Friday, March 19, 2021

August: The Month Of Water and Forests

August: The Month Of Water and Forests [The Red Indian Fairy Book]

Legend of Niagara and the Great Lakes


IN old, old times, on the highest peak of a great mountain dwelt a hunter and his five sparkling daughters. Their lodge was of bright birch bark, and on clear days they could see the distant sea flashing like a silver band.

"Come out! Come out!" cried the youngest daughter, the little Er. "Come, Su!  Come Mi!  Come, Hu! Come, Cla!  Let us away to the sea where the foaming breakers roar!"

So they left their lodge, and leaped, and sang with happy hearts. Their robes were of blue and chrysolite green, and floated on the breeze. Their moccasins were of frozen water-drops, and their wings of painted wind.

And they scampered and romped across the plain, or floated beneath the sky. They rushed past valley and hill and field, singing and shouting with glee. At last they came to a precipice of jagged rocks and moss.

"Alas!" cried Er, "what a fearful leap! But we have come so far, we must go on; or our father will laugh at us! So come, Su! Come, Hu! Come, Mi! Come, Cla! and follow me."

Over the steep they sprang, and floated down on their painted wings. They leaped and they skipped and they sang, like happy-hearted birds. Then little Er cried, "Let us up and down the steep again!"

So up and down, the five maids skipped and laughed at the sport and foam, and called it Niagara Falls!

And to-day, through the rainbow mist, you may see their robes of blue and chrysolite green, and their painted wings, and their twinkling feet, as the five play in the waterfall.


How the Hunter Became a Partridge


ONE day in late autumn a hunter in the Micmac country travelled through the woods, and he heard in the distance the sound of footsteps beating on the ground. He hastened to the spot whence the noise came, and found a man and his wife dancing around a tree. And on the tree, high among the boughs, was a Raccoon. The man and his wife had danced so long that they had worn a trench in the earth; indeed, they were in it up to their waists.

"Why are you dancing in this strange manner?" asked the hunter.

"We are hungry," they answered, "and we are trying to dance the tree down to the ground, so that we may catch the Raccoon."

"If I show you a better way than that," said the hunter, "will you give me the Raccoon's skin?"

"We will give you the skin," answered the others, "if you will catch him for us."

So the hunter took his hatchet, and cut down the tree, and caught the Raccoon. After which he took the skin and went his way.

He had not gone far along the trail before he met a strange man carrying on his head a large Birch wigwam of many rooms. The hunter was astonished and frightened at such a sight. But the stranger stopped, and putting down the wigwam, seated himself on the ground, and invited the hunter to smoke and talk with him.

They smoked and talked together for a while. Then the stranger pointed to the Raccoon's skin in the hunter's belt, and said, "That is a fine skin; where did you get it?"

"I got it from the dancing man and his wife," replied the hunter.

"Sell it to me," said the stranger, "and I will give you my belt in exchange."

"I will not have your belt," said the hunter.

"Sell it to me, and I will give you my bow," said the stranger.

"I will not have your bow," said the hunter.

"Sell it to me, and I will give you my Birch wigwam," said the stranger.

"But I cannot carry your wigwam," replied the hunter.

"Lift it upon your head, and see," said the stranger.

The hunter lifted the wigwam, and placed it on his head, and found it as light as an empty basket. So he gave the stranger the Raccoon's skin, and, carrying the wigwam, went on his way.

And when night came he set the wigwam upon a grassy ridge by the side of a stream, and entering he looked about. Every room was hung with fine blankets and rich furs, and furnished beautifully. The hunter found one room in which was a bed covered with a White Bear's skin. Now this was a magic skin, but the hunter did not know it. As the bed was soft, and he was weary, he lay down and went to sleep.

And when he woke in the morning he saw to his wonder and delight that above him hung all sorts of good things to eat—dried Venison and Ducks, strings of Indian Corn, and baskets of red berries and Maple Sugar.

He stretched out his arms, and gave a spring toward the food, when, lo! the White Bear's skin melted away, for it was only a heap of snow. The wigwam was only a Birch Tree, and the food that hung above were the early buds of the Birch. The hunter's arms grew spreading like wings, his body was covered with feathers, and he flew up to the Birch Tree. And he was no longer the hunter, but Pulowech the Partridge.

And he had been wintering under the snow, as the Partridge does, and was now come forth to greet the beautiful Spring and the Summer.


How Partridge Built the Birds' Canoes


IN ancient days Partridge was the canoe-builder for the other birds. And after he had finished all the canoes, he called the birds together and each got into its bark and paddled off.

Oh, it was a great sight! First of all came the Eagle, in his big shell, paddling with the ends of his wings. Then came the Owl dipping his wings in the water, like the Eagle. Then the Crane, the Bluebird, the Robin, the Blackbird, and the Snipe went sailing proudly after, uttering shrill cries or whistling and singing. And last of all came the tiny Hummingbird in a very small canoe; and for him good Partridge had made a pretty little paddle.

And the Fish-Hawk, who lives on the wing, skimmed over their heads, crying with amazement, as he saw the proud little fleet of canoes put out to sea.

"Why, O Partridge," cried the Fish-Hawk, "have you made no canoe for yourself?"

But Partridge gave no answer, only looked mysterious, and drummed; and the noise of his drumming sounded like an Indian at work on a canoe.

Then the birds sailed back to land, and all cried out, "Why, O Partridge, have you made no canoe for yourself?"

But Partridge shook his head, and said that when he built a canoe for himself, it should be a wonder such as no bird's eye had ever beheld.

This went on for some time, until at last every bird knew that Partridge was making a wonderful canoe for himself.

Now Partridge thought, "If a boat with two ends sails two ways, why, then, a boat, that is round, will sail every way." So he built a canoe like a nest, perfectly round. And when it was finished, he called together all the birds to watch him put out to sea. And as they looked at the round canoe, they all cried out: "What a wonderful boat! We were not wise enough to think of such a thing!"

Then Partridge, swelling with pride, stepped into the canoe, and dipped his paddle. But the boat made no headway at all, only spun around and around. And the harder he worked, dipping his paddle, first on one side and then on the other, the faster spun the canoe.

And when the birds saw what was happening, they fell to laughing, and mocking Partridge. And he left his round canoe, and, flying inland, hid himself for very shame under the low bushes.

And to this day he flies close to the ground, and hides under leaves and bushes. And the noise of his drumming sounds far and near like an Indian making a canoe.


The Noisy Chipmunk


ONCE there was an Indian village, and in it lived a Chipmunk and his grandmother. He was a very noisy little Chipmunk, and his grandmother used to say:—

"My Grandson, when you are out in the woods, you must not make so much noise, or something will find and catch you."

But he did not mind her, and every morning he went to the woods, and ran about until he found some berries. Then he climbed a tree, and sat on a limb, and while he ate the berries he made all the noise he could.

In the evening his grandmother always told him stories, and once she told him about a Giant who wandered about the woods chasing Chipmunks and other creatures. He had a bag full of red-hot stones, and whenever he caught a small animal he popped it into the bag and cooked it.

"I do not believe that!" said the little Chipmunk, "for I have roamed the woods for two or three years, and have never heard nor seen the Giant."

"Nevertheless," said his grandmother, "if you make too much noise, the Giant will come and catch you."

Well, one day the little Chipmunk went out as happy and mischievous as ever. He scurried along looking for berries, and then he thought, "I'll go as far as I can, for I wish to see that Giant."

So he went on and on, till he came to a high bluff, and on it he found a quantity of berries. So he sat on the top of the bluff, and while he ate, he tried to make as much noise as he could, for he thought, "Maybe the Giant will hear me and come."

And the Giant did hear him and come; for he lived under the bluff. He heard all the noise that the little Chipmunk made, and he came creeping quietly, but he was not able to reach the Chipmunk, because the bluff was too high.

"Come down, little one," said he, as pleasantly as he could, "and I'll give you a heap of fine berries."

But the little Chipmunk said, "No! If I do, you will catch me and make a fine meal for yourself!" So he stayed up on the bluff.

Well, it got to be evening, and the little Chipmunk was tired of waiting for the Giant to leave, and tried to think of a plan to get away. So he broke off some branches from a bush, and threw them down. The Giant heard them fall, and thought it was the little Chipmunk, and sprang on top of them. But it was not the Chipmunk at all, only branches of bushes, and when he looked up to the top of the bluff, the little scamp was gone!

Then the Giant ran, and he took such long strides that soon he saw the little Chipmunk leaping home as fast as he could. And the Giant ran and ran, and just as the little Chipmunk was about to spring into his grandmother's house, the Giant overtook him and grabbed his back. But the little Chipmunk slipped away, and jumped into the house. So he was safe, and the Giant, grumbling with rage, had to go home without his supper.

That is why Chipmunks have white stripes on their backs—the marks of the Giant's fingers.


The Wind-Blower


FAR in the Northern Land, a great bird once sat on a rock at the edge of the Sky. And whenever he flapped his wings, the stormy wind blew across the sea, and caused the billows to rise, and roll to and fro.

Now, on the shore, not far from the rock, dwelt a man and his wife and two sons. It happened one year the weather was so bad that they could not fish and get food. The wind blew terribly night and day, and the waves were like dancing hills. Then one of the sons walked along the shore to see if the tide had cast up any fish. But there were none.

He wandered on and on, and the farther he went the worse the wind blew. At last he beheld a high and great rock, surrounded by water, and on it sat the Wind Bird himself, flapping his wings.

Then the young man, who was brave, waded out to the rock, and offered to carry the bird to the mainland where he might rest in the soft sand. The bird was willing, so the young man carried him on his back, stepping from slippery stone to stone, or wading through pools.

At the last rock the young man stumbled and fell, and broke one of the wings of the bird. He laid the hurt creature upon the sand, and set his wing. Then he bade him keep quiet and not move for many days.

So the bird sat still, and a calm fell upon the sea, for there was no wind in all the Northland. The Indians in their canoes glided smoothly over the glassy water, and no breeze blew. No wave rose, and no billow appeared. The Indians caught Fish by the thousand, and gazed through the clear water to the bottom of the sea, and saw the Eels twisting and wriggling about. And the Wind Bird sat still and nursed his broken wing.

But after many days the water slept. Thick slime grew on its surface. The Fish sickened and died. The Indians could eat Fish no longer, and no more could they see the Eels on the bottom of the sea. They had no food and were starving.

Then the young man went to the Wind Bird and begged him to try his broken wing, and see if it was well. So the bird gave it a little flap, and, lo, a slight ripple passed over the surface of the sleeping water. Then the bird struck his two wings lightly together, and straightway a wind moved over the sea. The slime was blown away. The waves rose and tossed, and the Fish grew well. Then the Indians in their canoes paddled out on the water and caught many Fish. And so they were happy and had plenty to eat.

As for the Wind Bird, they had him for a friend, and he blew smooth or stormy weather, just as he willed.


The Silver Brooches

(Attributed to the Mohawk)  

ONCE in the Iroquois land, there was a blue lake fed with the rich streams from the mountains. The grass grew green and soft on its margin, and the stately reeds stood in its shallows. Water-Lilies floated on its surface, and the birds skimmed over its waves.

Here at sunset each day came Gidanoneh the beautiful Iroquois maid. She walked on the shore and listened to the sweet strains of a mysterious song that arose from the water. Magical strains they were, amazing her with their sweetness. And they filled her sad heart with a strange joy.

For Gidanoneh was sad. Her father was poor, and had promised her to an old man. He was rich and laid before her door many gifts of furs and bright feathers. But his feet were too slow for the hunt, and his spirit too still for war. And Gidanoneh was young, and life lay bright before her; therefore, she dreaded the hard work waiting for her to do in the old man's lodge. So at sunset she walked by the lake, and wept with sorrow. Then the sweet strains of the mysterious song arose from the water, and comforted her heart.

And the sweet singer was Gayewas, the Spirit of the Lake and the Guardian of the Mountain Streams. One day, when floating on the water, he had seen the beautiful Gidanoneh, graceful and sad-eyed, walking on the shore. Unseen by her he had approached and softly sung his magic song, which had comforted her heart. So evening after evening at the sunset hour, he had sung to the maid.

The days passed, and the old man came to take Gidanoneh to his lodge. But weeping she hastened to the lake. There on the shore she found lying in her path two beautiful fish. And, lo, around them were sewn rows of shining silver brooches that dazzled her eyes with their light.

Forgetting her sorrow in wonder and delight, she stooped and, gathering the glistening brooches, fastened them upon her faded doeskin dress. Then she built a fire, and was roasting and eating the fish when her father found her.

He stopped in amazement as he looked at the silver brooches, for he had never seen such rich ones. "Surely," thought he, "an evil Spirit is tempting my daughter!" So in fear and rage he tore the brooches from her dress, and threw them down on the shore. Then he led the weeping maid back to his lodge.

But the fish she had tasted, had given her a thirst for the water of the blue lake, that she could not resist. And heedless of her father's cries, she ran from him, nor stopped until she reached the shore.

Falling upon her knees, she touched her lips to the water, and, as she eagerly drank, strong arms were thrown about her. She was drawn beneath the waves, and carried downward to the shining bottom of the lake. Then she heard a voice, as musical as the running brooks, calling her name. "Fear not, Gidanoneh," said the voice; "fear not, for I am Gayewas, the Spirit of the Lake."

And beside her she saw a warrior clad in glistening silver brooches. He gently led her to a lodge built of scarlet shells, and there she was happy with Gayewas.

As for her father, he wandered the night through on the shore, calling his daughter. At sunrise the waves parted, and from the water came her voice, and he saw Gidanoneh, and by her side was a handsome glistening warrior.

"My father," she said, "I shall return no more to my land, for I am the bride of Gayewas, the Spirit of the Lake. You will never behold me more. Farewell! Farewell!"

And as she finished speaking, the water slowly closed again, and the sweet strains of the mysterious song were borne to the shore, as the sad father slowly wended his way to his lodge.