Friday, March 19, 2021

May: The Month Of Flowers And Birds

May: The Month Of Flowers And Birds [The Red Indian Fairy Book]

The Elves


THE little Elves of Darkness, so says the old Iroquois Grandmother, were wise and mysterious. They dwelt under the Earth, where were deep forests and broad plains. There they kept captive all the evil things that wished to injure human beings,—the venomous snakes, the wicked spiders, and the fearful monsters. Sometimes one of these evil creatures escaped and rushed upward to the bright, pure air, and spread its poisonous breath over the Upper World. But such happenings were rare, for the Elves of Darkness were faithful and strong, and did not willingly allow the wicked beasts and reptiles to harm human beings and the growing things.

When the night was lighted by the Moon's soft rays, and the woods of the Upper World were sweet with the odour of the Spring flowers, then the Elves of Darkness left the Under World, and creeping from their holes, held a festival in the woods. And under many a tree where the blades of grass had refused to grow, the Little People danced until rings of green sprang up under their feet. And to the festival came the Elves of Light,—among them the Tree-Elves, Flower-Elves, and Fruit-Elves. They too danced and made merry.

But when the moonlight faded away, and day began to break, then the Elves of Darkness scampered back to their holes, and returned once more to the Under World, while the Elves of Light began their daily tasks.

For in the Springtime these Little People of Light hid in sheltered places. They listened to the complaints of the seeds that lay covered in the ground, and they whispered to the Earth until the seeds burst their pods and sent their shoots up to the light. Then the little Elves wandered through the woods bidding all growing things look up to the Sun.

The Tree-Elves tended the trees, unfolding their leaves, and feeding their roots with sap from the Earth. The Flower-Elves unwrapped the baby buds, and tinted the petals of the opening flowers, and played with the Butterflies and Bees.

But the busiest of all were the Fruit-Elves. Their greatest care in the Spring was the Strawberry Plant. When the ground softened from the frost, the Fruit-Elves loosened the soil around each Strawberry root, that its shoots might push through to the light. They shaped the plant's leaves, and turned its blossoms toward the warm rays of the Sun. They trained its runners, and helped the timid fruit to form. They painted the luscious berry, and bade it ripen. And when the first Strawberries blushed on the vines, these guardian Elves protected them from the evil insects that had escaped from the world of darkness underground.

The old Iroquois Grandmother tells how once, when the fruit first came to earth, the Evil One, Hahgwehdaetgah, stole the Strawberry Plant, and carried it to his gloomy cave, where he hid it away. And there it lay until a tiny sunbeam pierced the damp mould, and finding the little vine, carried it back to its sunny fields. And ever since then the Strawberry Plant has lived and thrived in the fields and woods. But the Fruit-Elves, fearing lest the Evil One should one day steal the vine again, watch day and night over their favourite. And when the Strawberries ripen, the Elves give the juicy, fragrant fruit to the Iroquois children as they gather the Spring flowers in the woods.


Woodpecker Gray


LISTEN to the Wyandot Grandmother:—

Once in an Indian village there was a beautiful girl. She lived all alone in a pretty lodge, and had a little gray Woodpecker for a servant.

Whenever the girl wished to go to the dance, she called, "Woodpecker Gray, come and dress me."

Then the little bird came hopping over the floor. He plaited her hair, and wound bright strings of beads in it, and helped her to paint her face with colours like the rainbow.

And after the girl was dressed, she put the paint-pots carefully away and locked them up.

Now, the little bird's feathers were just gray, with a few white spots. And every time he saw his mistress painted so bright and beautiful, he sighed and thought, "How I wish my feathers were red!"

One day, after the girl was gone to the dance, he saw that she had left on the floor a brush dipped in red paint. "Ah ha!" thought he, "now I will make myself pretty!"

So he picked up the brush, and drew it across each side of his head, just above his ears. And so he got two tiny red stripes, and he wears them to-day, as he flies about in the woods.


The Kind Hawk


A LONG time ago, in a happy Hopi village, there lived a little boy. His mother loved him so much that she dressed him in a pretty shirt and embroidered moccasins.

One day the boy wandered away from the village, over the plain, and a band of fierce Navaho Indians swooped down and bore him off. They carried him to their camp, where the squaws took his shirt and moccasins away, and gave them to the Chief's son. Then they made the boy work all day, and gave him so little to eat, that, in a few weeks, he grew thin and sick.

Now, near the Navaho camp was a high bluff on which lived a kind-hearted Hawk. It often flew over the camp, and saw the boy working hard, and never playing with the other children. So one day, when all the Navahos were gathered together at the Chief's lodge, the Hawk flew down and hovered over the boy's head.

"Oh, do not kill me!" begged the boy.

"I am not going to hurt you," answered the Hawk, "I am sorry for you. Jump on my back, and hold on to my wings, and I'll carry you away."

The boy jumped on its back, and held on tight, and the bird flew up in the air. It passed over the place where the Navahos were gathered, and when they saw the boy on the back of the Hawk, they were filled with rage and wonder.

The bird flew to the high bluff, and put down the boy, then it went back to the camp. It swooped down on the Chief's little son, and pulling off his embroidered shirt, carried it to the boy. Then the Hawk returned to the camp again, and taking a pair of handsome moccasins off another boy, carried them to the bluff. The Navahos were terribly frightened, and packing up their goods, left the place.

The Hawk first dressed the boy, then fed him on Rabbit-meat, and other good things. After that it took him on its back and flew with him to his mother. Then, without waiting to be thanked, the bird flew away again to its bluff.


The Boy Who Became a Robin


ONCE upon a time there was an old Indian who had an only son, whose name was Opeechee. The boy had come to the age when every Indian lad makes a fast, in order to secure a Spirit to be his guardian for life.

Now, the old man was very proud, and he wished his son to fast longer than other boys, and to become a greater warrior than all others. So he directed him to prepare with solemn ceremonies for the fast.

After the boy had been in the sweating lodge and bath several times, his father commanded him to lie down upon a clean mat, in a little lodge apart from the rest.

"My Son," said he, "endure your hunger like a man, and at the end of twelve days, you shall receive food and a blessing from my hands."

The boy did carefully all that his father commanded, and lay quietly with his face covered, awaiting the arrival of his guardian Spirit who was to bring him good or bad dreams.

His father visited him every day, encouraging him to endure with patience the pangs of hunger and thirst. He told him of the honour and renown that would be his if he continued his fast to the end of the twelve days.

To all this the boy replied not, but lay on his mat without a murmur of discontent, until the ninth day, when he said:—

"My Father, the dreams tell me of evil. May I break my fast now, and at a better time make a new one?"

"My Son," replied the old man, "you know not what you ask. If you get up now, all your glory will depart. Wait patiently a little longer. You have but three days more to fast, then glory and honour will be yours."

The boy said nothing more, but, covering himself closer, he lay until the eleventh day, when he spoke again:—

"My Father," said he, "the dreams forebode evil. May I break my fast now, and at a better time make a new one?"

"My Son," replied the old man again, "you know not what you ask. Wait patiently a little longer. You have but one more day to fast. Tomorrow I will myself prepare a meal and bring it to you."

The boy remained silent, beneath his covering, and motionless except for the gentle heaving of his breast.

Early the next morning his father, overjoyed at having gained his end, prepared some food. He took it and hastened to the lodge intending to set it before his son.

On coming to the door of the lodge what was his surprise to hear the boy talking to some one. He lifted the curtain hanging before the doorway, and, looking in, saw his son painting his breast with vermilion. And as the lad laid on the bright colour as far back on his shoulders as he could reach, he was saying to himself:—

"My father has destroyed my fortune as a man. He would not listen to my requests. I shall be happy forever because I was obedient to my parent; but he will suffer. My guardian Spirit has given me a new form, and now I must go!"

At this his father rushed into the lodge, crying: "My Son! my Son! I pray you leave me not!"

But the boy, with the quickness of a bird, flew to the top of the lodge, and perching upon the highest pole, was instantly changed into a most beautiful Robin Redbreast.

He looked down on his father with pity in his eyes, and said:—

"Do not sorrow, O my Father, I am no longer your boy, but Opeechee the Robin. I shall always be a friend to men, and live near their dwellings. I shall ever be happy and content. Every day will I sing you songs of joy. The mountains and fields yield me food. My pathway is in the bright air."

Then Opeechee the Robin stretched himself as if delighting in his new wings, and carolling his sweetest song, he flew away to the near-by trees.


Legend of the Violet


MANY Moons before the white man came to the land of the Red Indian, there lived a young warrior who was the pride of his tribe; for dangerous deeds had he accomplished for the good of his people. He had slain the Great Heron that destroyed their children, and he had brought back from the Mountain of the Witches the healing roots that cured the plague.

Once when he led a band of warriors against another tribe, he saw in the lodge of one of his enemies a maiden so gentle and lovely that he longed to have her for his wigwam. But because of the strife between the two tribes, he could not buy her with quills of the Wampum Bird.

So after he had returned victorious with his warriors to his own village, he often thought of the maiden, and how, unless he could light his wigwam with the brightness of her eyes, he would no longer lead out his young men to battle.

At last he went forth alone, and hid in the woods near the village of his enemies. There he watched patiently for the maiden whose eyes had softened his heart.

He sang her praises so often that the little birds took up his song and carried it in their flight, over valley and meadow. The Bear, the Fox, and the Beaver heard him murmur her name in his sleep, and thought that a bright new flower had been born in the woodland.

With the calls of the song-birds, he wooed the maiden from her lodge, and lifting her, bore her away toward the hunting-grounds of his people.

But, alas! a suitor of the maiden saw her carried swiftly off upon the shoulder of the dreaded warrior. He dared not follow, but fled to the village and gave the alarm. The braves left him—a coward—in the hands of the women, and hastened in pursuit of the maiden and her lover.

They followed them over mountains and plains all through the dark night. And as the morning dawned, they found them in the forest. And when the braves saw the maiden, they were filled with anger, for she had plaited her hair about the neck of the young man, to show that she was a willing captive and had given him her heart.

Then her people, enraged at their foe for his daring, and at the maiden because she had deserted her tribe, killed them both, and left their bodies lying where they fell.

And from this spot in the forest sprang up the first Blue Violets. And the winds and the birds carried the seeds of the flowers and scattered them over all the Earth. So they did, that in the Springtime youths and maidens might pluck the little blue flower that breathes of constant love.


The Star and the Water Lilies


OH! many, many Moons ago, when the World was young, there was no Winter. It was always beautiful Spring. Then Violets and Roses bloomed all the year round, and the birds sang their sweetest songs night and day.

Then there wandered through the Sky Land, a very bright little Star. It looked down on the Earth, and saw the children laughing and playing, and it wished to live among them and be loved. So it put out wings like a bird's, and flying downward, hovered above the tops of the trees. But it did not know in what form to dwell so that the children would love it.

Taking the shape of a bright maiden, the Star entered the dreams of a young brave, who slept alone in his lodge.

"Young brave," said the maiden to the dreaming youth, "I am a Star that has left the Sky to live in your land. Lovely are the things of Earth!—its flowers! its birds! its rivers! its lakes! But more lovely are its children! Ask your wise men in what form I should dwell to be best loved by the children."

Thus spoke the bright maiden, and vanished from the young man's dreams. He awoke, and, stepping from his lodge, saw the shining Star hovering above the trees. And at dawn he sought the wise men of his tribe, and told them his dream. And when night was come again, and the brave was sleeping alone in his lodge, the Star spread its wings, and in the shape of the maiden, entered once more his dreams. Then he bade it seek a dwelling-place in the tops of giant trees, or in the hearts of the flowers. So would the children love it.

The maiden vanished as before, and becoming the Star again, wandered above the Earth, seeking some form in which to dwell.

At first the Star crept into the heart of the White Rose of the Mountain. But it was so hidden in a lonely spot that the children never saw it.

Then it went to the prairie to live in the blades of grass. But it feared the trampling hoofs of the Buffalo.

Next it sought the rocky cliff to lie in the moss. But the children could not climb so high.

Then said the Star: "I will live on the surface of the lake, for there, all the warm Summer day, the children paddle their canoes. They will see me reflected in the ripples, and will love me."

So the Star alighted on the lake, and dissolved in beauty.

And when the children rose in the morning, and ran down to the shore, they saw hundreds and hundreds of white Lilies, like Fairy cups, floating on the water. And in the heart of each, the bright Star was dwelling.

Soon the happy children, in their canoes, were darting to and fro, and as they trailed their hands in the water, and gathered the blossoms, they laughingly called to each other:—

"Oh! how we love the Water Lilies!"