Opeechee Or The Origin Of The Robin





ODJIBWA.





An old man had an only son named Opeechee, who had come to that age

which is thought to be most proper to make the long and final fast,

that is to secure through life a guardian genius or spirit. In the

influence of this choice, it is well known, our people have relied for

their prosperity in after life; it was, therefore, an event of deep

importance.



The old man was ambitious that his son should surpass all others in

whatever was deemed most wise and great among his tribe; and, to fulfil

his wishes, he thought it necessary that he should fast a much longer

time than any of those persons, renowned for their prowess or wisdom,

whose fame he coveted. He therefore directed his son to prepare, with

great ceremony, for the important event. After he had been in the

sweating lodge and bath several times, he ordered him to lie down upon

a clean mat, in a little lodge expressly prepared for him; telling him,

at the same time, to endure his fast like a man, and that, at the

expiration of twelve days, he should receive food and the blessing of

his father.



The lad carefully observed this injunction, lying with perfect

composure, with his face covered, awaiting those mystic visitations

which were to seal his good or evil fortune. His father visited him

regularly every morning, to encourage him to perseverance, expatiating

at length on the honor and renown that would attend him through life if

he accomplished the full term prescribed. To these admonitions and

encouragements the boy never replied, but lay, without the least sign

of discontent or murmuring, until the ninth day, when he addressed his

father as follows:--



"My father, my dreams forebode evil. May I break my fast now, and at a

more propitious time make a new fast?" The father answered--



"My son, you know not what you ask. If you get up now, all your glory

will depart. Wait patiently a little longer. You have but three days

yet to accomplish your desire. You know it is for your own good, and I

encourage you to persevere."



The son assented; and, covering himself closer, he lay till the

eleventh day, when he repeated his request. Very nearly the same answer

was given him by his father, who added that the next day he would

himself prepare his first meal, and bring it to him. The boy remained

silent, but lay as motionless as a corpse. No one would have known he

was living but by the gentle heaving of his breast.



The next morning, the father, elated at having gained his end, prepared

a repast for his son, and hastened to set it before him. On coming to

the door, he was surprised to hear his son talking to himself. He

stooped to listen; and, looking through a small aperture, was more

astonished when he beheld his son painted with vermilion over all his

breast, and in the act of finishing his work by laying on the paint as

far back on his shoulders as he could reach with his hands, saying, at

the same time, to himself, "My father has destroyed my fortune as a

man. He would not listen to my requests. He will be the loser. I shall

be forever happy in my new state, for I have been obedient to my

parent; he alone will be the sufferer, for my guardian spirit is a just

one; though not propitious to me in the manner I desired, he has shown

me pity in another way; he has given me another shape; and now I must

go."



At this moment the old man broke in, exclaiming, "My son! my son! I

pray you leave me not." But the young man, with the quickness of a

bird, had flown to the top of the lodge, and perched himself on the

highest pole, having been changed into a beautiful robin redbreast.



He looked down upon his father with pity beaming in his eyes, and

addressed him as follows: "Regret not, my father, the change you

behold. I shall be happier in my present state than I could have been

as a man. I shall always be the friend of men, and keep near their

dwellings. I shall ever be happy and contented; and although I could

not gratify your wishes as a warrior, it will be my daily aim to make

you amends for it as a harbinger of peace and joy. I will cheer you by

my songs, and strive to inspire in others the joy and lightsomeness I

feel in my present state. This will be some compensation to you for the

loss of the glory you expected. I am now free from the cares and pains

of human life. My food is spontaneously furnished by the mountains and

fields, and my pathway of life is in the bright air." Then stretching

himself on his toes, as if delighted with the gift of wings, he

carolled one of his sweetest songs, and flew away into a neighboring

grove.[52]





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