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The Sleep Fairies

Source: Thirty Indian Legends

A hunter was once going through a forest with his dogs. After he had
gone some distance he missed them. He called and whistled, but they
did not come, so he turned back to find them. Going some distance
farther, he thought he saw one lying under some low bushes, and when he
reached the spot, he saw his three dogs lying there fast asleep. He
tried to waken them, but they would open their eyes only for a moment,
then fall asleep again. Soon he began to feel a strange, sleepy
feeling coming over him. He shook himself and tried to keep awake.
Just then he noticed a very large insect on a branch of a tree. It had
many wings on its back, which kept up a steady, droning noise. When it
noticed the hunter looking at it, the insect said, "I am Weeng, the
spirit of sleep. Your dogs came too near my home, and so they have
fallen under my spell. In a few minutes you will be asleep yourself."

"Must I go to sleep?" said the hunter. "I would like to go back to my

"You are a brave chief and have always been kind to the forest insects,
so this time I am going to let you go. Take a leaf from yonder little
tree, chew it and swallow the juice."

The hunter did as he was told and at once the sleepy feeling was gone.
Then the strangest thing happened. He saw all around him queer, little
fairies, each one with a tiny war-club. They peeped from out the bark
of the trees, from amidst the grass, and even from out his pouch.

"What are these?" he asked Weeng.

"They are my sleep fairies, and are called 'Weengs.' Now you may waken
your dogs and go." And before the hunter had time to reply the insect
had gone.

He turned and roused the dogs, who followed him, still looking very
stupid. As he went he saw the Weengs all around the trees, and many
seemed to be coming with him. When he reached his lodge, he saw the
little creatures run to the men and climb up their foreheads; then with
their war-clubs they began to knock them on the head. Soon the Indians
began to yawn and rub their eyes, and in a little while they all lay

Then the hunter began to feel his own head grow heavy. He tried to
keep awake, but could not, so he stretched himself beside the fire and
went to sleep. When he awakened and looked around, there were no
fairies to be seen.

The hunter determined to go into the forest and see if he could find
the little tree from which he had plucked the leaf. But before he
went, he carefully tied up his dogs, for he did not wish them to follow
him and again fall under the spell of Weeng. They whined when he left
them and pulled at their ropes, but he was soon lost to their sight
among the trees. Making his way slowly through the forest, he kept a
sharp lookout for the little tree with the magic leaves. But he could
see nothing that looked like it. For many hours he tramped on, and at
last he threw himself down on the ground to rest.

As he lay there, he heard a droning noise above his head. He looked up
quickly, and there sat Weeng on the farthermost branch of the tree.

"Good-morning, great hunter," said the insect. "You have been
searching for my little tree, have you not?"

"Yes," replied the hunter. "How did you know?"

"I know many things," said Weeng; "but listen, to me. Yonder is the
tree." As he spoke, he pointed to a little tree not two yards away.
"Pluck one of the leaves, but do not chew it until sunset. At that
hour I utter my sleep call, which bids all the insects fly home to
rest. When you hear the call, you may chew the leaf, for I want you to
see what happens then."

"Is anything strange going to happen?" asked the hunter.

"Great hunter," said Weeng, "if you will remain in this forest behind
that large oak tree, you may see it all. One hour before sunset, the
Red Squirrel and all his army are coming to attack me."

"Why are they going to do that?" asked the hunter, in surprise.

"Because the Red Squirrel wishes to have my branch for his home. He
ordered me to get down, and I refused. So, one hour before sunset, he
and his army are coming to drive me from my home."

"What are you going to do?" asked the hunter. "Can I help you?"

"I and my winged friends," said Weeng, "are going to fight them when
they come. Yes, great hunter, you can help us by remaining to see that
the battle is fair. The Red Squirrel knows that if he can once touch
me, I must fall. But my insects have sharp swords, and they can keep
the army back till sunset."

"And what will happen then?" asked the hunter.

"Then the insects must go to their homes. But, if you swallow the
juice of the leaf, you will see the end of the battle. Now go and hide
behind the oak tree. In a few minutes my army will be here."

The hunter did as he was bidden and took his place behind the tree.
From here he could see Weeng quite plainly, but he was himself hidden.
In a few minutes the insects began to assemble. First came the wasps,
looking fierce and warlike. Then came the bees, buzzing along with
indignation. Then dozens of flies, bluebottles, sand-flies, and
bull-flies, all ready for the fight. Then followed the moths,
ladybugs, butterflies, and mosquitoes.

Lastly, with a great noise, came a regiment of hornets and took their
places on the branch directly in front of Weeng. The others had
gathered in a huge circle around him, and in the midst of the bodyguard
he sat, like a general ready for the attack of the enemy. He had not
long to wait, for somewhere in the forest the Red Squirrel had
assembled his army, and now he brought them forward in one body to the
foot of the tree. All the red squirrels were in front, next came the
gray squirrels, then the chipmunks.

The Red Squirrel gave the command, and up the tree his army began to
climb. Out on the branch they came, where Weeng sat at the farthest
end. But the hornets were ready for them, and as they advanced the
sharp swords of the defenders pricked their noses, eyes, and bodies.
Backward they tumbled, some falling from the limb, others clinging
desperately to the under side. Then the gray squirrels pushed forward,
and in spite of many wounds, broke through the ranks of the hornets.
They had nearly reached Weeng when the bees, buzzing more indignantly
than ever, made one fierce dash at them. The gray squirrels fought
bravely, but at every turn they met terrible, stinging blows. At last
they could not see what they were doing, and, like the red squirrels,
many of them fell from the limb.

While this part of the battle was going on, the chipmunks had been
waging a war of their own with the wasps, who had attacked them. The
battle had been a sharp one, and many soldiers of both armies lay dead
on the ground below the tree. But the chipmunks had won the victory,
and now made their way along the branches towards Weeng. Their leader,
a large, bold-looking chipmunk, made a fierce rush at Weeng, and almost
touched him. But just as he did so, with a noiseless swoop, down came
the mosquitoes upon him. They covered his head, until not a part of it
was to be seen. He slapped wildly at them, lost his hold on the
branch, and fell to the ground. With redoubled fury on rushed the
other chipmunks and the red squirrels, who had by this time recovered.
They were met by a solid wall of insects bristling with sharp swords,
for the wasps, the hornets, and flies had placed themselves across
their path. Then came the hottest part of the battle, and in one
confused mass they struggled and fought on the slender branch. In the
midst of this there sounded a soft, sweet call. It was the sleep call
of the fairy Weeng. At once all the insects sheathed their swords, and
turning, fluttered slowly home to bed. As each one departed, he
uttered a soft good-night to Weeng.

The hunter, who was watching all this anxiously, wondered that although
the Red Squirrel's army was still fighting it was making no headway.
He wondered how this could be. Suddenly he remembered the leaf in his
pocket. At once he chewed it, and he then saw the reason for the
squirrels' defeat. At the call of Weeng his sleep fairies had come
forth, and now with their clubs were knocking their enemies on the
head. Blow after blow they struck. The squirrels resisted bravely,
but it was useless. In a few minutes they were driven back and off the
branch of the tree, and were glad to escape to their homes. As the
darkness gathered and the magic of the leaf began to wear away, the
hunter could just dimly see Weeng sitting in the midst of his sleep
fairies, like a great general who has won his battle.

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