|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 |
 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.
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