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Evergreen tree

This happened a long, long time ago, when the cedar, the fir, and the pine still had needles that yellowed and dropped in the autumn instead of staying green all winter.

One day, in those olden times, a hunter went out into the woods to catch something for his tribe. He was the cleverest and bravest hunter of his tribe, but game was scarce, and so he walked and walked. He went farther than any hunter had ever dared to go, until he saw a bog so vast that no beast could have crossed it, no bird could have flown across it, only the frogs would be able to see what was on the other side, and they weren't telling. The hunter thought to himself: If the animals here can't cross this bog, what kinds of animals might live on the other side?

The more he thought about it, the more curious he became.e.org/images/stories/tree.gif

"I must find out," he said to himself. "Whatever happens, I must get to the other side."

And so he took a good running start, and leapt clear across the bog. He looked around in excitement, but everything looked the same: the same earth, the same grass, the same trees. "Silly me!" he said. "There was no need to risk my life."

Suddenly his mouth dropped open with wonder. In a little clearing stood seven rabbits.  They were standing quietly, waiting, but they were harnessed like horses.

Suddenly seven people came out of seven burrows in the earth, exactly like all people, only they were tiny, miniature people. In fact, only when the rabbits flattened their ears, were these little people taller than the rabbits, but when the rabbits' ears stood up, the people were smaller than the rabbits.

"Who are you?" asked the hunter.

"We are the people," said the tiny men. "We are immortal.  We wash ourselves in living water, and we never die. And who are you? "

"I am a hunter."

The little men clapped their hands with joy.

"Oh, good! Oh, good!" they cried in chorus

And one of them, the eldest, with white hair and a long white beard, came forward and said:


 

"A terrible, huge beast has come into our land. We don't know where it came from. The other day it caught one of our people and killed him. We are immortal, we never die ourselves, but this beast killed one of us. You are a hunter---can you help us in this trouble? Can you hunt down the beast?

"I don't see why not." answered the hunter, but to himself he wondered: "Will I be able to kill such a frightful beast?"

However, he was a hunter, the best of his tribe, and so he went out to track the beast. He looked and he looked, but could find nothing except the footprints of rabbit. Just as he was about to give up, suddenly, among the rabbit prints, he noticed the track of a sable.

"Oh, that's too fine a quarry to miss" he said. "First I will trap the sable, and then I'll go on looking for this terrible, huge beast.

"He found the sables tracks, set a trap and killed it. Then he skinned it and went on with his search. He walked the length and breadth of the little people's land, but could not find any trace of the beast. Disappointed he came back to the little people and said to them: "I could not find your terrible, huge beast. All I have found was this sable." And he showed them the little sable skin.

"That's it, that's it! "they cried. "Oo-h, what a huge skin, what thick paws, what terrible, sharp claws" And the eldest of the little men said to the hunter, "You have saved us and our people! And we shall pay for your kindness with kindness. Wait for us and we will come to visit you and bring you living water.

You must wash in it and you will become immortal too."

Excited at the prospect of immortality, the hunter jumped back across the bog and went back to his valley and told his people about the little men.

The tribe began to wait for their guests, the immortal little men. They waited one day, two days, three days, many, many days. But the guests did not come, and the tribe forgot about them and their promise.

Winter came. Everything around was frozen. And the bog was covered with a coat of ice.

One day the village women went to the woods to gather firewood. Suddenly they saw a little herd of rabbits galloping their way. They looked again, and saw that every rabbit was saddled, and in every saddle sat a tiny man with a little pitcher in his hands. The women burst out laughing at the sight...


 

"Look, look!" they cried to one another.

"They are riding on rabbits!"

"And look at the little men, how funny!

"Oh, what a joke!"

"Oh, I'll die laughing!"

Now, the immortal people were a proud race. They took offense at this reception. The one in front, with white hair and a long beard, shouted something to the others, and all of them spilled out the contents of their pitchers onto the ground. Then the rabbits turned and hopped away so fast that you could only see their white tails flicker.

And so the tribe never got the living water. It went instead to the pine, the cedar, and the fir. And this is why they are fresh and green all through the year. They are the evergreens.