A Cherokee Legend
No'ghwisi, the bird called Meadowlark, lives in the lowlands, and he is about the same size as Quail. He walks the same way that Quail walks.
Once, long ago, one meadowlark had feet that did not stop growing when the rest of him did. His feet grew stronger and stronger, his toes longer and longer, and his heart heavier and heavier.
"Poor feet, you are so ugly!" good meadowlark cried. "And so heavy! When I try to soar up to the sky you weigh me down. How can I sing my beautiful song if I cannot soar? If l do sing, the animals and other birds will not hear, for they will be too busy laughing. Oh, feet! I wish I were a mole and could hide under the earth!" Instead, Meadowlark hid in the grass and tried not to look at his feet He hunted insects there and built his nest there. Sometimes he sang his beautiful song softly to himself there.
One day. Grasshopper came looking for Meadowlark. As he hopped through the grass he heard the soft little song and followed it to the downhearted bird. "Why are you hiding, friend Meadowlark?" he asked when he found him. "No one has seen you all summer."
Meadowlark hung his head. "I am ashamed to show my beak," he said. "But why?" Grasshopper cocked his own head in puzzlement. "Can't you see?" the bird asked with a sigh. He held up one long foot. "Because my feet are so long."
Grasshopper shrugged. "So? Why worry? One of these days they'll turn out to be useful." Meadowlark blinked. "Useful? How?" "How should I know? They will. You'll see," said Grasshopper. "You want to sing, don't you? Well, stop this hiding-in-the-grass nonsense and go out and do it."
Grasshopper's visit cheered Meadowlark so much that he went out
then and there to take to the air. He flew low over the fields,
and the trills and rills of his silver song soared high. All of
the animals stopped still to listen to it. All of the birds folded
their wings and perched in the trees
to listen to it. On the following day Meadowlark went out again to sing, but as he flew, his toes now and then skimmed the feathery seed tops of grass.
He could not help thinking. Oh, how long my poor feet are, and
how ugly! With a sob, he dropped to the ground and hid again. Not
far away was a wheat field near a Cherokee town. A little female
bird had made her nest in the middle of the wheat field. She had
laid her eggs there, but now the wheat was ripe, and she heard men
saying that it was time to cut it. "Oh, what shall I do? What
shall I do?" she cried as she huddled over her eggs. She wept
and wailed loudly, for she had no way to save them. Grasshopper
heard her cries, and followed them to her nest. "Why do you
cry?" he asked. "Who would not cry?" she wailed. "Men are going to cut the wheat. My eggs
will be broken and crushed, for I have no way to carry them to safety."
"Well, now," said Grasshopper, "I know a bird over in the meadow beyond your field who is always hiding because his feet are so big. He could help you." The little bird hopped off her nest. "I shall go see him at once. Perhaps he can pick up and carry my eggs in his claws." She flew off in a flutter to find Meadowlark, who said, "Of course I will help, if I can."
Meadowlark followed her back to the wheat field, and found that with his long toes it was easy to pick up her eggs. Two at a time, he carried them off to the meadow grass and set them down in a safe nesting place. "That Grasshopper is a wise little fellow," he said happily.
And he flew up to circle the meadow and sing his beautiful meadowlark song.
Return to Cherokee Legends