The Whispering Grass

: Thirty Indian Legends

Once, many long years ago, there was a green hill covered with long

grass, which whispered and talked as the wind blew through it. It was

the great friend of all the animals, especially the wild deer, the gray

wolf, and the fox.

One summer day the whispering grass was very excited. The south wind

had brought strange news to it, and now, as the sun rose up to noonday,

they could see this strange thing fo
themselves. It meant great

danger to their friends the animals, and they must send a message to

warn them. So the grass called to the butterflies, and told them to go

at once to the deer, the wolf, and the fox, and tell them to come to

the green hill. Away flew the butterflies, and soon the animals had

gathered to hear what this message might mean.

"Listen, my brothers," said the whispering grass. "There is great

danger for you this day, for across the prairie there comes a band of

hunters to take your lives."

"Hunters? What are they?" asked the animals. "We have never heard of

such things."

"They are Indians," returned the grass, "with bows and arrows--deadly

arrows that will pierce your hearts. These hunters are very near, and

once they see you they will shoot their arrows at you, and that is your


"What must we do?" asked the animals. "You are wise, whispering grass;

tell us what we may do to save ourselves."

"Go to your homes," answered the grass, "and remain there until sundown

to-morrow. If all is safe, I shall send my messengers, the

butterflies, to you at that hour to tell you to come to me."

The animals did as they were commanded, and by the time the hunters

reached the foot of the hill, there was nothing living to be seen but

some dainty butterflies that hovered above the grass. The remainder of

that day and all the next the hunters searched for game in the hills,

but not a deer could they see, not a wolf, not a fox. In the late

afternoon they returned to their camp at the foot of the hill. They

were tired and very hungry, for they had not brought food with them, as

they expected to find game.

"Let us return," said one hunter. "There is no game in this land, and

I am hungry. Let us go back to our village."

"Not so," said the second hunter. "Let us wait until to-morrow.

Perhaps to-morrow we shall see game."

"Yes, let us wait until to-morrow," said a third hunter, "and to-night

we shall eat grass. See, yonder is a hill well covered with grass. If

the animals eat it, why can not we?"

"But it is whispering grass," said the first hunter, in a low voice.

"And he who eats of whispering grass can no longer kill anything with

his arrows."

"Not so, brother," said the second hunter. "It is not whispering

grass. Listen; there is a west wind blowing through it, and yet we can

hear no sound of whispering."

They all listened intently, and as the second hunter had said, there

was no sound of whispering. The wind was waving the grass blades and

bending them low, and not a sound came from them.

"You are right. It is not whispering grass," said the first hunter,

"and I am hungry; let us eat."

So they all gathered many handfuls of the green grass, and putting it

into a pot, they boiled it, then gathering around the pot, they ate the

grass with much relish. Then, rolling themselves in their deerskins,

they fell asleep.

It was now the sunset hour; so, calling the butterflies to it, the

whispering grass gave them a message for the animals.

"Go to your brothers," it said, "and tell them all is safe now; that at

sunrise to-morrow morning they may come forth from their homes and

wander as usual among the hills. Their enemies, the hunters, will try

to shoot them with their arrows, but they must not be afraid, for now

these arrows can never touch them."

The butterflies flew away quickly and gave the message to the deer, the

wolf, and the fox.

At sunrise the next morning the animals came forth gladly, and they had

not gone far, when they saw the hunters coming towards them.

Remembering the message of their friend, the grass, they did not fear

to remain, and soon saw that the grass had been right. The hunters

aimed their arrows at them and shot, but every arrow flew through the

air and fell harmlessly at their feet. All day this strange thing

happened, and at last the hunters, tired and discouraged, went back to

their camp at the foot of the hill.

"My brothers," said the first hunter, "that was indeed whispering grass

which we ate last night. For see, all day our arrows have failed to

hit their mark, though the game has been many."

"Why did the grass not whisper, then?" asked the second hunter. "It

deceived us."

"Yes, it deceived us," said the third hunter. "It kept silence while

we listened, so that we might be tempted to eat of it. Now we have

lost our power of hunting and shall be laughed at by the other hunters."

"We must fight this whispering grass," said the first hunter. "Let us

go and pull it up by the roots, so that never again it may be able to

deceive any hunter."

"Let us wait until the moon rises high in the sky," said the second

hunter. "Then, indeed, we shall uproot the whispering grass and leave

the green hill bare and naked."

The butterflies, who had been hovering near, heard what the Indians

were saying, and now they flew with all speed to the animals and told

them what was going to happen to the whispering grass.

"Oh, my brothers," said the butterflies, "your enemies, the hunters,

have planned to kill the whispering grass to-night. Can you not save


"We must save it," said the deer. "The whispering grass is our friend.

It saved our lives, and now we must save it." Turning to the fox, the

deer said, "Oh, brother, you are wise and great. Can you not think of

a plan to save the grass?"

"I am not wise enough for that," said the fox, "but I know one who is

wise. You, my brothers, remain here, while I run with all speed to the

Dark Hills where the Manitou of the Bright Fire lives. He is wise and

great, and he will help us."

Saying this, the fox ran at full speed in the direction of a long line

of hills, and it was not long before he reached a small opening which

led down under them. Entering this, he found himself in a long

passage, at the end of which a red light could be seen. When he

reached the end of the passage, he found himself in a large, low cave.

In the centre of this cave a bright red fire glowed, and by its light

he could see a dark figure seated on the floor near the fire. It

turned its face as the fox entered, and he saw the kind face of the

Manitou of the Bright Fire.

"You have come to me for help," said the Manitou, in a deep, soft

voice. "What is wrong, my brother?"

"Our friend, the whispering grass, is going to be uprooted to-night by

the hunters," said the fox. "Can you tell us how to save the grass,

for it has been kind and has saved us from these same hunters?"

"My brother," said the Manitou, "do you see these things which look

like dark stones?" As he said this, he pointed to where a heap of

black objects resembling stones was lying on the floor of the cave. "I

have gathered these from the bowels of the earth. Many years ago

Gitche Manitou, the Mighty Spirit, put them there. He took pieces of

the midnight sky and mixed with each piece a million sunbeams. Then He

hid these deep in the earth, where man would find them when he needed

light and heat. I shall place some of these dark stones in my fire,

while you return to your brothers, the wolf and the deer. Bid them

return with you, and when you again reach my cave these stones shall be

ready for you. Now go, and waste no time, for you must have everything

ready before the hunters awaken."

The fox needed no second bidding. Away he went like the wind. When he

reached the deer and the wolf, he found them anxiously waiting for him.

Quickly giving them the Manitou's message, they all ran back to the

cave. When they reached it, they found that the Manitou had placed a

number of the dark stones in his fire, and that now they were no longer

dark stones but bright red ones.

"My children," said the Manitou, "take these burning coals and place

them in a circle on the hillside among the whispering grass. They will

not harm the grass and their heat will not burn you as you journey

back. But after this, always beware of a glowing fire, for I can give

you my protection this time only."

The animals at once seized as many of the burning coals as they could

carry and raced back to the hill. The night was dark, as the moon had

not yet risen, and when at length they gained the hillside, they saw

that the hunters still slept. Obeying the Manitou, they placed the

coals in a circle on the side of the hill, and then hid behind some


Scarcely had they done this, when the hunters awakened. At once they

noticed the strange, glowing circle on the hillside. They rubbed their

eyes and looked again; it was still there, burning and yet having no

flame. Terrified, they gazed at it, not daring to climb the hillside.

At last one said:

"My brothers, let us return at once to our village. This whispering

grass must be a great friend of Gitche Manitou, and we have done wrong

to eat of it. Let us return and warn our brothers."

"You are right, my brother," said the other hunter. "We will return

and tell of this strange, terrible warning which Gitche Manitou has

sent to us."

So saying, they turned and disappeared rapidly in the darkness, while

the circle on the hillside glowed brightly until the sun rose. When

daylight came there was nothing to be seen of the coals, but on the

hillside where they had been there was a large, brown circle, which

could be seen quite plainly from the valley. And there it can be seen

to this day.

On climbing the hill, the circle vanishes, and not a spot of burnt

grass is to be found, but always from the valley below the brown circle

can be seen. And the animals from that night have been afraid of

glowing fire, for they know the Manitou cannot give his protection

another time.

But he has been their greatest friend ever since that night. When they

are in any trouble they go at once to the Dark Hills, and, creeping

through the long passage, reach the cave where the bright fire glows.

There they tell the kind Manitou all that makes them sad, and he

comforts them. In the autumn he tells the deer where to hide in the

hills, so that the hunters cannot kill them. In the long, cold winter

he tells the hungry gray wolf where to find food, and in the summer he

shows the red fox how to double on his trail so that none may catch

him. And to all of them he has taught the secret of the glowing fire,

that its brightness means danger, save when they rest beside it in his

cave under the Dark Hills.