Gateway to the Classics: The Red Indian Fairy Book by Frances Jenkins Olcott
The Red Indian Fairy Book by  Frances Jenkins Olcott

The Little Corn-Bringer


A long time ago in an Indian village there was nothing to eat because it did not rain for five years. The first year the Corn grew large, but just as the ears began to ripen, the Frost came and killed them. The next year the ears were just forming, when the Frost came and blighted them. The third year, the Frost killed the stalks before the ears were formed. It was the same the fourth year. The people by this time had eaten all the Corn they had stored away, and some of them moved to another part of the country. But those who remained planted Corn the fifth year, and the Drought withered the plants soon after they came out of the ground.

Then all the people packed up their goods, and moved away; except two little children, a boy and his sister. They stayed in the village, and played together.

Well, the next day after the people had left, the boy made his sister a tiny bird cut from a Sunflower stalk. While her brother was away hunting, she threw the little bird in the air, and, lo, it became a lovely Hummingbird, shining like a jewel, and flew away. When the boy came back, she told him how the bird had become alive, and he was very much surprised.

The next morning, when the children woke up, the Hummingbird flew in at the door, and crept into a hole in the wall. The boy put his hand into the hole, and the bird was gone! But he found a little Corn ear. The children were very glad, for they were hungry, so they broke the ear in two, and roasted and ate it. Soon the Hummingbird came out of the opening, and flew away again.

The next day it returned, and entered the hole, and the boy put in his hand and found a larger Corn ear, and the Hummingbird came out and flew off. So it happened for three more days; the Hummingbird each time bringing a larger ear. On the fifth day it came back, but did not bring any Corn with it. When the boy put his hand into the hole, he pulled out the little bird, and it was no longer alive, and was only a piece of Sunflower stalk!

Well, he took it in his hand, and said, "Little Bird, go and seek our father and mother, and bring us something to eat." But the bird did not move. Then the boy asked his sister how she had made it fly.

"This is the way I did it," said she. And she took the Sunflower-stalk bird in her hand, and throwing it into the air, it became a Hummingbird again, and flew off.

It flew, and it flew, until it came to a Cactus plant on which was a single large red blossom. It pulled up the Cactus, and under its roots was a hole. Down into this the bird hopped, and found itself in a large kiva where grass and green herbs were growing. It passed through an opening into another kiva filled with Corn, white, blue, yellow, and red. There were also in this kiva Robins, Bluebirds, Wrens, Blackbirds, and all other kinds of birds. They were flying about the head of a Magician who sat there. He had put an evil spell upon the Earth so that the Frost and Drought should kill the Corn.

The little Hummingbird lighted on the Magician's arm, and begged him to take his spell off the Earth, and save the hungry children.

Then the Magician was sorry for the children, and promised the bird that he would do what he could. He gave it a large roasting Corn ear, and sent it away. It flew back with the Corn to the village.

The boy found the Corn ear in the hole, and he said: "O little Bird, thank you! Thank you! You have brought us something to eat again, and because of your goodness we are still alive. Go now and feed our parents."

So the little Hummingbird went away, and hunted over the plain for the father and mother. It found them at last, thin and dying of hunger, and brought them large roasting ears from the kiva.

Meanwhile the Magician took the evil spell off the Earth, and the warm rain began to fall. The Corn seeds sprouted in the fields, and pushed their green blades above the ground. Soon they became tall and stately plants, with leaves rustling in the wind. From their sides grew many large ears of Corn with their green silken tassels.

Then the father and mother, seeing the rain, came back to the village. But the little Hummingbird flew away and was never seen again. As for the boy and girl, they grew up, and were great Chiefs of their tribe; and they were never hungry again.

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