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Rainbow And The Autumn Leaves

from Canadian Fairy Tales





In olden days, long before the Indians came to Canada, all the animals

talked and worked like men. Every year after midsummer they held a

great council at which they were all present. But it happened once in

the summer before the council met, that they all wanted to go to the

sky to see what the country up there was like. None of them could find

a way to go. The oldest and wisest creature on all the earth was

Turtle. One day he prayed to the Thunder God to take him to the sky,

and his prayer was soon answered. There was a great noise, as if the

earth had been split asunder, and when the people next looked for

Turtle he was nowhere to be found. They searched everywhere without

success. But that evening, when they looked upwards, they saw him in

the sky, moving about like a black cloud. Turtle liked the sky so well

that he decided to live there always and to send his descendants,

later, to the earth. And the sky-people agreed to keep him. They asked

him, "Where do you want to dwell?" And he answered, "I should like to

dwell in the Black Cloud, in which are the ponds and streams and

lakes and springs of water, for I always dwelt near these places when

I was young." So he was allowed to have his wish. But when the Great

Council of the animals met on earth in the time of the harvest-moon,

he was always present. He came in the Black Cloud, but he always went

back to the sky after the Council was ended. And the other animals

envied him his good fortune, and they wished that they could go with

him.



After a time the animals were greatly distressed and angered by the

rumour that a new race of creatures was coming from far over the ocean

to inhabit their land. They talked it over very carefully, and they

all thought how fortunate it would be if they could all go to the sky

with old Turtle, and live like him, free from fear and trouble and

care. But they were puzzled to know how to get there, for Turtle had

never told any of them the way.



One day Deer, wandering about alone in the forest, as was his custom,

came across Rainbow, who often built a path of many colours to the

sky. And he said to Rainbow, "Carry me up to the sky, for I want to

see Turtle." But Rainbow was afraid to do it, for he wished first to

ask the Thunder God for permission, and he put Deer off, and to gain

time he said, "Come to me in winter, when I stay for a time on the

mountain near the lake. Then I will gladly carry you to the place

where Turtle dwells."

Throughout the long winter months Deer looked longingly for Rainbow,

but Rainbow did not come. Life was growing harder on the earth, and

the animals were in terror of the new race that was soon to come to

their land, and Deer was very timid and impatient. At last, one day in

the early summer, Rainbow came again, and Deer hastened to meet him.

"Why were you false to me?" he asked; "I waited for you all winter

long on the mountain by the lake, but you did not come as you

promised. I want to go to the sky now, for I must see Turtle." Rainbow

answered, "I cannot take you now. But some day, when there is a Fog

over the lake, I shall come back to drive it away. Come to me then,

and I shall take you to the sky and to the place where Turtle dwells.

This time I will not deceive you."



Rainbow consulted the Thunder God, and received permission to do as

Deer wished. Soon afterwards the Fog one day rolled in a thick bank

across the lake, and Deer hurried out to wait for Rainbow. Sure

enough, Rainbow came down, as he had promised, to drive the Fog away.

He threw his arch of many colours from the lake to the blue hills far

away, and the Fog at once disappeared from the place. And he said to

Deer, who stood watching him, "Now I will keep my promise. Follow my

many-coloured path over the hills and the forests and the streams, and

be not afraid, and you will soon reach Turtle's home in the sky." Deer

did as he was told, and soon he reached the sky. Turtle was glad to

see him, and Deer liked the country so well that he decided to stay

for ever. And he roamed over the sky everywhere, moving like the wind

from place to place.



When midsummer had passed and the harvest-moon had come and the Great

Council again met together, Deer was absent for the first time in his

life. The animals waited long for him to appear, for they needed his

advice, but he did not come. They sent the Birds out to find him.

Black Hawk and Woodpecker and Bluejay all sought him in the forest,

but they could not find a trace of him. Then Wolf and Fox scoured the

woods far and near, but they came back and reported that he could not

be found anywhere. At last Turtle arrived at the meeting of the Great

Council, as was his custom, coming in his Black Cloud, in which were

the ponds and lakes and streams and springs of water. And Bear said,

"Deer is absent from the Council meeting. Where is Deer? We cannot

meet without him, for we need his advice." And Turtle replied, "Deer

is in the sky. Have you not heard? Rainbow made a wonderful pathway

for him of many varied colours, and by that he came to the sky. There

he is now," and he pointed to a golden cloud scurrying across the sky

overhead.



Turtle advised that the animals should all go to the sky to live until

they could be sure that the new race of creatures would bring them no

harm. And he showed them the pathway that Rainbow had made,

stretching from the earth in wonderful colours. The animals all agreed

at the Great Council to take Turtle's advice. But they were all very

angry at Deer for leaving them without warning, for they thought that

all the animals should either stay together faithfully on the earth or

go all together to the sky. Bear showed the greatest anger and

annoyance. Because of his great strength, he had no fear of the new

race that was said soon to be coming, and he had always been inclined

to look with scorn on Deer's timid and impatient ways. "Deer has

forsaken us," he said; "he deserted us in the hour of our danger, and

that is contrary to forest laws and to our code of defence." And he

thought to himself, "I shall punish him for this when the time comes."



In the late autumn, the time agreed upon came for the animals to leave

the earth, and Rainbow again made his bright path for them to the sky.

Bear was the first to go up because he was the leader, and because

with his great weight he wanted to test the strength of the bridge of

burning colours over which they had to pass. When he had almost

reached the sky, he met Deer on the path waiting to welcome the

animals to their new home. And he said to him in anger, "Why did you

leave us behind, without warning, for the land of the Turtle? Why did

you desert the Great Council? Why did you not wait until all could

come together? You are a traitor to your comrades, and you have been

false to our faith." And Deer answered, also in anger, "Who are you to

doubt me or my faith? None but the Wolf may ask me why I came or

question my fidelity. I will kill you for your insolence." Deer had

grown very proud since he had gone to live in the sky, and he was no

longer timid as he had been on earth. His eyes flashed in his fury,

and he arched his neck and lowered his antlered head, and rushed madly

at Bear to push him from the path.



But Bear was not afraid, for he had often tested his strength with

Deer upon the earth. His low, hoarse growls sounded all over the sky,

and he prepared to fight. They came together with a shock. For a long

time they battled, until the bridge of burning colours trembled and

the heavens shook from the force of the conflict. The animals waiting

by the lake at the end of the path looked up and saw the battle above

them. They feared the results, for they wanted neither Bear nor Deer

to die. So they sent Wolf up to the sky to put a stop to the contest.

When Wolf reached the combatants, Bear was bleeding freely, for Deer

with his antlers had pierced his neck and side. Deer, too, was

bleeding where Bear's strong claws had torn a great wound in his head.

Wolf soon stopped the battle, and Bear and Deer went away to dress

their wounds. Then the other animals went up to the sky over Rainbow's

flaming path. And they decided to live in the sky and to send their

descendants back to earth when the new race of creatures should come.

And they can still sometimes be seen, like clouds hurrying across the

sky, in the shape they had on earth.



But the blood of Bear and of Deer dropped from them as they moved to

the sky from the scene of their battle along the Rainbow road. It fell

freely upon the leaves of the trees beneath them, and changed them

into varied colours. And every year when autumn comes in the north

country, the leaves take on again the bright and wondrous colours

given to them by the blood of Bear and Deer when they fought on the

Rainbow path ages and ages ago. And Bear and Deer have never since

been friends, and their descendants no longer dwell together in peace,

as they did in the olden days.





Next: Rabbit And The Moon-man

Previous: The Tobacco Fairy From The Blue Hills



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