The Legend of the Indian Paint Brush (retold)

      THE GREAT WARRIOR CHIEF White Eagle presented his son to the Shaman. Taking the boy into his arms, the man looked deeply into the child’s eyes. “Not every young boy grows into a great warrior,” the Shaman said to White Eagle. “You have many brave, warrior sons. But this one, this one has eyes to see. He will find his greatness elsewhere.”

The Shaman lifted the boy to the North, to the South, to the East, to the West, each time calling out the name he had chosen to give the child. Yellow Wolf.

Like the other young boys of the tribe, Yellow Wolf learned to ride the horse with skill. He learned to shoot the bow, to hunt birds and small game.

Lone Wolf loved his prairie home. He loved the speckled dots of the wildflowers blooming among the high grasses. He loved the sleek build of the antelope; the flash of white from a darting mockingbird. He loved the texture and hues of the buffalo that roamed the land. But above all, Young Lone Wolf loved the colors of the prairie sunset.

While other young braves rode their ponies, shot the long bow, or wrestled each other in the open grasses, young Lone Wolf gazed out over the prairie where the spring winds blew, bending the tall grasses and the wildflowers in ripples against the endless, blue sky. He set down his jars of paint made from crushed berries and flowers, from roots and ground stone. He picked up brushes of horse hair and rabbit fur and held a canvas of sun-bleached deerskin, stretched taunt over a frame, against his thigh. And he began to paint.

Lone Wolf painted the prairie. He painted the warrior, the buffalo hunts, the sacred dancers. All day long Lone Wolf painted, but when the sun began to set, Lone Wolf put aside his brushes, for no matter how long or how hard he tried, Lone Wolf could not find the color to paint the prairie sunset.

In his fifteenth year, as was the custom for his people, Lone Wolf went alone to the hill country. There he waited for a vision. For three days Lone Wolf fasted. He sat. He waited. Then he dreamed. A white haired grandfather and a young Indian maiden appeared to him. The old man carrying jars of paint and brushes. The young woman holding a large buckskin hide.

“These are the tools by which you will become great. You must paint so that everyone will remember the history and the legends of our people.” the old grandfather said.

“Find a buckskin of purest white,” said the young maiden. “One day, you will need it to paint the truest of colors.” As the maiden finished speaking, the white buckskin she held was emblazoned with all the colors of the fiery sunset.

Lone Wolf returned from his vision quest. He gathered his paints, his brushes, his stretched hides. He tried again to mix the colors of sunset from the berries and the flowers, from the roots and the stones of the prairie.

Day after day, Lone Wolf painted.

Day after day, Lone Wolf searched for the colors of the sunset.

    Then, one night a voice called to Lone Wolf, “Because you have been true to your vision. You will find the colors you seek. Tomorrow as the sun sets, take the deerskin to the top of the hill. There you will find what you have been looking for.”

Lone Wolf could not sleep for the rest of the night. The next day he anxiously awaited sunset. As the day faded. he raced to the hill, deer skin in tow. When he reached the top, he saw brushes everywhere. Brushes filled with the colors of the sunset. Lone Wolf gathered as many as he could hold and began to paint. Tossing aside the used brushes and plucking up new ones, Lone Wolf painted until the sun had set. Coming down from the hill, Lone Wolf could not help smiling at the beautiful painting he was bringing to his people.

By morning, the paintbrushes Lone Wolf had tossed aside had rooted. Flowers of the most brilliant reds and oranges and yellows dotted the land. And, for the very first time, the land bloomed with the colors of the prairie sunset.

The Indian Paintbrush



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