The Shrewmouse in the Land of the Dead

This story was originally written for my Mythology and Folklore class. 

The shrewmouse, Casrarer, had known, from its very first day on Earth, that he was made by Raven to bring cheer to the world. His lot was to rummage around in the grass, looking for worms and receiving praise for its fuzzy cuteness and little pointy nose. Casrarer thought that he had a lot to look forward to. He ignored the rest of Raven’s conversation with man, thinking it would be of little relevance to him.

Image result for alaska shrew
Shrew. Web Source: Mammal’s Planet.

Unfortunately, the world soon became in need of more cheer than he could supply. The animals he lived among began to disappear at an alarming rate, and man began to fill the tundra. Casrarer scurried over to Paugnar, the bear, to ask him what was going on. “Why are my friends disappearing Paugnar?”

“The humans are killing them for meat,” said Paugnar sadly.

“Oh no!” Casrarer squeaked. “Are we in danger?” His hairless tail quivered in fear.

“Not us,” Paugnar replied. “You are too small and cute, and I am too fierce.”

“But Paugnar, what happens to our friends once they are killed?”

“There is a land of the dead, inhabited by shades. Humans and animals alike will go there. Raven told me that humans will be judged for their treatment of us.”

Casrarer was glad to hear that. He decided that he wanted to see the land of the dead. Perhaps he would meet the shades of his friends.

That night, as he was dreaming, he thought that he had awoken in a new place. He found himself in a village that seemed to have no end, even for a creature larger than a shrew. He wandered around, looking for his friends, and saw some strange sights. In one house, women were beating other people with a large stick. He overheard someone say that these were the shades of dogs, who got their revenge on humans who had beaten them on earth. He supposed that man who had grass growing through his body so that he could not move had pulled up grass while alive.

Soon after, Casrarer did wake up. He was back in the land of the living, feeling relieved that there was a solution to Earth’s problems after death. In the meantime, he would just do his best to bring cheer in the midst of the suffering. He scurried happily away.

Bibliography: Katharine Berry Judson’s Myths and Legends of Alaskalink.

Author’s Note: I combined two stories to create this one. In the creation story, Raven creates the shrewmouse to bring cheer to the earth and the bear so that not all of his creation will be killed by humans. In the land of the dead story, a girl who dies explores the land of the shades. She sees the sights and judgements that Casrarer (which means shrew in Yupik Eskimo and is pronounced Chahs-rah-rayr) sees in his dream. In another story about the land of the dead, someone visits it in a dream, which is how I got the idea for Casrarer to visit it in his dream.

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