American Indian: The Boy who Snared the Sun

This story is part of the American Indian Fairy Tales unit. Story source: American Indian Fairy Tales by W.T. Larned, with illustrations by John Rae (1921).

The Boy who Snared the Sun

DEEP, crusted snow covered the earth and sparkled in the light of a wintry moon. The wind had died away; it was very cold and still. Not a sound came from the forest; the only noise that broke the perfect quiet of the night was the cracking of the ice on the Big-sea-water, Gitche Gumee, which was now frozen solid.

But inside old Iagoo's teepee it was warm and cheerful. The teepee, as the Indians call a tent, was covered with the thick, tough skin of the buffalo; the winter coat of Muk-wa, the bear, had now become a pleasant soft rug for Iagoo's two young visitors, Morning Glory and her little brother, Eagle Feather. Squatting at their ease on the warm fur, they waited for the old man to speak.

Suddenly a white-footed mouse crept from his nest in a corner, and, advancing close to the children, sat up on his hind-legs, like a dog that begs for a biscuit. Eagle Feather raised his hand in a threatening way, but Morning Glory caught him by the arm.

"No, no!" she said. "You must not harm him. See how friendly he is, and not a bit afraid. There is game enough in the forest for a brave boy's bow and arrow. Why should he spend his strength on a weak little mouse?"

Eagle Feather, pleased with anything that seemed like praise of his strength, let his hand fall.

"Your words are true words, Morning Glory," he answered. "Against Ahmeek, the beaver, or Wau-be-se, the wild swan, it is better that I should measure my hunter's skill."

At this, Iagoo, turning around, broke his long silence. "There was a time," he said, mysteriously, "when a thousand boys such as Eagle Feather would have been no match at all for that mouse as he used to be."

"When was that?" asked Eagle Feather, looking uneasily at his sister.

"In the days of the great Dormouse," answered Iagoo. "In the days, long ago, when there were many more animals than men on the earth, and the biggest of all the beasts was the Dormouse. Then something strange happened—something that never happened before or since. Shall I tell you about it?"

"O, please do!" begged Morning Glory.

"The story I am going to tell you," began Iagoo, "is not so much a story about the Dormouse as it is a story about a little boy and his sister. Yet had it not been for the Dormouse, I would not be here to tell about it, and you would not be here to listen.

"To begin with, you must understand that the world in those days was a different sort of place from what it is now. Oh yes, a different sort of place. People did not eat the flesh of animals. They lived on berries, and roots, and wild vegetables. The Great Spirit, who made all things on land, and in the sky and water, had not yet given men Mon-da-min, the Indian corn. There was no fire to give them heat, or to cook with. In all the world there was just one small fire, watched by two old witches who let nobody come near it, and until Coyote, the prairie wolf, came along and stole some of this fire, the food that people could manage to get was eaten raw, the way it grew."

"They must have been pretty hungry," said Morning Glory.

"Oh, yes, they were hungry," agreed Iagoo. "But that was not all. There were so many animals, and so few men, that the animals ruled the earth in their own way. The biggest of them all was Bosh-kwa-dosh, the Mastodon. He was higher than the highest trees, and he had an enormous appetite. But he did not stay long on earth, or there would not have been food enough even for the other animals."

"I thought you said the Dormouse was the biggest," interrupted Eagle Feather.

Iagoo looked at him severely.

"At the time I speak of," he continued, "Bosh-kwa-dosh, the Mastodon, had just gone away. He had not gone a bit too soon either for, by this time, the only people left on the whole earth were a young girl and her little brother."

"Like Eagle Feather and me?" asked Morning Glory.

"The girl was much like you," said Iagoo, patiently. "But the boy was a dwarf, who never grew to be more than three feet high. Being so much stronger and larger than her brother, she gathered all the food for both, and cared for him in every way. Sometimes she would take him along with her when she went to look for berries and roots. 'He's such a very little boy,' she said to herself, 'that if I leave him all alone, some big bird may swoop down, and carry him off to its nest.'

"She did not know what a strange boy he was, and how much mischief he could do when he set his mind upon it. One day she said to him: 'Look, little brother! I have made you a bow and some arrows. It is time you learned to take care of yourself; so when I am gone, practice shooting, for this is a thing you must know how to do.'

(900 words)

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