|The Red Indian Fairy Book|
|by Frances Jenkins Olcott|
|A choice collection of Native American myths and legends carefully selected from many sources. Most are nature stories telling about birds, beasts, flowers, and rocks of our American meadows, prairies, and forests. The tales are arranged according to the seasons with several stories offered for each month of the year. There are some for early spring, when the maple sap mounts, and the arbutus blooms under the snow; for later spring, when the birds nest, and the wild flowers blow; for summer, with its heat, storms, fishing, and canoeing; for autumn with its corn, nuts, and harvest feast; for winter, with its ice, snow, and adventures. A comprehensive subject index for use by teachers and storytellers is included. Ages 8-12 |
HOW INDIAN CORN CAME INTO THE WORLD
 LONG, long ago, in a beautiful part of this country,
there lived an Indian with his wife and children.
He was poor and found it hard to provide
food enough for his family. But though needy, he
was kind and contented, and always gave thanks
to the Great Spirit for everything that he received.
 His eldest son, Wunzh, was likewise kind and gentle
and thankful of heart, and he longed greatly to do something for his people.
The time came that Wunzh reached the age when every Indian boy
fasts so that he may see in a vision the Spirit
that is to be his guide through life.
Wunzh's father built him a little lodge apart,
so that the boy might rest there undisturbed during his days of fasting.
Then Wunzh withdrew to begin the solemn rite.
On the first day he walked alone in the woods looking at
the flowers and plants, and filling his mind with
the beautiful images of growing things,
so that he might see them in his night-dreams.
He saw how the flowers and herbs and berries grew,
and he knew that some were good for food,
and that others healed wounds and cured sickness.
And his heart was filled with even a greater longing
to do something for his family and his tribe.
"Truly," thought he, "the Great Spirit made all things.
To Him we owe our lives. But could He not make it easier
for us to get our food than by hunting and catching fish?
I must try to find this out in my vision."
 So Wunzh returned to his lodge and fasted and slept.
On the third day he became weak and faint.
Soon he saw in a vision a young brave coming down from the sky
and approaching the lodge. He was clad in rich garments of green
and yellow. On his head was a tuft of nodding green plumes,
and all his motions were graceful and swaying.
"I am sent to you, O Wunzh," said the Sky stranger,
"by that Great Spirit who made all things in Sky and Earth.
He has seen your fasting, and knows how you wish
to do good to your people, and that you do not seek for strength
in war nor for the praise of warriors.
I am sent to tell you how you may do good to your kindred.
Arise and wrestle with me, for only by overcoming me
may you learn the secret."
Wunzh, though he was weak from fasting, felt courage grow in his heart,
and he arose and wrestled with the stranger.
But soon he became weaker and exhausted, and the stranger,
seeing this, smiled gently on him,
and said, "My friend, this is enough for once,
I will come again to-morrow." And he vanished as suddenly as he had appeared.
 The next day the stranger came again, and Wunzh felt himself weaker
than before; nevertheless, he rose and wrestled bravely.
Then the stranger spoke a second time. "My friend," he said,
"have courage. To-morrow will be your last trial."
And he disappeared from Wunzh's sight.
On the third day the stranger came as before,
and the struggle was renewed. And Wunzh, though fainter in body,
grew strong in mind and will, and he determined to win or perish
in the attempt. He exerted all his powers,
and, lo! in a while, he prevailed, and overcame the stranger.
"O Wunzh, my friend," said the conquered one,
"you have wrestled manfully. You have met your trial well.
To-morrow I shall come once more, and you must wrestle with me
for the last time. You will prevail. Do you then strip
off my garments, throw me down, clean the ground of roots and weeds,
and bury me in that spot. When you have done so,
leave my body in the ground. Come often to the place,
and see whether I have come to life.
"But be careful not to let weeds or grass grow
 on my grave. If you do all this well, you will soon discover
how to benefit your fellow creatures." Having said this,
the stranger disappeared.
In the morning Wunzh's father came to him with food.
"My Son," he said, "you have fasted long.
It is seven days since you have tasted food,
and you must not sacrifice your life.
The Master of Life does not require that."
"My Father," replied the boy, "wait until the Sun goes down to-morrow.
For a certain reason I wish to fast until that hour."
"Very well," said the old man, "I will wait until the time arrives
when you feel inclined to eat." And he went away.
The next day, at the usual hour, the Sky stranger came again.
And, though Wunzh had fasted seven days, he felt a new power
arise within him. He grasped the stranger with superhuman strength,
and threw him down. He took from him his beautiful garments,
and, finding him dead, buried him in the softened earth,
and did all else as he had been directed.
He then returned to his father's lodge, and partook sparingly of food.
There he abode for
 some time. But he never forgot the grave of his friend.
Daily he visited it, and pulled up the weeds and grass,
and kept the ground soft and moist. Very soon, to his great wonder,
he saw the tops of green plumes coming through the ground.
Weeks passed by, the Summer was drawing to a close.
One day Wunzh asked his father to follow him.
He led him to a distant meadow. There, in the place where the stranger
had been buried, stood a tall and graceful Plant,
with bright-coloured, silken hair, and crowned by nodding green plumes.
Its stalk was covered with waving leaves, and there grew from its sides
clusters of milk-filled Ears of Corn, golden and sweet,
each ear closely wrapped in its green husks.
"It is my friend!" shouted the boy joyously;
"it is Mondawmin, the Indian Corn!
We need no longer depend on hunting, so long as this gift is planted
and cared for. The Great Spirit has heard my voice
and has sent us this food."
Then the whole family feasted on the ears of Corn
and thanked the Great Spirit who gave it.
And, so say the Chippewa, Indian Corn came into the world.
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