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

The Magic Windpipe


A long time ago there lived a beautiful Indian girl. Her lodge was on the edge of a forest, and she dwelt alone. And though she never hunted or fished, she always had plenty to eat, and no one knew where it came from. In her lodge hung a magic bundle, and near it were seven tiny bows and a lot of grass arrows.

One day as she was eating her dinner, Coyote came through the forest, and stopped at her door. He saw that she had roast Buffalo meat, and he licked his chops.

"You have no man around," said he to the girl; "may I stay and do your errands?"

"Yes," said she, "you may stay."

So Coyote lived with her, and made her fires and brought water from the spring.

By and by all the Buffalo meat was gone, and Coyote wondered how she was going to get more. Then the girl said:—

"Uncle Coyote, our food is gone. I want some fresh meat. My brothers will be here to-day. Do you go to the north side of the entrance and cover your head with a Buffalo robe, and don't watch what I do."

So Coyote did as he was told, and when his head was covered, he peeped out and saw the girl sweep the lodge clean. Then she placed hot coals in the centre of the room, and put some sweet-grass on the coals. As the smoke arose, she lifted the magic bundle from the wall, and opening it, took out the windpipe of a Buffalo. It was round, and small at one end, and big at the other.

She waved the windpipe over the smoke, and turned the small end down, and some dust fell out on the floor. Then the dust changed into seven handsome braves, her brothers.

The young men took down the tiny bows and arrows from the wall, and they changed into big bows and arrows.

The girl wrapped herself in a Buffalo robe, then went and stood in the door. She gave a yell to the north, and a yell to the west, and immediately herds of Buffalo came rushing over the plain. Then she went back into the lodge, and her brothers began to kill the Buffalo. When they had killed as many as they wanted, the rest of the animals ran away, and the brothers came back into the lodge.

The girl put more sweet-grass on the coals, and when the smoke rose up the brothers stepped behind it, and disappeared. The girl took the magic windpipe, held it over the coals, gathered up a handful of dust from the floor, and put it into the windpipe. After that she put the windpipe into the magic bundle and hung it again on the wall.

She next passed the big bows and arrows through the smoke and they became tiny bows and grass arrows, and she hung them up, too.

Now, Coyote was very much astonished to see all this, but he kept quiet. By and by the girl called him, and showed him the dead Buffalo. He helped her to skin the animals, and to dry the flesh. After that she let Coyote roast all the bones he wished.

When Coyote had eaten the roast meat, he began to think of his hungry children at home, and said to himself, "If I only had that magic windpipe, I could call the Buffalo whenever I wished, and the seven young braves would kill them for me."

Then he asked the girl if the windpipe held more than seven young men. "Oh, yes," said she; "whenever I turn the big end upside down, a war party comes out, headed by my seven brothers, and they fight for me."

When Coyote heard this, he decided to steal the windpipe that night, for he thought, "When my enemies see all those braves, they will think me powerful, and will run away."

Now the girl knew that Coyote was planning to steal the windpipe, and she let him take it. That night, when she was asleep, he lifted down the magic bundle from the wall, and, opening it, took out the windpipe and ran away fast toward the north.

He travelled far until he was tired, and then lay down by a log to sleep. The girl knew this, and she told her brothers to bring him back. They did so, and placed him on the floor of the lodge.

And when he woke in the morning, there he lay, with the magic windpipe in his paw, and the girl looking at him.

"Oh, my niece," said he, "I thought a war-party was coming in the night, so I took this down. Put it back." So the girl tied the windpipe up in the magic bundle, and hung it on the wall.

The next night Coyote ran away again with the magic windpipe, and when he came to a place where he thought he was safe, he lay down to sleep. The girl told her brothers to bring him back. They did so, and placed him on the floor of the lodge.

And when he woke in the morning, there he lay, with the magic windpipe in his paw, and the girl looking at him.

"Oh, my niece," said he, "I took this down because the enemy came in the night, and I frightened him away. Put it back." So the girl tied the windpipe up again, and hung it on the wall. And the same thing happened the third night.

The fourth time Coyote stole the magic windpipe, the girl let him take it and did not tell her brothers to bring him back. No, indeed! She let him go on until he came to a village. He was very hungry, so he said to himself, "I will call out the people and order them to feed me, and if they do not obey, I will turn the big end of the windpipe upside down, and the war-party will come out."

So he called out the people, and the braves came running and shouting from the lodges, and the boys and dogs came too. And when they saw Coyote, the men and boys began to kick him, and throw stones at him, and the dogs bit him. He turned the windpipe upside down, when, instead of a war-party, out burst a whole swarm of Bumblebees, millions of them, buzzing with rage.

They settled all over Coyote, and stung him so hard that he ran howling into the forest. And they kept on stinging him until he was well punished for his lying and stealing.

After that, the Bumblebees swarmed up into a hollow tree, and they have lived there ever since. As for the magic windpipe, the brothers took it back to the girl.

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