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NATURE MYTHS and STORIES for LITTLE CHILDREN

by Flora J. Cooke

PREFACE.

Feeling the great need of stories founded upon good literature, which are within the comprehension of little children, I have written the following stories, hoping that they may suggest to primary teachers the great wealth of material within our reach. Many teachers, who firmly believe that reading should be something more than mere word-getting while the child's reading habit is forming, are practically helpless without the use of a printing press. We will all agree that myths and fables are usually beautiful truths clothed in fancy, and the dress is almost always simple and transparent.

Who can study these myths and not feel that nature has a new language for him, and that though the tales may be thousands of years old, they are quite as true as they were in the days of Homer. If the trees and the flowers, the clouds and the wind, all tell wonderful stories to the child he has sources of happiness of which no power can deprive him.

And when we consider that here, too, is the key which unlocks so much of the best in art and literature, we feel that we cannot rank too highly the importance of the myth in the primary schoolroom.

For instance the child has been observing, reading, and writing about the sun, the moon, the direction of the wind, the trees, the flowers, or the forces that are acting around him. He has had the songs, poems, and pictures connected with these lessons to further enhance his thought, interest, and observation.

He is now given a beautiful myth. He is not expected to interpret it. It is presented for the same purpose that a good picture is placed before him. He feels its beauty, but does not analyze it.

If, through his observation or something in his experience, he does see a meaning in the story he has entered a new world of life and beauty.

Then comes the question to every thoughtful teacher, "Can the repetition of words necessary to the growth of the child's vocabulary be obtained in this way?"

This may be accomplished if the teacher in planning her year's work, sees a close relation between the science, literature, and number work, so that the same words are always recurring, and the interest in each line of work is constant and ever increasing.

The following stories are suggested in the standard books of mythology and poetry, and have been tested and found to be very helpful in the first and third grades. A full list of myths, history stories and fairy tales for the children in the different grades can be found in Emily J. Rice's Course of Study in History and Literature, which can be obtained of A. Flanagan, No. 262 Wabash avenue, Chicago.

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{Flowers} CLYTIE.

Clytie was a beautiful little water nymph who lived in a cave at the bottom of the sea. The walls of the cave were covered with pearls and shells. The floor was made of sand as white as snow.

There were many chairs of amber with soft mossy cushions. On each side of the cave-opening was a great forest of coral. Back of the cave were Clytie's gardens.

Here were the sea anemones, starfish and all kinds of seaweed.

In the garden grotto were her horses. These were the gentlest goldfish and turtles.

The ocean fairies loved Clytie and wove her dresses of softest green sea lace.

With all these treasures Clytie should have been happy, but she was not. She had once heard a mermaid sing of a glorious light which shone on the top of the water.

She could think of nothing else, but longed day and night to know more of the wonderful light.

No ocean fairy dared take her to it, and she was afraid to go alone.

One day she was taking her usual ride in her shell carriage. The water was warm and the turtles went so slowly that Clytie soon fell asleep. On and on they went, straight towards the light, until they came to an island.

As the waves dashed the carriage against the shore Clytie awoke. She climbed out of the shell and sat down upon a large rock. She had never seen the trees and flowers.

She had never heard the birds chirping or the forest winds sighing.

She had never known the perfume of the flowers or seen the dew on the grass.

In wonder, she saw a little boy and girl near her and heard them say, "Here it comes! Here it comes!"

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As she looked away in the east she saw the glorious light that she had so longed for. In its midst, in a golden chariot, sat a wonderful king.

The king smiled and instantly the birds began to sing, the plants unfolded their buds, and even the old sea looked happy.

Clytie sat on the rock all day long and wished that she might be like the great kind king.

She wept when he entered the land of the sunset and she could see him no longer. She went home, but she could scarcely wait until the morning. Very early the next day her swiftest goldfish carried her to the rock.

After this, she came every day, wishing more and more to be like the great kind king. One evening as she was ready to go home, she found that she could not move her feet. She leaned out over the sea and knew that she had her wish. Instead of a water nymph a beautiful sunflower looked back at her from the water.

Her yellow hair had become golden petals, her green lace dress had turned into leaves and stems, and her little feet had become roots which fastened her to the ground.

The good king the next day sent her into many countries, into dry and sandy places, that the people might be made happy by looking at her bright face, so like his own.

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{Animals} HOW THE ROBIN'S BREAST BECAME RED.

L

ong ago in the far North, where it is very cold, there was only one fire.

A hunter and his little son took care of this fire and kept it burning day and night. They knew that if the fire went out the people would freeze and the white bear would have the Northland all to himself. One day the hunter became ill and his son had the work to do.

For many days and nights he bravely took care of his father and kept the fire burning.

The white bear was always hiding near, watching the fire. He longed to put it out, but he did not dare, for he feared the hunter's arrows.

When he saw how tired and sleepy the little boy was, he came closer to the fire and laughed to himself.

One night the poor boy could endure the fatigue no longer and fell fast asleep.

The white bear ran as fast as he could and jumped upon the fire with his wet feet, and rolled upon it. At last, he thought it was all out and went happily away to his cave.

A gray robin was flying near and saw what the white bear was doing.

She waited until the bear went away. Then she flew down and searched with her sharp little eyes until she found a tiny live coal. This she fanned patiently with her wings for a long time.

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Her little breast was scorched red, but she did not stop until a fine red flame blazed up from the ashes.

Then she flew away to every hut in the Northland.

Wherever she touched the ground a fire began to burn.

Soon instead of one little fire the whole north country was lighted up.

The white bear went further back into his cave in the iceberg and growled terribly.

He knew that there was now no hope that he would ever have the Northland all to himself.

This is the reason that the people in the north country love the robin, and are never tired of telling their children how its breast became red.

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{Insects} ARACHNE.

A

rachne was a beautiful maiden and the most wonderful weaver that ever lived. Her father was famed throughout the land for his great skill in coloring.

He dyed Arachne's wools in all the colors of the rainbow. People came from miles around to see and admire her work. They all agreed that Queen Athena must have been her teacher. Arachne proudly said that she had never been taught to weave. She said that she would be glad to weave with Athena to see which had the greater skill. In vain her father told her that perhaps Athena, unseen, guided her hand.

Arachne would not listen and would thank no one for her gift, believing only in herself. One day as she was boasting of her skill an old woman came to her. She kindly advised her to accept her rare gift humbly.

"Be thankful that you are so fortunate, Arachne," said she.

"You may give great happiness to others by your beautiful work.

"Queen Athena longs to help you.

"But I warn you. She can do no more for you until you grow unselfish and kind."

Arachne scorned this advice and said again that nothing would please her so much as to weave with Athena.

"If I fail," she said, "I will gladly take the punishment, but Athena is afraid to weave with me."

Then the old woman threw aside her cloak and said, "Athena is here.

"Come, foolish girl, you shall try your skill with hers."

Both went quickly to work and for hours their shuttles flew swiftly in and out.

Athena, as usual, used the sky for her loom and in it she wove a picture too beautiful to describe.

If you wish to know more about it look at the western sky when the sun is setting.

Arachne's work, though her colors were in harmony and her weaving wonderfully fine, was full of spite and selfishness.

When the work was finished Arachne lifted her eyes to Athena's work. Instantly she knew that she had failed.

Ashamed and miserable she tried to hang herself in her web.

Athena saw her and said in pity, "No, you shall not die; live and do the work for which you are best fitted.

"You shall be the mother of a great race which shall be called spiders.

"You and your children shall be among the greatest spinners and weavers on earth."

As she spoke, Arachne became smaller and smaller until she was scarcely larger than a fly.

From that day to this Arachne and her family have been faithful spinners, but they do their work so quietly and in such dark places, that very few people know what marvelous weavers they are.

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{Clouds} THE SWAN MAIDENS.

A

long, long time ago there was born in the east a wonderful king.

He was called "The King of the Golden Sword."

Every day he came in his golden chariot scattering heat, light and happiness among his people.

Every day he passed from his palace in the east far over to his throne in the west.

He never missed a day for he wanted to see that everyone had a full share of his gifts.

Throughout the kingdom the birds sang and the flowers bloomed. The sky was full of beautiful pictures which were constantly changing.

The king had many daughters who were called swan maidens.

They were as graceful as swans and usually wore white featherlike dresses.

The swan maidens loved their good father and each one longed to help him in his work.

Sometimes the king saw that the grass was brown or the buds were not coming out.

Then he called the swan maidens to him and said, "My children, this must not be. There is nothing more beautiful in the kingdom than the green grass and the trees. They need your care."

Gladly each maiden changed her dress and set out at once on her journey. Often they could not all work upon the grass and the buds.

Some of them ran off to play with the stones in the brook. The best ones went down to feed the roots and worms, and worked out of sight.

When their tasks were finished they always hurried back to their father, the king.

They went so noiselessly and swiftly that for a long time their way of travelling was a mystery.

In the fall, the king called the bravest swan maidens to him. He told them they must go away for a long time.

The swan maidens wrapped themselves in white, feathery blankets and came softly down to the shivering flowers.

Gently they placed a white spread on the earth and left no small seed uncovered.

At last, when the king smiled and their work was done, they stole away so softly and happily that no one missed them.

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{Trees} THE POPLAR TREE.

O

ne night, just at sunset, an old man found the pot of gold which lies under the end of the rainbow.

His home was far beyond the dark forest, through which he was passing.

The pot of gold was heavy, and he soon began to look for a safe place in which to hide it until morning.

A poplar tree stood near the path stretching its branches straight out from the trunk.

That was the way the poplar trees grew in those days.

"Ah," said the man, "This tree is the very place in which to conceal my treasure.

"The trees are all asleep, I see, and these leaves are large and thick."

He carefully placed the pot of gold in the tree, and hurried home to tell of his good fortune.

Very early the next morning, Iris, the rainbow messenger, missed the precious pot of gold.

She hastened to Zeus and told him of the loss.

Zeus immediately sent Hermes in search of it.

Hermes soon came to the forest where it was hidden.

He awakened the trees, and asked them if they had seen the pot of gold.

They shook their heads sleepily, and murmured something which Hermes could not understand.

Then Zeus himself spoke to them. "Hold your arms high above your heads," he said, "that I may see that all are awake."

Up went the arms, but alas, down to the ground came the pot of gold.

The poplar tree was more surprised than any one else.

He was a very honest tree and for a moment hung his head in grief and shame. Then again he stretched his arms high above his head, and said, "Forgive me, great father; hereafter I shall stand in this way that you may know that I hide nothing from the sun, my king."

At first the poplar tree was much laughed at.

He was often told that he looked like a great umbrella which a storm had turned inside out.

But as years went by every small poplar was taught to grow as fearless, straight and open hearted as himself, and the whole poplar family became respected and loved for its uprightness and strength.