Once upon a time, when animals could talk, a bear was walking through the woods. This big, strong bear was much like other bears – he thought he was pretty important.
“I can do anything,” Bear mumbled to himself as he foraged for food.
Just then, tiny Chipmunk overheard him, and feeling bold said, “Really? Are you sure?”
“Of course,” Bear said, huffing. To prove it, Bear knocked over a huge log with his giant paw. “See, that was easy. I am the strongest of all the animals. They are all afraid of me. I can do anything.”
Chipmunk asked, “Can you keep the sun from rising tomorrow?”
“I haven’t tried that before,” said Bear. After thinking a minute he said, “Yes. I’m sure I can. I could do it.”
“You think so?” asked Chipmunk.
“Yes. I am certain. I’ll show you tomorrow morning. There will be no sunrise.” And Bear looked to the east, and sat down to wait for the morning.
It grew later and later, the sun set in the west, and Bear waited. Chipmunk went to bed, snuggled tight in his hole in his bed of leaves, and thought merrily of how Bear would be disappointed in the morning. Bear simply waited, and convinced himself of his mission.
Morning came, and the sky in the east began to lighten, just as it did every morning. The animals all began to wake, and the birds began chirping. Bear mustered all of his will.
“Stay in bed, Sun,” said Bear. “You will not rise today. I, Bear, have said so. So it will be.”
But the Sun did not listen, and rose just as it always did. Bear was angry, but Chipmunk laughed at him. “You’re not as strong as you think you are,” said Chipmunk. “The Sun is stronger than you are!”
Chipmunk’s laughter got louder and louder, and his tittering was beginning to get attention from the other animals. Chipmunk was howling with amusement, over and over again yelling, “See Bear? The Sun came up anyways! Do you see?”
As fast as a flash, Bear reached out and trapped Chipmunk under his massive paw. “I may not have stopped the sunrise,” said Bear, “but you will never see the sun rise again.”
Chipmunk wasn’t laughing anymore. “Bear, I was only teasing. You are so strong, so quick… you are the greatest of all the forest animals. Please take pity on me. It was only a joke.” But Bear held Chipmunk to the ground.
“Bear, you’re right. I deserve to die for the awful things I said about you,” said Chipmunk. “I’m ready to pay for my behavior. Just, please let me say one last prayer before you eat me.”
“Be quick about it,” Bear said. “It’s time you were punished!”
“I will be as quick as I can,” Chipmunk said. “But I cannot breathe. Your huge, strong paw presses down on me so I can hardly squeak. If you would lift your paw a tiny, tiny bit, then I could have enough breath for my prayer. Then you can eat me.”
Bear lifted his paw just a tiny, tiny bit – and Chipmunk jumped. He wiggled himself free and dashed for his nest. Bear tried to catch him, and swung a giant paw at him. Chipmunk escaped, but not before Bear left three long scratches down his back.
To this day, all chipmunks wear pale scars down their back to remind them of the trouble that can come from making fun of another animal.
He built a small cooking fire just off the road in the center of town, and put his cooking pot on it. He filled the pot with water.
As he waited for the water to boil, some villagers stopped and asked him what he was doing. “I’m making Stone Soup,” he said. “It’s an ancient and mystical recipe handed down through my family.” Then, he took a round stone out of his pocket and dropped it into the pot.
The traveler started to tell stories of all of the places he had been and the interesting things he had seen. Several villagers stopped to listen to him, and the traveler began to attract a crowd. The traveler kept telling stories, only to stop to taste his soup. “Hmm… coming along nicely,” he said. “A little salt would really help bring out the flavor.” A village woman scurried off to get some salt, curious.
The traveler continued to tell stories, of ships and animals and long distances on the plains. More villagers gathered, and the traveler would only stop to taste the soup. “Delicious… but an onion and a few carrots would really make it perfect.” A villager that had an onion and some carrots to spare ran to his cellar to get them.
The traveler went on with his stories, of kings and battles and secret treasures. Every few minutes he would stop, and taste, and comment. “A piece of beef might really be delicious.” “Perhaps some celery…” Each time a curious villager would run home and come back with a new ingredient.
Finally, the soup was ready. The traveler was gracious enough to share the soup with all of the villagers – a delicious magic soup made only with a stone.
Raccoon was heading home after a night of hunting when he passed Raven’s home in the forest. Raccoon noticed that Raven was just inside the house, and as he passed he caught a glimpse of five beautiful silver rings – rings that Raven had stolen and stashed away for safekeeping. Raccoon instantly wanted the rings, and was determined to get them.
Later that night, after it grew dark, Raccoon put his plan into motion. He put on a mask to hide his face, and lit a torch to carry under his chin. You can imagine how scary he looked! He snuck quietly up to Raven’s home, and started to make eerie sounds at the windows. “Ooooh! Ohohohooooh!” he cried.
Raccoon thought that Raven would be scared and run away, but instead, Raven ran straight out to meet the intruder. Raccoon had to change his plan, and so he led Raven into the woods with his spooky sounds, then creeped back to the house while Raven was searching the woods.
Raccoon opened Raven’s trunk and found the five rings, even more beautiful than he had thought! He was ready to run off with them when he realized he couldn’t carry all five rings and the torch. Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of his tail and an idea came together – he slid all five rings onto his tail, and made off into the night.
The next day, Raven realized his trunk had been moved. When he opened it, he knew that he had been tricked – that one of the forest animals had taken his beautiful rings. Raven went to each of them – Bear, Owl, Eagle, Chipmunk – but none seemed to know anything about the missing rings. Finally, Raven visited Raccoon.
“Hellooo, Raccoon,” said Raven.
Raccoon met him gruffly. “I was sleeping, Raven,” he said, “What do you want?”
“Someone has taken five silver rings from me,” Raven said. “Do you know anything about that?”
“No, I don’t. May I go back to sleep now?” Raccoon retorted.
“Are you sure?” Raven asked.
“I’m certain. And I’m tired. Why don’t you leave me be?” Raccoon said.
Raven apologized and thanked Raccoon, but when Raccoon turned to go back to bed, Raven saw five dark rings of tarnish on his tail.
“Ah hah!” Raven said. “It was you!”
Raccoon apologized and admitted what he had done, but Raven didn’t think that was enough. “From now on,” Raven said, “you will bear the marks of what you have done. Your face will show the mask with which you hid yourself, your hands will be blackened by the soot from your torch, and your tail will always be tarnished by what you stole.” And so it was.
Raccoon never stole from Raven again, but he’s never really stopped his thieving ways. He still comes to us in the night, looking for things he can take, wearing his bandit’s mask.
Just then, an ant passed by, working very hard to carry an ear of corn to his nest. The grasshopper was so enjoying his day that he called out to the ant, “Hey! Why are you working so hard? It’s a beautiful day! Come enjoy the sunshine with me!”
The ant called back, “We need to store food for the winter. In not so many days, it will be cold, and we will be hungry.”
The grasshopper thought that was silly. “Why, there’s plenty of food!” he cried. He went back to lazing in the sunshine. The ant shook his head, and went back to work.
The next day, it was again sunny and the grasshopper decided to visit the riverside. He bounded from leaf to leaf over the crisp cool water, not a care in the world. Once again, he saw the ant pass by. This time, the ant was carrying a large leaf. The grasshopper called out again, “Hello friend! Why are you working so hard again today? Come sit in the shade and enjoy the sound of the river!”
Once again, the ant refused. “These pretty days are not so many, Grasshopper. Soon, the cold will come. We must be ready.” The ant returned to his work.
On the third day, when the grasshopper awoke, the sun was not shining. It was not warm. Winter had come overnight, and the ground was frozen and covered with snow. The grasshopper shivered. And as he looked for food to eat, he found nothing.
He walked for hours through the snow, searching for food and shelter. As he walked, he passed the ant’s nest. Inside, he saw ants warm and happy, and sharing a delicious looking meal. It was then that he understood that the ant was right all along – not all days are sunny.
The ant turned then and saw the grasshopper freezing and hungry. He felt pity for the poor grasshopper. “Come, friend,” he called. “There is room here, and there is food. I’ve saved enough for many seasons. Come in and eat.”
And so the grasshopper was welcomed into the ant’s home, and the ant’s preparations kept the ant, his family, and the grasshopper warm and fed the whole winter long.