American Indian: How the Summer Came (end)

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).

How the Summer Came (end)
[for audio, see previous page]

So O-jeeg bade good-bye to his wife and his little son, and the next day the lynx began the long journey, with O-jeeg and the others following close behind. It was just as the lynx had said. When they had travelled, day and night, for a moon, they came to a lodge, as the white men call an Indian's tent, and there was the Manito standing in the doorway. He was a queer-looking man, such as they had never seen before, with an enormous head and three eyes, one eye being set in his forehead above the other two.

He invited them into the lodge and set some meat before them, but he had such an odd look, and his movements were so awkward, that the otter could not help laughing. At this, the eye in the Manito's forehead grew red, like a live coal, and he made a leap at the otter, who barely managed to slip through the doorway, out into the bitter cold and darkness of the night, without having tasted a morsel of supper.

When the otter had gone, the Manito seemed satisfied and told them they could spend the night in his lodge. They did so, and O-jeeg, who stayed awake while his friends slept, noticed that only two of the Manito's eyes were closed while the one in his forehead remained wide open.

In the morning the Manito told O-jeeg to travel straight toward the North Star, and that in twenty suns—the Indian name for days—they would reach the mountain. "As you are a Manito yourself," he said, "you may be able to climb to the top, and to take your friends with you. But I cannot promise that you will be able to get down again."

"If it is close enough to the sky," answered O-jeeg, "that is all I ask."

Once more they set out. On their way they met the otter, who laughed again when he saw them, but this time he laughed because he was glad to find them and glad to get some meat that O-jeeg had saved from the Manito's supper.

In twenty days they came to the foot of the mountain. Then up and up they climbed till they passed quite through the clouds, and up once more, till at last they stopped, all out of breath, and sat down to rest on the highest peak in the world. To their great delight, the sky seemed so close that they could almost touch it.

O-jeeg and his comrades filled their pipes. But before smoking, they called out to the Great Spirit, asking for success in their attempt. In Indian fashion they pointed to the earth, to the sky overhead, and to the four winds.

"Now," said O-jeeg, when they had finished smoking, "which of you can jump the highest?"

The otter grinned.

"Jump, then!" commanded O-jeeg.

The otter jumped, and, sure enough, his head hit the sky. But the sky was the harder of the two, and back he fell. When he struck the ground, he began to slide down the mountain; soon he was out of sight, and they saw him no more.

"Ugh!" grunted the lynx. "He is laughing on the other side of his mouth."

It was the beaver's turn. He, too, hit the sky, but fell down in a heap. The badger and the lynx had no better luck, and their heads ached for a long time afterward.

"It all depends on you," said O-jeeg to the wolverine. "You are the strongest of them all. Ready, now—jump!" The wolverine jumped, and fell, but came down on his feet, sound and whole.

"Good!" cried O-jeeg. "Try again!"

This time the wolverine made a dent in the sky.

"It's cracking!" exclaimed O-jeeg. "Now, once more!" For the third time the wolverine jumped. Through the sky he went, passing out of sight, and O-jeeg quickly followed him.

Looking around them, they beheld a beautiful land.

O-jeeg, who had spent his life among the snows, stood like a man who dreams, wondering if it could be true. He had left behind him a bare world, white with winter, whose waters were always frozen, a world without song or color. He had now come into a country that was a great green plain, with flowers of many hues, where birds of bright plumage sang amid the leafy branches of trees hung with golden fruit. Streams wandered through the meadows and flowed into lovely lakes. The air was mild and filled with the perfume from a million blossoms. It was Summer.

Along the banks of a lake were the lodges in which lived the people of the sky, who could be seen some distance away. The lodges were empty, but before them were hung cages in which there were many beautiful birds. Already the warm air of Summer had begun to rush through the hole made by the wolverine, and O-jeeg now made haste to open the cages so that the birds could follow.

The sky-dwellers saw what was happening and raised a great shout. But Spring, Summer and Autumn had already escaped through the opening into the world below, and many of the birds as well.

The wolverine, too, had managed to reach the hole and descend to the earth, before the sky-dwellers could catch him. But O-jeeg was not so fortunate. There were still some birds remaining that he knew his son would like to see, so he went on opening the cages. By this time the sky dwellers had closed the hole, and O-jeeg was too late.

As the sky-dwellers pursued him, he changed himself into the Fisher and ran along the plain, toward the North, at the top of his speed. In the form of the Fisher he could run faster. Also, when he took this shape, no arrow could injure him unless it hit a spot near the tip of his tail.

But the sky-dwellers ran even faster, and the Fisher climbed a tall tree. They were good marksmen, and they shot a great many arrows, until at last one of these chanced to hit the fatal spot. Then the Fisher knew that his time had come.

Now he saw that some of his enemies were marked with the totems, or family arms, of his own tribe. "My Cousins!" he called to them. "I beg of you that you go away and leave me here alone."

The sky-dwellers granted his request. When they had gone, the Fisher came down from the tree and wandered around for a time, seeking some opening in the plain through which he might return to the earth. But there was no opening, so at last, feeling weak and faint, he stretched himself flat on the floor of the sky through which the stars may be seen from the world below.

"I have kept my promise," he said with a sigh of content. "My son will now enjoy the summer, and so will all the people who dwell on the earth. Through the ages to come I shall be set as a sign in the heavens, and my name will be spoken with praise. I am satisfied."

So it came about that the Fisher remained in the sky, where you can see him plainly for yourself, on a clear night, with the arrow through his tail. The Indians call them the Fisher Stars—O-jeeg An-nung; but to white men are they known as the constellation of the Plough.

(1200 words)

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