Tell Me a Story

Bluebird's Tale (A Cherokee Indian Tale)

Long ago, when the world was new, when everything was younger than it is today, there was a little bird that we now call the bluebird. But the bluebird in those days was not blue at all. He was pure white, and he was unhappy about this. The little white bird would fly through the bright blue sky, look down at beautiful blue lakes, gaze upon the ripe blueberries -- when he saw anything blue, in fact, he so loved that color that he wished he, too, could be blue.

After many years of wishing to be blue, the little white bird decided he would go to see wise Grandfather for his counsel. Wise Grandfather would give good advice; he always did. So off he flew to wise Grandfather's house.

When he arrived, he looked up with pleading eyes and said, "Grandfather, I long to be as blue as the waters, as blue as the sky, as blue as blueberries. Tell me what I must do to become blue."

Grandfather smiled and nodded as he listened. He could see that the little white bird's dream was pure and true. So he told him exactly what he must do.

He taught him the song he must sing. "You will sing this song, and you must know the ways of change," Grandfather said.

"What are the ways of change?" the little white bird asked.

Again Grandfather smiled. He was pleased the little bird wanted to learn. Not every creature listened; not every creature followed his dreams. He was proud of the little white bird.

For many days Grandfather instructed the little white bird in the ways of change. He taught him how to be patient, how to pay close attention, how to be grateful for the smallest gifts, how to wait in silence. He taught him many other things that not everyone knows. The little white bird listened closely. He nodded when he understood, and when he did not understand, he asked questions.

When they were finished, Grandfather sent the little white bird on his way.

The little white bird flew to the edge of the lake and began to sing his song, and then, just as wise Grandfather had instructed him, he dived down into the lake. The water was cold, and beneath the surface it was dark. For a moment he was frightened and thought he might turn back. But the little white bird remembered Grandfather's lessons, and he dived deeper still. Down, down, down he dived into the coldest, bluest part of the lake.

When he had reached the place Grandfather had told him he must travel to, he remembered his next lesson. He must be patient and wait. He waited for five long days, and at the end of the fifth day, he swam to the surface and flew into the sky, and now he was as blue as the lakes, as blue as the sky, as blue as blueberries, as blue as he had ever hoped to be.

When Coyote looked up and saw him, he was envious. In those days coyote was white, too, and he also loved blue -- especially the color of this new bluebird.

"Teach me your song," he demanded of the bluebird.

"I cannot," said the bluebird. "I cannot give away wise Grandfather's secrets. You must go and learn yourself."

That's exactly what Coyote did. He ran to see wise Grandfather and begged him to teach him the song.

"It is not right for you to be blue, Coyote," said Grandfather. "That is not the color you are intended to be. You must not be jealous."

But Coyote was jealous -- and hurt and angry. He was also determined. Besides, he was bigger and stronger than the bluebird, and so he went to him and said, "If you do not teach me your song, I will eat you!"

Trembling with fear, the bluebird taught Coyote the special song and the secret of the water.

The next day Coyote sang the song, and then dived into the water and sat at the bottom of the lake for five long days. When he came out early in the morning, he, too, was blue. He was as blue as the lake, as blue as the sky, as blue as blueberries, as blue as the bluebird. And he was proud, for he was the most beautiful coyote in the world.

Filled with pride, he began to prance down the road, calling out to everyone. "Deer, moose, rabbit, snake, toad, come look." He woke up all the animals, even the owl who had decided to nap. When they saw him, they shook their heads.

"A coyote should not be blue," they whispered among themselves. "No one should behave with such pride," others said. But Coyote was very proud, and he continued to prance and brag. Soon he was so smitten with his own looks that he paid no attention to the road ahead of him, and he crashed right into a tree he hadn't noticed.

The animals tittered, for everyone had been quite upset with Coyote's boasting. The bluebird worried that wise Grandfather would be angry with him for teaching Coyote his song.

But as Coyote hit the tree, he slipped and fell on the dirt path. He wailed in pain and rolled this way and that way. "Help," he cried, "my head hurts. Come help the beautiful blue coyote." But nobody moved, and as they watched, they looked in wonder as Coyote's color began to fade away. When he got up, shaking his aching head, he was brown and dirty, and that is the way he has been ever since.

The bluebird continues to be a bright, beautiful blue, but he never boasts about it.

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