THE YOUNG GIRL WHO BECAME A WOLF

It had been a long and cold winter. Food was scarce. Many of the old ones and the babies died before spring arrived. As spring came, the animals became more active in the woodlands and forests and the men went out on many hunts to find food, to make the people strong again.

The men found little. They often saw a pack of wolves on these journeys and some of the men said it was because of the wolves that game had become so scarce. During the winter, when the snows were too deep, the wolves could go where man could not, and could easily take down the deer and the moose. The deer and moose gave the people not only food to live, but their fur and hides were a necessity as well. Nothing was wasted in a successful hunt.

“It is not the wolves.” Four Steps said. Four Steps, a young warrior had been so named, for the way he often walked, as a young boy, four steps at a time. He took each thing in life slowly, looking closely, taking the time to try to understand and learn and see what he may not have seen when he first looked. “The wolves are our brothers too. They have families to feed and take only what they too need to survive.” he said to the other men.

“Listen to him!” laughed Dark Sky. “He knows all about wolves.” Dark Sky snorted in laughter, and some of the other men joined in.

“I say that as long as these wolves roam our hunting grounds, we will not have food for our familes, or hides.” Dark Sky said. “I say we should hunt these wolves. Kill them. We are hungry enough to eat wolf and it will rid them from our lands.”

“I do not agree Dark Sky.” Four Steps said.

“You do not agree? Where is the food for the people then? What will you say when we return again, empty handed while our people’s bellies ache with hunger?” Four Steps did not answer.

The men returned to the village, not entirely empty-handed. They had managed to find some rabbit and squirrel. At least there was something to eat, but not nearly enough.

The women did what they could to feed as many with the food the men had brought back to the village. Four Steps watched one young woman. She was very beautiful, the daughter of Dark Sky. How he longed to play his flute for her, but it could never be. Dark Sky would never permit it. Four Steps did not know why Dark Sky did not like him. He wished there was something he could do to change that. He knew speaking for the wolves only angered Dark Sky more.

She was called Little Flower. Little Flower knew Four Steps watched her. She would look up from her work, but did not allow him to know she too, looked at him. She liked Four Steps, even though she knew her Father did not seem to like him at all. He had no reason that she knew. Her Father was very angry after the last hunt because Four Steps had spoken for the wolves.

If her Father knew what she had done, Little Flower was afraid of what he might do to her. No one in the village knew what she had done, or where she often went. She thought about speaking to Four Steps about the wolves. But she was afraid to do that.

She finished her work and as soon as she could, she left the village and started the long walk into the deep woods. She had walked this way many times before. Finally she reached her destination and she was greeted with howls and yips and joyful nips to her arms and legs.

“Oh my friends, I have missed you this long winter!” Little Flower said.

The wolves surrounded her. “We have missed you,” one of the older wolves said. “It has been a hard winter for our pack. Many died. Wild and Free died.” It was very quiet. Little Flower sat with her friends and could not hold back her tears. Wild and Free. The leading female of the pack. Strong. A fierce hunter and fighter for her pack. A good Mother.

“My friends I am worried about you all.” Little Flower said. “My people in the village have gone hungry all winter. Food is scarce. The hunting parties have not see moose or deer but they have seen the pack. They blame all of you for no deer or moose. My own Father has spoken against you. He blames you all for this. I am afraid he will come and do harm to you. So, I have come to warn you. The pack must move on. If you remain here, you may be hunted and killed. My Father has even talked about eating the meat of your bodies. I am sorry my friends.”

“Leave? We cannot leave.” said Brown One. “This too, is our land. Our home.”

“But you must.” Little Flower said. “You might be killed.”

“We need a strong leader.” said another wolf. “Little Flower stay with us.”

“I cannot stay with you. I am not a wolf. I am not a leader.” Little Flower said. “I love you all, but how can I stay and be a leader when I am not a wolf, but a young woman? What about my own family? My Mother and Father and brothers and sisters?”

“We are your family.” another wolf said quietly. “It is time for you to know.”

“Know what?” Little Flower asked. “You look like a young woman Little Flower,” the wolf said, “but you can talk with us. You come to the pack and spend more time with us than you do with the people of the village. It is time for you to return to us forever.”

Little Flower did not know what to say. She was afraid. She did not understand. She had come here since she could first walk alone. It has been this way all her life. It was natural for her. She never gave thought to speaking with the wolves or being as one with them. It was as it was.

Suddenly, there was a loud howl. Little Flower had never heard a wolf howl in such a way. The sky began to darken and before long, day turned to night.

A dark figure came from the woods beyond the pack. The most beautiful wolf Little Flower had ever seen. Pure white, with the most beautiful fur. His eyes seemed to glow – they were of the deepest blue. As the white wolf walked toward her, suddenly, he changed and it was Four Steps! But just as quickly as he had changed from man to wolf, in the blink of an eye, he became man again.

Little Flower closed her eyes and fell into a long sleep. When she woke, it was day again and the sun was bright and warm. She moved to stand up, but she felt different. She looked down and she had strong white paws and thick fur and she stood as a wolf, on all fours.

“It is Runs Wild. You are our leader. You have taken the place of the great one of the wolves. You are Runs Wild. You are a part of us forever.”

Little Flower had become one of the pack. Their leader. In time, she forgot about her people, her family, her village. The wolf pack were her family and this land in which they lived, her village.

In the village where she had been born, and known as Little Flower, a search party looked for Little Flower for days, but never found her. Her family mourned, as did the village and her Father swore revenge. He spoke often, saying it was that wolf pack that had killed his beautiful young daughter.

Dark Sky became bitter and more angry each day. One day, he called a council of the warriors and hunters and said it was time to hunt the wolf pack and destroy it forever. He knew they had killed his daughter, Little Flower and it was because of the wolf pack the deer and moose were so scarce.

There was great debate but finally the men listened to Dark Sky and they planned a hunt to kill the wolf pack. Four Steps tried stop them, but it was no use. Dark Elk became so angry when Four Steps spoke, he wanted to fight him, but the other men came in between them. The village needed every man they had.

The hunting party went out in search of the wolf pack. They traveled many days before they found wolf tracks in the woods. Finally they discovered the pack and watched them so they could learn where they had their den. They waited till early morning and the hunting party surrounded the home of the wolf pack. A young male wolf wandered close to where the men hid in the deep woods and one raised his bow, took aim, and it hit its mark and the young wolf fell instantly dead to the ground.

The hunting party then heard a loud wail and suddenly there were many wolves gathered together, in the front, the leader, a strong, beautiful wolf, pure white as the winter snows, with eyes so blue some of the hunters could not look long at this wolf.

The white wolf then spoke in the tongue of the hunters. “Leave our home. We have done you no harm. Go and leave us in peace.”

Dark Sky raised his bow….”Stop!” shouted Four Steps. “Do not shoot Dark Sky! Do not!” Four Steps rushed forward and the two men fought. The other men seemed unable to do anything, but stand there and watch the great white wolf. Dark Sky was a strong warrior despite his age. He shoved Four Steps aside and stood up and again raised his bow, took aim, and his arrow shot forth.

He hit his mark. The beautiful white wolf that had spoken to the men in their tongue fell to the ground, dead. There was a long and deep silence. Nothing could be heard in the thick woods – not even the sounds of the birds, or the wind.

Dark Sky began to walk toward the white wolf. Suddenly he stopped. The wolf was changing before his eyes! He watched as what had once been a wolf, began to change into a beautiful young woman. He looked closer and he knew. It was Little Flower! How could this be? She was his daughter. How could she have been this white wolf?

The pack began to wail with sorrow. The other hunters stood in silence, not knowing what to say, for they were shocked at what they had seen happen before their eyes. Dark Sky walked to the now lifeless body, that which had been a wolf, his enemy, to find he had killed his own beautiful daughter. He knelt beside her and became to weep.

“I warned you Dark Sky.” Four Steps said without anger, but with deep sadness. Dark Sky looked up and he no longer saw a man known as Four Steps, but a wolf, a white wolf, just as his daughter had been before he killed her.

“We too are a family, Dark Sky. We too have children to feed and a right to live on the land. We are the wolf nation, but we are your brothers and sisters. When you killed Runs Wild, once known as Little Flower, you killed a member of your family. Let this be a lesson to you Dark Sky.”

“All living things belong to this earth. Our animal relations sacrifice themselves so men and women may live, and so we may live too. We have never taken more than we need, as have the people. But you let anger and bitterness fill your heart. You saw the wolf as your enemy. The enemy was yourself Dark Sky. You have forgotten the ways of the people and of life.”

“The pack has lost a great leader and you lost a beautiful young daughter. Let this be a lesson to you.”

Four Steps easily brushed Dark Sky aside. He laid his great wolf body across the dead form of Little Flower. The pack howled and in an instant Runs Wild lay where the form of Little Flower had once been.

The men turned and began to walk away. No one spoke. Even Dark Sky had no words. But he learned a hard lesson. A lesson of life that he would never forget. As Little Flower has been his daughter, his blood, so too was all life that lived upon the earth.

Even the wolf.

Svhyeyi Aga ©

Cherokee

October 29, 2001