Monday, May 17, 2010

Why Owl Has Big Eyes

Adapted from an Iroquois Tale

Long ago Raweno, the Everything-Maker, was busy creating various animals. He had been struggling with Rabbit for quite a while, and his patience was growing very short.  Rabbit kept making requests.  "I want long legs and long ears like a deer, and sharp fangs and claws like a panther."


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Raweno sighed, but he kept working.  "I do them the way they want to be," he grumbled.  "I give them what they ask for."  He started on Rabbit's hind legs, making them long, just like Rabbit wanted them to be.


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Owl, meanwhile, was sitting on a tree branch nearby, still unformed and not very patiently waiting his turn.  Raweno had been fiddling with various parts of Rabbit for a very long time.


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"Hoo!  Raweno!" he called.

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Raweno stopped stretching the legs and look up, clearly annoyed.  "Can it wait?" he asked.

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Owl ignored Raweno's sighs and grumbles, and spoke up.  "I want a beautiful long neck like Swan's.  And I want beautiful red feathers like Cardinal's."


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Raweno held up a hand to stop him,  but Owl was not to be deterred.  He continued.


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"I want a giant crown of plumes like heron's only bigger.  And I want you to make me the most beautiful and the fastest and the best of all birds."


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Raweno, who was behind schedule as it was and struggling with rabbit's long ears, didn't want to hear any more.  "Owl," he said.  "Turn around and look at something else for a while.  Better yet, close your eyes.  It makes me nervous when others watch me work and you're making me angry."


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He pulled at the ears some more, making them even longer, as Rabbit had requested, though he might have used a little unnecessary roughness at that point.


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But Owl wouldn't stop.  By then, he couldn't stop, so excited was he at the vision he had of his future self.  "Whoo, whoo," Owl said.  "You know what would be even better?  You could give me eyes that watch better than anyone's.  Better than Heron's or Crane's or Rabbit's.  I could have the best eyes that saw everything!"


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That did it.  Then Raweno blew up. He grabbed Owl right off the branch and shoved Owl's head deep into his body.  Then he shook Owl until Owl was afraid his eyes would be rattled right out of his head.  Owl's eyes were huge with fright.  Finally Raweno pulled at Owl's ears until they were sticking up at both sides of his head.


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"There!" said Raweno.  "That ought to teach you.  Now you won't be able to crane your neck and look at things you shouldn't be looking at.  And you have great big ears so you san listen and hear what I say when I tell you what to do.  And you have big eyes, too.  But you won't be able to watch me!"
"Why not?" asked Owl, in a very small voice.

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"Because from now on, Owl, you're on the night shift.  You'll only be awake at night and not during the day when I'm busy working."

"But, but..." said Owl.

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But Raweno wasn't finished.  "You know those red feathers you wanted?  The ones like Cardinal's?"
With that Raweno took a huge handful of mud and rubbed it all over Owl.  "You're going to have gray feathers as punishment for bothering me!"



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Owl started to speak, but he thought better of it.  The daylight was starting to hurt his eyes.  And so off he flew, looking for a nice dark home, muttering "Whoo, whoo, whoo" to himself.


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Finally Raweno turned back to finish Rabbit.  But Rabbit had heard enough.  He was terrified after Raweno's rant, and he took off, unfinished.


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And that is the reason that Rabbit's hind legs are long.  Those are the legs Raweno completed.  But Rabbit's front legs are short, because he was only half done.  That is why Rabbit hops instead of walking and running.


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Rabbit was quite traumatized by the whole experience, and never did get those claws and fangs he asked for, and as a result, he is quite incapable of defending himself.  Had he not run (or hopped) off prematurely, Rabbit would be quite a different animal.

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As for Owl, Raweno never relented and never worked his magic on Owl again.  Owl remains as he was made, with big eyes, a short neck, and ears that stick up on the sides of his head. And he sleeps all day and only ventures out at night, so that Raweno never has to look upon him again.


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While Owl can appear in many different shapes and sizes and colors, he still works the night shift.

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