The Boy Who Became a Robin
by Henry R. Schoolcraft
The Myth of Hiawatha
Once upon a time there was an old Indian who
had an only son, whose name was Opeechee. The
boy had come to the age when every Indian lad
makes a long fast, in order to secure a Spirit to be
his guardian for life.
Now, the old man was very proud, and he
wished his son to fast longer than other boys, and
to become a greater warrior than all others. So he
directed him to prepare with solemn ceremonies
for the fast.
After the boy had been in the sweating lodge
and bath several times, his father commanded
him to lie down upon a clean mat, in a little
lodge apart from the rest.
"My son," said he, "endure your hunger like a
man, and at the end of TWELVE DAYS, you shall
receive food and a blessing from my hands."
The boy carefully did all that his father
commanded, and lay quietly with his face covered,
awaiting the arrival of his guardian Spirit who
was to bring him good or bad dreams.
His father visited him every day, encouraging
him to endure with patience the pangs of hunger
and thirst. He told him of the honor and renown
that would be his if he continued his fast to the
end of the twelve days.
To all this the boy replied not,
but lay on his mat without a murmur of discontent,
until the ninth day - when he said,
"My father, the dreams tell me of evil. May I
break my fast now, and at a better time make a
"My son," replied the old man, "you know not
what you ask. If you get up now, all your glory
will depart. Wait patiently a little longer. You
have but three days more to fast, then glory and
honor will be yours."
The boy said nothing more, but,
covering himself closer, he lay until the eleventh
day, when he
"My father," said he, "the dreams forebode
evil. May I break my fast now, and at a better
time make a new one?"
"My son," replied the old
man again, "you know not what you ask. Wait patiently
a little longer. You have but one more day to fast.
Tomorrow I will myself prepare a meal and bring it
The boy remained silent, beneath his covering,
and motionless except for the gentle heaving of
Early the next morning his father, overjoyed at
having gained his end, prepared some food. He
took it and hastened to the lodge intending to set
it before his son.
On coming to the door of the lodge
what was his surprise to hear the boy talking to some
one. He lifted the curtain hanging before the doorway,
and looking in saw his son painting his breast with
vermilion. And as the lad laid on the bright color
as far back on his shoulders as he could reach, he
was saying to himself:
"My father has destroyed my
fortune as a man. He would not listen to my requests.
I shall be happy forever, because I was obedient to
my parent - but he shall suffer. My guardian Spirit
has given me a new form, and now I must go!"
At this his father rushed into
the lodge, crying,
"My son! my son! I pray you leave me not!"
But the boy, with the quickness of a bird, flew
to the top of the lodge, and perching upon the
highest pole, was instantly changed into a most
beautiful robin redbreast.
He looked down on his father with
pity in his eyes, and said,
"Do not sorrow, O my father, I am no longer
your boy, but Opeechee the robin. I shall always
be a friend to men, and live near their dwellings.
I shall ever be happy and content. Every day will
I sing you songs of joy. The mountains and fields
yield me food. My pathway is in the bright air."
Then Opeechee the robin stretched himself as
if delighting in his new wings, and caroling his
sweetest song, he flew away to the near-by trees.