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  July: The Hot Month [The Red Indian Fairy Book] The Firebird   (Whullemooch) V ERY long ago the Indians of Puget Sound had no fire...

July: The Hot Month

 

July: The Hot Month [The Red Indian Fairy Book]

July: The Hot Month [The Red Indian Fairy Book]

The Firebird

 (Whullemooch)

VERY long ago the Indians of Puget Sound had no fire. They had heard of fire but they had never seen it. They ate all their food raw, and on cold days sat shivering and unhappy. And they had no pleasant lodge fire to gather around on wet nights.

It happened one day, while the people were sitting on the grass eating raw meat, that a beautiful bird suddenly flew above their heads. It had shining feathers, and bright eyes like jewels, and its long, waving tail gave out rays like the Sun. It hovered over the heads of the people, and flew in circles around and around.

"Pretty Bird, what do you want?" said the people.

"I come," replied the bird, "from a beautiful country far away. I am the Firebird, and I bring you the blessing of heat. The rays you see shining about my tail are tongues of flame."

"Oh, pretty Bird," cried the people, "give us the fire, so that we may cook our food and warm ourselves!"

"If you wish the fire," said the bird, "you must earn it. I cannot give it to any one who has done a bad deed or a mean action. To-day let each of you get ready some pitch pine. To-morrow I will return, and then you shall see who will get the fire." So saying, the bird flew away.

The next day it returned. "Have you the pitch pine ready?" asked the bird.

"Yes! yes!" said all the people.

"Very well," said the bird. "Here I go! Catch me if you can. Whoever puts some pitch pine on my tail shall get the fire to warm himself by, and cook his meals on, and to be a blessing to the Children of Puget Sound forever."

Then away flew the bird close to the ground. And away went all the people running after it, braves and squaws, youths and maidens, boys and girls, and little children. Helter-skelter they ran laughing and shouting. Some tripped on stones, others caught in bushes and scratched themselves on thorns, and others fell into water-holes. By and by some of the people went back angrily to their lodges, but the rest kept up the chase.

But no one could catch the Firebird. When one man tried to grasp its tail, the bird cried out, "You are too selfish, you cannot have the fire." And to another man it cried, "You are a thief," and to still another, "You tell lies."

At last the bird flew toward a lodge. In the door was a poor woman taking care of a sick old man.

"Pretty Bird! Pretty Bird!" called she. "I cannot follow you now. Will you not come here and give me your fire?"

"What good have you done?" asked the bird.

"I have done no good," answered the woman sadly. "I have had no time for that. I must stay here and care for my sick father, and look after my little children."

"Kind woman," said the Firebird, "you do your duty, so you are doing good. Bring some wood and put it on my tail, and take the fire."

The woman hastened joyfully to fetch some wood, and when she laid it on the Firebird's tail, the flames blazed up. Then all the other women of the tribe brought wood and got fire from her, and ever after they were able to cook their meat and warm themselves.

As for the Firebird, it flew away and they never saw it again.

That is how the Indians of Puget Sound say they got fire.

 

Young-Boy-Chief

(Wichita)  

YOUNG-BOY-CHIEF and his sister dwelt in a grass-lodge on the wide prairie, and with them lived a puppy they called Little Dog. The sister owned a magic double ball and stick, on which she rode very fast whenever she wished to travel over the prairie, while Young-Boy-Chief was a great hunter, and had a bow and four magic arrows. Two of his arrows were red, and the other two, black. He shot so many Deer that he and his sister always had plenty of fresh meat, and Little Dog had all the bones he wanted.

One hot Summer day, the sister went to the creek to fetch water, and she saw a Deer—as she thought—lying on the bank. She hurried back to the lodge and called her brother, but he did not come. She called four times, and then he came from the lodge carrying his bow and arrows. She told him where the Deer was, and he ran down to the creek.

Now, this was no ordinary Deer, but Big-Elk with magic power. Young-Boy-Chief shot an arrow at the animal, and the arrow was broken in pieces. He shot again and again, until all his arrows were broken in small bits. Then Big-Elk raised himself from the ground, and, rushing at Young-Boy-Chief, tossed him on his antlers, and carried him off across the prairie.

After Big-Elk had carried off Young-Boy-Chief, his sister waited a long time, and her brother did not come. Then she went down to the creek, and saw his broken arrows lying there. She gathered up the pieces, and took them home. She mourned for some days, after which she decided to set out, and search for her brother.

She ground enough corn to last her for a long time, and put it in a bag. She told Little Dog that she was going away, but he must stay at home and get plenty of fresh meat, so that she might have something to eat when she came back. She then filled a gourd with water for Little Dog, and taking her magic double ball and stick, she travelled on them across the prairie, and as she went swiftly along, she wept, and sang:—



           "Brother! Brother!

      It was all my fault, for I said it was a Deer!

      It was all my fault, for I said it was a Deer!

            It was Big-Elk!

            It was Big-Elk!"



And she continued her journey, now weeping and now singing.

At length she came to a hill, and on the top of it stood Mountain Lion. At first he would not let her pass, but when she gave him some corn meal, he said:—

"You are a good girl; so I will tell you this. A short time ago Big-Elk went by carrying Young-Boy-Chief on his antlers. I do not know whether your brother was alive or not. If you will go to the next hill, you will find somebody who may tell you."

So the girl journeyed on, riding on her magic double ball and stick; now weeping and now singing.

At length she came to another hill, and on the top of it stood Brown Bear. At first he would not let her pass, but when she gave him some corn meal, he said:—

"You are a good girl; so I will tell you this. A short time ago Big-Elk went by with Young-Boy-Chief on his antlers. If you wish to rescue your brother, you must go to Old Bull. He lives in a dug-out on yonder hill. You will see a little child playing before the door. You must take him on your back, and enter the dug-out. Sit down, and give him plenty of corn meal. Tell Old Bull about your brother, and he will help you. The little child is his favourite son."

So the girl went on her way to the other hill, now weeping, and now singing. Soon she reached the dug-out, and saw the child playing before the door. She took him on her back, and entering, sat down by the fireplace. She gave the child plenty of corn meal. Near her sat Old Bull smoking his pipe. So she told him all about her brother, and he said:—

"You are a good girl; so I will help you. It will be hard to kill Big-Elk, but if you will stay until to-morrow morning, I will see what I can do."

The girl was glad when she heard this, and she slept in the dug-out that night. The next morning she rose, and went with Old Bull to the foot of the hill, and there she hid behind some bushes.

Soon she heard a noise like a fierce storm, and saw streaks of fire in the air. So she knew that Big-Elk was coming. The noise came nearer and nearer, and Big-Elk appeared bounding over the prairie. And the girl could hear her brother's voice singing mournfully:—



           "Sister! Sister!

      Big-Elk is carrying me on his antlers!

      Big-Elk is carrying me on his antlers!

            I am alive!

            I am alive!"



Then her brother moaned, as if he was nearly dead, for he had had nothing to eat.

When Old Bull saw Big-Elk coming, he changed himself into a Snowbird holding a tiny magic bow and arrow in his claws. Big-Elk came running past, whistling like the wind, and Old Bull shot his arrow. Immediately Big-Elk fell to the ground dead.

Then Old Bull changed himself back again, as he was before, and hurried to help Young-Boy-Chief off the antlers. Together they piled wood around Big-Elk's body, and set it on fire, and burned him to ashes; so that he could not come to life again.

When the sister saw this, she came running from behind the bushes, and kissed her brother, and they were happy. They thanked Old Bull. Then they journeyed home over the prairie, the sister riding on her double ball and stick, while Young-Boy-Chief travelled on his magic arrows, for he had found them sticking in his belt, all whole again.

But, alas! when they drew near their grass-lodge, Little Dog did not run out to meet them. The sister called: "Little Dog! Little Dog! Here is my brother!" But Little Dog did not come.

They went into the lodge, and all that they saw of Little Dog was his hair and his bones lying in a pile. And near him was a heap of fresh meat, and the gourd full of water. Little Dog had neither eaten nor drunk, since the sister went away, for he had wished to keep everything for her. So he had starved to death.

Then the sister took his hair and bones, and threw them into the creek. And out jumped Little Dog alive and well, barking and wagging his tail.

After that Young-Boy-Chief and his sister, with Little Dog, lived happily together in their grass-lodge. And Young-Boy-Chief was a greater hunter than ever before.

 

The Star Bride

(Blackfoot)  

ONCE in the hot Summer weather, a lovely girl, named Feather Woman, was sleeping among the tall prairie grasses by the side of her lodge. She awoke just as the Morning Star was rising. As she gazed at its brightness, it seemed so beautiful that she loved it with all her heart. She roused her sister, who was sleeping beside her, and said: "Oh, sister, look at the Morning Star! I will never marry anybody except that Star!"

The sister laughed at her, and, getting up, ran into the camp, and told what Feather Woman had said, and the people all mocked and laughed. But Feather Woman paid no heed to their unkind words, but rose each day at dawn, and gazed on the Morning Star.

One morning early, as she went alone to the river, to fetch water for the lodge, she beheld a bright youth standing in the river-path.

"Feather Woman," said he, smiling, "I am Morning Star. I have seen you gazing upward, and am now come to carry you back with me to my dwelling."

At this Feather Woman trembled greatly. Then Morning Star took from his head a rich yellow plume. He placed it in her right hand, while in her other hand he put a branch of Juniper. And he bade her close her eyes, and she did so.

When she opened her eyes, she was in the Sky Land, standing in front of a shining lodge, and Morning Star was by her side. This was the home of his parents, the Sun and the Moon.

The Sun was away, casting his hottest Summer rays on the parched Earth, but the Moon was at home, and she welcomed Feather Woman kindly. She dressed the girl in a soft robe of buckskin trimmed with Elk-teeth. And when the Sun came back that night, he called Feather Woman his daughter.

So she was married to Morning Star, and they lived happily in the shining lodge. In time they had a little son, whom they named Star-Boy.

One day the Moon gave Feather Woman a root-digger, and told her to go about the Sky Land, and dig up all kinds of roots; but on no account to touch the Great Turnip that grew near the lodge. For if she did so, unhappiness would come to them all.

So day after day, Feather Woman went out and dug roots. She often saw the Great Turnip, but though she never touched it, her heart was filled with a desire to see what lay beneath it.

One day as she was wandering near the lodge, she was so overcome by curiosity, that she laid Star-Boy on the ground, and taking her root-digger, began to dig around the Great Turnip. But the digger fastened itself in the side of the Turnip, and she could not withdraw it. Just then two large Cranes flew over her head, and she called them to help her. They sang a magic song, and the Great Turnip was uprooted.

Then Feather Woman looked down through the hole where the Turnip had been, and, lo, far below she saw the camp of the Blackfeet, where she had lived. The smoke ascended from the lodges, and she could hear the laughter of the playing children, and the songs of the women at work. The sight filled her with homesickness, and she went back weeping to the shining lodge.

As she entered, Morning Star looked earnestly at her, and said, "Alas! Feather Woman, you have uprooted the Great Turnip!"

The Sun and the Moon, also, were troubled, when they knew she had been disobedient to their wishes; and they said that she must return at once to Earth. So Morning Star took Feather Woman sadly by the hand, and placing little Star-Boy upon her shoulder, led her to the Spider Man who lived in the Sky Land.

Then the Spider Man wove a web through the hole made by the Great Turnip, and let Feather Woman and her child down to the Earth. And her people saw her coming like a falling Star.

She was welcomed by her parents, and they loved little Star-Boy. And though after that Feather Woman always lived with her people, she was not happy; but longed to return to the Sky Land, and see Morning Star. But her longings were in vain, and soon her unhappy life was ended.

 

Scar-Face

(Blackfoot)  

AS for little Star-Boy, soon after his mother died, his grandparents died too, and he was left alone, poor and neglected. And though he was very beautiful of form, his face was disfigured by a long and ugly scar. So the people called him Scar-Face.

As he grew older, the scar showed more plainly, and the people of the camp laughed at him, and mistreated him in every way. But he was brave of heart, and, when he became a man, he was a great hunter.

Now, the Chief of his tribe had a lovely daughter, and every young man who saw her, wished her for his lodge. But she was proud, and would marry no one. Scar-Face, too, loved her, but dared not tell her so, because he was ugly.

But one day he found her by the river, pulling rushes for baskets, and he drew near, and spoke. "I have no wealth or pemmican. I live by my bow and spear. Yet I love you. Will you dwell in my lodge and be my wife?"

Then the Chief's daughter laughed, and looked at his scar. "Yes," she said, "I will marry you—but not until you remove that scar from your face!"

Poor Scar-Face was greatly mortified by her unkind words, but his heart was hopeful, and he hastened away from the river. He went to the lodge of an old Medicine Woman, who dwelt far away on the broad green prairie. And he begged her to remove the scar from his face.

"That I may not do," said she, "for it was placed there by the Sun. He only can remove it."

"And how may I reach the abode of the Sun?" asked Scar-Face.

"Take these moccasins and pemmican," said the Old Medicine Woman, "and travel to the Big Sea Water. Sit down on its shore, and wait three days, then shall you learn how to reach the Sun's abode."

So Scar-Face thanked her for her kindness, and taking the pemmican, and putting on the moccasins, he hastened and crossed the trackless prairie. Day after day he climbed mountains, or passed through wide forests. At last he reached the Big Sea Water. He sat down on the shore, and waited three days, and on the third day, when the Sun was sinking below the distant edge of the Sea, he beheld a shining trail that led to the Sun's abode.

Scar-Face rose up rejoicing, and travelled along the trail, and soon found himself in the Sky Land, standing before the lodge of the Sun. All night he hid himself outside the lodge, and in the morning the Moon came home from wandering through the Sky, and the Sun left the lodge to light the Earth.

When the Sun saw Scar-Face, he did not know that the young man was his grandson. As he perceived that Scar-Face had come from the Earth Country, he was about to slay him with his burning rays. But the Moon pitied the youth, and urged her husband to spare his life.

Then Morning Star came forth from the lodge, and knew his son. He led him inside, and the Moon fed and clothed Scar-Face. And after that he lived happily with his father and grandparents in the shining lodge. And each day he hunted with Morning Star. But the Sun warned them both not to go near the Big Sea Water, for two monster birds dwelt there, who were waiting to kill Morning Star.

One day when Scar-Face and his father were hunting as usual, they forgot and drew near to the Big Sea Water. Then the two monster birds swooped down, uttering savage cries. They tried to kill Morning Star, but Scar-Face slew them both with his arrows, and so rescued his father.

Then the grateful Sun removed the scar from the young man's face, and placed two raven-plumes in his hair. Morning Star gave him a magic flute, the sweet song of which would win for Scar-Face the love of the Chief's daughter. After that the Sun sent him back to Earth along the trail of the Milky Way.

Scar-Face hastened to the camp of his people. He played on the magic flute; and the Chief's daughter heard its sweet song, and joyfully followed him. He took her with him to the shining lodge of the Sun in the distant Sky Land. And there each morning Scar-Face and Morning Star travel together through the Sky.

 

Ahneah the Rose Flower

(Iroquois)  

ONCE in a forest there gushed from the hollow of a rock, a wonderful spring known to all Red Men. It possessed mysterious power and was watched over by two Spirits.

From sunrise until noon Ohsweda the Spirit of the Spruce Tree was its guardian. And during those hours, all who drank of its sparkling water were cured of sickness, and filled with a nameless joy.

But when the slanting shadow of the afternoon touched the spring, Ochdoah the Bat swooped down on his leathery wings and brooded over its water. Then the sparkle died out of its tide, and a sluggish poison ran forth from the rock, killing all men and beasts who drank.

Ahneah the Rose Flower, the loveliest of Indian maids, went, one Summer morning, from her lodge to the spring to fetch water in her elmwood bowl. She set the bowl down by the rock, and, sitting in the cool shade of the trees, wove sweet-smelling grass into baskets. And while she braided the strands, she sang the Firefly song of her people. She was as happy as she was lovely, and forgot the passing hours. She did not see that the slanting shadow of afternoon was nearing the spring. It glinted on the rock just as she finished her weaving.

Then leaning over the spring, she plunged her elmwood bowl into the sparkling water. But something held the bowl fast, and the beautiful face of a youth smiled up at her from the ripples. It smiled and nodded as it floated from side to side. Then it vanished for a moment, only to return, and with its enchanting smile woo the fast-beating heart of the maid.

And while she was gazing entranced, lo, the slanting shadow of afternoon passed over the spring. Then the beautiful face of the youth faded away, and Ochdoah the Bat, who had been hovering in the shadow, swooped down and seized the trembling maid. He bore her swiftly upward, and with fast wing left even the wind behind. Onward he flew, then suddenly descended and plunged into a roaring cataract. And there Ahneah the Rose Flower was nearly lost in the swirl of the mad torrent. And there she saw near her a face terrible and frowning. And as she turned from it with a shudder, the fierce water cast her up on the shore.

The horrible face appeared again, and led her down beneath the Earth. Into a cavern it led her, glaring with flames, around which danced many Witches. Something pushed her into the circle of dancers, and she fell fainting to the ground.

But suddenly she felt herself breathe new air, and she opened her eyes. And, lo, it was sunrise, and she stood by the spring in the hollow of the rock. And by her side was a young warrior clad for the hunt. He bore in his hand a branch of the Spruce Tree, and on his head were two wings,—one of the Eagle and the other of the Owl.

And as Ahneah gazed on the young warrior, she saw the face of the beautiful youth who had smiled at her from the spring. He took her hand, and told her his story. He was Ohsweda the Spirit of the Spruce Tree, who guarded the spring from sunrise to noon. With his Eagle wing he could fly to the Sun, and with his Owl wing he wandered through the whole forest in the night. He had seen the evil Ochdoah the Bat hovering in the shadow, as he waited to seize the maid. So Ohsweda had held fast her bowl, and tried to warn her. But all too late, for the slanting shadow of afternoon had passed over the spring, and Ochdoah the Bat, swooping down, had borne away the trembling maid.

Then Ohsweda the Spirit of the Spruce Tree, on his Eagle wing, had followed swiftly after. He had entered the dread cavern beneath the Earth, and snatched Ahneah the Rose Flower from the Fire Dance of the Witches. In his arms he had carried her back to the spring, and at sunrise, with the healing water, had caused her to open her eyes.

All this did Ohsweda the Spirit of the Spruce Tree relate to the maid. Then with a happy heart she filled her elmwood bowl, and sped quickly to her lodge.

But as day by day passed, Ahneah the Rose Flower faded. And one Summer morn, at the vanishing of the dew, her lodge was empty. When her people entered its door, they heard the rustle and whirr of wings, then a strange silence filled the lodge. And by the side of the couch, where Ahneah the Rose Flower had lain, were two fallen feathers. One was of the Eagle, and the other of the Owl.

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