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How The Birds Got Their Feathers Iroquois Myth
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Which Was The Wiser?
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A Legend Of The Northland
The Chickadee Or Snowbird In The Snow
The Swallow Under The Eaves
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Robert Of Lincoln
Origin Of The Raven And The Macaw Zuni Creation Myth
Long, long ago there were but few Indians on the earth. The world was
not as it is now. The earth people did not understand things as they
now understand them.
It therefore happened that a beautiful Indian prince came to live with
the earth people.
In his hand he carried a plume stick. It was a magic wand and was
covered with feathers of beautiful colours.
There were yellow feathers. There were red feathers. There were
blue-green feathers. There were black and white and gray feathers.
Fastened to this magic wand were also many strange shells and charms
which the earth children did not understand and which the strange
prince did not explain fully.
"What is this strange plume stick?" asked the earth children.
"It is the magic wand which tests the hearts of earth children," was
The earth children wondered, but they did not understand.
"Ah, but show us what you mean!" they cried, eagerly.
"Look!" replied the strange prince.
Then amid the plumes and charms of the magic wand there appeared four
"They are eggs!" cried the earth children. "Two are blue like the sky.
Two are red-brown like the dust of our own pleasant earth!"
Then the earth children asked many questions which the strange prince
tried patiently to explain.
"Now," said the strange prince, "choose whichever eggs you will. By
and bye they will hatch. From them will come birds such as you never
before have seen. From each pair of eggs will come a pair of birds."
"You who choose the blue eggs shall follow the birds which come from
the blue shells. You and your children and your children's children
shall dwell in the land in which these birds nest.
"You who choose the red-brown eggs shall follow the birds which come
from the red-brown shells. You and your children and your children's
children shall dwell in the land in which these birds nest!"
"But which shall we choose?" cried the eager earth children.
"Nay," said the strange prince, "that I may not tell. But this much
you may know:
"From one pair of eggs shall come forth beautiful birds. Their
feathers shall be coloured, like the leaves and fruits of summer. They
shall nest in the land of everlasting summer-time and plenty.
"They who choose those eggs will follow these birds to the beautiful
country of summer-time. The fruits will ripen daily and fall into the
hands of the lucky earth children. Their food will come to them
without labour and they shall know neither hunger nor cold."
"And what will happen if we choose the other pair of eggs?"
The strange prince shook his head half sadly and smiled on the earth
"From the other pair of eggs," he said, "shall come forth birds with
black feathers, piebald with white. This pair will nest in a land
where you may gain food by labour only.
"Those who follow this pair of birds shall struggle summer and winter.
By long days of toil they shall provide food. By long nights of
watchfulness they shall keep warmth within their homes."
Then the strange prince ceased speaking. The earth children looked at
each other and forgot to speak. Each looked into the eyes of the other
and asked a question. Each wished to follow the birds which would lead
them to the land of everlasting summer-time and idleness and plenty.
"Which eggs do you choose?" asked the strange prince.
"The blue--the blue!" cried the earth children. Then those who were
strongest and quickest pushed forward.
They fought for the blue eggs, and getting them hurried away with
They buried the blue eggs in the soft loam on the sunny side of the
cliff. They sat down to watch when the young birds should hatch.
Now there remained those weaker earth children who had been pushed
aside. For them there was no choice. The strange prince gave into
their hand the red-brown eggs.
The red-brown eggs were placed amid the soft green grasses by the
riverside. The earth children into whose care they were given sat also
by the riverside and waited.
Sometimes, as they waited for the hatching of the red-brown eggs, they
looked up to the place in the cliff where the stronger ones watched the
beautiful blue eggs.
Then the weaker ones sighed and turned to the ugly red-brown eggs amid
By and bye, as those on the cliff waited, they heard faint tappings
inside the blue shells.
"Ah," they said, "the birds will come soon now. They will lead us to
the land of summer-time."
When at length the shells burst and the young birds came out, they
looked much as other birds look. They had large mouths and panting
sides and tiny featherless bodies. Soon the pin-feathers appeared.
"See!" cried the watchers, "now the beautiful plumage is starting!"
And those by the riverside, hearing the cry, looked up, and looking up
they sighed. The red-brown eggs also were cracking open and the young
birds coming out of the shells. Soon the earth children must follow
their bird leaders. They fed and tended the young birds for still a
Then one morning there were sighs and discontent on the cliff. For the
birds which came from the blue shells were feathered and ready for
flight. Their colours were black and white! So also is all the bare
earth and the new-fallen snow!
It was a pair of ravens, which the stronger earth children followed to
the country where winter follows summer and where men work for food.
As the earth children laboured, the ravens taunted them with hoarse,
Now those other earth children who watched the red-brown eggs stood up
by the riverside and smiled.
From the red-brown eggs had come birds of gorgeous plumage. On the
breath of a sweet-scented breeze they were wafted far to southward--to
the summer land. And those earth children who followed the beautiful
birds still live easily in the land of everlasting summer-time.
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