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

Legends of the Pleiades

The Star Maiden


Listen to the Wyandot Grandmother, as she tells of the lovely Star Maiden:—

In the olden days when the Earth was young, an Indian brave sat at the door of his lodge, not far from a lake. Soon faint and distant sounds of music came to his ears. He looked on all sides, but could not tell from whence the sounds came. Then they grew clearer and louder, and seemed to fall from the Sky to the lake.

The young man listened closely, and thought he heard voices by the water. So he crept through the grasses and reeds that grew along the shore. And when he parted the reeds, he saw seven lovely maidens singing and dancing, hand in hand, upon the beach.

They were as beautiful as Starlight, and one was more lovely than the rest. And as the young man crept nearer, a pebble slipped beneath his hand, and at the sound the maidens sprang into a large osier basket, that rose with them to the Sky. And so they disappeared from his sight.

The young man returned in sorrow to his lodge. All that night he did not sleep, but thought of the maiden who was lovelier than the rest. And all the next day he wandered about lonely and sad. But when evening came, he went down again to the water, and hid among the reeds.

Soon he heard the music falling sweetly from the Sky, and the osier basket came floating downward. The Seven Maidens stepped out on the beach, and began to dance and sing as before. And as the young man watched them, his delight was so great that he exclaimed with joy. The maidens heard the sound, and sprang into the basket, that rose with them to the Sky.

Again on the third night, the young man watched, and the maidens came. And as they danced to and fro, he rushed in among them. Filled with terror, they ran to their basket, and six of them sprang in, and the basket began to rise. But the young man caught the loveliest maiden by her girdle, as she clung to the side of the basket; and they were both lifted into the air. Soon she lost her hold, and they fell gently to the ground.

Then the young man led her to his lodge and begged her to become his bride. Very grieved she was, but not angry. "We are the Seven Star Sisters," she said, "the Singing Maidens. We have always lived together in the Sky Land where you have seen us dancing above you. If you will go with me to the lodge of the Sun, I will become your bride."

So the next night, when the basket descended again, the Star Maiden took the young man with her into the Sky Land, and there he saw many wonderful things. After which they returned once more to the Earth, and the Star Maiden became his bride.

That is why to-day the Indian children see only six Singing Maidens among the Pleiades; and why sometimes the shadow of the seventh is faintly seen.

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