[Notes by LKG]
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 Child of the Evening Star (end)
[for audio, see previous page]
It was a wonderful place for a little boy to live in—close to the stars and the moon, with the sky so near that it seemed a kind of curtain for his bed, and all the glory of the heavens spread out before him. But sometimes he was lonely, and wondered what the Earth was like—the Earth his father and mother had come from. He could see it far, far below— so far that it looked no bigger than an orange; and sometimes he would stretch out his hands toward it, just as the little children on earth stretch out their hands for the moon.
His father had made him a bow, with little arrows, and this was a great delight to him. But still he was lonely, and wondered what the little boys and girls on earth were doing and whether they would be nice to play with. The Earth must be a pretty place, he thought, with so many people living on it. His mother had told him strange stories of that far-away land, with its lovely lakes and rivers, its great, green forests where the deer and the squirrel lived, and the yellow, rolling prairies swarming with buffalo.
These birds, too, in the great silver cage had come from the Earth, he was told, and there were thousands and thousands just like them, as well as others even more beautiful that he had never seen at all. Swans with long, curved necks, that floated gracefully on the waters; whip-poor-wills that called at night from the woods; the robin redbreast, the dove and the swallow. What wonderful birds they must be!
Sometimes he would sit near the cage, trying to understand the language of the feathered creatures inside. One day a strange idea came into his head. He would open the door of the cage and let them out. Then they would fly back to Earth, and perhaps they would take him with them. When his father and mother missed him they would be sure to follow him to the Earth, and then—
He could not quite see just how it would all end. But he found himself quite close to the cage, and the first thing he knew, he had opened the door and let out all the birds. Round and round they flew, and now he was half sorry, and a little afraid as well. If the birds flew back to Earth, and left him there, what would his grandfather say?
"Come back, come back!" he called.
But the birds only flew around him in circles, and paid no attention to him. At any moment they might be winging their way to the Earth
"Come back, I tell you!" he cried, stamping his foot and waving his little bow. "Come back, I say, or I'll shoot you."
Then, as they would not obey him, he fitted an arrow to his bow and let it fly. So well did he aim that the arrow sped through the plumage of a bird, and the feathers fell all around. The bird itself, a little stunned but not much hurt, fell down, and a tiny trickle of blood stained the ground where it lay. But it was no longer a bird, with an arrow in its wing; instead, there stood in its place a beautiful young woman.
Now, no one who lives in the stars is ever permitted to shed blood, whether it be of man, beast or bird. So when the few drops fell upon the Evening Star, everything was changed. The boy suddenly found himself sinking slowly downward, held up by invisible hands, yet ever sinking closer and closer to the Earth. Soon he could see its green hills and the swans floating on the water, till at last he rested on a grassy island in a great lake.
Lying there, and looking up at the sky, he could see the tent descending, too. Down it softly drifted, till it in turn sank upon the island, and in it were his father and mother, Osseo and Oweenee—returned to earth, to live once more among men and women and teach them how to live. For they had learned many things in their life upon the Evening Star, and the children of Earth would be better for the knowledge.
As they stood there, hand in hand, all the enchanted birds came fluttering after, falling and fluttering through the air. Then as each one touched the Earth, it was no longer a bird they saw, but a human being. A human being, yet not quite as before, for now they were only dwarfs, Little People, or Pygmies: Puk-Wudjies, as the Indians called them. Happy Little People they became, seen only by a few. Fishermen, they say, would sometimes get a glimpse of them—dancing in the light of the Evening Star, of a summer night, on the sandy, level beach of the Great Lake.