This story is attributed to an old Native American legend that has been passed down through time. A friend of mine shared it with me, and I thought it beautiful enough to post here. It was originally posted as a part of my “Yule Series” discussing the days of Winter which occur in December and January. While the story itself is not my own original writing and could possibly be found via other sources and thus considered to be within public domain… the fact remains – this post is part of Deaf Pagan Crossroads. Please respect it as such.
Once upon a time, when winter was fast approaching and all the birds were all leaving for warmer areas, one little bird started off on the flight; only to injure her wing, forcing her to fall behind from the flock. In vain the little bird struggled to keep up, but it soon became apparent that she was not going to be able to complete her journey. Slowly she descended down into the forest, landing on the cold ground. The skies turned dark and gray, and soon snow and frost was covering the forest.
The little bird was cold and hungry, and she was also scared and lonely. Thus she decided to ask the trees for their help, to provide her with sanctuary that she might stay within their branches and heal from her injury.
But the trees were not kind.
The birch tree with its white bark rose to its full height, stating that it was proud of being the most beautiful tree in the forest, and in a snooty voice and haughty manner replied to the bird’s pleas by saying that it could not possibly help her because it had to spend the day looking good and maintaining its role as leafed royalty of the woods.
The strong oak tree expressed its reluctance to help, fearing that the little bird would stay in its branches all winter until spring, and therefore would eat up all of its acorns and there would be none left to propagate new oak trees in the coming year.
Even the gentle and graceful willow tree refused to help or even talk to the little bird, stating that it would not talk to strangers.
The poor little bird was in much pain and distress. Seeing that none of the trees seemed willing to come to her aid, she attempted to take off into the air and fly some more, but her injured wing was not fit for such a task, and down she came again. Landing in the cold snow, she bowed her head down and began to weep.
Then a voice spoke out:
“Little bird, why are you crying?”
Looking up, the little bird saw a spruce tree looking down at her kindly, appearing quite concerned. Feeling a little comforted, she responded:
“I have injured my wing, and I cannot fly south to join my flock in the warmer climate. I fear I will have to remain here for the winter, but I cannot find a place to stay.”
Touched by the little bird’s plight, the spruce tree offered her the thickest, softest and warmest branch to stay. The little bird was truly glad to find some help within the big dark forest, and she snuggled down within the spruce tree’s branches.
Inspired by the kindness of the spruce tree, the big and strong pine trees and fir trees also spoke up, volunteering to surround the spruce tree and protect it and the little bird from the cold winds all through the winter. The little juniper tree and the holly tree offered their berries to the little bird to quench her hunger.
So as the cold winter raged on, the little bird lived comfortably within her own special little grove, until spring came once again to the forest. Her wing was now healed and she was ready to fly away to rejoin her flock. And yet, the little bird was sad at the thought of having to leave her new friends, who had come to her aid at a most distressing time.
“Thank you my friends, for all your help. I wish there was some way that I might be able to repay you for your kindness.”
And then a gentle feminine voice rang out through the forest:
“Your wish shall be granted, my little feathered one… your friends shall indeed be rewarded.”
Appearing before the trees was the Earth Goddess herself – the Mother of All Living Creatures. All of the trees were in awe to see her standing before them, and even the little bird could hardly believe her eyes.
“I watched this little bird at the beginning of the Dark Year, when she struggled to journey to where the sun stays warm. I saw her weep in pain and fear. I heard her pleas for help. And yet, some of you failed to come to her aid. But others of you gave of your help, and for this kindness you shall be duly rewarded.
The birch tree, the oak tree, the willow tree, and the others of the forest who turned away from one of my creatures in her time of need shall find that during the cold season, you shall stand stark and naked in the forest, for I shall pluck your shining green leaves off you and leave you with nothing to protect you from the snow, freezing rain, and frigid winds, as a reminder of your needless pride and refusal to help.
But to the spruce and the pine and the fir and the juniper and the holly… you shall be remembered at this time for your love and caring, and thus shall you keep your leaves throughout the winter, and remain always warm and protected, in the same way that you kept this little bird warm and protected.”
And thus it is that still today; such trees as the pine, the fir, the spruce, the holly and the juniper are known as “evergreen trees.”