Why Hermit Thrush Is So Shy
A Tale from the Iroquois
Some moons after the council when the birds chose their feathered suits, a second council was called. The purpose of this council was to see which bird could fly to heaven, and bring a song to earth.
When all the birds had arrived and were perched upon the council tree, the wise old owl spoke.
"Friends and brothers, listen," said the owl. "Many of you have strong wings, but your voices are not beautiful. High, high up in the sky, a long trail beyond the clouds, is the Happy Hunting Ground.
"There live all our brothers of the wood, whom the Great Spirit has called. They sing songs more beautiful than any heard on earth.
"The bird that can fly beyond the clouds will hear that singing. He shall bring a song to earth. Who will fly the Great Sky Trail, and bring a song to earth? Who-whoo! Who-whoo! Who-whoo!"
At this, all the birds that were swift of wing flew high in the air. They circled round and round to show their skill. Then they disappeared in the clouds.
But one by one they dropped to earth; for when they had reached the Great Sky Trail beyond the clouds, they were too tired to take it.
At last the eagle arose and stretched his great wings.
"Listen," he said, "for the Chief of Birds speaks. No other bird is so swift and so strong as the eagle. He has circled the earth. He has flown to the rim of the world. The eagle will fly the Great Sky Trail and bring the song to earth."
A little brown thrush sat near the eagle.
"Oh," he thought, "how I would like to bring that song to earth!"
But he was so small, and his wings were so tired!
Then an idea popped into the little brown head of the thrush. He hopped softly to the back of the eagle, and hid in the thick feathers near the neck. So small and light was the thrush, that the eagle did not feel his weight. He did not know that the little brown thrush was on his back,-and the other birds did not tell him.
The eagle spread his great wings. Up, and up, and up, they soared. The council wood became a little speck and then was seen no more. Over, and under, and through the clouds, on, and on, and on, they sailed, along the Great Sky Trail.
At last the eagle's strength began to fail. He could go no further. The great wings of the chief of birds could beat the air no longer. They fell at his side.
The little brown thrush felt the eagle quiver and begin to drop toward the earth.
Then away flew the little brown thrush. The air was so light it seemed easy to fly. On and on he went, for he was not tired. He had had a ride almost to heaven.
"Now," he thought, "I will go on and will get the song."
For some time, the little brown thrush flew along the Great Sky Trail. All at once the air seemed full of song. He knew he was nearing the Happy Hunting Ground.
He listened. One song seemed more beautiful to him than the rest. Again and again he listened. He caught the notes. He sang them many times, until he was sure that he could carry the song to earth.
Then down, and down, and down, he floated, through clouds and storms and sunshine, back to Mother Earth.
Very happy, he flew toward the council wood. He was so full of his beautiful song and the wonderful Sky Trail, he thought he must pour out his song at once.
But when he reached the council wood, he dared not open his mouth! He remembered that he had stolen his ride part way to heaven,-and he knew the other birds knew it.
But that song! he must sing it! He thought his throat would burst, if he did not sing!
So the little brown thrush flew off by himself, into a deep, dark part of the wood. There, hidden by the brush and the bushes, he poured forth the song he had heard on the Great Sky Trail.
Men hearing it to-day, say, "Listen, a hermit thrush! What a beautiful song! But he is such a shy bird, one seldom can catch a glimpse of him."
They do not know why he keeps so close under cover.
Sources And Further Reading
Project Gutenberg Stories the Iroquois Tell Their Children by Mabel Powers