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Mouse and the sun.

From Canadian wonder tales by Cyrus Macmillan.

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Then he set out to catch the sun. He travelled many days until he came to the Great Water in the East. It was summer in the north country, and the sun rose early. The boy placed his snare just where the sun would strike the land when he rose at dawn out of the sea, and he watched from a distance. Sure enough, in the morning just as the sun rose out of the sea and came above the earth, he was caught in the snare and held fast. The sun could not rise ; he was held fast to the earth. The boy was quite pleased with his success. " Now," he said, " I have punished the sun for ruining my bird-skin coat." And he returned to his home on the plains. That day there was no light upon the earth. It was twilight in all the land. The animals were in great fear and wonder. The birds fled to their nests, and only the owl came out to look for food. At last the animals and the birds called a council to see what they could do. They found that the sun was tied to the earth by a snare. They decided that some one must go up close to the sun and cut the cord that held him. It was a very dangerous task, for the heat was very great and any one who tried to cut the cord would perhaps be burned to death.

So they drew lots to see who should go. The lot fell to Woodpecker. And Woodpecker went up and picked at the cord with his bill. He tried hard to cut it, but it was a strong braid of woman s hair and it could not be cut easily. Woodpecker picked and picked at it for a long time. At last his head was so badly burned that he could stand the heat no longer and he had to fly away without cutting the cord. His head was red from the great heat. And ever since, poor Woodpecker has had a red head because the sun singed him when he tried to set him free. Then the animals called for a volunteer to undertake the task of cutting the snare. Mouse was at that time the largest and strongest animal in the world, and he thought that because of his great strength, it was his duty to attempt the hard and dangerous task. So he set out. When he reached the snare, he tried to cut the cord with his teeth, but the cord was strong and could not be cut easily. The heat was very great.

Mouse would have run away, but he was so big and strong that he was ashamed to leave the task, for he thought that the smaller animals would laugh at him. So he stuck to his work and sawed the cord with his teeth, one hair at a time. Soon his back began to burn and scorch and smoke. But he stuck to his task. Then he began to melt away because of the great heat, and the whole top of his body was burned to ashes. But still he stuck to his task for a long time, cutting hair after hair. Finally he cut the last hair ; the snare parted, and the sun was at last free to continue his day s journey and give light to the world. And the animals and birds rejoiced greatly over the success of Mouse. But poor Mouse had melted almost entirely away in the great heat. When he went up to the snare, he was the largest animal in the world ; when he came down, he was the smallest. And his back was burned to ashes. And ever since, Mouse has been the smallest animal in the world, and his coat has always been the colour of gray ashes, because he was scorched when freeing the sun from a snare in the old days.

The end.


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