Pagan Stories for Children

These are magickal tales that have touched my heart on my journey through life. A good kids introduction to myth and allegory and pre-Christian Paganism.
  • The Great Flood
  • The story of Rhiannon
  • The story of Arianrod and Gwydion
  • Ancient One
  • The first song
  • Geat and the Lady
  • The Leaf and the Wind
  • The Giant
  • The Gift
  • The Story of Etain
  • The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

    Urnapishtim's Ark.

    based on a story in the Dorling Kindersley book 'The Illustrated book of Myths'.

    The words ark, arc and boat have the same meaning. When the sun rose in the morning it was assumed to be riding across the sky in a boat, or an ark. So arc also came to mean the curve across the sky that the sun followed.

    This is the Sumerian story of Urnapishtim's ark. It shares a common theme with myths in other religions that tell of a great flood thousands of years ago that almost destroyed mankind.

    There was great unrest among the people, especially the men. There were squabbles and wars. The Gods could not sleep for the tumult. At last Enlil, the warrior, said to the Gods, "Let us loose the waters of the world and drown this rabble that disturbs our rest." And the Gods agreed.

    Even the God of wisdom, Ea was bound by the God's decision. He could not warn mankind of the flood but he whispered the secret to Urnapishtim's house of reeds and the wind in the reeds whispered the secret to Urnapishtim in his sleep: "Man of Shurrupak, tear down your house and build a boat."

    Obedient to his God Urnapishtim built a boat, long and wide, with a roof. He took into the boat his family and possessions but also the seed of all living things. He took a male and female of every living creature in the world, both wild and tame. Two by two they went onto Urnapishtim's boat.

    For six days and six nights the tempest raged, drowning the world in a fury of wind and rain. On the seventh day the storm calmed. Urnapishtim looked out from the boat but there was nothing but water on the face of the Earth. Mother Earth was covered in water as far as he could see. Urnapishtim wept - but that was just more water!

    Finally the boat ran aground on the top of Mount Nisir. Eager to find out whether the flood was going down Urnapishtim first loosed a dove, then a swallow, and then a raven. After a very long time the dove and swallow returned, exhausted, but the raven did not. It had found a resting place. The flood was going down at last.

    In his joy Urnapishtim made a sacrifice to Gods of sweet smelling incense. As soon as Enlil smelled the sweet smelling smoke he was furious. "Have some of these troublesome mortals escaped?" he bellowed. "They should all have died. Someone must have warned them."
    But wise Ea replied "The flood was too hard a fate for all humankind. This man at least did not deserve to die. However I sent him no warning. He had a dream."

    At that Enlil's anger cooled. He took Urnapishtim by the hand and sat him and his wife side by side. They knelt and Enlil touched their foreheads saying, "Until now Urnapishtim and his wife were mortal. Now you shall be as the Gods. As above, so below."

    The story of Rhiannon

    The Celts were a race who lived in Britain long ago. This is a story that the British people used to tell long, long ago about a Goddess of the Celts, the Goddess Rhiannon.

    Lord Pwyll was a powerful man who was a leader of the Celts thousands and thousands of years ago. One day he went up onto a hill which was supposed to be magickal. It was said that if you slept the night there you would see a fabulous thing. He camped on the hill with his men and put a sentry to guard them.

    In the early morning a beautiful lady came riding along the path on a beautiful white horse. And this Lady was Rhiannon. The sentry called to Lord Pwyll who told him to run in front of Her horse and stop it. But by the time the man got to the path the Lady had already ridden past. Lord Pwyll was a bit cross with the man.

    The next night they camped again and again at dawn the beautiful Lady came riding on her white horse. Lord Pwyll ordered one of his men to mount his horse and stop Rhiannon. The man rode after Rhiannon but could not catch Her. If he rode fast then She rode fast too. If he slowed down then She slowed down too, always remaining the exact same distance ahead. The man came back to Lord Pwyll and told him it was impossible for him to catch Her.

    On the third day Rhiannon came by again. This time Lord Pwyll had his own horse ready. It was the finest and fastest horse in the land. There was no way she would get away from him, he was sure. He jumped on his horse and rode after Rhiannon. But he too could not catch her. Again She stayed just the same distance ahead of him. They rode over the hills and through the valleys. He never cought Her up. When he went slow, She too went slow. When he rode fast, she too rode fast, always staying the same distance in front. Lord Pwyll dug in his spurs. Faster and faster they went. Finally his horse could run no more and it stopped. It was sweating and bleeding from Pwyll's spurs. Yet Rhiannon's horse was not tired at all. Lord Pwyll jumped off his horse and fell to his knees, calling out: "Lady! For the sake of the one you love please stop." Rhiannon answered "I will gladly stop. And it would have been better for your horse if you had asked me sooner."

    And the moral of this story? In love as in all things, you would be better to ask than to try to take.

    The story of Arianrod and Gwydion

    This is the story of Arianrhod, Bride's daughter. Her name means 'silver circle'. Her husband was Gwydion the God. She had two castles -- one in the sky, up on top of the clouds and the other on Earth in Wales. She had two children. The second child grew very fast. When he was a year old he seemed to be two years. At the age of two he traveled by himself. When he was four he was a tall as a boy of eight and was his father's constant companion. Alas Arianrod did not like this boy and would not give him a name. She laid a magic curse called a 'destiny' on the boy saying that he will never have a name until she chose to give him one. Now to have no name was, to the ancient Britons, like not having a soul. Gwydion tried to think of a way round this spell. How could he get a name for the boy.

    The next day Gwydion took the boy went down to the sea-shore. They went disguised as shoe-makers. Now Gwydion could do very good magic and he magicked a boat out of sea-weed and magicked some beautifully coloured leather out of some dry sticks. They sailed to the port of Arianrod's castle and anchored it where it could be seen. Naturally they were soon noticed and Arianrod sent someone to see who they were and what they were doing. When she found they were shoe-makers she remembered she wanted some shoes. But she didn't go down to the boat herself, she sent her messenger. Gwydion knew what size her feet were but he deliberately made the first pair too large. And the messenger took the shoes back to Arianrhod. "Go and get me a smaller pair" Arianrhod ordered. But the next pair Gwydion sent to Arianrod was too small. At last Arianrod sighed "I'd better go down to the boat myself. It's the only way I'll get the right size." And down she went. But she didn't recognize Gwydion or the boy.

    While Gwydion was measuring Arianrod's foot for the shoes a tiny wren came down and landed on the boat. The boy took his bow and shot an arrow right between the tiny bird's legs. The Goddess was amazed and said "Truly, the lion aimed with a steady hand". And that's how she accidentally gave the boy the name of Lion. Gwydion said to Arianrod "It is no thanks to you but now he has a name. He shall be called 'Llew Llaw Gyffes'" which means the lion with the steady hand.

    Arianrhod was very cross and put another destiny on the poor boy. "You will never bear arms" she said, "unless I give you them." which meant he will never have any weapons so could never be a warrier. So Gwydion magicked a huge army round the castle. Arianrhod was very frightened and said "Quick, get someone to protect us". Gwydion said "Llew will protect us if you give him a sword." So She gave him a sword. Then the army just vanished with a wave of Gwydion's hand. Arianrhod said "Where has the army gone?" Gwydion said "There was no army, I just tricked you into giving Llew a sword". And so she had broken her own curse she had laid on the boy and given him arms.

    So now she got very angry and laid another destiny on the boy. "You shall never have a wife" she shouted "unless I give you one." So Gwydion went out into the garden and picked the nine most beautiful flowers from the plants and trees and weaved them all together until he had made a beautiful Lady, and he gave her the name "Blodeuwedd" and she married Llew.

    There was just one problem with Blodeuwedd. She wasn't a real person. Real people aren't so beautiful, they aren't made of flowers. Blodeuwedd had no heart and she had no love. So Llew could never be happy.

    When the spring comes it is as if Blodeuwedd is walking over the land and the little clumps of flowers, the snowdrops, crocuses and the primroses flower wherever Her feet have stepped.

    What is this story about? Is it better to marry a real person who is not so beautiful or handseome but has a kind heart?

    Here is a poem about Blodeuwedd:

    Neither of mother or father
    When I was made
    Was my blood or body
    When I was made
    I was spellbound by Gwydion
    Great enchanter of the Britons.
    When he formed me from nine blossoms
    Nine buds of various kinds
    From primrose of the mountain
    Broom, meadowsweet and cockle
    Together intertwined
    From the bean in its shade bearing a white spectral army
    Of Earth of Earthly kind
    From blossoms of the nettle
    Oak, thorn, and bashful chestnut
    Nine powers in me combined
    Nine buds of plant and tree.
    Long and white are my fingers
    As the ninth wave of the sea.

    Ancient One

    by Joseph Bearwalker Wilson

    Ancient One sat in the shade of his tree in front of his cave. Red People came to him and he said to Red People, "Tell me your vision."
    And Red People answered, "The elders have told us to pray in this manner, and that manner, and it is important that we only pray as we have been taught for this has been handed down to us by the elders."
    "Hmmm," said Ancient One.

    Then Black People came to him and he said to Black People, "Tell me your vision."
    And Black People answered, "Our mothers have said to go this building and that building and pray in this manner and that manner. And our fathers have said to bow in this manner and that manner when we pray. And it is important that we do only this when we pray."
    "Hmmm," said Ancient One.

    Then Yellow People came to him and he said to Yellow People, "Tell me your vision."
    And Yellow People answered, "Our teachers have told us to sit in this manner and that manner and to say this thing and that thing when we pray. And it is important that we do only this when we pray."
    "Hmmm," said Ancient One.

    Then White People came to him and he said to White People, "Tell me your vision."
    And White People answered, "Our Book has told us to pray in this way and that way and to do this thing and that thing, and it is very important that we do this when we pray."
    "Hmmm," said Ancient One.

    Then Ancient One spoke to the Earth and said, "Have you given the people a vision?"
    And the Earth said, "Yes, a special gift for each one, but the people were so busy speaking and arguing about which way is right they could not see the gift I gave each one of them."
    And Ancient One asked the same question of Water and Fire and Air and got the same answer. Then Ancient One asked Animal, and Bird, and Insect, and Tree, and Flower, and Sky, and Moon, and Sun, and Stars, and all of the other Spirits and each told him the same.

    Ancient One thought this was very sad. He called Red People, Black People, Yellow People, and White People to him and said to them. "The ways taught to you by your Elders, and your Mothers and Fathers, and Teachers, and Books are sacred. It is good that you respect those ways, for they are the ways of your ancestors. But the ancestors no longer walk on the Face of the Earth Mother. You have forgotten your own Vision. Your Vision is right for you but no one else.
    Now each of you must pray for your own Vision, and be still enough to see it, so you can follow the way of the heart. It is a hard way. It is a good way.

    What do you think this story is about? What is it trying to tell us?

    The first song

    taken from the CD 'This Winter's Night' by Mother Tongue.

    Have you ever wondered why there's so much singing at Christmas? This is the story of the very first song. It's a true story just as all stories are, if you believe in them

    This story begins a long long time ago when Earth and Sun made the first beings. -- the very first plants and animals and people.

    It was springtime and the Sun shone warm and bright from His high perch above, and Earth, proud mother that She was, held and fed Her newborns and relished them with tenderness and love.

    It was a time of joy, it was a time of great delight. The Moon waxed and waned time and again in the night sky, and the children of the Earth grew well and strong through Summertime. They played and danced and Earth and Sun watched over them.

    Then Autumn came, and the Earth began to sleep much longer every day. She grew tired and pale. She could no longer feed Her children and had no strength to make new life. High above the Sun grew more distant and took longer to return each morning. The nights grew longer and cold winds blew where none had blown before.

    And then, one day, Earth went to sleep and never did wake up. She wrapped Herself in a blanket of snow and rested Her tired head on pillows of dried leaves and She did not wake up. Her children could do nothing to rouse Her from her slumber. They prodded Her, they called Her, but She would not awaken.

    In the sky, the Sun was nowhere to be seen and the children of the Earth felt fear and also felt despair. This was the longest night that they had ever known.
    "What shall become of us" they pondered. "Earth Mother sleeps, and Father Sun is oh so far away that we can barely see Him in the sky. He is much too far to hear our call. What shall we do?"

    So they brought their questions and their fears to the Moon, the sister of the Sun, for they knew not where else to turn. She closed Her eyes and took a slow deep breath and looked within Herself and awoke thoughts that had never been awakened until then.
    She opened Her soft eyes and said "When hope is lost, the best way to get it back is with a song. Climb you the tallest trees, the biggest hills and the mountains and yule a song to reach the Sun.

    Now 'yule' is a word from one of the worlds oldest tongues. It is related to words like 'yell' or 'yodel' and it means 'to call out in song'.

    But the first beings had never heard a song so once again they sought the Moon's advice. "How shall we yule?" they asked. "How shall we sing a song?"
    "Take the best of what you have," she said, "the best of what you are. Take what you love; take what you cherish most. Take your joys, your dreams, your fondest hopes and weave them all together in a sound."
    And so they did. They climbed atop the tallest trees, the mountains and the hills. They stood in all the places that would bring them closest to the Sun. They shut their eyes and thought and felt the best of thoughts and feelings and dreamt the finest dreams. And as they did their voices rang out and made a bridge of song across the sky to reach the distant Sun.

    He heard, and turned, and smiled, and wrapped Himself in all His light and warmth and sped to where the yuling voices called. As He drew near the sleeping Earth did stir and dreamed a dream of Spring. And so the wheel of life made its first turn, and hope and joy prevailed. And ever since, that time of year has been called Yule in honour of the song.

    But the first song did not end. It had such power, such allure that the first beings kept singing it throughout, and then the second beings born of the Earth took up the song, as did the third and so it ever since has gone, through years and years until this very day.

    At times the song is very soft and scarcely can be heard above the din and clatter of our lives, but when Yule comes it rises and swells in memory of that night when the Sun heard, and light and life returned.

    And so do we upon (this) that longest night gather with those we love and who love us and stand upon the body of slumbering Earth and light the log with last years and lift our voices soaring to the Sun and join the song that first was sung so very long ago.

    We sing our thanks to those who went before and sing our fondest wish to those who come after. We bask in the returning light of re-awakened hope and welcome YULE.

    Geat and the Lady

    taken from The Harper and the River Elf, in the book Spellcraft by Kathleen Herbert.

    This is based an ancient Saxon story, about a young man called Geat (pronounced Gay-at) who lived in the East of England near the River Deben in what is now Suffolk county. The Waelcyrie referred to were spirits or angels that carried the dead from the battlefield up to heaven. The Geats were a North European tribe among whom Beowolf was a hero so here the young man Geat is a refugee from that tribe.

    Geat loved to play the harp. His mother hated to hear it because Geat was not very good. So Geat went out into the fields and woods to practice. After a couple of years Geat began to get quite good at the harp. People began to like his music though Geat was never satisfied with his own playing.

    One day he was running to the sheepwalk on the heath to check on the sheep for his father. He took his harp with him, enjoying the sunshine. And he thought of girls. He knew what to do with a girl but he had not done it yet. He was shy, afraid the girls would laugh at him.

    Just then he heard girls' voices singing and laughing, somewhere out of sight, seeming to call on him to be a man. He was a long way from home; they would not know him. It would be easier first time with a stranger. The herd girls were always grateful for a tumble, he heard said.

    He arrived at a ridge above a dell. Water ran out of it, one of the streams that met lower down to become the river Deben. He crawled to the edge and looked down on a grove of aspens. The stream flowed out from among them. Its source must be at the foot of the hill. The girls were there, dancing and singing between the trees.

    There were four of them, come to dress the well. Garlands of leaves and flowers lay around it on the grass and hung over it from the aspen branches. Behind the spring, alone, was a young apple tree, pink with buds. The girls were dancing round it. They had taken off their woolen mantles and trailing gowns; they had nothing on but their smocks. Their linen was as light as morning mist; it floated round their legs, haunches and breasts rather than clothing them.

    The costly stuff and their white limbs showed him that these were not herd-girls but noblewomen. They must be daughters of Lord Helm. Geat would never dare try to romp or tumble with them; it would cost him his life. He sat down to watch their beauty. He took his harp from its bag and began to play a tune for them.

    When the girls heard the harp they looked over their shoulders, laughed, waved, blew kisses to him and went on dancing, stepping to each other in pairs, joining in a ring to circle the apple tree, breaking the ring to twirl singly, then giving hands in a chain till they paired off once more. Geat tried to pick the one he would have if he dared.

    One girl was lofty and slender, with pale hair braided back and knotted like a warrior. She had a proud, clear-cut face; there was such fierce joy in her dancing that she made him think of a Waelcyrie flying across the battlefield.

    Her partner was not so tall and moved as shyly as a bride being led by her maidens to her marriage-bed. She was as fresh and delicate as the daisies and cuckooflowers she wore in a crown on her fair curls.

    The third girl was darker and more full bodied. Her hair was the colour of beech leaves after harvest time, her lips were juicy red like ripe berries, her breasts were round and firm as apples. For a moment Geat was sorry he had not found her alone.

    Then the fourth dancer swung round to face him, coming down the chain towards him and he forgot about the other three. She was a summer's day. The blue sky, the apple buds, the sun itself seemed only reflections from her eyes, her cheeks, her hair. He wanted nothing now but to spend the rest of his life making music for her so that he could watch her dancing. He chose the songs he thought would please her, because their mood matched the summer and her looks - 'At a spring well under a thorn', 'Up sun and merry weather', 'The nightingale sings' - changing the tune every time she changed partners, never taking his eyes off her.

    He must have turned giddy and light headed from staring at her whirling round the ring. Sometimes the other three - the Waelcyrie, the flower-bride and the fruit bearer - seemed to melt into the body of the golden lady and she danced alone. Then suddenly there seemed to be as many as a dozen girls circling the apple tree. Yet whatever tricks his eyes played on him, his fingers went on playing without a pause as if the dance would go on forever.

    And as suddenly it stopped; his fingers lost their touch and the harp strings jangled into silence.

    The lady looked at her maids. "All good things must end. Come Hred, Oestre, Gyfu, it's time to be on our way." She turned to Geat.
    "Thank you Gleeman, you made good pastime for us. What's your fee?"
    "You've already paid me, lady, you let me play for your dancing."
    Hred, Oestre, Gyfu clapped their hands, laughing. The lady raised her eyebrows.
    "That's a flattering tongue. Fit for a King's Hall."
    As she spoke her face changed. He was frightened to see how stern and grim she looked. Her voice sounded harsh as a bird of prey.
    "So you're above taking pay from me? You despise my gold?"
    He felt sick to think she thought he had insulted her. He was too upset to pick his words carefully.
    "The only true gold - the only gold I want - is growing on your head. Yet I wouldn't rob you of a single hair."
    She smiled. Suddenly she grew so tall that she towered above him. She was crowned by the sun; light streamed from her limbs. Then he knew she was THE Lady, Freo, Mother of the Earth, Queen of Heaven. He crouched to his knees, bowing his head in worship.
    "So you won't take a fee? Then I'll make you a gift."
    He felt that She bent over him; Her hair brushed his head and shoulders. The harp was drawn gently from his hand.
    "Hark what I am giving you."
    She played three tunes, each very short, with just enough notes in them to fit one phrase of a song. Yet there was enough music in them to fill the world with songs.

    The first was rich with the joys of life, the fruitfulness of the Earth, the strength of beasts, the courage and pride of heroes. The second was enticing with promises of wonders to come, quests to follow, treasures and kingdoms to win. The third was sharp as a spear-thrust with longing for past happiness and lost loves. Geat felt tears well under his closed eyelids and pour down his cheeks at the sweetness of it.

    Then there was silence. He opened his eyes. She was gone. There was no-one else to be seen in the wood, the valley or the sky above except a hawk flying high and distant. The Goddess had put on Her falcon cloak; She was soaring beyond the reach of his sight. Even as he caught a glimpse of Her, She vanished.

    The Leaf and the Wind

    taken from the book "Tell Me Another Story," by Lisa Suhay to be published by Paraclete Press on Sept 1, 2001

    Leaf looked out across the broad, dawn-pink sky and down over the beautiful spring garden. The dewy breeze grazed it and left it shimmering, fluttering.

    As it moved, Leaf saw all the corners of the garden with its flowers, bushes, trees and animals. Leaf stretched to catch every sight and sound. It was a new leaf at the top of a very old tree.

    Leaf adored all the elements - wind, sun and rain. But it was in love with the wind.

    Wind gave it the freedom of motion. Without the breeze it would never have seen the world below or from side to side. Wind rocked Leaf to sleep and shook it awake. Wind made Leaf dance.

    Wind whistled haunting tunes through the branches, it whispered and sometimes it even sang.

    On many days, Wind told Leaf of the places it had been. "All across the Rivers and down to the sea have I been," whispered Wind. On that day, Leaf could even smell the scent of the water and salty places of which Wind spoke.

    "High up the mountain to the very door of Heaven today," Wind told, as the fresh clean smells settled down upon Leaf. "I have seen where the Blue-sky ends and birds cease to wing. I have heard the voice of Life itself and it is so beautiful."

    Leaf shuddered with the thought of having Life speak to it as it did to Wind. "When will life speak to me?" Leaf asked Wind.

    The breeze warmed as it blew over Leaf and Wind said softly, "You can Hear Life's voice in me."

    Whenever it blew past, be it a breeze or gale, the little green leaf waved a joyful greeting to Wind - like the hand of a happy child to a loved one.

    "I will love you for all time," Leaf whispered to the moving air around it. "I could not be happier."

    Hearing this promise Tree itself shook and emitted a deep chuckle. "I am glad you are happy now," the tree said. "Enjoy your youth and beauty while you can, for soon enough you will be withered and brown, dry as dust and blown away with by the same breeze that stirs your heart today."

    Leaf stiffened at these words. The other leaves said nothing. One or two fell like tears before their time, so stricken were they by the sadness.

    "That is not so!" Leaf cried.

    Tree shook again and said, "Oh but it is true. I have seen many, many leaves from many trees fall and crumble. Your time will come to curse the wind and the way of things. Wind is old and you are young. Ask Wind sometime."

    The tree said no more. Leaf tried not to think about what Tree had said. Of course it had heard the stories of how leaves grow old and die, but still it would never be hateful.

    That very day, Leaf made a decision. It shouted to the world, "I will Never hate Wind. I will not give in to fear or unhappiness."

    Still, the next time Wind came to call, Leaf could not help but ask. "When I become old, dry and brittle will you destroy me as Tree says," Leaf asked.

    Wind was silent for a long moment. "I will not destroy you my dear one," Wind said. "All Earthly things grow old and dry. That is not my doing."

    Leaf was shaking and Wind could see the fear beginning to overtake Leaf. Wind added, "Keep your promise not to give in to hate and sorrow and when the time comes for you to fall, I will be there to catch you. It will be a beginning and not and end for you."

    Again Leaf felt strong. "Tell me of your travels," Leaf said. Wind spoke well into the night.

    Time passed. Leaf grew and changed. At first it became very big and strong. Then, as the air grew chill, Leaf began to take on the most magnificent colors. First a yellow cast and then little patches of red and gold began to creep across it.

    "You are most beautiful today," whispered Wind. "I do not think that of all the leaves in the world there is one to match you."

    Leaf shook a bit, knowing full well that many of the others had also begun to change and take on different hues. Still, the words brought joy.

    "It is the beginning of the end for you and all your kind," Tree said. "Soon now, oh so soon, you will be nothing but a speck in the dirt."

    All the other leaves began to droop and some even tumbled from their homes early as the weight of that unhappy thought dragged them down to Earth.

    Not Leaf. "Words, words, words," Leaf laughed. "You cannot harm me with words. I choose to be happy with my fate. Others choose to be sad. The only one who will be sad when I am gone is you old tree for then who will you talk to?"

    Tree shook with frustration and anger. "You will see," Tree bellowed. "You will be dirt!"

    As days passed Leaf began to feel thin and tired. The bright colors that covered Leaf darkened to brown and Leaf knew its time grew short. Still it would not be sad because each day now Wind told Leaf of the wonderful adventures that were to come.

    Just seeing Leaf cling to happiness while all those around it fell made Tree angry. One day it could stand it no more and when Wind came to call, Tree shook for all it was worth and Leaf snapped away from its branch and began to fall.

    Tree watched and waited for Leaf to scream and cry, to realize what horror had just befallen it. Instead Tree heard the sound of laughter.

    One moment Leaf was held fast to Tree and the next it was falling, flipping end over end. "I am flying!" Leaf laughed in pure joy.

    "You are falling! Plunging," shouted Tree.

    "I am soaring like a little bird," Leaf sang out. "See how I go!"

    Leaf felt something lift it up. It was Wind come to keep its promise. "I cannot take you far right now, just to rest on the ground. No matter what happens, do not be afraid. I will return for you."

    Wind carried Leaf ever so gently to the ground and allowed it to rest there. Leaf could feel the rumble of the roots from Tree as it laughed and said," You see? Now you are ready to become like all the others. It is all just as I said. Just give up now."

    Leaf was not stirred to sadness by Tree's words. It did not answer, but lay quietly looking up at the world. It all looked so different now. After a time, Leaf nodded off to sleep and a long time passed before it woke.

    Instead of feeling old, stiff and papery, Leaf felt suddenly free to move about. It could hear wind singing softly through the trees and felt itself being lifted and spun higher and higher.

    "Did I not promise all would be well," crooned Wind. "You have become the dust of the Earth, so light and so fine that I can carry you anywhere with me."

    And so Wind did carry the dust of Leaf and scattered it over fields, onto the backs of birds that flew to mountains and into streams that led to oceans. Finally Wind seeded the clouds with the last few tiny grains that were once Leaf and Leaf came back to Earth with rains and snows.

    Everywhere it fell the remains of Leaf brought a grain of pure joy, a drop Of hope and touch of love for wind and life.

    One day in springtime Wind rustled past Tree and heard Tree telling all the young leaves about the Leaf that had loved the Wind and perished in the dirt.

    Wind came back through Tree singing a breezy tune, "Listen my children, but not to those who tell you that your fate is in the dirt. Listen to me instead. I will tell the tale of how you will become Heaven's Dust. Believe and you will never dread."

    If ever you wonder which leaves listen to Wind and not Tree, look up on a stormy day and see, which ones wave, a joyous greeting and which fall down in sorrow.

    The Giant

    This story was first told to me by an expert story-teller. It is best read out rather than read, or even better told from memory like good stories always were.

    There was once a huge giant who terrorized the people of a small city-state. The people couldn't farm because he frightened them away. He would bellow and stamp his feet and the people would run back into the city walls and close the great gates behind them.

    One day the people went to the king and said "You are our king. It is your duty to protect your people. We are starving because we cant farm." The king reluctantly agreed. He put on his armour: his chain mail, his breast plates, his shin guards, his leather glooves and helmet. He sheathed his long sword and pulled down his visor. Then he clanked up to the gates of the city. The people opened the big gates and as they creaked open he quaked in his shoes and his armour rattled. He clanked slowly through the gates.

    Suddenly there before him was the giant. The giant bellowed at him, roared and stamped his feet. The king was scared stiff but had to carry on. The people were crowded round the gates behind him, he could not go back. So he clanked forward, drawing his sword. The giant roared again, stopping him in his tracks, but he resolved to keep on and again clanked forward.

    Then he noticed something: as he got closer to the giant, the giant got smaller; closer, smaller, closer, smaller. Finally the king reached the giant, but by now he was just a tiny man on the ground below the king. The king reached down and picked him up, and said: "What is your name, little giant?" "My name is Fear", was the reply. The king put him back down again and said to him: "Go away, little giant and dont ever come back here again."

    The Gift

    A Sioux myth

    The creator brought all of his creation around him and told them: "I have a very special gift for humankind which I must hide from them until they are ready."
    The Eagle said: "give it to me. I will take it to the moon; they will never reach it there".
    The Creator said "no, they will go there".
    (and they did)
    The Salmon said: "give it to me, I will take it to the bottom of the sea".
    "No", said the creator, "they will find it there too."
    Then the Buffalo said "Give it to me. I will bury it in the middle of the great planes."
    "No", said the creator, "one day they will cut into the very skin of Mother Earth and find it."
    Then the mole, who lives in the breast of the Great Mother, who sees nothing with its eyes but sees things with its spirit, said "Put it inside of them".
    "It is done", said the Creator.

    A Faery Tale: The Story of Etain

    retold by Amanda Evans
    This retelling of the story of Etain was based on a version edited by O. Bergin and R.I. Best in 1938, printed in The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by Caitlin and John Matthews, 1994.

    Note: The Irish have legends that tell of a race of people, the Faery, who look just like normal humans, but are immortal and invisible to humans, unless they want to be seen. Pronunciations: Etain (ATE-tawn), Aengus (ANG-gus), Midir (MY-ter), Dagda (DAHG-duh), fith fath (FEE-fah), Fuamnach (FOO-ahm-nahkh)

    Once upon a time, long ago in Ireland, there lived a beautiful girl. She was the fairest maid in all the land and the daughter of a king. Her name was Etain.

    The maiden had golden tresses of hair and cheeks as red as the foxglove flower of the mountain. Her eyes were blue like the hyacinth blossom, and her skin was as white as the snow. Her body was slender, long, and soft. Etain was the most wondrous maiden that the eyes of men had ever seen.

    On a fine, spring day, a nobleman came to visit Etain and her father. He rode a white horse and wore a mantle of green. At his side, he carried a sword, and a silver shield hung over his back.

    The man dismounted and said, "Oh great king, my name is Aengus Mac Oc, and I come from the land of Faery in quest of your daughter, Etain. My foster-father, Midir, king of the Faeries, wishes to marry her." Etain's eyes grew wide with excitement at the thought of going to live with the Faeries.

    "I will not give her to you unless you meet my demand," replied the king. "You will clear for me twelve plains in my land so that they may be used for the grazing of cattle, homes for my people, and for games and gatherings and fortresses."

    Etain's heart fell, because she knew that her father's demand would take years to complete.

    "You will have that," said Aengus. "It shall be done."

    The next morning, the king's soldiers reported that the twelve plains had been cleared overnight, as if by magic. Aengus returned to Etain's father to fetch her.

    "I have asked the help of my true father, the Good God of the Faery, and your demand is met. Now I will take Etain with me," said Aengus.
    "Oh, I want to go with him!" exclaimed Etain.
    "I will not part with my dear daughter so easily," said the king. "You'll not obtain her until you make twelve great rivers to bring fish from the sea to my people." Etain thought that the Good God of the Faery must be very powerful to clear twelve plains in one night, but creating twelve rivers would be impossible.

    Again, overnight, twelve rivers appeared, coursing toward the sea. Their waters cold and full of fish, the rivers washed over the land in deep channels that had not been there the day before.

    A third time, Aengus appeared before Etain and her father. The king sighed and said, "I require the maiden's weight in gold and silver."

    Aengus left and came back with piles of gold and silver equal to Etain's weight. His men heaped it upon the floor of the king's castle.

    With great sadness, the king said to Aengus, "You have satisifed me. Take my beloved daughter to your father and his realm."

    Etain embraced her father and bid farewell to her family. Then Aengus picked her up in his strong arms and carried her to his horse. He placed Etain upon the steed's back and mounted behind her. Weaving her fingers tightly into the horse's mane, with Aengus holding both her and the reins, Etain watched her father and her sisters grow small in the distance as she was carried away from her home.

    Once the castle was out of sight, Aengus brought the horse to a stop and said, "Now I will place the Faery fith fath magic upon you so you may enter our realm and be one of us. You will feel nothing unusual, but mortal humans cannot see you unless the fith fath is lifted."

    Aengus held his hand above Etain's head and chanted,

                                        "Through the strength of sky,
                                         Light of sun,
                                         Radiance of moon,
                                         Splendor of fire,
                                         Speed of lightning,
                                         Swiftness of wind,
                                         Depth of sea,
                                         Stability of earth,
                                         And firmness of rock,
                                         I call upon the ninefold elements
                                         To make thee disappear from mortal sight."
    When he had finished the Faery charm, Aengus flicked the reins twice, and the horse broke into a gallop. Soon Etain saw a large house coming into view. It was a tall, stately manor with vast lands all around. There were wide, stone floors extending from each door and decorations of silver and crimson. When they arrived at the front gate, Aengus dismounted and Etain remained upon the horse.

    "This is your new home," said Aengus to her, "and here is my father, Midir, your husband." Etain saw a handsome, kingly man approaching. He wore a purple cape clasped with silver brooches in the shape of lions and serpents, and the crown upon his head was wrought of the purest gold.

    "Welcome, Etain, my wife!" he exclaimed as he lifted her off the horse. He then put his arm around her and walked with her in his gardens, speaking softly and sweetly to her. When they entered the house, a woman presented herself to Midir.

    "Etain," said he, "this is Fuamnach. She will show you to your chambers."

    Etain followed the woman, who, as soon as Midir had left, suddenly stopped and pointed to a chair.

    "Sit down, girl," she commanded. Etain sat. "I am the wife of Midir, and now he has brought a second woman into the house! My father is a great wizard, and I know powerful magic from him. I am much displeased with you."

    Glaring fiercely at Etain, Fuamnach walked to a corner of the room and picked up a wooden rod carved out of scarlet quickentree. She held it high over her head and then struck Etain with it. With that, Etain felt her clothing become wet, although there was no water in the room. She fell off the chair in which she sat and could no longer hold herself up. Laid flat upon the ground, her skin spread itself out on the cold stone floor, and her bones and organs melted into liquid. Etain was turned into a pool of water in that very spot in the middle of the house.

    "I must leave this place and go to the house of my father!" shrieked Fuamnach.

    Hearing Fuamnach's cry, Midir came to the place in which Etain was transformed. He grasped Fuamnach by the arm, and looked into her wild and frenzied face.

    "What have you done with Etain?" he cried.
    "She is gone. I have driven her off," replied Fuamnach, wrenching free of Midir's grip and angrily striding away.

    Midir sent swift riders to search near and far for Etain. He left the house, as it reminded him of his sorrow at losing her, not knowing that Etain was still there as a pool of water. Presently, the heat of the hearth-fire and the flowing of gentle air touched Etain on the surface of her waters. The earth moved around her, and Etain felt another transformation taking place. The fire brought her the warmth of animal life, and the air gave her breath. The earth pressed in on her, drawing out the water and making her very, very small. Etain was changed from a pool of water to a tiny worm. She crawled out of the house and found a plant with nice, green leaves to eat. After a time, she became sleepy, and she curled up under a large, flat leaf. She spun herself a silken blanket and slept for many days. When she awoke, she yawned and stretched, and two gossamer wings unfolded on her back. She had become a beautiful, purple fly. The sound of her voice was sweeter than music, and her eyes shone like jewels. Etain flew in search of her husband, Midir, and when she found him, she told him what had happened. "Fuamnach will someday pay for what she has done," he said to Etain. "Now you are with me again, my dear wife."

    Etain accompanied Midir wherever he went, over his lands and at home. Midir loved Etain, even as a fly, and took no other wife. When people came to Etain, their hunger and thirst disappeared, and the motion of her wings cured all sickness.

    In time, Midir's first wife, Fuamnach came for a visit.

    "You should not have cast your spell upon Etain," Midir said to Fuamnach. "It was a foul act."
    "I do not regret the deed I have done," replied Fuamnach, "for I would rather do good for myself than for another. I will harm Etain as long as she lives, in whatever shape she might be." Fuamnach set her eyes upon Midir's beautiful purple fly. "I know that this is Etain and that you love no other woman!" she cried.

    Furious, Fuamnach stirred up a wind of magic that blew Etain away from Midir. For seven years, Fuamnach's wind blew Etain. Whenever she tried to land upon a hill or tree, the wind blew harder and kept her away. The only rest for Etain was on the rocks of the sea and the ocean waves. After the seventh year, Etain came to the place where Midir's foster-son, Aengus lived, and she landed upon his shoulder.

    "At last I have found one of my husband's kin," she thought.

    Aengus looked down at the beautiful purple fly and immediately recognized that this was his father's wife, and he made her welcome in his house.

    "Welcome, Etain, careworn wanderer," said he. "You have met great dangers through the cunning of Fuamnach." He took her to his mansion and showed her the garden room, filled with fragrant herbs and having many windows through which the sunlight streamed. He bid her stay with him there and be happy, for Aengus was the god of the Faery who gave rest and peace to wandering souls. Etain joyfully spent her days flying in and out of the windows and resting in the sun.

    One morning when Aengus was out of the house, Fuamnach appeared. "You are loved and honored by Aengus, and I will not have that!" she screamed. She then summoned the same blast of wind that had carried Etain for seven years to take her away for seven more.

    After wandering for those seven years, Etain came to the house of a great warrior, whose wife was drinking from a golden goblet.

    Exhausted after so long with no rest, Etain thought, "I have been driven by wind from place to place with no chance for love or happiness. Am I to remain a fly for the rest of my days? If only I could have a new life and start afresh."

    Etain flew into an open window near the woman with the goblet. Her wings begain to fail, and she felt herself falling through the air. As the woman raised her cup, Etain was caught within it. The woman, not noticing, took a drink and swallowed the fly. Etain felt the warmth of the woman's body fold around her, and she drifted into a deep, deep sleep.

    Nine months later, Etain was reborn as a baby from the woman. She was raised by her new mother and kept company with the daughters of the chieftains of Ireland. When she came of age, being once again the most beautiful maiden in all the land, Etain married the king of the chieftains. When Aengus discovered that Fuamnach had worked her foul magic upon Etain, he chased the sorceress to her father's house. There Fuamnach met her death, never to harm Etain again.

    Ever heed the rule of three,
    For all you do comes back to thee.

    copyright 2003, Amanda Evans, all rights reserved
    Amanda Evans is a children's author and former school librarian. Her fantasy novel, Pentalia, written for ages 8-12, is available at

    Piper at the Gates of Dawn

    by Kenneth Grahame

    Rat and Mole are out searching for a lost baby Otter when they hear the musical call of Pan.

    “It’s gone!” sighed the Rat, sinking back in this seat again. “So beautiful and strange and new! Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!” he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.

    “Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,” he said presently. “O, Mole! The beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, now! For the music and the call must be for us.”

    Breathless and transfixed, the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid run of that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up, and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade'’ cheeks, and bowed his head and understood. For a space they hung there, brushed by the purple loosestrife that fringed the bank; then the clear imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with the intoxicating melody imposed its will on Mole, and mechanically he bent to his oars again. And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was marvelously still.

    On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition.

    A wide half-circle of foam and glinting lights and shining shoulders of green water, the great weir closed the backwater from bank to bank, troubled all the quiet surface with twirling eddies and floating foam-streaks, and deadened all other sounds with its solemn and soothing rumble. In midmost of the stream, embraced in the weir’s shimmering arm-spread, a small island lay anchored, fringed close with willow and silver birch and alder. Reserved, shy, but full of significance, it hid whatever it might hold behind a veil, keeping it till the hour should come, and, with the hour, those who were called and chosen.

    Slowly, but with no doubt or hesitation whatever, and in something of a solemn expectancy, the two animals passed through the broken, tumultuous water and moored their boat at the flowery margin of the island. In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground, till they stood on a little lawn of a marvelous green, set round with Nature’s own orchard-trees-crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.

    “This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,” whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. “Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere surely we shall find Him!"

    Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror-indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy – but it was an awe that mote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend, and saw him at his side, cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

    Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, thought the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived, and still, as he lived, he wondered.

    “Rat!” he found breath to whisper, shaking. “Are you afraid?" “Afraid!” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet – and yet – O, Mole, I am afraid!" Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

    Sudden and magnificent, the sun’s broad golden disc showed itself over the horizon facing them; and the first rays, shooting across the level water-meadows, took the animals full in the eyes and dazzled them. When they were able to look once more, the Vision had vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that hailed the dawn.

    As they stared blankly, in dumb misery deepening as they slowly realized all they had seen and all they had lost, a capricious little breeze, dancing up from the surface of the water, tossed the aspens, shook the dewy roses, and blew lightly and caressingly in their faces, and with its soft touch came instant oblivion. For this is the last best gift that the kindly demigod is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping’ the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory should spoil all the after-lives of little animals helped out of difficulties, in order that they should be happy and light-hearted as before.

    But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, and can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty of it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties; so Mole, after struggling with his memory for a brief space, shook his head sadly and followed the Rat.

    They have returned the baby Otter to his father and are going home.

    The sun was fully up by now, and hot on them, birds sang lustily and without restraint, and flowers smiled and nodded from either bank, but somehow – so thought the animals – with less of richness and blaze of colour than they seemed to remember seeing quite recently somewhere – they wondered where.

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