Native American Legends
A Papago Legend
One day the Creator was resting, sitting, watching some children
at play in a village. The children laughed and sang, yet as he watched
them, the Creator's heart was sad. He was thinking: "These
children will grow old. Their skin will become wrinkled. Their hair
will turn gray. Their teeth will fall out. The young hunter's arm
will fail. These lovely young girls will grow ugly and fat. The
playful puppies will become blind, mangy dogs. And those wonderful
flowers - yellow and blue, red and purple - will fade. The leaves
from the trees will fall and dry up. Already they are turning yellow."
Thus the Creator grew sadder and sadder. It was in the fall, and
the thought of the coming winter, with its cold and lack of game
and green things, made his heart heavy.
Yet it was still warm, and the sun was shining. The Creator watched
the play of sunlight and shadow on the ground, the yellow leaves
being carried here and there by the wind. He saw the blueness of
the sky, the whiteness of some cornmeal ground by the women. Suddenly
he smiled. "All those colors, they ought to be preserved. I'll
make something to gladden my heart, something for these children
to look at and enjoy."
The Creator took out his bag and started gathering things: a spot
of sunlight, a handful of blue from the sky, the whiteness of the
cornmeal, the shadow of playing children, the blackness of a beautiful
girl's hair, the yellow of the falling leaves, the green of the
pine needles, the red, purple, and orange of the flowers around
him. All these he put into his bag. As an afterthought, he put the
songs of the birds in, too.
Then he walked over to the grassy spot where the children were
playing. "Children, little children, this is for you,"
and he gave them his bag. "Open it; there's something nice
inside," he told them. The children opened the bag, and at
once hundreds and hundreds of colored butterflies flew out, dancing
around the children's heads, settling on their hair, fluttering
up again to sip from this or that flower. And the children, enchanted,
said that they had never seen anything so beautiful.
The butterflies began to sing, and the children listened smiling.
But then a songbird came flying, settling on the Creator's shoulder,
scolding him, saying: "It's not right to give our songs to
these new, pretty things. You told us when you made us that every
bird would have his own song. And now you've passed them all around.
Isn't it enough that you gave your new playthings the colors of
the rainbow?" "You're right," said the Creator. "I
made one song for each bird, and I shouldn't have taken what belongs
So the Creator took the songs away from the butterflies, and that's
why they are silent. "They're beautiful even so!" he said.
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