was sleeping. 'If only I had a massive lamp that could light up the whole land!' thought Anja. 'How different life would be.'

Then one day, as she was walking to the oil store to get more fuel for her lantern, Anja saw a black patch on the snow at her feet. Holding the lamp lower, she bent down and found an injured crow lying on the frozen ground. The bird feebly flapped his wings as Anja picked him up and carried him back into the snow house.

The girl tended the injured bird with great care and nursed him back to health. When they were alone, the crow told her about his travels and how he had seen a wonderful thing called daylight in lands far away. Anja listened in fascination to the crow's stories. When he was fully recovered and ready to fly away, he asked her if there was anything he could do to repay her kindness. Anja was very quick with her reply.

'Please fly to the lands of the south, and bring me back some of that daylight you have told me about.'

Anja begged the crow, but he still felt weak and the southlands were a long way away. Finally he agreed to do as she asked. He flapped his wings and flew up into the black sky. He flew for a long, long time until he saw a faint glow of light in the distance. The crow flew towards the light until it became brighter and brighter. Exhausted, he landed on the branch of a withered tree and looked around.

A small boy wrapped in fur was playing in the snow. The crow turned himself into a tiny insect and flew down onto the collar of the boy's fur coat. After a while, the boy grew tired of playing and ran back to his snow house at the edge of the village. Inside it was light and warm, but the boy didn't take off his coat. An old man was sitting at a table, and a young woman was stirring a pot of soup over a fire.

The crow climbed under the boy's fur hat, and settled behind his ear. 'Tell your grandfather that you want to play,' whispered the crow. 'Tell him that you want to play with one of the balls of daylight that he keeps in his special locked box.'

Liking the voice in his head, the boy did as the crow asked. The old man pulled the box from under his bed, took out a ball of daylight, tied a piece of string around it and gave it to his grandson. The boy ran outside into the snow.

The snow shone with gold as the boy let the ball of daylight float into the air like a balloon on a string. Suddenly, he became aware of a crow perched on his shoulder. The bird quickly seized the string in his claws and flew up into the sky.

Finally the crow reached Anja's village in the north. He released the string and the ball shot up into the frozen air, shattering into millions of tiny pieces. The villagers came out of their homes and stared in amazement.

'I could only bring you one ball of daylight,' said the crow. 'It will need to replenish its strength every six months. You will only have light for half the year, then the ball will hide and regain its power to give you light.'

The people thanked the crow and promised never to harm him or his family for bringing them such a life-changing gift.

Comprehension

1 Where do the Inuit live?

2 How did Anja show kindness towards the crow?

3 Which of the crow's stories intrigued Anja the most?

4 What did the crow promise to do in return for Anja's kindness?

5 How did the crow steal the ball of daylight?

6 Why could the ball of daylight only light the Inuit's lands for six months at a time?

Answers:

1 The Inuit live in the Arctic.

2 She looked after the crow after it had been injured.

3 Anja was intrigued by the crow's stories about daylight.

4 He promised to get some daylight for Anja.

5 He tricked a small boy and stole a ball of daylight from him.

6 Because it needed to rest for six months to regain its power.