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Native American Legends

How the Bat came to be

An Ojibwa Legend

Long ago, as the sun began to rise one morning, he came to close to Earth and got tangled up in the top branches of a very tall tree.

The harder Sun tried to escape, the more he became caught. So, the dawn did not come.

At first, all of the birds and animals did not notice. Some of them woke up, then went back to sleep, thinking that they had made a mistake, and it was not time to get up.

Other animals, who loved the night, like the panther and the owl, were really glad that it stayed dark, so they continued to hunt.

But, after a while, so much time had passed that the birds and animals knew that something was wrong.

They gathered together, in the dark, to hold a council.

"Sun has gotten lost," said the eagle.

"We must look for him," said the bear.

So, all of the birds and animals went out to look for Sun.

They looked in caves and in the deep forest and on the mountains and in the swamps.

But, Sun was not there. None of the birds and animals could find him.

Then, one of the animals, a small brown squirrel had an idea. "Maybe Sun is caught in a tall tree," he said.

Then, the small brown squirrel began to go from tree to tree, going further and further toward the east. At last, in the top of a very tall tree, he saw a glow of light.

He climbed up and saw that it was Sun. Sun's light was pale and he looked weak.

"Help me, Little Brother," Sun said.

The small brown squirrel came close and began to chew at the branches in which the Sun was caught. The closer he came to Sun, the hotter it got. The more branches that he chewed free, the brighter Sun's light became.

"I must stop now," said the small brown squirrel. "My fur is burning. It's all turning black."

"Help me," said Sun. "Don't stop now."

The small brown squirrel continued to work, but the heat of Sun was very hot now and it was even brighter. "My tail is burning away," said the small brown squirrel. "I can do no more."

"Help me," said Sun. "Soon I will be free."

So, the small brown squirrel continued to chew. But, the light of Sun was very bright now.

"I am growing blind," said the small brown squirrel. "I must stop."

"Just a little more," said Sun. "I am almost free."

Finally, the small brown squirrel chewed the last of the branches free.

As soon as he did, Sun broke free and rose up into the sky.

Dawn spread across the land and it was day again. All over the world the birds and animals rejoiced.

But, the small brown squirrel was not happy. He was blinded by the brightness of Sun. His long tail had been burned away and what fur he had left was now all black.

His skin had stretched from the heat and he clung there to the top branches of that tall tree, unable to move.

Up in the sky, Sun looked down and felt sorry for the small brown squirrel. It had suffered so much to save him.

"Little Brother," Sun said. "You have helped me. Now, I will give you something. Is there anything that you have always wanted?"

"I have always wanted to fly," said the small brown squirrel. "But I am blinded now, and my tail is all burned away."

Sun smiled "Little Brother," he said, "from now on you will be an even better flyer than the birds. Because you came to close to me, my light will always be too bright for you, but you will see in the dark and you will hear everything around you as you fly.

From this time on, you will sleep when I rise into the sky and when I say goodbye to the world each evening, you will wake."

Then the small animal which had once been a squirrel dropped from the branch, spread its leathery wings and began to fly.

He no longer missed his tail and his brown fur and he knew that when night came again, it would be his time. He could not look at Sun, but he held the joy of Sun in his heart.

And so it was, long ago, that Sun showed his thanks to the small brown squirrel, who was a squirrel no longer, but the first of the Bats.

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