Friday, March 19, 2021

December: The Month Of Gifts

December: The Month Of Gifts [The Red Indian Fairy Book]

The Mud Pony

(Skidi Pawnee)  

ONCE there was an Indian camp, and in it lived a boy. His parents were very poor, and had no ponies. The boy was fond of ponies, and often sat on the bank of the creek, while the other boys were watering theirs.

One day the boy made up his mind to have a pony of his own. He crossed the creek, and got some wood, and built a little corral. He then took a quantity of sticky mud to the corral, and made two ponies of mud. He got some white clay, and put it on the head of one; so that it was white-faced.

Then the boy was happy! Every morning he went to the corral, and carried his mud ponies down to the creek, and dipped their noses in the water. Then he took them back to the corral again. He heaped grass and green cottonwood shoots before them, and took as good care of them as if they were real ponies.

Well, one day the boy went to see his mud ponies, and he found that one of them had crumbled to dust. He felt so badly that he cried; and after that he took even better care of the one that was left. It was the one with the white face.

On another morning, while the boy was in his corral, the people broke camp, and went on a Buffalo hunt. The boy's parents looked everywhere for him, and when they could not find him, they had to go away without him. And when he went back to the place where the camp had been, all the people were gone!

He cried and cried, and wandered about picking up pieces of dried meat the people had thrown away. When night came, he lay down and cried himself to sleep. Then he dreamed that a white-faced pony came to him, and said: "My Son, you are poor, and Mother Earth has taken pity on you, and has given me to you. I am a part of her."

Well, when the boy woke up, it was broad daylight. He rose and went to his corral to look after his mud pony. And what did he see standing in front of the corral, but a fine little pony with a white face! It was pawing the ground, and tossing its mane.

The boy rubbed his eyes to see if it was a real pony. He went up to it, and stroked its sides; and it whinnied with joy, and sniffed at his fingers. So he got a piece of rope, and put it round the pony's neck, and led it down to the water.

But the pony would not drink at all, and said like the one in his dream:—

"My Son, you are poor, and Mother Earth has taken pity on you, and has given me to you. I am your Mud Pony."

Then the boy was filled with joy, and rubbed the pony down, and was very proud of it. Just as he was going to lead it back to the corral, the Pony said:—

"My Son, you must do all I tell you to do, and some day you will become a great Chief. Now, jump on my back, and we will find your people. Do not try to guide me, for I know where to go."

The boy, delighted, jumped on the Pony's back, and away they went swiftly over the plain. They travelled all that day, and when evening was come, they reached a place where the people had camped the night before. But they had all gone on farther.

The boy jumped down, and turned the Pony loose to graze, but it would not eat. It only said: "Do not mind me. Go and find something to eat for yourself." So the boy wandered about the deserted camp, picking up bits of food the people had dropped. When his hunger was satisfied, he lay down and went to sleep. In the morning he rose, and jumped on the Pony, and away they went across the plain.

In the evening, the same thing happened as before; they stopped at a deserted camp, the boy ate and slept, and in the morning he and the Pony journeyed on. The next night, they reached the camp where the people were stopping. Then the Pony said:—

"Leave me here outside the camp, and go to your tepee, and wake your mother. I will stay here and take care of myself, for I do not need anything to eat and drink, because I am a part of Mother Earth. All I need is a blanket to keep the dew and rain off me, or I shall melt. To-morrow, when the people break camp, stay behind, and I will be ready for you."

The boy entered the camp, as the Pony told him to do, and went into his parents' tepee. He sat down, and threw some dried grass on the coals in the fireplace, and the flames blazed up. Then he went to his mother's bed, and woke her, saying, "Mother, here I am!"

His mother opened her eyes, and at first she thought she was dreaming, then she put out her hand and touched him. And when she knew it was really her son, she rose with joy, and waked her husband. He got up, too, and threw logs on the fire, and ran and called the boy's relations. They came crowding in, and were glad to see him safe and well.

The next morning the people broke camp, and the boy told them to go on without him. And they did. The Pony came, and the boy mounted on its back, and away they went swiftly across the plain. At night they caught up with the people, and the Pony stayed outside the camp. In the morning it happened as before. So it was for four days.

On the fourth night, the Pony said: "My Son, take me into the camp, so that the people may see what a nice Pony you have. The Chief will hear about me, and wish to buy me. He will offer you several horses. Take them, and let him have me in exchange. But he will not keep me long!"

So the boy rode the Pony straight into the camp, and the people were astonished to see him on its back. When they examined it, they said: "Why, it looks like a mud pony, such as boys smooth down with their fingers. It is a wonderful pony!"

When the Chief heard about it, he sent for the boy. He welcomed him respectfully and made him sit on a cushion. Then he said:—

"My Son, I have sent for you to eat with me. I wish to tell you that I like your pony, and will give you four of my best horses for it."

The boy replied: "I have listened to the great Chief. I will let the Chief have my pony."

The Chief was pleased, and his wife filled a wooden bowl with dried meat and soup; and put two horn spoons into the bowl. She set this before her husband and the boy, and they ate together.

After that the Chief had the four horses caught, and drove them to the boy's tepee. He took the Pony, and led it to his own corral. He put grass before it, but it would not eat. He piled young cottonwood boughs before it, but still it would not eat.

A few days after, scouts came riding into the camp, and they said that a great herd of Buffalo was near. So the men got on their horses, and rode to the hunt, and the Chief went with them, mounted on the Mud Pony. He soon far outstripped the rest, and killed many Buffalo. But as he was riding over the plain, the Pony staggered and nearly fell. Its feet had become unjointed, and it was ruined.

Then the Chief was terribly angry, and, returning to the camp, he ordered the boy to give him back his four horses, and take the Pony. The boy was delighted, and led his Mud Pony home. In a few days it was as well as ever. Then the Chief wished to have it back, but the boy would not give it to him for any number of horses.

Well, from that day on, when the boy went hunting, mounted on the Mud Pony, he killed more Buffalo than the men did. And when he went on the war-path, no one could hurt him, but he always conquered the enemy. After a few years he became a great Chief. He still loved his Mud Pony very much, and tied Eagle feathers on its mane and tail, and covered it carefully at night with a warm blanket.

But one night, he forgot to cover it, and he had a dream. He thought that the Mud Pony came to him and said: "My Son, you are no longer poor. My doings are over. I am returning to Mother Earth, for I am a part of her."

And when he woke in the morning, he found that it was raining hard. He got up and ran to the corral to put a blanket on the Pony, but he could not find the animal anywhere. Then on the side of the hill, he saw a little pile of mud, still in the shape of a pony. And when he saw this, he went home sorrowfully to his tepee.


The Wishes


THIS is a tale of the old time, of Glooskap, the mighty Magician, who came from the Land of the Red Sunrise, sailing over the seas in a stone canoe.

Stately and handsome was the Magician, and very brave; and when he reached the country of the Wabanaki, he found it filled with Witches, Giants, Sorcerers, and Fiends. He pursued and killed all these evil creatures, so that the Wabanaki dwelt once more in safety.

Then Glooskap, ere he got again into his stone canoe to return to the Land of the Red Sunrise, sent his faithful messengers, the Loons, to all the Indians. And his message was that before he departed he would grant one wish to every brave who visited him in his magic lodge.

Now this magic lodge in which Glooskap dwelt was on a great island, far from men, and the way leading to it was filled with dangers and terrors.

Many braves set out to gain their wishes, but perished. At last three Chiefs, more fortunate than the others, followed the long trail that led to Glooskap's lodge. For seven years they travelled on through the dangers and terrors, until at last they heard the barking of Glooskap's Dogs. And so they found the magic lodge, and entered it. The great Magician welcomed them, and his younger brother, Martin the Fairy, placed a feast before them. So they ate and rested.

Then Glooskap, addressing the eldest Chief, bade him tell his wish.

"My needs are few," replied the man, "but I wish to be a great hunter. I wish to excel all other men in catching and shooting game. Then the aged, the women, and the children will suffer hunger no more during the long, cold winters when the Bear sleeps and the ice, like a stone, covers the face of the stream."

At this Glooskap smiled and gave him a flute, saying: "Take this magic pipe. Its music will charm the ear of every animal that hears it and will force the creature to follow you. But do not put the pipe to your mouth until you reach your lodge."

The man took the gift, well pleased, and, thanking Glooskap, departed.

Then Glooskap bade the second Chief tell his wish.

"I am very handsome," replied the young man, "but the girls of the tribes do not think so, and I have never won a wife. I wish to have the admiration of every woman who sees me, then I can choose the wife I most desire."

At this Glooskap frowned, but he gave the young man a small bag of deerskin tightly tied. "Take this bag," said he. "Its contents will make every woman who looks upon you desire to be your wife. But do not open the bag until you reach your lodge."

The young man took the gift with delight, and, thanking Glooskap, set out on his way.

Then Glooskap bade the third Chief tell his wish.

"I am young and witty," the Chief replied, "but when I relate my tales before the lodge fire the people never laugh. I wish always to be merry-hearted, and to have the power of making old and young laugh loud and long."

Again Glooskap frowned, but he sent Martin the Fairy to seek a certain magic root in the woods. When Martin brought the root, Glooskap gave it to the Chief, saying: "After you have eaten this, your mouth will utter such merry sounds that all who hear will laugh loud and long. But do not even taste the root, until you have reached your lodge."

The young man took the gift with joy, and, thanking Glooskap, set out on his way.

Now, the first Chief, the hunter, with the flute in his pocket, hastened home well content, for he knew that he could always provide food for the aged, the women, and the children. He ran swiftly along the trail, and though it had taken seven long years to reach Glooskap's lodge, it took scarcely seven days to return to his village. And when he entered his own lodge, he put the flute to his lips, and from that day he was a great hunter.

But the second Chief, who had never won a wife, did not go far along the trail before he began to desire exceedingly to see what was in the bag. Carefully he untied the string, and there flew forth hundreds of beautiful maidens, like a cloud of white Doves. With sparkling eyes and flowing hair they circled about his head singing sweetly. Then winding their arms around him, they kissed him until he was smothered. And so he perished.

As for the third Chief, who wished to make all laugh loud and long, he hastened along the trail with the root in his pocket. Forgetting what Glooskap had commanded him, he drew forth the root and, putting it in his mouth, ate it. Scarce had he done so when wild and piercing sounds came from his lips. But he walked gayly onward, thinking to make all who heard laugh loud and long. The animals bounded away in terror before him, and as he neared his village the people fled with shouts. And when darkness came, an evil Spirit of Night swooped down and bore him away to its hole, and he was never seen again among men.

Then Glooskap, the mighty Magician, arose and left his magic lodge. He made a rich feast by the shore, and invited all the animals to it. After which he entered his stone canoe, and, singing sweetly, sailed away over the seas, from the Country of the Wabanaki to the Land of the Red Sunrise.


The Mikumwess


IN those far-off days, before Glooskap, the mighty Magician, set sail in his stone canoe for the Land of the Red Sunrise, there were Fairies and Elves living in the green forests of the Wabanaki. Very wonderful was the music they made on magic flutes of reed, and with their melody they could charm men and beasts.

When these Fairies were pleased with an Indian brave they gave him a magic flute. And if they grew to love him, they made him a Fairy like themselves, and called him a Mikumwess.

Now, in those far-off days there dwelt two youths in a village of the Wabanaki. One, whose name was Little Thunder, was full of laughter and song, and wished greatly to meet the Fairies and be made a Mikumwess.

The other youth, who was called the Badger, loved Brown Fawn, the beautiful daughter of a great Chief. The Badger wished to have her for his wife, but he heard that her father was a cruel man, and set such difficult tasks for his daughter's suitors, that they all perished in attempting them.

One day a Loon came to the village of the Wabanaki where dwelt these two young men. It was Glooskap's messenger, and it said that the mighty Magician had promised to grant one wish to each Indian youth who would seek his magic lodge.

When Little Thunder and the Badger heard this, they decked themselves with their choicest feathers, and, armed with strong bows and arrows, they set out along the trail that led to Glooskap's lodge. Dangerous was this trail, and filled with terrors, but the two hastened bravely on, overcoming all in their way.

For seven years they travelled, until at last they reached the lodge. Glooskap, smiling, welcomed them, and Martin the Fairy set food and drink before them. Then Glooskap asked what they most desired.

"Make me a Mikumwess," said Little Thunder, "then I may help my brother the Badger to win his bride."

"All I desire is to win Brown Fawn for my wife," replied the Badger, "for I am lonely in my lodge."

Then Glooskap smiled again, and he wove a magic hair-string in Little Thunder's locks, and the young man became a Mikumwess endowed with Fairy power. After this Glooskap gave him a magic flute of reed so that he might charm all living things.

But to the Badger, Glooskap, said: "The maiden is yours to win with the aid of this Mikumwess. Enter my stone canoe, and sail over the seas, to the lodge of her father. Only return the canoe to me when your adventure is over, for never before did I lend it to any man."

Then Glooskap took the two youths to the seashore, and pointed to a small island of granite against which the foaming waves were beating. It was covered with high Pines around whose tops flew many white Gulls. "There is my canoe," said he. "Swim thither and enter it."

So the two young men threw themselves into the water, and swam out to the island. As soon as they stepped on its rocks, the island turned into a large stone canoe, and the Pine Trees became high masts.

Rejoicing, the Mikumwess and the Badger sailed away across the seas. They sailed for many days until at last they reached the land where was the village of the cruel Chief.

They drew the stone canoe up on the beach, and hid it under some bushes. Then they entered the village and sought the lodge of the Chief. He welcomed them gravely, and placed them in the seat of honour. After which he asked them what was their errand.

The Mikumwess answered: "This, my brother the Badger, is tired of living alone. Give him Brown Fawn to follow him to his lodge."

"Brown Fawn may go with him," answered the Chief courteously, "if to-morrow he brings me the head of the Yellow Horned Serpent that dwells in the great cave by the sea."

To this the young men agreed, and were given a lodge to sleep in.

When the night was very dark, the Mikumwess arose, and, leaving the Badger asleep, went alone to the great cave by the sea. Across its entrance he laid a log, and then began to dance a magic dance before it, playing on his Fairy flute.

When the Yellow Horned Serpent heard the strange music, he was charmed, and came creeping out, waving his head from side to side. Then he rested his head on the log, and the Mikumwess quickly cut it off with his hatchet.

Taking the head by one of its shiny yellow horns, he carried it to the Badger. And when morning was come, the two bore the head and laid it before the Chief.

And when the old man saw it, he was astonished and thought to himself, "I fear I shall lose my child!"

But he said to the Badger, "Young man, if you wish to win your wife, you must coast down yonder hill with two of my bravest warriors."

Now, the hill was really a very high mountain, its sides jagged with broken rocks and terrible with tree-roots and ice. Two sleds were brought and taken to the top of the mountain; and the Mikumwess and the Badger were placed upon one, and on the other were seated two powerful Magicians. At a word from the Chief the two sleds were sent flying down the mountain-side. Faster and faster they flew as if to death.

Soon the Badger went whirling from his sled and fell on the ice, and the Magicians shouted with delight; but they did not know that the Mikumwess had done this so that he might get the Magicians' sled in front of him.

The Mikumwess turned aside, and, putting out his hand, drew the Badger on the sled, and as he did so, the Magicians shot by, mocking loudly. Then the Mikumwess's sled suddenly bounded into the air and flew over the heads of the Magicians, nor did it stop at the foot of the mountain, but sped up the hill opposite and struck the side of the Chief's lodge, ripping it from end to end.

And when the old man saw this, he thought to himself, "This time I feel sure I shall lose my child!"

But he said to the Badger: "There is a man in this village who has never been beaten at running. You must overcome him, if you wish to win your wife."

To this the young men agreed, and went to the place where the race was to start. And the Mikumwess lent his magic flute to the Badger to give him Fairy power.

And when the racer from the village came, the Badger asked him, "Who are you?"

And the racer answered, "I am the Northern Lights."

"And I," said the Badger, "am the Chain Lightning."

And they ran.

In an instant they were no longer to be seen, but were beyond the distant hills. And the Chief, with the Mikumwess and all the people, sat and waited till noon, when Chain Lightning, who was the Badger, returned. He was not out of breath, nor weary, though he had run all around the world.

But Northern Lights came not. When evening drew near they saw him come quivering and panting with fatigue, yet for all that he had not been around the world, but had been forced to turn back.

And when the old man saw that Chain Lightning had won, he thought to himself, "Alas! This time I have surely lost my child!"

But he said to the Badger, "To win your wife, young man, you must overcome a great warrior who swims and dives so excellently that no one has ever equalled him."

To this the young men agreed, and the next morning they went to the seashore, where the test was to be. The Mikumwess again lent the Badger his fairy flute.

And when the diver from the village came, the Badger asked him, "Who are you?"

And the diver replied, "I am the Sea Duck."

"And I," said the Badger, "am the Loon."

So they dived.

And after a short time the Sea Duck rose for breath; but the people who sat there, with the Chief and the Mikumwess, had long to wait for the Loon. Hour after hour passed, but he came not. At last he rose to the surface, and was not out of breath.

And when the old man saw this he groaned and said, "Oh, Badger, I have lost my child!"

Then the wedding-feast was prepared, and the Chief brought Brown Fawn from the lodge and gave her to the Badger. And in the evening the feast was held and a great dance; and the Mikumwess astonished all who saw him, for he danced a deep trench in the ground around the lodge.

And when the morning was come the Mikumwess, together with the Badger and Brown Fawn, entered the stone canoe, and set sail for the country of the Wabanaki. And when they reached the shore they found Glooskap, the mighty Magician, waiting for them.

And, smiling, he said to the Mikumwess, "Go your way in the forest and join the band of Fairies, and be always happy with your magic flute."

Then to the Badger he said: "Welcome once more to the Land of the Children of Light. Take your wife, Brown Fawn, and return to your lodge. Plenty of game shall always be yours, and peace and contentment."

Then the Mikumwess disappeared in the forest; and the Badger, leading Brown Fawn, returned to his lodge in the village of the Wabanaki.


The First Pine Trees


THIS is another tale of the old time, before Glooskap, the mighty Magician, set sail in his stone canoe for the Land of the Red Sunrise.

There were three brothers dwelling together. And when they heard that Glooskap had promised to fulfil the wish of any warrior who reached his magic lodge, they decided to brave the dangers in the way.

The first brother was very tall, far above all his fellows, and vain of his height. To make himself look even taller, he put bark in his moccasins, and plastered his hair to stand high, and on the very top he stuck a long Turkey feather. But he wished to be taller yet, so that all the squaws would admire him.

The second brother wished that he might remain forever in the forest, beholding its beauty, and that he need never work again.

The third brother wished to live to a very old age, and always to be in perfect health.

So the three brothers started on their way along the dangerous trail that led to Glooskap's lodge. They came to an exceedingly high mountain in a dark and lonely land. The side of the mountain was as smooth as iron, and the other side was worse, for there the trail led between the heads of two huge Serpents, who darted out their fearful tongues. After that, the trail passed under the Wall of Death which hung over it like a cloud, rising, and falling, and rising again. And if it happened that any man passed beneath the cloud as it fell, he was crushed to death.

But the three brothers escaped all these perils of the trail, and came to the island where Glooskap dwelt. The mighty Magician welcomed them, and bade his younger brother, Martin the Fairy, place food before them. And after they had eaten and were refreshed, they told their wishes.

Now, in another lodge near by lived Cuhkw the Earthquake. He could pass along the face of the land, and make all things shake with terror. Glooskap called Cuhkw, and bade him take the three brothers, and plant them with their feet in the ground. Immediately Cuhkw came rushing from his lodge, and, seizing the three, planted them in the forest. And they became three straight Pine Trees.

The first brother, who wished to be exceedingly tall, was the highest Pine Tree on earth. His head rose above the forest and the wind whistled through his boughs. And to-day his Turkey feather may be seen waving in the air.

The second brother, who wished to remain in the forest, and admire its beauty without working, could never leave it again; because his roots were fastened deep in the ground.

The third brother, who wished to live to a very old age, in perfect health, gained his desire. To-day he stands hale and hearty in the forest, unless men have cut him down.

And if you go into the forest, you may see the tallest Pine Tree with his Turkey feather waving in the wind; and the Tree murmurs all day long, in the Indian tongue:—

     "Oh! I am such a great Indian!—

      Oh! I am such a tall man!"


The Hidden Waters


IT was Winter, and the snow lay thick and white on the ground, while the cold wind blew from the north. In a village of the Iroquois there was sickness and little food. In the lodge of the handsome young brave Nekumonta, his wife, the gentle Shanewis, lay fading away. And when Nekumonta saw her suffering, his heart filled with grief.

"Surely," he cried, "I must find the Healing Herbs the good Manitou has planted! Even if they lie hidden under the snow, I must search and find them!" So he covered his wife with warm furs, and placed what food he had beside her. Then, taking his staff and his snowshoes, he bade her good-bye, and set out on his search.

All day long he wandered eagerly through the forest, skimming over the shining white surface. And though he sought everywhere, he could not find the Healing Herbs. The snow lay deep on the ground, and with a soft mantle covered trees and bushes. Not even the tiniest leaf showed above the white covering. Thus for three days and two nights he wandered vainly through the forest.

A small, grey Rabbit crossed his path, and he cried, "My little Brother, tell me where the Healing Herbs are that the good Manitou has planted!"

But the Rabbit did not answer. It only scurried away, for it knew that the Herbs were still in the Winter ground, and it was sorry for Nekumonta.

Then he passed by the den of a Bear, and stopped at the entrance. "My brown Brother," said he, "tell me where the Healing Herbs are that the good Manitou has planted!"

But the Bear did not answer, for it was asleep, waiting for the Springtime to come.

Then he called to the Deer, as it came leaping through the forest, "My swift Brother, surely you know where the Healing Herbs are that the good Manitou has planted!"

But the Deer did not answer, and went bounding away, for it knew that the wind blew too cold for the little Herbs to come up.

So Nekumonta called to the Squirrel and the Winter Birds, and to all the other forest creatures, but they gave him no answer.

And when the third night was come, he was weary and weak, for he had eaten no food. Despairing, he sank down upon the soft breast of the snow, and soon fell asleep. The Deer saw him and gave the forest cry. Then from the bushes the wild creatures came quietly creeping, to watch over Nekumonta. With their warm breath and thick fur they sheltered him from the cold, so he slept in safety. For the animals remembered his kindness. He had never slain a creature except for food or clothes, and he loved the trees and flowers.

And while Nekumonta lay there sleeping, he dreamed that he heard sweet voices calling. They sounded like the murmurs of distant waters, and they whispered his name, and sighed:—

     "Seek us, oh, seek us, Nekumonta!

      When you find us, Shanewis will live!

      We are the Healing Waters,

      The Gift of Manitou!"

Then Nekumonta awoke, and rose to his feet. The animals were gone, for they had slipped away into the forest. No waters were to be seen, but the sound of their murmurings still fell on his ear. "Release us," they seemed to sigh, "release us, Nekumonta, and Shanewis will be saved!"

The murmurings seemed to come from the ground under his feet, so he took his staff and dug through the snow and into the earth. Then a hidden spring was disclosed, and gushed from the ground. Its waters went singing joyously down a steep hillside to the valley of the Iroquois below. And wherever they passed the snow melted, and the green grass and flowers sprang up.

With thanks in his heart, Nekumonta made a jar of clay, and filling it from the spring, sped swiftly away to his lodge. He poured the Healing Waters through Shanewis's pale lips, and she fell into a health-giving slumber.

So the gentle Shanewis was saved, and the Healing Waters brought joy and Springtime to the village of the Iroquois.