Native American Legends
The race between the Crane and the Hummingbird
A Cherokee Legend
The Hummingbird and the Crane were both in love with a pretty woman.
She preferred the Hummingbird, who was as handsome as the Crane
But the Crane was so persistent that in order to get rid of him
she finally told him he must challenge the other to a race and she
would marry the winner.
The Hummingbird was so swift--almost like a flash of lightning--and
the Crane so slow and heavy, that she felt sure the Hummingbird
would win. She did not know the Crane could fly all night.
They agreed to start from her house and fly around the circle of
the world to the beginning, and the one who came in first would
marry the woman. At the word the Hummingbird darted off like an
arrow and was out of sight in a moment, leaving his rival to follow
heavily behind. He flew all day, and when evening came and he stopped
to roost for the night he was far ahead. But the Crane flew steadily
all night long, passing the Hummingbird soon after midnight and
going on until he came to a creek and stopped to rest about daylight.
The Hummingbird woke up in the morning and flew on again, thinking
how easily he would win the race, until he reached the creek and
there found the Crane spearing tadpoles, with his long bill, for
breakfast. He was very much surprised and wondered how this could
have happened, but he flew swiftly by and soon left the Crane out
of sight again.
The Crane finished his breakfast and started on, and when evening
came he kept on as before. This time it was hardly midnight when
he passed the Hummingbird asleep on a limb, and in the morning he
had finished his breakfast before the other came up. The next day
he gained a little more, and on the fourth day he was spearing tadpoles
for dinner when the Hummingbird passed him. On the fifth and sixth
days it was late in the afternoon before the Hummingbird came up,
and on the morning of the seventh day the Crane was a whole night's
He took his time at breakfast and then fixed himself up as nicely
as he could at the creek and came in at the starting place where
the woman lived, early in the morning. When the Hummingbird arrived
in the afternoon he found he had lost the race, but the woman declared
she would never have such an ugly fellow as the Crane for a husband,
so she stayed single.
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