3. Bedtime Stories

The Frog and the Condor

The Frog and the Condor Story

HIGH in the Andes Mountains a frog lived in a cool stream. The frog had been born with a right leg much longer than the left leg. “If only I had two perfect legs like my brothers and sisters,” bemoaned the frog whenever she saw her limping reflection in the water.  She could tell her brothers and sisters didn’t know what to make of her, and gave her distance.

Not far from the frog, and feeling just as sad, was a girl who lived in a vulture’s cave even higher up in a mountain.  Not by her choice did she live there, for the girl was a prisoner.  She had been a shepherdess in her happy livelihood when a condor – a giant vulture with wing spans over 10 feet – had plucked her away and carried her back to its nest high up in the rocky cliff.  Every day she had to work hard.  The condor brought back its prey, dead vicunas (those are animals in the llama family), and she had to beat the vicuna skins into rugs for the cave nest and into blankets.  She also had to prepare huge meals to satisfy the voracious appetite of the condor.  She dare not even leave the cave even for a moment, for the condor could see her from very far away and swoop down in a moment’s time.  Who knows what it would do?

Sometimes the little frog watched the condor sail high in the air and swoop down for its prey.  To the frog, the condor was a marvel to behold.  Indeed, between its wingspan and weight, the condor of the Andes Mountains is the largest flying bird in the world.  One day, the frog decided followed the condor home.  The frog could walk well enough even with her too-long leg, and before long reached the high mountain cave of the condor.  There she overheard this conversation-

“So – did you beat the new vicuna skins to add to my bed?”

“Yes, it’s done.”

“And where is my dinner?”

“No worries, it’s all ready. Now I really need to go to the stream to wash my clothes.”

“Absolutely not! Do you take me for a fool? You would try to escape!”

“How could I?  Look, I simply must wash my clothes. Besides, as long as you hear me beating my clothes on the rocks, you’ll know I’m still there.”

“Hmm, very well then.  But be sure I hear you beating the clothes.  Or I’ll fly there in a second and beat you myself!”

So the girl, whose parents had named her Collyur, a name that means Morning Star to her people, wrapped herself in one of the vicuna skins.  She tied her clothes into a bundle and carried the bundle to the stream.

As Collyur beat her clothes against the rocks, she cried bitterly for her lost freedom. She was nothing but a slave, tending to the condor’s every demand, while fearing every moment for her life. It wasn’t fair!  But she could see no way out.

“Please don’t cry,” said a small voice. Collyur looked down to see a little frog on a rock, looking at her with sympathy.

“What is the matter?” said the frog. And the girl poured out her troubles while the frog listened and sighed.

“I can help you,” said the frog.

“If only that were true!” said Collyur.  “I know you mean well, but there is nothing on earth that can help me.” Collyur turned away, still careful to continue to hit her clothes against the rocks with a regular beat.

“But I can,” said the frog. “I have a bit of magic. For a few minutes, I can change myself into any creature. If I change myself into you and keep beating your clothes, the condor will think you’re still here.  And you can escape.”

“Really?” said Collyur, brightening.  “Can you really do that?” Collyur looked with wonder at this little frog, who seemed at that moment to be the most beautiful creature on earth. She leaned over and kissed the frog on the forehead.

“We cannot wait a second more,” said the frog.  In an instant, the frog changed into the image of Collyur. The new Collyur picked up the girl’s clothes and resumed beating them against the rocks.

“Now go!” said the frog-turned-Collyur.

At once, the real Collyur ran as fast as she could down the mountain to the valley and the shepherd’s home. The little frog, as the image of Collyur, kept beating the clothes with the same motion.

“What’s keeping that foolish girl?” hissed the condor after many minutes had passed. “She’ll make me wait here all day!” The condor flew to the stream where he saw the image of Collyur kneeling over the rocks, beating her clothes. Landing on a high rock, the condor shook its beak, a hook powerful enough to pierce the hide of a llama, and shrieked, “Stop it at once, you silly girl! Come back to the cave now!”

The girl stood up, jumped into the stream, and completely disappeared. The condor flew directly over the very spot but saw no shadow of a girl swimming underneath the water, only a frog hopping about. While the condor flew up and down over the stream, the real Collyur was running away, closer and closer to freedom. After several hours had passed and there was no sign of the girl, the condor flew back to its cave in a rage.

When the frog rejoined her brothers and sisters in the stream, they all gathered around her in a crowd. “What is it?” said the little frog nervously, and she tucked her too-large leg underneath so it wouldn’t show as much.

“Why – you’re beautiful!” said one sister. Fearing a joke, the little frog glanced in the water.  She noticed a shiny jewel glimmering on her forehead, where Collyur had planted the kiss. The jewel was in the shape of a morning star.

“Look!  It’s like the morning star!” said another. From then on, the frog lifted her head with pride, no longer afraid to catch a glimpse of her own reflection in the rushing waters.

3. Bedtime Stories

The Beekeeper & the Bewitched Hare

The Beekeeper and Bewitched Hare Story

ACROSS FROM A MOOR IN SCOTLAND there once lived a lad who earned his living as a beekeeper. Though he lived by himself in a cottage he wasn’t at all l0nely, maybe because he felt a connection with his bees. In warm weather when heather blooms covered the moor, the bees buzzed about with a satisfied kind of hum, sipping nectar wherever they liked, and he felt happy for them. In late fall when wildflowers became scarce, their buzzing became more erratic and he understood their anxiety. Sometimes the lad complimented his bees on an especially large batch of honey, and they seemed to buzz about in pleasure and pride. Folks in town said the lad could talk to the bees. Of course that couldn’t be true, but in a way he felt they knew each other very well.

One evening as the lad was checking his beehives, two hounds suddenly appeared from across the moor, barking wildly, and dashing directly toward him. The object of their chase soon became apparent when a white hare leapt out of the heather into his arms. Quickly the lad tucked the terrified animal under his jacket. The two hounds circled his legs, barking angrily. He picked up a stick and swung it around; eventually the dogs gave up and bounded away. When the dogs disappeared from view, the lad set the hare back on the ground and returned to work. But instead of hopping into the thicket, the hare followed him, twitching its nose and eyeing him steadily.

He went inside his cottage and the hare ambled in behind. “Well now, you act like you want to be my pet,” he said. “It looks like you expect dinner. I suppose I might have a carrot for you.” He let the hare nibble on a carrot while he scooped some stew into a bowl for his own dinner. When they had both finished, the hare jumped onto his lap and he stroked its head and ears. “Ooch!” he said with surprise. “I’ve seen black or pink eyes on a white hare, but how did you get those blue eyes?” The hare responded by stretching its back for more petting.

The next morning he took the hare to the hives to introduce her to his bees. He knew that changes in their environment can alarm bees, and he didn’t want the presence of the hare to unsettle them. So he held out the hare for them to inspect her first, then set her down close to his feet. The bees dipped down and spun around her face but she didn’t seem to mind. After they satisfied their curiosity and returned to their hive, he took the hare to the next beehive for another round of introductions.

One afternoon a few weeks later, the lad noticed an old woman ambling along the track across the moor. Thinking he might sell her a fine comb of honey, he met her at the gate. Before he could speak, however, she pointed to the hare, who was peering out from behind a heather shrub.

“You don’t see that every day,” said she with a crooked smile. “A blue-eyed hare.”

“Indeed,” said the lad, turning to admire his pet.

“What do you want for her?” said the old woman.

“She’s not for sale.”

“Surely you have your price, lad. Now look at this bonnie piece of gold. It’s not every day you are offered a piece of gold for a common hare, now is it?”

“She’s not common, and she’s not for sale,” frowned the beekeeper.

At once the old woman, whom the lad had thought much too old for such friskiness, sprung over to grab her. A bee hovering nearby gave a loud shrill, a sound that surprised the old woman and apparently alerted the other bees. In moments a dark swarm had gathered and rushed to attack the old woman.

“Eek!” she cried, spinning around and running away. “You’ll be sorry you didn’t hand over the worthless hare when you could have!”

The next day at the marketplace, when he was selling his honey, the beekeeper shared what had happened with the baker who tended the stall next to his.

“Surely the woman was a witch,” said the baker, arranging his bread, potato scones and meat pies into neat rows. “Take my word, you’d better be careful.”

“Aye,” agreed the seller of sweaters and kilts on his other side. “She’s a witch, no doubt about it.”

But the lad thought, “Then again, these two often think people are witches.  It could have been just a strange happenstance.”

Still, just in case, that night he barred his windows and locked his doors. From then on, he kept a close eye on his hare at all times.

The summer passed. By the time frost lay on the ground in the morning, few flowers, and very few bees, remained out in the cold air. Most of the bees had already retreated to the hives where they began their cold weather work of keeping the hive warm enough for their queen to lay her eggs.

One chilly October morning the lad was setting trays of sugar water inside the beehives when a gypsy caravan rolled by on its way southward. He waved to the driver and a young gypsy man waved back. Much later, the lad noticed a sack of grain lying in the road just past the gate.

“Ooch, it must have dropped from the gypsy van! They’ll never know it’s missing till they set up camp tonight.  By then it’ll be too dark to come back looking for it.”

So the lad hoisted the sack onto his cart and took off, following the tracks that the gypsy van had dug behind in the earth. In an hour or so he caught up with them. He hailed them.  When they stopped, he handed the young gypsy driver the sack of grain.

“Do you mean to tell me you followed us all this way to return a sack of grain?,” said the young gypsy man. “Most folks are more than glad for us to go, and to never see us again.”

“Why shouldn’t I bring it back to you?” said he. “Else I’d have to think about your poor horses missing their dinner tonight.”

Just then the hare poked its head out from under the beekeeper’s jacket.

“And what is that?” said the gypsy lad. “A blue-eyed hare?”

“Yes,” he said with pride. “She’s a special one, she is.”

“More than special, I’d say,” said the gypsy fellow. “Grandma!” he called inside the van. “I want to show you something.”

An old woman with a bright headscarf, long pleated skirt and puffed white blouse stepped out of the van.

“Now what do you think of that?” said the gypsy man, nodding toward the hare.

“Oh my!” said the grandmother.

“It’s only a hare,” said the beekeeper.

The old woman shook her head.  “Not at all.”

“What else could she be?”

“Tis a lassie,” said the grandmother. “A lassie who’s been bewitched!”

The beekeeper gasped. Then he spilled out his story. He told them both about the two dogs who chased the hare across his moor, the strange old woman who had tried to grab her, the bees who forced the witch away, and what his friends at the marketplace had said about the old woman.

“Your friends are right,” said the grandmother firmly, “That woman was a witch and no doubt the very one who bewitched the lassie. One thing you can count on, she will come back. She’s biding her time for the lassie, that she is.”

“What is she waiting for?”

“All Hallow’s Eve, I suspect,” said the grandmother. “She knows the bees will be back in their hives by then. But most important to her, that’s the one day of the year when the magic of witches is the strongest.”

“What can I do?” he said, alarmed.

“Tell me, did you say you can talk to the bees?”

“Not exactly talk…”

“Hmmm, however you talk to them, you may need their help. When you go home, explain to the bees that the witch may return.

Before the sun sets on All Hallow’s Eve, tie a good strong cord around the hare’s neck and shoulders and keep her on your lap till past midnight.”

“That sounds fine,” said the lad.

“Do you think this will be easy?”said the grandmother. “When she’s under the witch’s spell, she may pull and jump with a power that will shock you, but you must hold her tight. If the bees can help, all the better.”

The old woman took a deep breath and looked at him with her old watery eyes. “That’s all I can say. Other than that, what will be, will be.”

When the lad returned to his cottage, he carried the hare from hive to hive, repeating what the old gypsy woman had told him. On the one hand, he felt a bit silly explaining all of this to a mass of bees. Yet by their collective sounds they seemed to murmur in understanding, as a person would do who was listening. And when the lad stepped away he sensed a building excitement from within the hive.

On All Hallow’s Eve, the beekeeper tied a strong cord around the hare’s neck and shoulders, and set her on his lap. There she stayed contentedly until the darkness settled so thickly that he could only see the profile of her white fur.

Then suddenly the hare lurched so powerfully that he could barely contain her. She twisted with such might it was all he could do to keep her from sliding out of his hands. Just as she started to wriggle free, he heard a hum that meant his bees were encircling them. Closer and thicker came the bees, forming a tall and deep surround. The hare jerked her ears and twitched her nose. She flitted on his lap and hopped about but no longer tried to escape.

Finally the hare settled down once more. And then – the marvel of it! No longer was a white, blue-eyed hare on his lap, but a bonnie blue-eyed lassie! Quickly he removed the cord from around her neck. They laughed at the wonder of it, they did not know what to think! But as morning dawned, the bees were back in their hives, the geese were winging over the moor, and the lad and his lassie were in the cottage, making plans to marry.

3. Bedtime Stories

Two Brothers Story

Two Brothers

ONCE THERE WERE two brothers who inherited their father’s land. The two brothers divided the land in half and each one farmed his own section.

The Two Brothers Story

Over time, the older brother married and had six children, while the younger brother never married.

One night, the younger brother lay awake. “It’s not fair that each of us has half the land to farm,” he thought. “My brother has six children to feed and I have none. He should have more grain than I do.”

That night the younger brother went to his barn and gathered a large bundle of wheat.  He climbed the hill that separated the two farms and over to his brother’s farm. Leaving the wheat in his brother’s barn, the younger brother returned home, feeling pleased with himself.

The Two Brothers Story

Earlier that very same night, the older brother was also lying awake. “It’s not fair that each of us has half the land to farm,” he thought. “In my old age my wife and I will have our grown children to take care of us, not to mention grandchildren, while my brother will probably have none. He should at least sell more grain from the fields now so he can provide for himself with dignity in his old age.”

So that night, too, he secretly gathered a large bundle of wheat and climbed the hill.  He left the grain in his brother’s barn and returned home, feeling pleased with himself.

The next morning, when the younger brother went into his barn he was surprised to see the amount of grain was unchanged. “I must not have taken as much wheat as I thought,” he said, bemused. “Tonight I’ll be sure to take more.”

That very same moment, his older brother was also standing in his barn, musing much the same thoughts.

After night fell, each brother gathered a greater amount of wheat from his barn and in the dark, secretly delivered it to his brother’s barn. The next morning, the brothers were again puzzled and perplexed.

“How can I be mistaken?” each one scratched his head.

“There’s the same amount of grain here as there was before I cleared the pile for my brother. This is impossible! Tonight I’ll make no mistake – I’ll take the pile down to the very floor. That way I’ll be sure the grain gets delivered to my brother.”

The third night, more determined than ever, each brother gathered a large pile of wheat from his barn, loaded it onto a cart, and slowly pulled his haul through the fields and up the hill to his brother’s barn. At the top of the hill, under the shadow of a moon, each brother noticed a figure in the distance.  Who could it be?

When the two brothers recognized the form of the other brother and the load he was pulling behind, they realized what had happened.

The Two Brothers Story

Without a word, they dropped the ropes to their carts, and embraced.

3. Bedtime Stories

The Great Fire

The Great Fire

A LONG TIME AGO, along the basin of the Amazon river in South America, there raged a terrible war between two groups. As soon as one group began to yearn for peace, an evil wizard named Sararuma would whisper something terrible to them about what the other side was planning to do.

The Great Fire

“They plan to attack you,” Sararuma would snarl. “You must act now, while the land is still dry from the drought. Set a great fire to the enemy’s lands. They will never bother you again!” Then he ran to the other side. “I know your enemy plans to set fire to your land. Quickly, you must set fire to their land before they do the same to you!”

Before long all the grasslands of the countryside were ablaze. And soon both sides had completely destroyed the other.

Only one man and woman survived. They had seen the war getting worse and worse. They had tried to urge their leaders to talk to the other side, but none would listen. At last, the couple hid themselves deep in the earth by a stream with enough food to last many days, and so they were spared. After the great fire, they were the only human beings left alive on earth.

From the safety of their hole in the ground they could see the flames licking the air.  They could smell the smoke still raging outside. After several days, when the worst of the great fire’s destruction had settled down, the man crawled to the surface. 

The Great Fire

He stretched out a twig and at once, it caught fire.

“It is too soon,” he said, and quickly returned to the safety of their den. The next day his wife tried, and again the twig smoldered. For eight more days they tried.  On the tenth day, the twig did not burned nor smolder. With care, they came out of their hiding place to the surface.

And looked around.

“Ashes – everywhere,” said the husband. His wife murmured, “There is nothing I recognize.” No grasses, no trees were left standing. There were no people and no animals. Only an expanse of flat land, ankle-deep in places with ash and swept over by great clouds of swirling dust.

Suddenly, in front of them loomed the evil wizard Sararuma himself. His cloak, red as flame, billowed around him.

“How do you like it?” he said, snarling. “Enjoy your last moments.  Soon you too, will die.”

“We do not have to die,” said the man.

“We will live,” said the woman.

“Worse for you if you do!” he howled. “A pathetic existence, dying of hunger in this deathbed of dust and ashes.”

“The land is dry for now, true,” said the wife, fingering seeds in her pocket. “But it will rain.  We will plant.”

All of a sudden, Sararuma started to shrink. And as he dwindled in size, the tips of new grass sprouted through the ashes.

“What makes you think you’re any different from the others?” he shouted, flailing his arms. “You’ll end up in wars and destruction, like the rest of you filthy, despicable humans!”

“We can’t know what will happen,” said the man, “but we’ll go on.”

The charred trees began to turn green. Sararuma was barely the size of a child.

“You’re the only ones left!” he squeaked in a rage. “You’ll have no one to talk to.”

Said the husband, “Things will change.”

His wife added, “We will have children.”

The Great Fire

Then animals rose from the ashes and started to peek their noses about. Sararuma’s cloak wound around him one last time as he was turned into a gust of wind that was blown away, howling.

3. Bedtime Stories

The Man, the Hawk & the Dove

The Man, Hawk, Dove Story

LONG AGO IN NIGERIA, there was a man who had been blind and lame all his life. One evening, as he was sitting in front of his house, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for himself. After all, he couldn’t walk or see.

All of a sudden, a dove flew into his robe.

“Save me,” the dove whispered urgently.

Then a hawk whished up and stopped in front of the man. “This dove is mine,” squawked the hawk.

The man gripped the robe tightly.

“I beg you, you don’t know how terribly hungry I am,” said the hawk. “If I don’t have that dove, I will die. I am a hawk and you know that we must eat what we can.” Then he straightened up and said, “Hawks see for miles around. If you release the dove to me, I’ll share the secret of how your eyesight can be restored.”

The man hesitated. After all, wasn’t it true that the basic nature of all things is that one beast hunts another?

“You mustn’t listen to that hawk!” chirped the dove frantically. “If you save me from certain death, I’ll tell you how your legs can be healed so you can walk.”

What was he to do? Fortunately, the footsteps of his best friend were approaching.

“Should I gain my sight, or my legs?” he asked his friend.

The friend was silent. “Well,” he said at last, “you have to paddle your own canoe. I can’t help you decide this one.”

“The next time you ask, I’ll be sure to give you good advice, too!” the man called out as his friend walked quickly away.

The man will solve his dilemma.
Think:  How will he do it?
The man thought for a few minutes. He asked the hawk, “Suppose you should get a chicken instead of the dove. Would that be all right?”

The hawk said, “Far better! I couldn’t get a chicken, so I had to settle for this dove.”

The man said, “I see.” Then he told the dove, “Now, I will save your life, but you must keep your promise to me.” And he said to the hawk, “I will provide you with food, and you are bound to keep your promise to me.”

So the man gave a chicken to the hawk. In return the hawk told him that he must get a certain leaf, prepare it, and squeeze the juice from it into his eyes. Then he would be able to see again. So the man released the hawk.

After the hawk had disappeared into the sky he said to the dove, “I protected you. You must keep your promise to me.” So the dove told him what he must do to regain the use of his legs. And he released the dove.

The man followed the instructions of both the birds, the dove and the hawk, and was delighted to find that he could now see perfectly, and run anywhere if he wanted.

3. Bedtime Stories

The Geese and the Fig Tree

The Geese and the Fig Tree

In a part of the woods was a big fig tree with huge branches.  A flock of geese lived there, and happy they were, you can be sure of that!  But at the roots of the tree, a little vine was starting to grow.

A wise old goose said, “Do you see that little vine?  The one starting to climb up our tree? It could be trouble some day!  I saw this happen once when I was a little bird. If we do not pull the vine away now when it is still small and easy to cut, over time it will grow bigger and thicker.  Then some day, the vine will be big and thick enough for someone to climb. A hunter will be able to climb up the vine and kill us. And that is why,” said the wise old goose, “we must get rid of the vine while we can.”

The Geese and the Fig Tree

“Silly old goose!” said the others.  “What trouble can come from such a little vine? Things are not the same as they were when you were little.”  

So they let the vine grow.  

And it grew.  And grew. And grew.

When the geese were out one morning catching bugs and little fish, a hunter saw the fig tree and the big, thick vine.  Why it was so big and thick, he could climb right up on the vine! So he climbed and high up in the branches, he laid a net around the nests.  Then he quietly climbed back down.

“When I come back in the morning,” he said on his way home, “I bet there will be a lot of geese caught in my net!”    

That night after a day of food and fun, the geese came back to their nests.  Each and every one of them became stuck in the hunter’s net.

“Why, oh why did this happen to us?” cried a goose.

“Don’t you remember?” said the wise old goose.  “I told all of you this could happen when the vine was still small. But you did not believe me. ”

“What do we do now?” cried another goose.

The Geese and the Fig Tree

“A ha!” said the wise old goose.  “Our only hope is to play dead when that hunter comes back tomorrow.  If he thinks we are all dead, he may throw us to the ground so he can take back his net.  We must all stay very still until each one of us gets thrown out of the tree onto the ground.”

At sunrise the next morning, the hunter came back.  At first, he was very glad to see so many birds in his net in the fig tree!  But when he got closer, he saw that every goose seemed as good as dead. He did not want dead geese so one by one, he took them off his net and threw them onto the ground.  The geese stayed very still on the ground until the very last goose was thrown onto the ground. Then the hunter climbed down the tree and left. When the geese could not see him anymore, they flew back up into the branches of their fig tree.

The Geese and the Fig Tree

The geese knew what they must do. It took a very long time, but bit by bit, they pecked away at that big vine.  First, they cut the big vine into lots of smaller pieces. Then they pecked away at each small piece until it broke from the tree.  At last, every piece of vine fell to the ground. And the geese could fly up to live safely in their fig tree, once again.

3. Bedtime Stories

The Bear Feast Story

The Bear Feast Story

An old man living in Alaska was sad.  All of his friends and family were long gone.  He began to wonder if he should leave the village and start a new life somewhere else. “If I lived someplace new, at least I won’t be around all these memories anymore,” he thought.  But he also worried, “If I paddle away to another village and the people there see that I’m alone, they may think that I had to run away from my home village because I was accused of some disgraceful thing.” Instead, he thought that he would just go off and live in the forest by himself.

The Bear Feast

The poor man was so sad, traveling alone in the woods, it actually occurred to him to go to the bears and just let the bears kill him. The bear village was by a large salmon creek, so he went over to the creek early in the morning until he found a bear trail, and he lay down across the end of it. He thought that when the bears came out along this trail they would find him, and that would be the end of him.

By and by, as he lay there, he heard the bushes breaking.  Then a large number of grizzly bears came along.  The largest bear led the rest. Then the old man became scared. All of a sudden, he realized that he did not want to die at all, and certainly not by bears. So when the leading bear came up to him, the old man stood up.  He announced: “I have come to invite you to a feast.”

At that, the leading bear’s fur stood straight up.  The old man thought that he was surely done for, but he spoke again, saying, “I have come to invite you to a feast, but if you are going to kill me, I am willing to die. I am alone. I have lost all of my family and my friends.”

The Bear Feast

As soon as he had said this the leading bear turned around and growled to the bears that were following. Then the group of them turned back the way they had come. After a while the man turned and walked toward his village very fast. He wondered if the biggest bear had told the bears behind him to go back and get ready because they were invited to a feast.

“Well, in case that’s the way it is, I better get ready to make a feast,” thought the old man.  As soon as he got home, he started to clean up. He took away the old sand around the fireplace and replaced it with clean sand. Then he went for a load of fresh wood. When he told the other people in the village what he was doing and why, they were all very much scared.  They said to him, “What made you do such a thing? The grizzlies are our enemy.  You do not want grizzly bears in your home.” When he was back home, the man took off his shirt and painted his chest.  He put stripes of red across his upper arm muscles, a red stripe over his heart, and another across the upper part of his chest.

Very early in the morning, after he had thus prepared, he stood outside of the door looking for his bears. Finally he saw them at the mouth of the creek, led by the same big grizzly bear. When the other village people saw the bears, however, they were so terrified that they shut themselves in their houses. But the old man stood by his door to receive his guests. He brought them into the house and gave them seats, placing the chief in the middle at the rear of the house, and the rest around him.

The Bear Feast

First he served them large trays of cranberries preserved in grease. The large bear seemed to say something to his companions, and as soon as he began to eat, the rest started to eat, too. They watched him and did whatever he did. The host followed that up with a course of salmon, with sprinkles of clover weed and dandelion on top for garnish.  Then a course of deer meat with pine nuts.  For dessert, raspberries with honey.  After they were through, the large bear seemed to talk to his host for a very long time. It was almost as if the leader bear was giving him a speech, for he would look up at the smoke hole every now and then and act as though he were talking. When he finished, he went over to his host and licked the paint from his arm and chest.  And so each of the other bears, in turn, did the same. The old man felt as if they were licking his sorrow away.

The day after all this happened, the smallest bear came back to the old man’s hut in human form and spoke to the old man. He had been born a human being, he told the old man, but had been captured and adopted by the bears. This bear-man asked the old man if he had understood their chief, and he said, “No.”

The Bear Feast

“He was telling you,” the bear-man replied, “that he is in the same condition as you. That he, too, is old and has lost all of his friends. He had heard of you before he saw you, he said. He told you to think of him when you are mourning for your lost ones, as he knows how that is, too.”

When the old man asked this bear-man why he had not told him that day, when the bears were at the feast, he replied that he was not allowed to turn into his human form and speak his native language while the bear chief was around.

After this, whenever the people of the village gave a feast, they would always invite an enemy to the feast.  And they would become friends, just as the old man had done with the chief of the bears.

3. Bedtime Stories

The Mice and the Elephants

The Mice and the Elephant Panchatantra Stories

Long ago in India there was an old deserted village. Empty were the old houses, streets and shops. The windows were open, the stairs broken.  Making it one very fine place for mice to run around, you can be sure!

In fact, the mice had been happily living in this area for hundreds of years, even before the people had come in the first placeto build a village and then left.  But now was the best time yet for the mice. They made tunnels all through those fine old homes and buildings, forming great mazes. What good times they had, with their many dinner parties and festivals, weddings and feasts.  

And so time passed.

One day, a herd of elephants, numbering in the thousands, stamped through the village on their way to a big lake in the west.  All the elephants were thinking about as they marched was how good it would be to jump in that lake for a cool swim. They did not know (and how could they?) that as they marched through the village, those big elephant feet were stamping down on the web of mazes and tunnels the mice had made.  What a mess the elephants left behind!

The mice quickly held a meeting.

“If the herd comes back this way again, our community is doomed!” cried one mouse.

“We won’t stand a chance!” cried another.

There was only one thing to do.  A group of brave mice followed those elephant footprints all the way to the lake.  There they found the King of the Elephants. Bowing before the King, one mouse spoke for the others and said, “O King, not far from here is our mice community.  It’s in that old deserted village you passes through. You may remember it?”

“Of course I remember it,” said the Elephant King.  “We are elephants.  But we did not know a mice community was there.”

“How could you?” said this mouse.  “But your herd stamped out many of the homes where we have lived for hundreds of years.  If you were to return the same way, that would surely be the end of us! We are small and you are big.  We must ask you, please.  Won’t you find another way to go home? Who knows, maybe someday we mice can help you, too.”

The Elephant King smiled.  Imagine – how could tiny mice ever help an elephant?!  But he felt sorry his herd had crushed the village of the mice, without even knowing it.  He said, “There is no need for you to worry. I will lead the herd home in another way.”

It so happens that nearby lived a certain king who ordered his hunters to trap as many elephants as they could.  Knowing that the elephants came from far and wide to jump in the big lake to swim, the king’s hunters made a water trap there. As soon as the Elephant King and his herd jumped into that lake they were caught in the trap, one and all.

Two days later the hunters dragged the Elephant King and his herd out of the lake with large ropes and tied the elephants to big trees in the forest.

When the hunters had gone, the Elephant King tried to think.  What could they do? They were all tied to the trees but one elephant.  She was free because she did not jump in the lake.

The Elephant King called to her.  He told her that she must go back to the old deserted village and bring back the mice who lived there.

When the mice found out the trouble that the Elephant King and his herd were in, they raced over to the lake.  Seeing the King and his herd tied up, they quickly ran over to the ropes and began chewing. They chewed and chewed as quickly as they could.  Soon, the ropes were chewed all the way through and the mice set their large friends free.

The elephant herd found a new way home and the mice community lived on for many years to come. 

3. Bedtime Stories

Little Ant’s Big Plan

Little Ant wears glasses and sits on top of a book. The other ants hold items of food.

Little Ant loved to read. Little Ant was often


“Ants don’t read. Ants must feed. Ants collect the

food they need.”

A boy lies on a picnic blanket reading a book. The ants carry away his picnic food.

Little Ant would read all day, he’d read and read

the day away.

The other ants took what they found to store for

winter underground.

Inside his ant heap, Little Ant's Mum and Dad scold him about reading books all the time. His little sister watches with interest.

His mum and dad got really mad, and Little Ant

felt really bad.

The trees are bare and autum leaves are all around. The ants look under the leaves and collect a discarded apple core.

In autumn when the leaves fall down, the ants

must keep food underground.

The Queen addresses the ants.

The Queen wants food to fill the store, so all the

ants must work some more.

Little Ant's thought bubble shows a hamburger and a restaurant table.

Little Ant begins to shout about a place he read about.

“A restaurant is what we need, a place where

people go to feed.

It says so in the books I read.”

The ants march through the day and into the night.

The ants go marching one by one.

They march into the setting sun.

Little Ant reaches a burger restaurant with tables inside and out.

And Little Ant said “Hey, there’s one!”

The ants carry hot dogs, burgers and chicken drumsticks through the day and into the night.

The ants go marching one by one, carrying a

burger, carrying a bun.

The Queen shakes Little Ant's hand. The rest of the ants cheer.

When they return the Queen is glad.

The stores are full. They cheer like mad.

Inside his ant heap, Little Ant's Mum and Dad hug Little Ant. His little sister beams happily.

Ant gets hugs from mum and dad.

The boy is reading a book. Little Ant and his little sister hold hands on top of the boy's shoulder.

His baby sister takes his hand “Now I think I


“The way you love to read a book

… Makes me want to take a look.”

3. Bedtime Stories

A Surprise in the Oven

Once upon a time a plump old woman name Tante Adela lived in French Canada.  She lived all alone with her big grey cat and the cows in her barn.

One morning she got up very early as it baking day and there was much to do.  She took a load of wood outside to her oven. 

“Now why would oven door be open?” she said.  She poked a stick inside to see that no leaves or twigs had blown in.  But the stick would not go far – something was in there!

The old woman bent over to look in.  When she saw what she saw, Tante Adela slammed the oven door shut. She ran out of her yard and down the road as fast as she could.

When she saw what she saw, Tante Adela slammed the oven door shut.

At Felix Bell’s farm, she saw the neighbor drawing a bucket of water from the well.

“Felix, Felix!” she called out. “Come quick!  There is a skunk in my oven!”

“Are you sure?” said Felix.  “Maybe it is your cat.”

“Of course I am sure!” said Tante Adela.  “Does my cat have a white stripe down his back?”

“I will come as soon as I draw this bucket of water,” said Felix.

Tante Adela turned and dashed back to the road.  She headed for the next farm, the farm of Louis Ross.  After all, three heads are better than two.

“Of course I am sure!” said Tante Adela.  “Does my cat have a white stripe down its back?”

“Louis, Louis!” she cried, out of breath. “Come right away! There is a skunk in my oven.”

“A skunk?” said Louis. “Are you sure it is not a scrap of old fur coat you may have thrown away by mistake?”

“Why would I throw away a fur coat?” said Tante Adela. “Am I the kind of person who would do that?”

“You have a point,” said Louis Ross.  “I will come over as soon as I have finished feeding the chickens.”

The old woman turned to the road and limped to the farm of Samuel Roy.

“Samuel, Samuel!” she cried out.  “You must come to my farm.  There is a skunk in my oven!”

“Are you sure?” said Samuel.  “Maybe you saw a shadow inside as you opened the door.”

The old woman turned to the road and limped to the farm of Samuel Roy.

“Does a shadow have a bushy tail?” said Tante Adela.  “Does a shadow grit its teeth at me and snark?  I don’t think so!”

“I will come right over,” said Samuel.  “Just as soon as I finish weeding the garden.”

So Tante Adela went from farm to farm looking for help. By the time she made it back home, Felix and Louis were already there. Soon after, Samuel came too, and others who had heard about the skunk in Tante Adela’s oven.

“Yep, there’s a skunk in there all right,” said Madame Ross, who had opened and closed the door.

“I know that!” said Tante Adela.  “The question is, what to do about it?”

“I will run home and get my gun,” said Felix. “That will take care of that!”

“No, no!” cried Tante Adela.  “Think of the smell!”

“She will not be able to bake bread in there for a month!” said Madame Roy, and everyone agreed.

“No, no!” cried Tante Adela.  “Think of the smell!”

“And it would spoil the pelt,” said Samuel.  He trapped for furs and knew what he was talking about.

“What if we got a dog?” said Alice, the daughter of Samuel and Madame Ross.  “A dog will bark.  Maybe that will scare the skunk out of the oven.”

“If the skunk gets scared,” said Tante Adela, “think of what it would do!”

“What if we get a piece of meat and tie it to a string?” said someone else.  “The skunk will come out on its own when it smells it.”

“I have no meat,” snapped Tante Adela.  “And if I did, I would surely not waste it on a skunk!”

So this plan was dropped.  No one else cared to use their own meat to lure the skunk out of the oven if Tante Adela wasn’t going to use hers.

“I have no meat,” snapped Tante Adela.  “And if I did, I would surely not waste it on a skunk!”

“Oh, woe is me!” wailed Tante Adela. 

By then, everyone was getting bored with the question of the skunk.  And it did not look as if Tante Adela was going to serve any food or drink for everyone who had come.  Soon Felix Bell and his wife remembered they had to milk the cows.  Louis Ross said he must get back to clean the barn.  And one by one, everyone found a reason to head home.

At this time, Tante Adela saw Jules Martel come into the yard.  The young man may be simple-minded, she thought.  Still, who else could she turn to for help?

“Jules!” she said.  “Jules Martel.  There is a skunk in my oven.  Can you get him out without scaring him?”

Jules nodded his head.  He walked over to the oven.  He opened the door and leaned inside.  He spoke in a low voice.  No one could tell what he was saying.  At last he stepped back.  Then the sharp face of the skunk stuck out of the oven doorway.  Everyone stepped back a few feet.  The skunk wiggled its way over the edge, and dropped to the ground.

Slowly the skunk made its way through the yard, holding its head high.  And it headed into the woods, where it disappeared.

Tante Adela was thrilled.  All the others were amazed.

“How did you get him to come out?” said Samuel to Jules.

Tante Adela was thrilled.  All the others were amazed.

“What DID you say to it?” said someone else.

“I just told him,” said Jules, swinging his arms back and forth, “that if he stayed in the oven any more, he would begin to smell like Tante Adela’s bread.  And if that happened, none of the other skunks would come near him.”

“Who would have guessed?” Samuel Roy shook his head. “That a low creature like a skunk cares about what others creatures like him think of him.”

“I suppose all creatures must have some sense of self-respect,” said Alice Roy, “no matter who they are.”  Alice Roy and the others nodded in silence.