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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "The Red Swan"

The Red Swan

The thought of the magic arrows put heart in Maidwa, and he hastened with all speed to secure them.

At any other time he would have shrunk from opening his father's medicine-sack, but something prompted him to believe that there was no wrong now, and snatching them forth he ran back, not staying to restore the other contents to the sack, but leaving them scattered, here and there, about the lodge.

He feared, as he returned, that the swan must by this time have taken wing; but, as he emerged from the wood, to his great delight the air was as rosy as ever, and there, in her own serene and beautiful way, still sat the glorious Red Swan.

With trembling hand he shot the first of his magic shafts: it grazed a wing. The second came closer, and cut away a few of the bright red feathers, which fluttered and fell like flakes of fire in the water. The third, which he carefully aimed and drew home upon the string with all his force, made the lucky hit, and passed through the neck of the bird a little above the breast.

"The bird is mine," said Maidwa, to himself; but to his great surprise, instead of seeing it droop its neck and drift to the shore, the Red Swan flapped its wings, rose slowly, and flew off with a majestic motion toward the falling sun.

Maidwa, that he might meet his brothers, rescued two of the magic arrows from the water; and although the third was borne off, he had a hope yet to recover that too, and to be master of the swan. He was noted for his speed; for he would shoot an arrow and then run so fast that the arrow always fell behind him; and he now set off at his best speed of foot. "I can run fast," he thought, "and I can get up with the swan some time or other."

He sped on, over hills and prairies, toward the west, and was only going to take one more run, and then seek a place to sleep for the night, when, suddenly, he heard noises at a distance, like the murmur of waters against the shore; as he went on, he heard voices, and presently he saw people, some of whom were busy felling trees, and the strokes of their labor echoed through the woods.

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