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


Why Wild Roses Have Thorns


Long, long ago, Wild Roses had no thorns. They grew on bushes the stems of which were smooth and fragrant, and the leaves a delicate green. The sweet-smelling pink blossoms covered the bushes. Oh! they were beautiful to see!

But they made such delicious eating, that the Rabbits and other creatures who loved grass and herbs, nibbled the pink petals and green leaves, and sometimes ate up the bushes. By and by there were only a few Rose-Bushes left in the whole world.

Well, the Rose-Bushes that were left met together to see what they could do about it, and they decided to go and find Nanahboozhoo, and ask him for help.

Now this Nanahboozhoo was a strange fellow. He had magic power and could make himself as tall as a tree or as small as a Turtle. He could not be drowned or burned or killed, and he had a very bad temper when he was displeased. He was hard to find, for sometimes he was an animal and at other times a man.

But the Rose-Bushes decided to look for him, and they hurried away on the back of a wind that they hired to carry them. And as they went along, they asked every tree and animal they met, "Have you seen Nanahboozhoo?" And all answered, "No."

The Rose-Bushes flew on and on, the wind blowing them along, and by and by they met a little animal that said, "Nanahboozhoo is in a valley among the mountains, where he is planting and taking care of a flower-garden."

The Rose-Bushes were delighted to hear this, and told the wind to blow them to that valley, and it did. As they drew near the flower-garden, they heard Nanahboozhoo shouting, for he was in a great rage. At this the Rose-Bushes were dreadfully frightened, and hid among some Balsam Trees. But they soon learned why Nanahboozhoo was angry.

Some weeks before he had planted a hedge of Wild Roses around his garden, and when they were covered with spicy pink blossoms, he had gone away for a few days. Just before the Rose-Bushes had arrived and hidden among the Balsams, he had returned to his garden. What was his anger to find that the Rabbits and other creatures had eaten up his hedge of Wild Roses, and trampled down all his flowers.

Now, when the Rose-Bushes knew why Nanahboozhoo was shouting with rage, they left their hiding-place, and a puff of wind blew them straight to Nanahboozhoo's feet. He was surprised to see them, for he thought that all Rose-Bushes had been eaten up; but before he could say a word, they told him their troubles.

Nanahboozhoo listened, and, after talking things over with the Rose-Bushes, he gave them a lot of small, thornlike prickles to cover their branches and stems close up to the flowers, so that the animals would not be able to eat them. After that Nanahboozhoo sent the Rose-Bushes to their home, on the back of the wind.

And ever since that day all Wild Roses have had many thorns.

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