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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "Sheem, the Forsaken Boy"

Sheem, the Forsaken Boy

On a certain afternoon the sun was falling in the West, and in the midst of the ruddy silence a solitary lodge stood on the banks of a remote lake. One sound only broke, in the least degree, the forest stillness—the low breathing of the dying inmate, who was the head of a poor family. His wife and children surrounded the buffalo robe on which he lay. Of the children, two were almost grown up—a daughter and a son; the other was a boy, and a mere child in years.

All the skill of the household in their simple medicines was exhausted, and they stood looking on or moved about the lodge with whispered steps, awaiting the departure of the spirit. As one of the last acts of kindness, the skin door of the lodge had been thrown back to admit the fresh air of the evening. The poor man felt a momentary return of strength, and raising himself a little, he addressed his family.

"I leave you," he said, "in a world of care, in which it has required all my strength and skill to supply you food, and to protect you from the storms and cold of a harsh climate."

He cast his eyes upon his wife, and continued:

"For you, my partner in life, I have less sorrow, because I am persuaded you will not remain long behind me; but you, my children! my poor and forsaken children, who have just begun the career of life, who will shelter you from calamity? Listen to my words. Unkindness, ingratitude, and every wickedness, are in the scene before you. It was for this that years ago I withdrew from my kindred and my tribe to spend my days in this lonely spot. I have contented myself with the company of your mother and yourselves, during seasons of very frequent scarcity and want, while your kindred, feasting in plenty, have caused the forests to echo with the shouts of successful war. I gave up these things for the enjoyment of peace. I wished to hide you away from the bad examples which would have spoiled your innocence. I have seen you, thus far, grow up in purity of heart. If we have sometimes suffered bodily want, we have escaped pain of mind.

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