There was a time when the ancestors lived In Wota-emi and when the creator god Bilik lived across the strait in Tolloktima. Now the ancestors had no fire and life was unimaginably hard, as one can imagine it would be without the light and the warmth of a fire beside them in the dark nights. Bilik had fire because he had taken some wood from the Perat Tree, broken it into two and made a fire for himself.

Kingfisher came to the island when Bilil was asleep. He saw the fire and stole some of it for Man. But as he was about to escape, Bilik woke up and grew very angry with what Kingfisher had done. He took a lighted brand and hurled it at Kingfisher, it hit him on the back of the neck and burned him. But still Kingfisher flew away with fire and gave it to the ancestors who lived in Wota-emi.

In another version of the story, it was Sir Prawn who first had fire. He rustled together some yam leaves that were dry and lit a fire for himself. As he slept Kingfisher came by and took some of the fire, he then went home and roasted himself a good meal of fish. As he slept, Dove ran away with fire and gave it to the ancestors of the Andamanese.

In some versions of the myth, the creator god is Bilika, a female. She had the fire and while she slept, Kingfisher stole it from her. As he tried to make his escape, she woke up and threw a pearl shell at him that cut his wings and the tail. Kingfisher swam through the water with the fire in his beak, until he reached Man and gave him the fire. In other versions of the story of how fire came to man, the dove is responsible for the theft and gift of fire to the ancestors.

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta

Source: Myths of the origin of fire, an essay by Sir James George Frazer. (The story was collected by A R Brown who lived in the Andaman Islands between 1906 to 1908 and recounted by Frazer in his book)

Location: Andaman Islands