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

Little Owl Boy


Long ago, out on the wide prairie, there was an Indian camp, and on the edge of the camp was a tepee, in which lived a brave with his wife and only boy. Now the boy was saucy and bad, and used to shout at his mother and refuse to gather wood and carry water from the spring. His mother scolded and entreated, but all to no purpose, for the boy was saucier than before.

One night, when every one in the camp was asleep, the bad boy began to shout, "Hi! Hi! Ho! Ho!"

"If you do not stop that," said his mother, "I will throw you out to Big Owl Owner-of-Bag, who hunts all night for naughty boys." But the boy only yelled louder.

"All right!" said his mother. "Big Owl, here is this foolish boy!" And with that she picked him up, and threw him out of the tepee into the dark, and pulled down the curtain before the door.

And who should be standing outside but Big Owl, with his bag wide open, and the boy's mother did not know it! The boy gave one yell, and fell into the bag; and then Big Owl quickly gave him a lump of roast tongue to keep him quiet. And shutting the mouth of the bag, Big Owl put the boy on his back, and flew away.

Well, the mother listened and listened, and when she could not hear the boy cry any more, she said to her husband, who was lying upon the bed: "You never try to make him stop, though he wakes every one in the camp. For my part I have done just right. This will teach him a good lesson." Then she went to bed, but she could not sleep, nor get the boy out of her mind.

When daylight came, she hurried out, but did not see him anywhere. Then she hastened through the camp, from tepee to tepee, asking, "Have you seen my boy?" And when all the people said, "No," she went home weeping.

Days and weeks passed by, and the boy did not come back, so his mother grieved very much. At last she decided that she would go and search for him the world over. But before she started, she sat down in her tepee, and made some magic garments. Day after day she worked, stopping only to bring in loads of firewood and cook the meals.

First she made two pairs of embroidered moccasins, trimmed beautifully with Porcupine quills. Then she cut out and made a pair of woman's leggings. After that she sewed a shirt ornamented with scalp locks; a Buffalo robe with coloured fringe; another robe with pictures of Eagles in each corner; and a shadow robe beautiful to behold. And all these were likewise decorated with Porcupine quills dyed blue, green, and yellow.

When all were ready, she wrapped them in a bundle, and said to her husband, "Farewell, I am going to find my dear child."

So she started off at a steady gait, and went on and on, over prairie and through ravine, sorrowful and lonely. All at once she heard a voice behind her, but could see no one.

"Where are you going, Woman?" asked the voice.

"I am searching for my dear child," she replied.

"Just keep on and follow the way your heart bids you go," said the voice, "and you will find your child."

So the woman, full of courage, hastened on until evening, when she came in sight of a great river, on the other side of which were high cliffs. When she reached the river, she saw a tepee standing by itself upon the bank. Then a boy, having wings like an Owl's, came running out of the tepee.

When he saw the woman, he shouted: "Hi! Hi! Ho! Ho! I am Little Owl Boy, and there comes my mother! Come in quickly, Mother, before Big Owl Owner-of-Bag gets home. He has gone after Buffalo meat."

The mother, her heart singing with joy, entered and sat down. She looked around, and saw that the tepee was only a big tree, with grapevines hanging down from its branches.

"Dear Mother, I know what you have come for," said the boy. "But you will have a hard time getting me away, for Big Owl is very fierce, and he may kill you. Lie down here under this robe, so that he cannot see you when he comes."

Just then Big Owl began to cry from the distance: "Little Owl Boy! Little Owl Boy! Hoot! Hoot!" for he was returning with some Buffalo meat.

"Quick, Mother, get under this robe," cried the boy. "Don't you hear him coming?"

So the woman, with her bundle, crept under the robe, and the boy covered her over, and spread out his nicely peeled arrow-sticks on top.

Then Big Owl Owner-of-Bag flew in. "Hoot! Hoot! my Grandchild," said he. "I think your mother must be here, for I smell her footprints."

"What if she is and what if she is n't?" said the boy.

"I want you to take my bag," said Big Owl, "and go to the ravine and kill a Buffalo for me. Open the bag, and he will walk right in," said Big Owl.

"Very well," said the boy; "but see that you do not touch my arrow-sticks while I am gone. If you do, I will kill you."

Then he flew away to the ravine, and shot a nice fat Buffalo, after which he opened the bag, and the animal walked right in. He put the bag on his shoulder, and carried it home to Big Owl.

"Hoot! Hoot! my Grandchild," said Big Owl again. "I do think your mother must surely be here, for I smell her body."

"What if she is and what if she is n't?" said the boy.

"Well, this time I want you to take my bag," said Big Owl, "and bring home five Buffalo."

"Very well," said the boy, "but see that you surely do not touch my arrow-sticks, or I will kill you."

And with that he flew away to the ravine, and shot five nice fat Buffalo, and brought them home in the bag.

"Hoot! Hoot! my Grandchild," said Big Owl. "I know that your mother is here, for I smell her robes."

"What if she is and what if she is n't?" said the boy.

"Take the bag," said Big Owl, "and bring home ten Buffalo."

"Very well," said the boy, "but see that you do not even move an arrow-stick, or I will kill you."

And he flew away to the ravine, and shot ten nice fat Buffalo. This time, however, he did not let them walk into the bag, but left them lying on the ground, and flew back to the tepee.

"Hoot! Hoot! my Grandchild," said Big Owl; "where are the Buffalo?"

"I left them in the ravine," said the boy, "and I want you to take the bag, and fetch them home before it is too late."

So Big Owl took the bag and flew hooting away.

As soon as he was gone, the woman crept from under the robe. Then she untied her bundle, and took out the two pairs of moccasins. She laid one pair inside the tepee, and the other before the entrance. After which, taking the boy by the hand, she stepped on the first pair, then on the second, and began running away as fast as she could, the boy running too. When she reached the first hill, she took the leggings from her bundle, and laid them on the ground; and she and the boy both ran on.

By this time, Big Owl returned with the Buffalo, and, sitting on the top of the tepee, called, "Little Owl Boy! Little Owl Boy! Hoot! Hoot!" But no one answered.

So he flew down and looked into the tepee, and saw that the boy's mother had carried him off. "There is a pair of magic moccasins, and here is another!" he cried. "Hoot! Hoot! the boy and his mother cannot get away from me!"

But before he left the tepee he was forced to walk around the moccasins and count every Porcupine quill. After he had finished, he had to do the same to the moccasins at the entrance. Then, crying, "Hoot! Hoot!" he started off at full speed, although he felt a little dizzy.

When he came to the first hill, he saw the leggings lying there, and was forced to stop and walk round and round them and count all the Porcupine quills. Then, crying, "Hoot! Hoot!" he started off again, although he felt very dizzy.

Well, the boy and his mother saw him coming, so she opened her bundle, and took out the shirt ornamented with scalp locks, and laid it on the ground. After which they both ran on.

When Big Owl reached the scalp-lock shirt he was forced to go round and round it until he had counted all the quills, then off he started, crying, "Hoot! Hoot!" though he felt very sick.

The boy and his mother hurried up another hill, where she laid down the Buffalo robe with coloured fringe, and then they both went on.

When Big Owl reached the robe, he went round and round it, and then, crying very faintly, "Hoot! Hoot!" he flew slowly after, for he could scarcely see.

After this the woman and the boy stopped running and walked along, and when they came to a rock, the woman laid down the robe with pictures of Eagles in the four corners, and they both passed on.

As for Big Owl, when he reached this robe he staggered round and round, and he could no longer cry, "Hoot! Hoot!" and he could hardly fly, for he was so weak.

Then the woman, last of all, laid down the shadow robe so beautiful to see, and she and the boy went and stood a little way off.

Then Big Owl came fluttering his wings and staggering along. They saw him begin to go round and round the robe, counting the quills, until in a little while he was so dizzy and wild that he fell down, and burst into so many pieces that they could never be gathered together again.


After that the woman and the boy hastened to the camp, and when the people saw them coming they went out to meet and welcome them. They praised the mother for being so brave, and shook hands with the boy. Then he lost his Owl wings, and was always glad to bring in the firewood and carry water from the spring for his mother. And he never again, in the middle of the night, cried, "Hi! Hi! Ho! Ho!"

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