The Sacrifice of the Rainbow Bird
Spider Magazine for Kids|January 2021
A Tale from the Lenni Lenape
John M. Burt

THIS STORY IS from the early days of the world when animals still talked to humans. The Sun and the Moon were already in place, as were most of the stars in the sky. But around this time, seasons had gradually settled upon the world, and the Earth’s creatures were bewildered by the changes—especially the long, cruel cold of winter.

In those days, the world was having its first terrible winter, and everyone was suffering. The birds were trying to fly south but had little idea where to fly and where to rest. The field mice were still learning how to store up food—it still hadn’t occurred to them that they needed to hide the nuts and seeds they gathered. The bears, unskilled at hibernation, were waking up at all hours of the month, and boredom was making them cranky. The mammoths and the widowmakers and the wowsers were having their own problems, but since those creatures have gone out of the world long since, we might as well leave them out.

But the creatures who were surely suffering the most were the poor humans. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of First Man and First Woman had no fur to keep them warm and no wings to fly south.

Very few were fat enough or lazy enough to sleep all winter, and as a result, they were dying like flies. The flies were also dying like flies (as were the bees, the grasshoppers, and the ants).

The humans decided to hold a big gathering to see if something could be done to help them survive the winter. They invited all their friends to the summit, humans, and animals alike, and quite a few came.

Oldest Man Living, the grandchild of First Man and First Woman, stood up in front of the gathered creatures.

“Winter is killing us,” he said. “The North Wind blows more snow at us each day. Someone must go to the house of North Wind and beg him to stop.”

The crowd was silent. Everyone knew that the house of North Wind was impossibly far away, and the trip would be terribly dangerous. At last, Rainbow Bird stepped forward.

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