|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 NUTS OF JONISGYONT
 LISTEN to the Iroquois Grandmother. This is a tale of
Jonisgyont, the little Squirrel, and how he got wings.
In the Moon of the Falling Nuts, when the forest flames
with crimson and gold, and the birds preen their wings to
fly to the South, Jonisgyont ran chattering up and down the
trees gathering brown nuts for his Winter food.
 Day after day he gathered the nuts, and carried them to a
Pine Wood, where he hid them in a hollow Pine Tree. And
when he saw that his storehouse was full, he gave little
barks of delight, and went leaping from branch to branch.
Then he hurried away to the nut trees to play and frisk in
the fallen leaves.
Poor little Jonisgyont! When he came back to the Pine
Woods, he found his storehouse empty, for all his nuts
were gone! Up and down the tree he ran, stamping his tiny
feet and scolding as he peeped into every small hole, but he
could not find his nuts. Then he called to his neighbours,
the forest Woodchuck and the green Bullfrog.
The Woodchuck came creeping out of his burrow, at the
foot of the rock near the Pine, and sat up by his door. And
the Frog came jumping from the swamp down by the river.
"Poor Jonisgyont!" cried the Woodchuck, stroking his
grizzly whiskers. "Who has been stealing all your nuts?
Surely he is a rascal and should be well punished!"
"I wonder who has done this!" croaked the Frog, puffing
out his sides. "He is very cruel to
 take all your hard-earned
food!" And tears dropped from the Frog's bulging eyes.
But little Jonisgyont listened in silence, for he knew too
well that they were his only neighbours who liked nuts.
Now, while the Woodchuck and the Frog were talking, and
trying with indignant words to comfort Jonisgyont,
Nukdago, the Chief of All Squirrels, passed that way, and
heard what they said.
"Something is wrong here," he thought to himself, "and I
must see that Jonisgyont does not lose all his Winter food."
Then Nukdago, the Chief, ran back to the Council House
beneath the great forest Oak.
And when midnight was come, and the Moon shone bright,
Nukdago returned to the Pine Tree and stood in its
shadows. Soon the Woodchuck came softly from his
burrow, and began to dig in the ground near the tree. And he
dug so fast and furiously, that the dirt flew out behind him
like a black cloud.
"This is very strange," thought Nukdago, "for Woodchuck
finished digging his burrow many Moons ago."
 Deeper and deeper the Woodchuck dug, until he had made a
large hole. Then he disappeared into his burrow. Soon he
returned with his cheeks puffed out, like a bag full of wind.
And as he came creeping along, he looked behind him as if
he feared some one might see him. Then one by one he
dropped fat Hickory nuts from his cheeks into the hole he
And all night long he carried nuts from the burrow to the
hole. And when the Sun began to shine, the wily one
covered the hole with grass.
"Too many nuts, too far from the nut trees, for lazy
Woodchuck to gather!" thought Nukdago, the Chief. "I will
return again to-night and watch." And he ran back to the
Council House, beneath the great Oak.
So when midnight was come again, Nukdago returned, and
hid in the shadows under the Pine Tree. Soon the Moon
appeared, and the green Bullfrog came jumping from the
swamp down by the river. He hid behind a moss-grown
stone near the tree, and his bright eyes blinked with cunning
as if he feared some one might see him. Then he came
hopping slowly from behind the
 stone, with his throat
puffed out like a bag full of wind.
He hopped to the swamp, and dropped two Hickory nuts
out of his throat, and pushed them under the moss. And all
night long he carried nuts from the stone to the swamp.
"Too many nuts, too far from the nut trees, for lazy
Bullfrog to gather!" thought Nukdago. "To-morrow I must
see justice done!" And he ran back to the Council House
beneath the great Oak.
And when the morning was come the wise Nukdago called
together all the Big Chiefs of the forest animals. And when
they were seated around the Council Fire, Nukdago, sent
Jonisgyont to summon the Woodchuck and the Frog.
But soon the little Squirrel came back without them, for the
Frog had jumped under the moss-grown stone, and the
Woodchuck had hidden in his burrow.
Then the wise Nukdago hastened to the Pine Tree, and told
some of his strongest animals to catch the thieves. Soon
they dragged the
trem-  bling Frog and the shamefaced
Woodchuck from their hiding-places. Nukdago then led
them to the Council House, and placed them before the Big
Chiefs. And the Woodchuck sat there stroking his grizzly
whiskers, while the Frog puffed out his sides with rage.
Then said Nukdago to the Big Chiefs: "See these two bad
ones? They are thieves! They have robbed little Jonisgyont
of all his Winter store." And Nukdago told what he had
The Big Chiefs, when they heard this, sent messengers to
the Pine Tree, and they found the nuts just as Nukdago had
said. Then they made Nukdago the judge, to punish the
So the wise Nukdago said to the Frog: "You belong to a
tribe that has always been able to get its food without
work. You sit in the Sun, and stick out your long lapping
tongue, and catch the Flies and Bugs that pass by your
door. But poor little Jonisgyont must work hard and long to
gather his food for Winter. You sleep all through the cold
Moons, and need no food then. But little Jonisgyont stays
awake, and must have food to eat so that he may keep alive.
 "You have not only stolen, but you have been selfish. Your
punishment shall be to lose most of your teeth, so that you
can never eat nuts again. Go back, now, to your swamp in
And as the Frog hopped from the Council House, one by
one most of his teeth fell from his mouth.
"And as for you, Woodchuck," said Nukdago, "you shall
not lose your teeth, but your punishment shall be a just
one. You, too, sleep through the Winter, and need no food
then. In Summer-time Sweet Clover, rich grains, and berries
grow for you; and birds and fish are your food.
"You shall not be deprived of green-growing things, but no
longer shall you be able to eat birds and fish. Go back, now,
in disgrace to your burrow, and stay there until Spring
paints your shadow on the snow."
And as the Woodchuck left the Council House in shame, he
lost his appetite for birds and fish.
Then the wise Nukdago, turning to Jonisgyont, said, "Little
Squirrel, if you had been more watchful, and if you had not
run away to play in
 the fallen leaves, you might have
guarded your storehouse.
"Yet I will help you. From now on your eyes shall be bigger
and rounder, so that you may see on all sides of you.
Webby wings shall grow on your legs, so that you may fly
from tree to tree, and reach your storehouse quickly, when
thieves are near. But I warn you to hide from the Sun, and
work in the shadows."
And as the happy little Jonisgyont left the Council House,
his eyes became bigger and rounder, and webbed skin grew
on each of his sides from leg to leg, to serve as wings when
he spread out his feet and tail.
And as the little one flew from tree to tree he gave many
shrill cries of joy, until he reached his storehouse, and there
he found all his nuts again.
And ever since then Flying Squirrels have lived in the
woods, and Frogs have had only a few teeth, while
Woodchucks have lost their appetites for birds and fish.
And when an Iroquois child loses his first tooth, he carries
it to a swamp, where
Bull-  frogs are croaking, and he throws
it away and calls:—
"Froggy! Froggy! my tooth is there!
Give me another as strong as a Bear!"
And when the Sun paints the forest Woodchuck's shadow
on the snow, the Indian boys say, "The Spring is near!"
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