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

How the Fairies Came


In the country of the Wabanaki, ten sisters once lived in their father's lodge. Each was more beautiful than any other maiden in the land, and the youngest was the most beautiful of all.

Many handsome braves laid their gifts before the lodge door. So nine of the sisters married and went to live with their mothers-in-law. But the youngest refused all suitors, and stayed in her father's lodge.

One day an old man named Osseo came to woo the youngest. His eyes were bright and his thoughts keen, and he sang softly before her door. And as the maiden was willing, the marriage-feast was held.

The nine sisters came with their handsome husbands, and they laughed and jeered at the bride, because her husband was so old. But she only said: "Wait and see! Soon you shall know who has chosen most wisely."

After the marriage-feast was over, Osseo led his bride toward his lodge in the distant forest. The nine sisters and their husbands went with them along the path. Presently they passed a hollow log. Then Osseo gave a loud call, and leaving the side of his bride, dashed into the log.

Immediately he came out at the other end, no longer old and wrinkled, but younger and handsomer than the husbands of the nine sisters. He then led the party forward with a step as light as the Reindeer's.

Soon they reached a splendid lodge, and entered it. A delicious feast was spread in wooden dishes, and the sisters and their husbands sat down.

"The food you see before you is magic food," said Osseo; "eat it and receive a gift from the Evening Star, whose lodge this is."

And as they all ate, sweet music like the voices of birds fell from the Sky. The lodge began to rise in the air. Higher it rose through the trees, and as it did so, it changed into a wonderful cage. Its poles became glittering silver wires, and its covering was of the shining wings of blue, green, and yellow insects.

And as the silver cage passed above the tree-tops, the wooden dishes became scarlet shells, and the nine sisters and their husbands were transformed into birds. Some became Bluebirds, others Red-Breasted Robins, still others Golden Orioles, and birds with scarlet wings. Immediately they all began to hop about the cage showing their bright feathers and singing songs sweeter than those sung in the woodland.

As for Osseo's bride, she grew more lovely than ever, so that she shone like a star. Her garments were of shimmering green, and in her hair was a silver feather.

Higher rose the cage, until it reached the home of the Evening Star.

"Welcome, my son," said he to Osseo. "Bring in your lovely bride, but hang the cage of coloured birds at the door. Because the nine sisters laughed at the bride, they must stay outside.

"Be careful that you never open the cage, nor let the ray of light from the little Star dwelling near us, fall upon you. For the ray of light is the little Star's bow and arrow, and if it touches you, your wife and the birds will become enchanted."

So Osseo hung up the cage of coloured birds at the door of the lodge; and he and his wife lived there in happiness. In time a son was born to them, who was brighter than the starlight. And when he grew older, Osseo made for him a little bow and arrows.

One day to please the child who wished to shoot something, Osseo opened the door of the silver cage, and let the coloured birds go free, and they flew singing toward the Earth. The little boy shot an arrow after them, and immediately a ray of light struck Osseo. Then the little boy began to float downward through the Sky. Soon he passed the soft white clouds, and fell gently upon a green island in the middle of a wide blue lake. The coloured birds came swiftly flying to him, with songs of joy.

As for the silver cage, it descended after, its glittering insect wings fluttering from its sides. And in it were Osseo and his wife. As the cage touched the green island, it became a shining lodge, and Osseo and his wife, the little boy, and all the coloured birds, were changed into bright and joyous Fairies.

And ever since that day, on Summer starlit nights, the little Fairies join hands, and dance around. Their shining lodge may still be seen when the Moon's beams light the green island. And by night the Indian fisher-boys, on the blue lake, hear the sweet voices of the Fairy dancers.

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