A Legend of Flowers
Long, long ago the great Byamee left the earth and went to dwell in the far-away land of rest, which was beyond the tops of the Oobi Oobi mountain. The earth became a dull and desolate place after he left it, for all the flowers that brightened the plains and hillsides ceased to bloom.
And since there were no blossoms the bees could no longer make honey for the earth children. In all the land there were but three trees where the bees lived and worked; and no one ever touched these sacred trees, because they belonged to Byamee.
The children cried for honey, and the mothers took little bark baskets into the woods to search for the sweet food. But they returned with empty baskets and said, “There is no honey except on the sacred trees. We will never touch Byamee’s honey.”
This obedience pleased the Great Spirit very much and he said, “I’ll send the earth children a food as sweet as the honey for which they hunger. It shall flow from the Bilbil and Goolabah trees.”
Soon were seen white, sugary specks on the shining leaves of these trees, and then came the clear manna, which ran along the branches and down the trunks, and hardened into sugar. The children were delighted with the sweet food, and all the people were thankful for Byamee’s gift.
But they were not satisfied, for they still wished to see the plains and hillsides covered with blossoms. So deeply did they long for the beautiful flowers, which had left the earth, that the wise men finally said, “We will travel to the land of Byamee, and ask him to brighten the earth again with flowers.”
They kept the plan and purpose of their journey a secret from the tribes, and sped away to the northeast. On and on they journeyed until they came to the foot of the great Oobi Oobi mountain, whose summit was lost in the clouds of the sky. They walked along the base of its rocky sides, wondering how they could scale the steep ascent when suddenly they spied a foothold cut in a rock, and then they noticed another step and still another. Looking carefully upward, they saw a pathway of steps cut as far as they could see up the mountain side. Up this ladder of stone they determined to climb. On and on they went, and when the first day’s ascent was ended the top of the mountain still seemed high above them. They noticed, too, that they were climbing a spiral path, which wound round and round the mountain. Not until the end of the fourth day’s climb did they reach the summit of this mighty mountain.
And from a basin in the marble there bubbled forth a spring of clear, sweet water, which the wise men drank eagerly. Their hard journey had almost exhausted them, but the cooling draught filled them again with new life. At a little distance from the spring they saw a circle of piled-up stones. They walked to the center of it, and a voice spoke to them.
It came from a fairy messenger of the Great Spirit.
“Why have the wise men of the earth ventured so near to the dwelling of Byamee?” asked the spirit voice.
And the men answered, “Since the great Byamee left the earth no flowers have bloomed there. We have come to ask for the gift of flowers, because the earth is very dreary without their gay colors.”
Then the fairy messenger’s voice said, “Attendant spirits of the mountain, lift the wise men into the abode of Byamee, where fadeless flowers never cease to bloom. Of these blossoms, wise men, you may gather as many as you can hold in your hands. After you have gathered the flowers the attendant spirits will lift you back into the magic circle on the summit of Oobi Oobi. From this place you must return as quickly as possible to your tribes.”
As the voice stopped speaking, the men were lifted up through an opening in the sky and set down in a land of wondrous beauty. Everywhere brilliant flowers were blooming, and they were massed together in lines of exquisite colors, which looked like hundreds of rainbows lying on the grass. The wise men were overcome by the marvelous sight, and they wept tears of joy.
Remembering what they had come for, they stooped down and gathered quickly as many blossoms as they could hold. The spirits then lifted them down again into the magic circle, on the top of Oobi Oobi.
There they heard again the voice of the fairy messenger who said, “Tell your people when you take them these flowers that never again shall the earth be bare and dreary. All through the seasons certain blossoms shall be brought by the different winds, but the east wind shall bring them in abundance to the trees and shrubs. Among the grasses, on plains and hillsides, flowers shall bloom as thick as hairs on an opossom’s skin. When the sweet-breathed wind does not blow,—first to bring the showers and then the flowers,—the bees can make only enough honey for themselves. During this time manna shall again drop from the trees, and it shall take the place of honey until the east wind once more blows the rain down the mountains and opens the blossoms for the bees. Then there will be honey enough for all. Now make haste and take this promise and the fadeless flowers, which are a sign of it to your people.”
The voice ceased and the wise men, carrying the fadeless blossoms, began the journey back to their people. Down the stone ladder, cut by the spirits of the mountain, they went,—across the plains, over the moors,—back to the camp of the tribes. Their people flocked around them, gazing with wide-eyed wonder at the blossoms. The air was filled with a delicious fragrance, and the flowers were as fresh as when they were plucked in the land of Byamee.
When the people had gazed for some time at the beautiful flowers and had heard the promise sent to them by Byamee, the wise men scattered their precious gift far and wide. Some of the lovely blossoms fell on the tree-tops, some on the plains and hillsides, and ever since that far-off day the earth has been blessed with the gift of flowers.
From The turquoise story book; stories and legends of summer and nature, by Ada M. Skinner and Eleanor L. Skinner.New York: Duffield & Company, 1918.