In Search of Cupid and Psyche: Myth and Legend in Children's Literature
The following folktale, The Shining Lodge, is taken from A Harvest of World Folk Tales, edited by Milton Rugoff (New York: Viking, 1971): p. 108-110.
It was thousands of moons ago when Soatsaki, a young Indian girl whose name means Feather Lady, wakened very early one morning among the tall prairie grasses. She and her older sister had been sleeping outside their tepee because it was very warm.
"Oh, sister, look at the lovely Morning Star! I shall never marry any man here on earth. That bright beautiful star is going to be my husband," said Feather Lady, enchanted.
The sister did not like being roused so early, and being annoyed, she ran into the camp and told the people what a foolish thing Feather lady had said. Even though her tribesmen believed in magic stories of giants and spirits and winged canoes, they laughed at Feather Ladyís idea.
Feather Lady herself soon forgot what she had said.
A few days later she and her sister went into the forest to gather wood. When they had their packs made and were lifting them up to their shoulders by the pack-straps, Feather Ladyís strap broke. Every time she made ip her back and tried to lift it, the strap would break again. Her sister, who was standing beside her with her load of wood on her back, began to grow weary. She said, "I am going home with my bundle. You can follow."
When Feather Lady was left alone, she heard a voice say, "Feather Lady, I am Morning Star." She trembled and looked up. A bright youth stood in the river path. He was tall and straight, his hair long and glistening. He was dressed in a beaver-skin robe, and the fragrance of pine and sweet grass was around him. "Donít you remember? You wanted to marry me," he said to her. He took a long eagle feather and stuck it upright in her hair. He gave her a branch of juniper from which trailed two spiderwebs. Next he had her take hold of the upper strand and place her feet on the lower one. Then he told her to shut her eyes. In a second they were transported on the sparkling web to the roof of the world.
When she opened her eyes, Feather Lady found herself standing before a shining lodge with Morning Star beside her. This was the home of his father and mother, the Sun and the Moon.
The Sun was away on his daily journey across the sky. The Moon welcomed Feather lady kindly and dressed the girl in a soft robe of buckskin trimmed with elk teeth.
When the Sun came home that night, he was pleased with Feather lady and called her his daughter. So she was married to Morning Star. They all lived together very happily in the shining lodge, and after a while Feather Lady had a baby named Star Boy.
One day the Moon mother gave Feather Lady a root-digger and said, "You may go everywhere about sky land and dig up all kinds of foots. But you must never touch the great turnip that grows near our lodge. If you do, deep unhappiness will come to every one of us, for that turnip is medicine."
Day after day Feather lady wandered about with Star Boy on her back, digging up roots. She often passed the great turnip, but never touched it.
Then one day she was curious to see what lay beneath. So she put Star Boy on the ground and began to dig. Her root-digger soon struck in the side of the great turnip, and she could not pull it out.
Just then two beautiful snow-white loons from the far north flew overhead. She called to them for help. They sang a magic song, and the great turnip was uprooted.
Feather Lady looked down through the hole where the turnip had been. Far below she saw the camp on earth where she once had lived, the trees, the rivers, and the lodges of her people. Smoke was rising from the wigwams. She could hear the children laughing and playing and the women singing at their work. She was filled with homesickness and went back weeping to the shining lodge.
Morning Star looked at her very sorrowfully. "Alas, alas, my dear Feather Lady," he said, "you have uprooted the great turnip!"
The Sun and Moon were troubled. They loved Feather lady dearly, but they knew she must now return to earth because of her curiosity and disobedience.
So Morning Star took Feather Lady sadly by the hand. He warned her not to let Star Boy touch the ground for fourteen days or he would return to the sky as a star. He told her to mark a sign on the back of her lodge on earth so she would be warned daily of her duty, but to tell no one.
Then he placed little Star Boy on her back and led her to the Spider Man who lived in sky land. Spider man wove a beautiful web, glittering with dew, in the hole where the great turnip had been They wrapped Feather lady in an elkís hide and let her and her little boy gently down to earth upon the web. Feather ladyís people saw her coming like a falling star. Her path was the Milky Way, on which souls always go back and forth to heaven.
"Here is Feather Lady who never came back with her wood," they said.
Her parents welcomed her and loved little Star Boy. Then her mother sent her for water. She cautioned her mother to keep the child on the pile of furs and not to let him touch the ground.
The grandmother wasnít so careful, because she didnít understand the reason for watching the child so closely. When her back was turned, the boy crawled off the furs onto the bare earth. When his grandmother saw him she grabbed him up and put him back as quickly as she could.
This seemed to make the child cross, for he pulled a robe up over his face. The grandmother paid no more attention to him.
When Star Boyís mother returned she looked around and said, "Where is my child?"
"Oh, he covered himself up with is robe," said the grandmother.
Feather Lady rushed to the pile of furs, pulled back the robe, and found nothing there. That evening she looked up into the sky. A new star glittered in the hole where she had pulled up the turnip. Then she knew what had become of her child.
So that is the way the North Star came to be. It is called "the Nail of the North," and always stands still. All the other stars moved around it.
The half-circle of stars to the east of the North Star is the lodge of the Spider Man and is called "the Northern Crown. The bright stars just beyond, in the constellation of Hercules, the Indians believed to be his five fingers, with which he spun the web on which Feather lady and her child, Star Boy, were let down to earth.
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