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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "Climbing the Mountain"

Climbing the Mountain

Here in the dry desert, of the southwestern part of our country, there lived the Cahuillan Indian Tribe, and just to the north of them, off in the distance, was the very high range of mountains we today call the San Bernardino Mountains. It was considered a great and important achievement to be able to climb this mountain, and so all the young boys of the village looked forward to the day when they were old enough that they could try it on their own.

One night, during the Fall season of the year, the Chief called all the boys together and said to them, "Now, boys, you are of the proper age to accept this challenge, and you may now all go out tomorrow and seek to climb that mountain with my blessings. Start right after breakfast, and each of you, go as far as you can, and, when you are tired, come back, but you must bring back a twig from the place where you turned."

The boys were so excited they could hardly sleep that night.

The next morning, away they all went, full of hope and dreams, each feeling that he could surely reach the top.

Soon a fat, pudgy boy come slowly back, puffing and sweating all the way. As he stood before his Chief, he showed in his hand, that he held a piece of green Beavertail Cactus. "My boy," the Chief smiled in disbelief, "I can see you did not reach the foot of the mountain. In fact you did not get across the desert to even start the climb."

An hour passed. Then another boy returned carrying a twig of Black Sagebrush. "Well," said the Chief, "I can see you did reach the mountain's foot, but you did not start to climb."

Another hour passed, and a third boy returned. He held a young Cottonwood sapling. "Good work," said the Chief, "you got up as far as the springs! Very good!"

A bit of a longer wait, and there came a boy with a part of some Buckthorn. The Chief smiled when he saw it, and said, "You were actually climbing! I can see you were up to that first rock-slide. You are a hard working boy."

Later in the afternoon, one arrived with an Incense Cedar frond.

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