23 Juli 2009

The Girl who Married a Bear

Based on a Native American Indian Legend.
Peesunt was the Chief's daughter. She was vain and proud. She was always combing her long black hair, waiting for people to say how beautiful it was and how her skin was soft.
She believed she didn't have to behave like the others and that everyone should respect her because of her father.
One day she went into the forest to pick berries, with other girls from the tribe.
As they walked further and further under the trees, the others became nervous. They started to sing softly.
"Why are you singing?" asked Peesunt. "We're frightened of disturbing the animals" said one. "We need to let them know we're coming - especially the bears."
"Bears are ugly and smelly" sniffed Peesunt. "I don't care if I disturb them!" "Please don't say that" begged another. "They'll hear you and be very angry." "Let them!" said Peesunt. "I'm the Chief's daughter and I don't have to worry about disturbing smelly old bears!"
They came to a clearing and were even more scared to be in the open. Then they saw bushes full of berries and started to filled their baskets.
The day went quickly and they forgot all about the bears as they laughed and talked while they picked the fruit. When the sun began to prepare for sleep, their baskets were full.
"We must leave now" one girl said to Peesunt, "before it gets dark. The animals won't like us disturbing their sleep." "Why should I care?" asked Peesunt. "I want to pick more berries." The others were frightened and started walking.
Peesunt sighed and followed them, but then she saw another bush with the biggest and juiciest berries all over it. "I must pick those" she said to herself. "I'll go back with the best berries and people will say 'Of course. She's the Chief's daughter!"
Quickly she picked the berries until her basket was overflowing. The others were out of sight, singing and talking, not noticing that Peesunt wasn't with them.
She rushed to catch up and the strap on her basket broke and all the berries spilled onto the ground. As she bent to scoop them up, a handsome young man appeared, wrapped in a bearskin cloak.
"Can I help you, Peesunt?" he asked. "How do you know my name?" asked the girl. "Everyone knows of beautiful Peesunt, the Chief's daughter. You are so beautiful, you must be her." "That is true" said Peesunt. "Everyone knows of my beauty."
When they had filled the basket again, the young man fixed the strap so Peesunt could carry it. The sun had almost gone to sleep and the forest was becoming dark.
"It's too late for you to walk back to your village" the young man said. "My people would be honoured if you would stay with us overnight." Peesunt did not know what to do, so she shook her long black hair, vainly and said she would stay.
When they came to his village, she saw other people, all wearing bearskin cloaks. The women would not speak or look at her. They kept their eyes on the ground.
The young man led her to the centre of the village, where people were sitting around a fire. She was welcomed by their chief, who was old and wore a crown made from bear claws.
After everyone had eaten and talked, the chief stood up and looked at Peesunt. "You will stay in this village forever and marry my young nephew, who brought you here." "I will not!" shouted Peesunt. "I am Peesunt - daughter of the chief of my tribe!"
"Enough. I have spoken" said the old man. He waved to two men and they took her to her new husband's lodge. Standing inside, scared and confused, Peesunt heard a little voice squeaking "Peesunt! Peesunt!"
She looked around, but couldn't see anyone. Then she felt something tugging at her dress. Looking down, she saw the tiny Mouse Woman.
"Peesunt. Listen to me! This is very important! These are the Bear People. The chief heard you say that bears were dirty and smelly and that you weren't afraid of them - and he was angry.
You must show respect to your new husband and always obey him. If you don't, you'll be made a slave like the other women."
"And if you try to escape, the Bear People will become angry again and kill you" squeaked Mouse Woman. Peesunt understood the warning and changed her ways. She became respectful and obeyed her husband.
She noticed that when the men left the village they turned into bears and when they returned, they became men again.
She was no longer vain and proud. She worked hard and stayed with the Bear People for a long time. She gave birth to two sons, who were both half man and half bear. Peesunt's husband was kind to her and Mouse Woman taught her many things. But she missed her family.
One day, strangers were seen outside the village. Peesunt's husband told her the men were her brothers. "They found bear tracks when you went missing and they have killed many of my people since then. They will not stop looking for you."
He looked at Peesunt sadly. "I've dreamed that they will kill me. I know you love them very much, and I won't hurt them. I ask that they treat me with respect as you have, Peesunt.
They must not drag my body on the ground after they have taken my skin. My feathers must be placed behind my ears and red ochre rubbed on my back."
He stroked Peesunt's long black hair and said goodbye to his sons. Then he put on his bear cloak and started to walk out of the village. Peesunt followed him and saw him turn into a bear. Holding his arms out in front of him, he went to meet the brothers. He let them kill him without struggling.
"Peesunt, our sister! It's so good to see you again!" shouted the brothers. Peesunt cried for her dead husband and with joy to see her brothers again.
She made them treat her husband's body as he had asked and they took her and her two sons back to her father's village.
The people from her tribe looked at her closely and were amazed to see soft brown hair growing on her beautiful skin. She was no longer fully human.
Peesunt told her father, the Chief "I don't feel comfortable living with people now. May I live in the small house at the edge of the village?" "Yes my daughter, you can" said her father.
Peesunt took her two cubs and lived in the small house. One day, one of her brothers brought her some bearskins to make warm clothing for the winter. Peesunt and her children put the skins around them and turned into bears forever. She took the cubs into the mountains and they were never seen again.
The people of her tribe remembered how the daughter of their chief had married a bear and taught them to respect any bear that they killed.
They followed her teaching and were very successful hunters.
(Source from http://www.planetozkids.com)

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