The Boy And The Wolves Or The Broken Promise

: The Yellow Fairy Book

A North American Indian story.

Once upon a time an Indian hunter built himself a house in the

middle of a great forest, far away from all his tribe; for his

heart was gentle and kind, and he was weary of the treachery and

cruel deeds of those who had been his friends. So he left them,

and took his wife and three children, and they journeyed on until

they found a spot near to a clear stream, where they be
an to cut

down trees, and to make ready their wigwam. For many years they

lived peacefully and happily in this sheltered place, never

leaving it except to hunt the wild animals, which served them

both for food and clothes. At last, however, the strong man felt

sick, and before long he knew he must die.

So he gathered his family round him, and said his last words to

them. 'You, my wife, the companion of my days, will follow me

ere many moons have waned to the island of the blest. But for

you, O my children, whose lives are but newly begun, the

wickedness, unkindness, and ingratitude from which I fled are

before you. Yet I shall go hence in peace, my children, if you

will promise always to love each other, and never to forsake your

youngest brother.

'Never!' they replied, holding out their hands. And the hunter

died content.

Scarcely eight moons had passed when, just as he had said, the

wife went forth, and followed her husband; but before leaving her

children she bade the two elder ones think of their promise never

to forsake the younger, for he was a child, and weak. And while

the snow lay thick upon the ground, they tended him and cherished

him; but when the earth showed green again, the heart of the

young man stirred within him, and he longed to see the wigwams of

the village where his father's youth was spent.

Therefore he opened all his heart to his sister, who answered:

'My brother, I understand your longing for our fellow-men, whom

here we cannot see. But remember our father's words. Shall we

not seek our own pleasures, and forget the little one?'

But he would not listen, and, making no reply, he took his bow

and arrows and left the hut. The snows fell and melted, yet he

never returned; and at last the heart of the girl grew cold and

hard, and her little boy became a burden in her eyes, till one

day she spoke thus to him: 'See, there is food for many days to

come. Stay here within the shelter of the hut. I go to seek our

brother, and when I have found him I shall return hither.'

But when, after hard journeying, she reached the village where

her brother dwelt, and saw that he had a wife and was happy, and

when she, too, was sought by a young brave, then she also forgot

the boy alone in the forest, and thought only of her husband.

Now as soon as the little boy had eaten all the food which his

sister had left him, he went out into the woods, and gathered

berries and dug up roots, and while the sun shone he was

contented and had his fill. But when the snows began and the

wind howled, then his stomach felt empty and his limbs cold, and

he hid in trees all the night, and only crept out to eat what the

wolves had left behind. And by-and-by, having no other friends,

he sought their company, and sat by while they devoured their

prey, and they grew to know him, and gave him food. And without

them he would have died in the snow.

But at last the snows melted, and the ice upon the great lake,

and as the wolves went down to the shore, the boy went after

them. And it happened one day that his big brother was fishing

in his canoe near the shore, and he heard the voice of a child

singing in the Indian tone--

'My brother, my brother!

I am becoming a wolf,

I am becoming a wolf!'

And when he had so sung he howled as wolves howl. Then the heart

of the elder sunk, and he hastened towards him, crying, 'Brother,

little brother, come to me;' but he, being half a wolf, only

continued his song. And the louder the elder called him,

'Brother, little brother, come to me,' the swifter he fled after

his brothers the wolves, and the heavier grew his skin, till,

with a long howl, he vanished into the depths of the forest.

So, with shame and anguish in his soul, the elder brother went

back to his village, and, with his sister, mourned the little boy

and the broken promise till the end of his life.