Once, when this place was still new, a great famine struck the land. The sun broiled the earth, and the plants were so thirsty in the drought that they could barely keep their stems and trunks straight, never mind grow enough fruits and leaves for everyone to eat. The plant-eaters were always hungry and they grew thin, and the meat-eaters could barely find anything other than bones to gnaw on, their prey was so wasted away. All the animals grew desperate, and fell to fighting each other more than they ever had before.
So it was decided that the animals needed a king. This king would decide who got how much to eat. The plant eaters argued that because they were the closest to the plants, that they knew them better and should get to have control over who got what. The meat eaters opposed them, saying that as they were at the top of the food chain, they had a better view of the situation. Those who ate both plants and meat were split right down the middle, some siding with the plant eaters, and some with the meat eaters.The arguing lasted for three days and three nights, until at the end Whitetail Deer was made the king. All the animals brought forth all the plants that were ready to eat. “Since I am king,” he said, “I will take the first portion since I need my wits about me to keep an eye on our food supply. Then the rest will be divided up among the plant eaters according to size. But the meat eaters may only eat those animals who die of starvation and disease; from now on, hunting will be banned.” This caused much dismay among the meat-eaters, but what could they do? He was their king, too, and he said these words while shaking his mighty antlers with their sharp points.
So the plant eaters were able to leave the meeting with as much food as they were able to get, and all the animals were to collect more plants as they were ready to harvest, even the smallest berry or seed. Each day the food would be brought to Deer’s home, where he would divide it up, and send the plant eaters home with food while the meat eaters only had a scant few bony carcasses to squabble over.
Then it was decided that the meat eaters were not even allowed to be at the food collection except to bring what they had gathered and pick at the bones of the starved, and the plant eaters began to venture out of Deer’s home only to bring the collected food in, protected by their king’s antlers. The only ones who stayed out were the dead, who were left on the edge of Deer’s home, and over time there were fewer and fewer carcasses left out each day.Soon the meat eaters began to hoard what food they could. The bigger ones, by bullying and stealing food from others, ended up with the most and stayed strongest, while the little scavengers grew more and more hungry over time. Only Timber Wolf did not participate in this; she only took enough to feed herself, her mate, and her pups, and often ate the least of all her family. She grew sadder as she saw how the animals fought each other over so little.
The little scavengers noticed that of all the big meat eaters, she was the only one to let them have their own food. So they sent Raven, who was the bravest of them, to go speak with Wolf and ask her for help, since she was a great hunter, swifter than all the other meat eaters, and perhaps she would know what to do. She was given the last of the scraps to take to Wolf as an offering.
Raven flew to Wolf’s home as quickly as her weakened wings would carry her. She landed at the front of Wolf’s den, and croaked to her, “Lady Wolf, great huntress, brave warrioress, I am here on behalf of all the little scavengers, those of us who are too small to hunt big game. We are hungry, and we are too weak to steal our food back from the other big meat-eaters. You have the greatest hunting skills, and you are powerful. Will you help us to get food so that we may not starve to death and all become food ourselves? Soon none of us will be left!”
Wolf, curled with her mate and pups in her den, heard Raven’s pleas, and it was enough for her. She was tired of seeing the little scavengers creeping around and crying. Her hackles raised, she stalked out of the den, and met Raven there.
“Yes, I will help you. Let us go to our king, and ask him why we are unable to hunt. Let us ask him why we are not allowed to be at the food collection any more, other than to bring what we spend our days collecting in the hopes that we will be given bones to gnaw. My young cry for food, and your young barely live. It is too much.”
So they shared the scraps so Raven could recoup her strength from her flight, and Wolf could be ready for the trip. Raven perched on Wolf’s back, and they went to Deer’s home. When they got there, all the plant-eaters were inside, and no one was guarding the door since all the meat eaters were so weak that no one thought they could get in.
But Wolf got in, and Raven with her, and before anyone could speak or stop them, Wolf strode straight to where Deer sat, one antler shed and lying on the ground, the other shaking on top of his head. He was surrounded by all manner of food. The stores were piled from the floor to the ceiling; there were enough plant eaters that had died that even the small amount the famine-stricken plants could produce was more than what they could all eat. She looked at Deer, and all the plant eaters around him, and noticed how fat all of them were. And she grew enraged.
“How dare you?” she cried. “How dare you leave us out here to starve? You threw out all of those who nibbled at the edges of your leavings, and you only gave us your dead. Now that so many of you have died and you have more than enough food for all who remain, you keep it locked away here! You are no fit king!” And with this she fell upon them all, with bared teeth and fiery eyes.
She slew a tenth of the rabbits, and a tenth of the wild sheep, and a tenth of the elk. She hunted and killed a tenth of all the plant eaters, and the smell of the blood brought all the meat eaters together to feed. Then Deer himself, huge and fat and no longer so fierce without his antlers, got up and ran away, and Wolf chased him, with the little scavengers in their wake.
She chased him through the forest, and she tore away his toe, and the weasels fed upon it. Then she chased him through the mountains, and in a clearing she tore away his tail, and all the ravens came to take a piece of it. Then she chased him through the desert, and she tore away his remaining antler, and all the mice came and chewed at it.And finally they circled back around to the mountains, where Wolf chased Deer all the way to the top of the highest peak, and there she overtook him and slew him. And his coppery blood rushed down the mountain in all directions, and he had grown so big that there were great, gushing rivers of it. The blood flooded all the land, from the mountains to the desert to the forest, and such was its power that it brought an end to the famine, and the plants thrived again.
And when Wolf came down from the mountain she brought Deer with her. She fed her young and her mate and herself and she tore what was left of Deer to pieces and gave all the little scavengers enough to feed themselves and their families.
Then she addressed all the animals, “I have killed our king, which makes me queen. I have only one decree—that we all go back to the way things were before the famine so that plant-eaters eat only what plants they gather, and meat-eaters eat only what meat they hunt or find.” And so it was.
But all the little scavengers followed Wolf around from that day on, for whenever she made a kill, she remembered their plight and how their food had been stolen from them, and always left them something to eat. And for her part in bringing back balance, Raven and her children were allowed to eat with Wolf and her kin for the rest of time.