Enter the whimsical world of Grasshopper, a delightful character from American Indian fairy tales, as we invite you to join us on a charming journey through nature, music, and the value of preparation. At KidsGen, we embark on a captivating adventure that celebrates the beauty of the natural world and the lessons it holds.
Follow the enchanting story of Grasshopper, who spends his days singing and playing music, blissfully unaware of the approaching winter. As the season changes, Grasshopper learns the importance of preparation and the rewards that come with foresight and planning.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of imaginative storytelling as we explore the wonders of nature and the harmony of music. Grasshopper will inspire young minds to appreciate the joys of creativity, the importance of readiness, and the magic that comes from being in tune with the world around us.
Join us on this delightful journey as we discover the enchanting world of Grasshopper. Let the captivating tale ignite a love for nature, a passion for music, and a desire to embrace the lessons that life has to offer.
Illustrated by John Rae
There was once a merry young Indian who could jump so high, and who played so many pranks, that he came to be known as Grasshopper. He was a tall, handsome fellow, always up to mischief of one kind or another; and though his tricks were sometimes amusing, he carried them much too far, and so in time he came to grief.
Grasshopper owned all the things that an Indian likes most to have. In his lodge were all sorts of pipes and weapons, ermine and other choice furs, deer-skin shirts wrought with porcupine quills, many pairs of beaded moccasins, and more wampum belts than one person could have honestly come by.
The truth is, Grasshopper did not get these things by his skill and courage as a hunter. He got them by shaking pieces of colored bone and wood in a wooden bowl, then throwing them on the ground. That is to say, Grasshopper was a gambler, and such a lucky gambler that he easily won from others, with his game of Bowl and Counters, the things that they had obtained by risking their lives in the hunt.
If people put up with his ways, and even laughed at some of his mad pranks, it was because he could dance so well. Never had there been such a dancer. Was there a wedding to be celebrated, or some feast following a successful hunt—then who but Grasshopper could so well supply the entertainment?
He could dance with a step so light that it seemed to leave no mark upon the earth. He could dance as the Indian dances when he goes to war, or as when he holds a festival in honor of the corn. But the dance in which he excelled was a furious, dizzy dance, with leaps and bounds, that fairly turned the heads of the beholders.
It was then that Grasshopper became a kind of human whirlwind. As he spun round and round, his revolving body drew up the dry leaves and the dust, till the dancer all but faded from view, and you saw instead what looked like a whirling cloud.
Once, when the great Manito, named Man-a-bo-zho, took a wife and came to live with the tribe, that he might teach them best how to live, Grasshopper danced at the wedding. The Beggar's Dance, he called it, and such a dance! On the shores of the Big-Sea-Water, Gitche Gumee, are heaps of sand rising into little hills known as dunes. Had you asked Iagoo, he would have told you that these dunes were the work of Grasshopper, who whirled the sands together, and piled them into hills, as he spun madly around in his dance at Man-a-bo-zho's wedding.
But though Grasshopper came to the wedding, and danced this crazy Beggar's Dance, it seems probable that he did it more to please himself, and to show his skill, than to honor the great Man-a-bo-zho. Grasshopper really had no respect for anybody. When Iagoo's grandfather was in the middle of some interesting story, and had come to the most exciting part, Grasshopper likely as not would yawn and stretch himself, and say in a loud whisper that he had heard it all before.
So, too, with Man-a-bo-zho. This great Manito, who was the son of the West-Wind, Mud-je-kee-wis, had magic powers which he used for the good of the tribe. It was he who fasted and prayed, that his people might be given food other than the wild things of the woods; and whose prayer was answered with the gift of the Indian corn. Then when Kah-gah-gee, King of ravens, flew down with his band of black thieves, to tear up the seed in the ground, it was Man-a-bo-zho who snared him, and tied him fast to the ridge-pole of his lodge, to croak out a warning to the others.
But Man-a-bo-zho's goodness and wisdom had little effect on Grasshopper. "Pooh!" he would say. "Why should an Indian bother his head with planting corn, when he can draw his bow and kill a good fat deer?" Then he shook his wolfskin pouch, and rattled the pieces of bone and wood. "As long as I have these," he said to himself, "I need nothing more. After all, it is everybody else that works for the man who knows how to use his head."
He walked through the village, very proud and straight, with his fan of turkey-feathers, a swan's plume fastened in his long, black hair, and the tails of foxes trailing from his heels. In his white deer-skin shirt, edged with ermine, his leggings and moccasins ornamented with beads and porcupine quills, he cut a fine figure. There was to be a dance that night, and Grasshopper, who was a great dandy and a favorite with all the young girls and women, had decked himself out for the occasion. He had painted his face with streaks of blue and vermilion; his blue-black hair, parted in the middle, and glistening with oil, hung to his shoulders in braids plaited with sweet grass. The warriors might call him Shau-go-daya, a coward, and make jokes at his expense, but he did not care. Could he not beat them all when it came to playing ball or quoits, and were not the maidens all in love with his good looks?
Meanwhile, Grasshopper wished to pass the time in some pleasant way. Glancing through the door of a lodge, he saw a group of young men seated on the ground, listening to one of old Iagoo's stories.
"Ha!" he cried. "Have you nothing better to do? Here's a game worth playing."
He drew from his pouch the thirteen pieces of bone and wood, and juggled them from one hand to the other. But no one paid any attention to him. After all, Grasshopper had "more brains in his heels than in his head." For once he had been too cunning; fearing his skill, no one could be found who would play with him.
"Pooh!" muttered Grasshopper, as he turned away. "I see how it is. The pious Man-a-bo-zho has been preaching to them again. This village is getting to be pretty tiresome to live in. It's about time for me to strike out, and find a place where the young men don't sit around and talk to the squaws,"
He walked along, bent on mischief. Even the dance was forgotten; he wondered what he could do to amuse himself. As he came to the outskirts of the village, he passed the lodge of Man-a-bo-zho. "I would like to play him some trick," he said, under his breath, "so he will remember me when I am gone." But he was well aware that Man-a-bo-zho was much more powerful than himself; so he hesitated, not knowing exactly what do to.
At last he walked softly to the doorway, and listened, but could hear no sound of voices. "Good!" he said with a grin. "Perhaps nobody is at home." With that, he spun around the outside of the lodge, on one leg, raising a great cloud of dust. No one came out; but on the ridge-pole of the lodge, the captive Kah-gah-gee, King of ravens, flapped his big black wings, and screamed with a hoarse, rasping cry.
"Fool!" cried Grasshopper. "Noisy fool!"
With a bound; he leapt clear over the lodge, and then back again; at which the raven screamed more harshly than ever. But within the lodge all was silent.
Grasshopper grew bolder. Going to the doorway again, he rattled the flap of buffalo hide. Nobody answered; so, cautiously drawing the curtain to one side, he ventured to peer in. Then he chuckled softly. The lodge was empty.
"This is my chance!" he exclaimed. "Man-a-bo-zho is away, and so is his foolish wife. I'll just pay my respects before they come back, and then I'll be off for good."
Saying this, he went in, and began to turn everything upside down. He threw all the bowls and kettles in a corner, filled the drinking gourds with ashes from the fire, flung the rich furs and embroidered garments this way and that, and strewed the floor with wampum belts and arrows. When he finished, one might have thought a crazy man had been there. No woman in the village was more neat and orderly than the wife of Man-a-bo-zho, and Grasshopper knew this would vex her more than anything else he could do.
"Now for Man-a-bo-zho," he grinned as he left the lodge, well pleased with the mischief he had wrought.
"Caw, caw!" screamed the King of ravens.
"Kaw!" answered Grasshopper, mocking him. "A pretty sort of pet you are. Does Man-a-bo-zho keep you sitting there because you are so handsome? Or is it your beautiful voice."
With that, he made a leap to the ridge-pole, seized the raven by the neck, and whirled it round and round till it was quite limp and lifeless. Then he left it hanging there, as an insult to Man-a-bo-zho.
He was now in high good humor, and went his way through the forest, whistling and singing, and turning hand-springs to amuse the squirrels. There was a high rock, overlooking the lake, from the top of which one could view the country for miles and miles. Grasshopper climbed it. He could see the village plainly, so he thought he would wait there till Man-a-bo-zho came home. That would be part of the joke.
As he sat there, many birds darted around him, flying close over his head. Man-a-bo-zho called these fowls of the air his chickens, and he had put them under his protection. But Grasshopper had grown reckless. Along came a flock of mountain chickens, and he strung his bow, and shot them as they flew, for no better reason than because they were Man-a-bo-zho's, and not because he needed them for food. Bird after bird fell, pierced by his arrows; when they had fallen, he would throw their bodies down the cliff, upon the beach below.
At last Kay-oshk, the sea-gull, spied him at this cruel sport, and gave the alarm. "Grasshopper is killing us," he called. "Fly, brothers! Fly away, and tell our protector that Grasshopper is slaying us with his arrows."
When Man-a-bo-zho heard the news, his eyes flashed fire, and he spoke in a voice of thunder:
"Grasshopper must die for this! He cannot escape me. Though he fly to the ends of the earth, I shall follow, and visit my vengeance upon him."
On his feet he bound his magic moccasins with which, at each stride, he could step a full mile. On his hands he drew his magic mittens with which, at one blow, he could shatter the hardest rock. Then he started in pursuit.
Grasshopper had heard the warning call of the sea-gull, and knew it was time to be off. He, too, could run. So fleet of foot was he that he could shoot an arrow ahead of him, and reach the spot where it fell before it dropped to earth. Also, he had the power to change himself into other shapes, and it was almost impossible to kill him. If, for example, he entered the body of a beaver, and the beaver was slain, no sooner had its flesh grown cold than the Fee-bi, or spirit, of Grasshopper would leave the dead body, and Grasshopper would become a man again, ready for some new adventure.
But at first he trusted to his legs and to his cunning. On rushed Man-a-bo-zho, breathing vengeance; swiftly, like a moving shadow, fled Grasshopper. Through the forest and across the hills he fled, faster than the hare. His pursuer was hot on the trail. Once he came upon the forest bed where the grass was still warm and bent; but the Grasshopper, who had rested there, was far away. Once Man-a-bo-zho, high on a mountain, spied him in the meadow below. Grasshopper had shown himself on purpose, and mocked the great Manito, and defied him. The truth is, Grasshopper was just a bit conceited.
At last he grew tired of running. Not that his legs ached him or his feet were sore. But this kind of life was not much to his liking, and he kept his eye open for something new. Pretty soon he came to a stream where the water was backed up by some kind of a dam, so that it flooded the banks. Grasshopper had run about a thousand miles that day—counting all the turns and twists. He was hot and dusty, and the pond, with its water-lilies and rushes, looked cool and refreshing. From far, far away came a faint sound; it was the voice of Man-a-bo-zho, shouting his war-cry.
"Tiresome fellow!" said Grasshopper. "I could almost wish I were a beaver, and lived down there at the bottom of the pond, where no one would disturb me."
Then up popped the head of a beaver, who looked at him suspiciously.
"Don't be alarmed. I left my bow and arrows over there in the grass," explained Grasshopper. "Besides, I was just thinking I would like to be a beaver myself. What do you say to that?"
"I shall have to consult Ahmeek, our chief," answered the friendly animal.
Down he dived to the bottom, and pretty soon Ahmeek's head appeared above the water, followed by the heads of twenty others.
"Let me be one of you," said Grasshopper. "You have a pleasant home down there in the clear, cool water, and I am tired of the life I lead."
Ahmeek was pleased that such a strong, handsome young Indian should wish to join their company.
"But I can help you," he answered, "only after you have plunged into the pond. Do you think you can change yourself into one of us?"
"That is easy," said Grasshopper.
He waded into the water up to his waist; and behold! he had a broad flat tail. Deeper and deeper he went; as the water closed above his head he became a beaver, with glossy, black fur, and feet webbed like a duck's. Down he sank with the others to the bottom, which was covered with heaps of logs and branches.
"That," explained Ahmeek, "is the food we have stored for the winter. We eat the bark, and you will soon be as fat as any of us."
"But I want to be even fatter," said Grasshopper. "Flatter and ten times as big."
"As you please," agreed Ahmeek. "We can help to make you just as big as you wish."
They reached the lodge where the beavers lived, and entered the doorway, leading into a number of large rooms. Grasshopper selected the largest one for himself.
"Now," he said, "bring me all the food I can eat, and when I am big enough I will be your chief."
The beavers were willing. They set to work getting quantities of the juiciest bark for Grasshopper, who was delighted with this lazy life, and did little more than eat or sleep. Bigger and bigger he grew, till at last he was ten times the size of Ahmeek, and could barely manage to move around in his lodge. He was perfectly happy.
But one day the beaver who kept watch up above, among the rushes of the pond, came swimming to the lodge in a state of great excitement.
"The hunters are after us," he panted. "It is indeed Man-a-bo-zho himself, with his hunters. They are breaking down our dam!"
Even as he spoke, the water in the pond sank lower and lower; the next moment came the tramping of feet, as the hunters leapt upon the roof of the lodge, trying to break it open.
All the beavers but Grasshopper scampered out of the lodge, and escaped into the stream, where they hid themselves in some deep pools, or swam far down with the current. Grasshopper did his best to follow them, but could not. The doorway was too small for his big, fat body; when he attempted to go through it, he found himself stuck fast.
Then the roof gave way, and the head of an Indian appeared.
"Ty-au!" he called. "Tut-ty-au! See what's here! This must be Me-shau-mik, the King of the beavers." Man-a-bo-zho came, and gave one look.
"It's Grasshopper!" he cried. "I can see through his tricks. It's Grasshopper in the skin of a beaver."
Then they fell upon him with their clubs; and eight tall Indians, having swung his limp carcass upon poles, carried it off in triumph through the woods.
But his Fee-bi, or spirit, was still in the body of the beaver, and struggled to escape. The Indians bore him to their lodges and prepared to make a feast. Then, when the squaws were ready to skin him, his flesh was quite cold, and the spirit of Grasshopper left the beaver's body, and glided swiftly away. As the shadowy shape fled across the prairie, into the forest, the watchful Man-a-bo-zho saw it take the human form of Grasshopper, and he started in pursuit.
Grasshopper's life among the beavers had made him lazier than ever, and as he ran he looked around for some easier way than running. Soon he came upon a herd of elk, a species of deer with large, spreading horns. The elk were feeding contentedly, and looked sleek and fat.
"They lead a free and happy life," said Grasshopper as he watched them. "Why fatigue myself with running? I'll change myself into an elk, and join their band."
Horns sprouted from his head; in a few minutes the transformation was complete. Still he was not satisfied.
"I am hardly big enough," he said to the leader. "My feet are much too small, and my horns should be twice the size of yours. Is there nothing I can do to make them grow?" "Yes," answered the leader of the elks. "But you do it at your own risk."
He took Grasshopper into the woods, and showed him a bright red berry that hung in clusters on some small, low bushes.
"Eat these," he said, "and nothing else, and your horns and feet will soon be much bigger than ours. However, it would be wise if you did not eat too many of them."
The berries were delicious. Grasshopper felt that he could not get enough, and he ate them greedily whenever he could find them. Before long his feet had grown so large and heavy he could hardly keep up with the herd, while his horns had such a huge spread that he sometimes found them rather in his way.
One cold day the herd went into the woods for shelter; pretty soon some of the elks who had lingered behind came rushing by with snorts of-alarm. Hunters were pursuing them.
"Run!" called out the leader to Grasshopper. "Follow us out on the prairie, where the Indians cannot catch us." Grasshopper tried to follow them; but his big feet weighted him down, and he ran slowly. Then, as he plunged madly through a thicket, his spreading horns were entangled in some low branches that held him fast. Already several arrows had whizzed by him; another pierced his heart, and he sank to the ground.
Along came the hunters, with a whoop. "Ty-au!" they exclaimed when they saw the enormous elk. "It is he who made the large tracks on the prairie. Ty-au!"
As they were skinning him, Man-a-bo-zho joined the party; and at that moment the Fee-bi, or spirit, of Grasshopper escaped through the mouth of the dead elk, and passed swiftly to the open plains, like a puff of white smoke driven before the wind. Then, as Man-a-bo-zho watched it melt away, he saw once more the mortal shape of Grasshopper; and once more he followed after, breathing vengeance.
As Grasshopper ran on, a new thought came into his head. Above him in the clear blue sky the birds wheeled and soared. "There is the place for me," he said, "far up in the sky. Let me have wings, and I can laugh at Man-a-bo-zho."
Ahead of him was a lake; approaching it, he saw a flock of wild geese known as brant, feeding among the rushes. "Ha," said Grasshopper, admiring them as they sailed smoothly here and there. "They will soon be winging their way to the North. I would like to fly in their company."
He spoke to them, calling them Pish-ne-kuh, his brothers, and they consented to receive him as one of the flock. So he floated on his back till feathers sprouted on him, and he became a brant, with a broad black beak, and a tail that would guide him through the air as a rudder steers a ship.
Greedy as ever, he fed long after the others had had enough, so that he soon grew into the biggest brant ever seen. His beak looked like the paddles of a canoe; when he spread his wings they were as large as two large au-puk-wa, or mats. The wild geese gazed at him in astonishment. "You must fly in the lead," they said.
"No," answered Grasshopper. "I would rather fly behind." "As you please," they told him. "But you will have to be careful. By all means keep your head and neck straight out before you, and do not look down as you fly, or you may meet with an accident."
It was a beautiful sight to see them flap their wings, stretch their long necks, and rise with a "whir" from the lake, mounting the wind, and rushing on before it. They flew with a breeze from the south, faster and faster, till their speed was like the flight of an arrow.
One day, passing over a village, they could hear the people shouting. The Indians were amazed at the size of the big brant, flying in the rear of the flock; yelling as loud as they could yell, their cries made Grasshopper curious. One voice especially seemed familiar to him, and he could not resist the temptation to draw in his neck and stretch it down toward the earth. As he did so, the strong wind caught his tail, and turned him over and over. In vain he tried to recover his balance; the wind whirled him round and round, as it whirls a leaf. The earth came nearer, the shouts of the Indians grew louder in his ears; at last he fell with a thud, and lay lifeless.
It was a fine feast of wild goose that had dropped so suddenly from the skies. The hungry Indians pounced upon him, and began to pluck his feathers. This was the very village where Grasshopper had once lived; little had he dreamed that he would ever return to supply it with such a dinner, a dinner at which he himself was to be the best dish.
But again his Fee-bi, or spirit, went forth, and fled in the form of Grasshopper; again Man-a-bo-zho, shouting his warcry, followed after.
Grasshopper had now come to the desert places, where there were few trees, and no signs of animal life. Man-abo-zho was gaining on him; he must play some new trick. Coming at last to a tall pine-tree growing in the rock, he climbed it, pulled off all the green needles, and scattered them about, leaving the branches quite bare. Then he took to his heels again. When Man-a-bo-zho came, the pine spoke to him, saying:
"See what Grasshopper has done. Without my foliage I am sure to die. Great Manito, I pray you give me back my green dress."
Man-a-bo-zho, who loves and protects all trees, had pity on the pine. He collected the scattered needles, and restored them to the branches. Then he hastened on with such speed that he overtook Grasshopper, and put his hand out to clutch him. But Grasshopper stepped quickly aside, and spun round and round on one leg in his whirlwind dance, till the air all about was filled with leaves and sand. In the midst of this whirlwind he sprang into a hollow tree, and changed himself into a snake. Then he crept out through the roots, and not a moment too soon; for Man-a-bo-zho smote the tree with one of his magic mittens, and crumbled it to powder.
Grasshopper changed himself back into his human form, and ran for dear life. The only thing left for him to do was to hide. But where? In his headlong flight he had come again to the shores of the Great Lake; and he saw rising before him the high cliff of the Picture Rocks. If he could but manage to reach these rocks, the Manito of the Mountain, who lived in one of the gloomy caverns, might let him in. Sure enough! As he reached the cliff, calling out for help, the Manito opened the door, and told him to enter.
Hardly had the big door closed with a bang, than along came Man-a-bo-zho. With his mitten he gave a tap on the rock that made the splinters fly.
"Open!" he cried, in a terrible voice.,
But the Manito was brave and hospitable.
"I have sheltered you," he said to Grasshopper, "and I would rather die myself than give you up."
Man-a-bo-zho waited, but no answer came.
"As you will," he said at last. "If the door is not opened to me by night, I shall call upon the Thunder and the Lightning to do my bidding."
The hours passed; darkness fell. Then from a black cloud that had gathered over the Great Lake, Way-wass-i-mo, the red-eyed Lightning, shot his bolts of fire. Crash—boom—crash! An-ne-mee-kee, the Thunder, shouted hoarsely from the heavens. A wild wind arose; the trees of the forest swayed and groaned, and the foxes hid in their holes.
Way-wass-i-mo, the Lightning, leapt from the black cloud, and darted at the cliff. The rock trembled; the door was shivered, and fell apart. Out from his gloomy cavern came the Manito of the Mountain, asking Man-a-bo-zho for mercy. It was granted, and the Manito fled to the hills.
Grasshopper then appeared; the next moment he was buried under a mass of rock shaken loose by An-ne-mee-kee, the Thunder. This time he had been killed in his human form, he could play his mad pranks no more.
But Man-a-bo-zho, the merciful, remembered that Grasshopper was not wholly bad.
"Your Fee-bi" he said, "must no longer remain upon the earth in any form whatever. As a man you lived an idle, foolish life, and you are no longer wanted here. Instead, I shall permit you to inhabit the skies."
Saying this, he took the ghost of Grasshopper, and clothed it with the shape of the war-eagle, bidding him to be chief of all the fowls. .
But Grasshopper, the mischievous, is not forgotten by the people. In the late winter days, snow fine as powder fills the air like a vapor. It keeps the hunter from his traps, the fisherman from his hole in the ice. Suddenly a puff of wind seizes this light, powdery snow, blows it round and round, and sets it whirling along; and when this happens, the Indians laugh and say:
"Look! There goes Grasshopper. See how well he dances."
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