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How Glooskap Made The Birds

from Canadian Fairy Tales





Once upon a time long before the white men came to Canada there lived
a wicked giant who caused great trouble and sorrow wherever he went.
Men called him Wolf-Wind. Where he was born no man knows, but his home
was in the Cave of the Winds, far in the north country in the
Night-Night Land, and there men knew he was hiding on calm days when
the sun was hot and the sea was still, and on quiet nights when not a
leaf or a flower or a blade of grass was stirring. But whenever he
appeared, the great trees cracked in fear and the little trees
trembled and the flowers bent their heads close to the earth, trying
to hide from his presence. Often he came upon them without warning and
with little sign of his coming. And then the corn fell flat never to
rise again, and tall trees crashed in the forest, and the flowers
dropped dead because of their terror; and often the great waters grew
white and moaned or screamed loudly or dashed themselves against the
rocks trying to escape from Wolf-Wind. And in the darkness of the
night when Wolf-Wind howled, there was great fear upon all the earth.

It happened once in those old times that Wolf-Wind was in a great
rage, and he went forth to kill and devour all who dared to come in
his path. It chanced in that time that many Indian families were
living near the sea. The men and women were fishing far off the coast.
They were catching fish to make food for the winter. They went very
far away in small canoes, for the sea had long been still and they
thought there was no danger. The little children were alone on shore.
Suddenly as the sun went down, without a sign of his coming, out of
the north came Wolf-Wind in his great rage looking for prey, and
roaring loudly as he came. "I am Wolf-Wind, the giant," he howled,
"cross not my path, for I will kill all the people I meet, and eat
them all up." His anger only grew as he stalked along, and he splashed
and tossed the waters aside in his fury as he came down upon the
fishermen and fisher-women far out to sea. The fishers had no time to
get out of his reach or to paddle to the shore, so quick was
Wolf-Wind's coming, and the giant caught them in his path and broke up
their boats and killed them all. All night long he raged over the
ocean looking for more fishers.

In the morning Wolf-Wind's anger was not yet spent. Far away in front
of him he saw the little children of the fishers playing on the shore.
He knew they were alone, for he had killed their fathers and mothers.
He resolved to catch them and kill them too, and after them he went,
still in a great rage. He went quickly towards the land, roaring as he
went and dashing the waters against the rocks in his madness. As he
came near the beach he howled in his anger, "I will catch you and kill
you all and eat you and bleach your bones upon the sand." But the
children heard him and they ran away as fast as they could, and they
hid in a cave among the great rocks and placed a big stone at the
mouth of the cave and Wolf-Wind could not get in. He howled loudly at
the door all day and all night long, but the stone was strong and he
could not break it down. Then he went on his way still very angry and
still roaring, and he howled, "I will come back and catch you yet. You
cannot escape from me."

The children were very frightened and they stayed long in the cave
after Wolf-Wind had gone, for far away they could still hear him
howling and crashing in the forest. Then they came out. They knew that
Wolf-Wind had killed their fathers and mothers on the sea. They ran
away into the forest, for they thought that there they would be safe.
They went to the Willow-Willow Land where they found a pleasant place
with grass and flowers and streams. And between them and the north
country where Wolf-Wind lived were many great trees with thick leaves
which they knew would protect them from the giant.

But one day Wolf-Wind, true to his promise, came again in a rage to
find them. He came into the land killing all he met in his path. But
he could not catch the children, for the trees with their thick leaves
kept him away. They heard him howling in the forest far distant. For
many days in the late summer he tried to find them but their home was
close to the trees, and the great branches spread over them and the
thick leaves saved them, and only the sun from the south, coming from
the Summer-Flower country, could look in upon them. Try as he could
with all his might old Wolf-Wind could not harm them although he knew
that they were there; and they were always safe while they lived in
the Willow-Willow Land.

Wolf-Wind was more angry than ever because of his failure, for he
liked to feed on his little children, and rage knew no bounds. He
swore that he would have vengeance on the trees. So he came back again
and he brought with him to aid him another giant from the north
country who had with him a strange and powerful charm, the Charm of
the Frost. And the two giants tried to kill the trees that had saved
the little children. But over many of the trees they had no power, for
when they came, the trees only laughed and merely swayed and creaked
and said, "You cannot harm us; we are strong, for we came at first
from the Night-Night Land in the far north country, and over us the
Charm of the Frost has no power." These were the Spruce and the Fir,
the Hemlock and the Pine and the Cedar. But on the other trees
Wolf-Wind had vengeance as he had vowed. One night when the harvest
moon was shining in the sky he came without warning, and with the help
of the giant bearing the Charm of the Frost he killed all the leaves
that had kept him from the children, and threw them to the ground. One
after one the leaves came off from the Beech and the Birch, the Oak
and the Maple, the Alder and the Willow. Some fell quickly, some
fluttered slowly down, and some took a long time in dying. But at last
the trees stood bare and cold against the sky and there was stillness
and sadness in the forest. And Wolf-Wind laughed and played in silence
through the leafless branches with the giant from Night-Night Land.
And he said, "Now I have overcome the leaves that kept me away, and
now when I please I can kill the children." But the children only
moved closer to the strong and sturdy trees that had come at first
from the far north country and over which the Charm of the Frost had
no power, and Wolf-Wind could not reach them and they were still for
ever safe from the giants.

The children were very sad when they saw what Wolf-Wind had done to
their friends and protectors, the trees. Summer had gone back to the
Southland following as she always did the Rainbow Road to her home in
the Wilderness of Flowers. It was lonely now in the forest and silent;
there was not a whisper in the trees; there were no leaves, for it
was autumn and Wolf-Wind had killed them all.

At last it came to that time of year when Glooskap, who ruled upon the
earth and was very great in those days, gave his yearly gifts to
little children. And he came into the land on a sled drawn by his
faithful dogs to find out for himself what the children wished for.
And the children all came to him each asking for a boon. Now Glooskap
had great power upon the earth in that old time. He could always do
what he willed. And the little children whom Wolf-Wind had tried to
harm in his rage came to Glooskap, the Magic Master of gifts, and they
were all very sad because the leaves had gone.

"What do you wish?" said Glooskap. "We wish nothing for ourselves,"
said the children, "but we ask that the leaves that were killed by
Wolf-Wind because they saved us from his rage be brought back to life
and put back again in their old home in the trees." Glooskap was
silent for a long time and he sat and thought as was his custom, and
he smoked hard at his mighty pipe, for he was a great smoker. Now in
that time there were no little forest birds upon the earth, for
Glooskap had not yet brought them into being. There were only the
birds that dwelt near the sea and over whom Wolf-Wind had no
power--Sea-gull and Crane, Wild-duck and Loon, Kingfisher and Brant
and Curlew. These only laughed at the giant in his rage and screamed
in mockery as they flew from him and hid when he came, among the
shallows or the rocks or the thick grass in the marshes. And there
were also the sturdy birds that dwelt with men and worked for them,
giving them eggs and food. These were Hen and Goose and Duck and Wild
Turkey. They gave men food, but they were not fair to look upon; they
waddled along and could not fly well and they made no sweet music upon
the earth, for their song was a quack and a cackle.

Glooskap decided to bring other birds into the world, not to give food
but to bring happiness to the children on the days when summer dwells
in the land, with their pretty feathers and their pleasant songs. So
after he had smoked long in silence he hit upon a plan. And he said to
the children asking for their yearly gifts, "I cannot bring back to
the trees the leaves that Wolf-Wind has killed and stripped off, for
it is now too late. But I will take the fallen leaves and change them
into little birds. And the birds shall never forget how they were
born. When autumn comes they shall go with summer far away to the
Summer-Flower Land, but in the spring-time they shall always come back
and they shall live as close as they can to the leaves from which they
have sprung. And they shall nest, most of them, in the trees under the
leaves, and even those that nest in the grass shall love the trees and
linger in them. And they shall all be beautiful in colour like the
leaves that gave them birth; and they shall have power to rest at
times upon the air like a leaf fluttering; and the voice of the air
and the laughing waters shall be in their throats and they shall sing
sweet songs for little children. And I give the children charge over
them to keep them from harm just as the leaves which gave them birth
have saved the little children from the giants. And I will give the
trees that Wolf-Wind has stripped power to bring forth new leaves
every spring-time so that when Summer comes back from the Wilderness
of Flowers the trees shall not be bare. And although Wolf-Wind may
strip them off when the Giant of the Frost comes with him from the
Night-Night Land they shall always be replaced in the spring-time. And
I will take away much of Wolf-Wind's power so that he can no longer
harm little children as wickedly as he has done before."

Glooskap waved his magic wand as was his custom, and at once great
flocks of little birds sprang from the ground where the fallen leaves
had lain. And they twittered and sang in a great chorus and flew back
to the trees. They were of beautiful colours like the leaves that had
given them birth. There were Robin Red-breasts and Thrushes all brown
and red, from the red and brown leaves of the Oak. And there were
Finches and Humming-birds all yellow and green and brown from the
leaves of the Alder and the Willow, and they glowed like willows in
the sunlight and fluttered like a leaf upon the air. There were
Yellowbirds and Canadian Warblers from the golden Beech and Birch
leaves. And there were Scarlet Tanagers and Orioles and Grosbeaks all
of changing colours, red and purple and brown, from the leaves of the
Canadian Maple. And they all sang to the children and the children
were all very happy again.

Then Glooskap sent the little birds all away to a warm country until
the rule of the Giant of the Frost from the Night-Night Land was over,
for it was winter in all the land and it was very cold. But in the
spring-time the little birds always come back from the Summer-Flower
Land. And they build their nests among the trees as close as they can
to their kindred, the leaves from which they came. And all day long
they sing among the leaves for little children. At day-break they wake
the children with their choir of dawn, and at twilight they lisp and
twitter to lull the children to sleep. And at night they hide among
the leaves from Wolf-Wind and are very still with never a twitter or a
song. For they do not forget that they are the children's gift from
Glooskap and that they came from the leaves stripped from the trees by
Wolf-Wind because the leaves saved the little children from the giant
long ago.





Next: Rabbit And The Grain Buyers

Previous: A Tale For Halloween



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