Sacred Song of the Hermit Thrush : A Native American Legend
A story steeped in the Mohawk tradition gives the legendary origins of the enchanting song of the hermit thrush. A fresh yet ancient way of teaching the value of honesty.
Long ago, when the birds had no songs, only man could sing. When the Great Spirit walked on the Earth, he noticed a great silence. He realized the birds had no songs. He devised a great game and told the birds who ever could fly the highest, would receive a very beautiful song. But not all the birds were honest. In his desire to win the game, the small hermit thrush jumped on the back of the great eagle. The eagle flew higher than any of the birds, but when he came back to land, the Great Spirit said the hermit thrush had gone the highest since he was on the eagle’s back.
Hermit thrush was awarded a beautiful song, but in his shame for not being honest, he flew into the deep woods. To this day, you may hear the lovely song of the hermit thrush, but you may not ever see him.
Tehanetorens-Ray Fadden was a teacher and influential figure among the Mohawks of Akwesasne. The Mohawk Nation adopted him into the Mohawk wolf clan and gave him the name Tehanetorens, which has been translated as "He Walks through the Pines." In 1930, Ray became one of the first teachers at the St. Regis Mohawk School in Hogansburg, New York. He published a series of articles that detailed the many contributions the North American Indian had made to modern civilization, ranging from technological innovations to foodstuffs and even democratic traditions. Ray passed away in November 2008, at the age of 98.
David Kanietakeron Fadden is an Akwesasne Mohawk artist who was born in Lake Placid, New York, and grew up in Onchiota. He is the grandson of Tehanetorens.
A Mohawk pourquoi tale explains how the hermit thrush and other birds got their songs. The telling is stately, with a steady, oral cadence. The dappled paintings offer field guide–worthy images of the bird characters and depict the Good Spirit with brown skin and long, straight black hair. Lovely.” -Kirkus Reviews
“The tale in this book is one which is entertaining and intriguing enough to draw listeners in. The birds are depicted with enough true-to-life accuracy to keep them very recognizable. Anyone wanting to introduce young readers to the Mohawks, will definitely find this book a treat. Makes a lovely read-aloud book.” -Bookworm for Kids blog
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