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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "Even a Grass Plant Can Become Someone if it Tries"

Even a Grass Plant Can Become Someone if it Tries

Near the mouth of the Yukon grows a tall, slender kind of grass which the women gather and dry in the fall and use for braiding mats and baskets and for pads in the soles of skin boots.

One of these grass stalks that had been almost pulled out by the roots when the women were gathering others, did not like the fate in store for it.

"Why should I stay on in this shape and never become anything but a pad in the sole of a boot to be trodden on forever? It must be nicer to be the one who treads on the pad; but since I cannot be that, I will at least be something better than grass."

Looking about, it spied a bunch of herbs growing close by, looking so quiet and unmolested that the grass stem said, "I will be an herb; that is a higher and safer life than this."

At once it was changed into an herb like those it had envied, and for a time it remained in peace. But one day the women came back with baskets and picks and began to dig up these herbs and eat some of the roots, putting others into the baskets to take home. The changed plant was left standing when the women went home toward evening, but it had seen the fate of its companions.

"This is not very safe either, for now I should be eaten. I wish I had chosen some other form," it said.

Looking down, it saw a tiny, creeping vine clinging close to the ground. "That is the thing to be," it said. "That is so obscure and lowly that the women will never notice it. I will be a vine like that."

Without delay it became a little squawberry vine nestling under the dead leaves. It had not lived in peace and seclusion very long before the women came and tore up many of the vines, stopping just before they reached the changeling, and saying, "We will come back to-morrow and get the rest."

The one-time grass plant was filled with fear, and changed itself quickly into a small tuber-bearing plant like some that were growing near. Scarcely had the change been made when a small tundra mouse came softly through the grass and began digging at a neighboring plant, holding up the tuber in its paws and nibbling it, after which the mouse crept on again.

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