|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 SPIRIT OF THE CORN
 THERE was a time, says the Iroquois Grandmother,
when it was not needful to plant the Corn seed
nor to hoe the fields, for the Corn sprang up of itself,
and filled the broad meadows. Its stalks grew strong
and tall, and were covered with leaves like waving banners,
and filled with ears of pearly grain wrapped in silken green husks.
In those days Onatah, the Spirit of the Corn,
walked upon the earth. The Sun lovingly touched her dusky face
with the blush of the morning, and her eyes grew soft
as the gleam of the Stars on dark streams.
Her night-black hair was spread before the breeze
like a wind-driven cloud.
As she walked through the fields, the Corn,
the Indian Maize, sprang up of itself from the Earth,
and filled the air with its fringed tassels
and whispering leaves. With Onatah walked her two sisters,
the Spirits of the Squash and the Bean. As they passed by,
Squash vines and Bean plants grew from the Corn hills.
 One day Onatah wandered away alone in search of early dew.
The Evil One of the Earth, Hahgwehdaetgah,
followed swiftly after. He grasped her by the hair
and dragged her beneath the ground down to his gloomy cave.
Then, sending out his fire-breathing monsters,
he blighted Onatah's grain. And when her sisters,
the Spirits of the Squash and the Bean,
saw the flame-monsters raging through the fields,
they flew far away in terror. As for poor Onatah,
she lay a trembling captive in the dark prison-cave
of the Evil One. She mourned the blight of her cornfields,
and sorrowed over her runaway sisters.
"O warm, bright Sun!" she cried,
"if I may walk once more upon the Earth,
never again will I leave my Corn!"
And the little birds of the air heard her cry,
and, winging their way upward, they carried her vow
and gave it to the Sun as he wandered through the blue heavens.
The Sun, who loved Onatah, sent out many searching beams of light.
They pierced through the damp ground, and entering
the prison-cave, guided her back again to her fields.
 And ever after that she watched her fields alone,
for no more did her sisters, the Spirits of the Squash
and Bean, watch with her. If her fields thirsted,
no longer could she seek the early dew.
If the flame-monsters burned her Corn,
she could not search the Skies for cooling winds.
And when the great rains fell and injured her harvest,
her voice grew so faint that the friendly Sun could not hear it.
But ever Onatah tenderly watched her fields
and the little birds of the air flocked to her service.
They followed her through the rows of Corn,
and made war on the tiny enemies that gnawed
at the roots of the grain.
And at harvest-time the grateful Onatah
scattered the first-gathered Corn over her broad lands.
And the little birds, fluttering and singing,
joyfully partook of the feast spread for them on the meadow-ground.
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