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


How Maple-Sugar Came


After Nanahboozhoo had given the Wild Roses their thorns, he wandered about the world playing pranks on the Little People of Darkness, so that they determined to be revenged on him and kill his old Grandmother Nokomis. Nanahboozhoo loved his grandmother dearly, and when he knew that the Little People wished to hurt her, he took Nokomis upon his strong back, and flew away with her to a forest.

Wonderful was the forest, for it was in the Autumn of the year, and the Maple Trees were all yellow, green, and crimson. From a distance they looked like a great fire. It happened that the Little People followed after Nanahboozhoo, and when they saw the bright colours of the Maples, through the haze of Indian Summer, they thought the whole world was in flames, and turned back and hid in their holes.

Nanahboozhoo was so pleased with the beautiful Maples for having saved his grandmother from the Little People that he decided to live among the trees, and he made old Nokomis a wigwam of their brightest branches.

One day, some Indians came seeking Nanahboozhoo to ask for help. They found him in his grandmother's wigwam among the yellow, green, and crimson Maples, where he received them kindly.

"O Nanahboozhoo," said they, "the Indians of the Far South have a delicious sweet thing they call Sugar, and we have nothing of the kind. We sent runners with gifts to the South to get an abundance of Sugar for our people; but some of the runners were killed and others wounded. Tell us, therefore, O Nanahboozhoo, how we may make Sugar for ourselves."

At first Nanahboozhoo was greatly puzzled, for he had been in the Southland and knew how hard it was to make Sugar. But old Nokomis, when she heard what the Indians asked, added her pleadings to theirs, for she too had tasted Sugar and longed for more. Of course Nanahboozhoo could not refuse to help, so he thought a while, and said:—

"Since the beautiful Maples were so good to Nokomis, henceforth in the Spring of the year they shall give the Indians sweet sap. And when the sap is boiled down thick and delicious, it will cool and harden into Sugar."

Then Nanahboozhoo gave the Indians a bucket made of Birchbark, and a stone tapping-gouge with which to make holes in the tree-trunks; and he shaped for them some Cedar spiles or little spouts, to put in the holes, and through which the sap might run from the trees into buckets. He told them, too, that they must build great fireplaces in the woods near the Maple groves, and when the buckets were full of sap, they must pour it into their kettles, and boil it down. And the amount of Sugar they might boil each Spring would depend on the number of Cedar spiles and Birchbark buckets they made during the Winter.

And every Springtime since, when the Frost is going out of the ground and the Arbutus blossoms under the snow, the sweet sap mounts through the trunks of the Maple Trees, and the Northern Indians gather the sap, and say, "This is the way Nanahboozhoo taught us to make Maple-Sugar!"

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