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

The Land of the Northern Lights


Once there was a Wabanaki Chief who had an only son. The boy worried his parents very much because he never played with other boys and girls in the village. Every few days he took down his bow and arrows from the side of the wigwam, and went away, no one knew where. And when he came back, his mother and father asked him: "Where have you been? What have you seen?" And he never answered a word.

One day the Chief said to his wife: "Our son must be watched. I will follow him."

So the next time the boy took down the bow and arrows, his father followed in his path. They travelled along for some time, until the Chief felt himself walking over a trail of dim, white light. Then his eyes were closed by invisible power, and he saw nothing more.

When he could open his eyes again, he was standing in a strange country lighted by dim, white light, and the people walking about him were different from any he had ever seen before. And near him were many white wigwams.

While the Chief was looking around, an old man stepped up to him, and said, "Do you know what land this is?"

"No," said the Chief.

"You are in the Land of the Northern Lights," replied the old man. "I came here many years ago from the lower country. I walked along the Milky Way, which is the same trail over which you came. There is a boy who comes every few days over that path, to play with our people."

"That boy is my son," said the Chief; "where may I find him? And how may we return in safety to the lower country?"

"You will soon see your son playing with our people, and if you wish it, the Chief of the Northern Lights will send you both home safely."

Then the Chief saw that a ball-game was beginning. Many braves came from the wigwams. They wore around their waists belts made of rainbows, and from their heads arose lights of every colour.

And as they threw the ball, the lights from their belts and heads shot up against the dim, white sky. Flashes of rose, violet, green, yellow, orange, and red, quivered, leaped, and danced against the Sky, and died down. And then the flashes shot upward again, flickering and dancing. And the brave, with the brightest lights upon his head, was the Chief's son.

While the Chief was watching the game, the old man went to the wigwam of the Chief of the Northern Lights, and said, "There is a man here from the lower country, who wishes to return to his home, and take his son with him."

So the Chief of the Northern Lights called all his people together, and bade them give back the boy to his father. Then he summoned two great birds and told them to carry the boy and man back in safety to the lower country.

One bird lifted up the boy, and the other took up his father, and they flew away with them along the Milky Way. The Chief felt his eyes closed again, and when he could open them, he was standing with his son, near his own wigwam.

And after that the boy taught the men of the village the ball-game. And that is how the Wabanaki say they learned to play ball.

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