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Eskimo Stories

Animal Stories Of The North

Translated by Fainna Solasko
Illustrated by Y.Rachov

Why Owl Has A Spooky Voice

An Eskimo Story told by Kivagme

Snowy Owl is the most beautiful bird in the tundra, isn't she? Do you want to know why she has such an awful voice? Then listen to this story.

In days long, long gone the northern lights could sing. As soon as night fell and the air became as cold as ice they would begin to sing. It was a beautiful song, but there was no one to hear it, for at night all living creatures were asleep. In those days the birds did not sing at all. Anipa the Owl was a very envious bird. Once she set out to where there were people, saying to herself as she flew along:

"People discovered fire. They made bows and arrows, and knives of stone. They're smart. They can do anything. And they sing fine songs. I'll see what I can learn from them."

Anipa flew to the biggest tent, perched outside and listened. It was nighttime. The village was asleep, but she could hear a voice inside the tent.

A shaman lived in that big tent. He was making magic. He beat his tambourine, hopped about, waved his arms and shouted hoarsely, "Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!"

Anipa became excited, beat her wings, hopped up and down and repeated the sounds the shaman had made: "Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!"

Eskimo Stories

From then on no owl could make any other sound. All the other birds went off to Wise Apaipaiyek the Spider.

"Help us, Great Old Man," they pleaded. "You've given us bright feathers, but we want to sing beautifully as well."

"That's being greedy," Apaipaiyek chided. "That s not nice at all. You want to have lovely feathers and beautiful songs. That'll leave nothing for the others."

The birds talked this over among themselves and then said, "Let us exchange. We'll give the northern lights the colors of our feathers, and you give us the northern lights' songs. They don't need them as much as we do, because no one listens to them anyway. When they roam the sky at night, all the beasts and all the people are sound asleep. No one will ever change this order of things."

The birds finally had their way. Although ever since then the northern lights have been all the colors of the rainbow, lighting up the sky at night, there is no sound to all this bright beauty. But the plain-looking birds of the tundra sing songs that are cheerful and gay.

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