A traditional story re-told by Andrew Wright based on the book referred to below.

A man wanted his son to become a great hunter.  He said to his son, “Son, you must live alone deep in the forest.  You must not eat for many days.  You must wait for a great spirit to come to you.  Then you will become a great hunter.

He made one lodge for the boy on the edge of the forest and another lodge deep in the forest.  He took his son to the first lodge and put hot stones in the lodge and put cold water on the hot stones, .  The lodge filled with steam and the boy went in and sat in the steam and then came out and bathed in the cold river.  He did this twice.  In this way, he cleaned his body and his mind.

Then his father took him to the second, secret lodge, deep in the forest.  This lodge was for the boy’s journey.

In the lodge was a beautiful mat; his mother had made it for him.  He lay on the mat and began his fast (no food to eat).  His father left him.
The father returned to the lodge every morning.  He said he was proud of his son.  But his son became weaker and weaker. On the eigth day he had no strength, his arms and legs could not move.  Was he going to die?

On the ninth day, the boy said, “My father, my dreams tell me that I will die.  Spirits visit me and throw dark shadows on your hopes for me.   Please let me eat.  Let me try again another time.   Now I have no more strength.”
His father did not reply.

On the eleventh day, the boy whispered again, “Please father let me eat.”
His father promised to bring food the next day.
The boy lay in the lodge and didn’t move.  Outside the lodge the trees bent in the wind and the river ran from rock to rock.  In this place the boy had grown and come to manhood with joy.  Now he lay in the lodge without moving.

On the twelth day his father came. He carried some food.  He heard his son in the lodge. His son whispered, “My father killed me.  He didn’t listen to me.  I did as he asked but I was not strong enough.  My guardian spirit is here.  He is not great but his heart is sad for me.  He will give me a new life.

His father cried, “My son!  Don’t leave me!”
But at that moment his son became a beautiful bird, an O-Pe-Che, a robin.
“Father!  Do not cry for me.  I will be happier now.  Never could I live your dreams.  I could not be a great hunter for you.  But now I will try to bring you happiness, everyday.  I will give you my songs.”
The O-Pe-Che kept his promise. He lived near the people and sang to them everyday.

Source

(A traditional Native American story adapted from Earthtales by Alida Gersie, published by Green, 1992 pages 154 to 155)

My comments

This is such a powerful and depressing story.  We adults try to mould our children into the form or a variant of the form we have in our minds.  Sometimes this moulding is on a very relaxed and minor level but at other times it is almost as extreme as in this story. 

I have only told this story to students in their upper teens with whom I can discuss the serious issues it raises.  I have to be very careful because it is not my business to pry into their family relationships.

Alida Gersie in whose book, Earthtales, I found this story uses the story for her professional counselling work.  Many people have been maimed and disadvantaged by the pressurised strivings of their parents and or teachers. 

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