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The Red Indian Fairy Book by  Frances Jenkins Olcott

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THE SKY ELK

(Iroquois)

[60] A MIGHTY hunter was Sosondowah. His form was lithe, his step noiseless, and his hair black like the Crow's wing. His keen eyes saw every track made by wild things, and he knew the songs of birds and the calls of all creatures. He roved through the forest, his bow bent, and his feathered arrow ready for flight, his soft step never stirring a leaf nor breaking a twig.

One day in the hush of the noon hour, he forced his way through a thicket, and entered a glade encircled with trees and fringed with low bushes. And under an Oak, in the centre of the glade, he saw a great Sky Elk that had escaped from the Elk grazing-fields that shine far beyond the path of the Sun. It was turning its watchful eyes from side to side. It was dusky and huge like a shadow, and its spreading antlers brushed back the boughs of the Oak.

And when Sosondowah saw the Sky Elk, his eyes flashed, and he made ready to shoot. But [61] first in order to obey the law of the forest,—which commands hunters to warn a beast before shooting so that it may have a chance to escape,—he shook a small sapling, and its rustling leaves bade the Sky Elk flee for its life.

The animal heard the sound, and, lifting its head, snuffed the air. Then with a snort it bounded away. Through the tangled paths of the forest it fled, pursued by Sosondowah's swift arrows. But as the arrows struck the dusky sides of the Elk, they fell blunted and harmless to the ground.

Unwounded, the animal hastened on hour after hour. Along forest paths and through meadow land it sped, up hills and down into valleys it ran, and it leaped streams and ravines. And after it with swift, noiseless feet Sosondowah followed.

The noonday passed, the afternoon waned, the sunset painted the Western Sky, darkness fell, the Moon arose and cast mocking white beams on the land. But ever, like a winged shadow, the Sky Elk silently fled before, and Sosondowah, shooting his feathered arrows, followed after.

And when the Sky showed that day was near, and the Dawn Maid arose and began to paint the [62] East with the red plumes of light, the Sky Elk quickened its pace. Reaching the edge of the world, it leaped up the rosy-white cloud-hills, and hastened to the Dawn Maid's lodge in the Land of the Early Red Morning.


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When Sosondowah saw this, he caught hold of the wing of a Night-Bird that soared with him into the Sky. And as he went up he shot many sighing arrows from his bow. Then the evil Night-Bird suddenly shook Sosondowah from its wing, and he fell toward the Earth.

But the Dawn Maid from her lodge saw him fall, and, stretching out her arms, caught him, and drew him safely into the Land of the Early Red Morning. She placed him at the door of her lodge, and commanded him to watch and guard it forever.

But Sosondowah never saw the Sky Elk again, for it had returned to the Elk grazing-fields that shine far beyond the path of the Sun.


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