Raven and the First People: Legends of the Northwest Coast by Thomas George was an interesting read. I picked it up last year and slowly made my way through it. If you’re interested in processing the stories, I found that this is not a book to read quickly. Slow and steady wins this race.
These are stories of the Pacific coast that tell of gods and demons, food and evil. The legends follow the traditions of the peoples of the PNW and illustrate their relationship to the natural environment.
Before I started this book the only thing I knew about Raven was what I had read in books by Charles de Lint (my favourite author – no one tells urban fantasy, or high fantasy like he does) in which Raven is known for pulling the world out of a pot. So I was quite surprised when I discovered that Raven – at least for the people on the Northwest Coast – is a trickster character.
The book is a book of short stories. Most of the stories are about Raven, but not all of them. Some of the stories in this book are haunting like “The Origin of the Loon”, others illuminating like “The Young Woman and the Great Flood [side note: isn’t it interesting that so many origin stories for different groups of people feature a flood?], some are just incredibly silly like “Raven’s Bad Advice, and still others are incredibly violent like “Raven Causes Several Problems.”
As you read through the stories you find that Raven is in turn a generous and yet selfish spirit. A lot of the time he is looking out strictly for himself, and yet other times he’s wading in to help a village or a single individual. There’s an interesting dichotomy there.
If you are interested at all in tales and legends from the people on the Northwest Coast, this is definitely a book that you should check out. I found it incredibly interesting.