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Mouse and the sun.
From Canadian wonder tales by Cyrus Macmillan.
Start of Story
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
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.