The Native American Story of the Firebird
The Red Indian Fairy Book by Frances Jenkins
A Whullemooch Story
The Story of the Firebird
Very long ago the Indians of Puget Sound had no
fire. They had heard of fire but they had never
seen it. They ate all their food raw, and on
cold days sat shivering and unhappy. And they
had no pleasant lodge fire to gather around on
It happened one day, while the people were
sitting on the grass eating raw meat, that a
beautiful bird suddenly flew above their heads.
It had shining feathers, and bright eyes like
jewels, and its long, waving tail gave out rays
like the Sun. It hovered over the heads of the
people, and flew in circles around and around.
"Pretty Bird, what do you want?" said the
"I come," replied the bird, "from a beautiful
country far away. I am the Firebird, and I bring
you the blessing of heat. The rays you see
shining about my tail are tongues of flame."
"Oh, pretty Bird," cried the people, "give us
the fire, so that we may cook our food and warm
"If you wish the fire," said the bird, "you must
earn it. I cannot give it to any one who has
done a bad deed or a mean action. To-day let
each of you get ready some pitch pine. To-morrow
I will return, and then you shall see who will
get the fire." So saying, the bird flew away.
The next day it returned. "Have you the pitch
pine ready?" asked the bird.
"Yes! yes!" said all the people.
"Very well," said the bird. "Here I go! Catch me
if you can. Whoever puts some pitch pine on my
tail shall get the fire to warm himself by, and
cook his meals on, and to be a blessing to the
Children of Puget Sound forever."
Then away flew the bird close to the ground. And
away went all the people running after it,
braves and squaws, youths and maidens, boys and
girls, and little children. Helter-skelter they
ran laughing and shouting. Some tripped on
stones, others caught in bushes and scratched
themselves on thorns, and others fell into
water-holes. By and by some of the people went
back angrily to their lodges, but the rest kept
up the chase.
But no one could catch the Firebird. When one
man tried to grasp its tail, the bird cried out,
"You are too selfish, you cannot have the fire."
And to another man it cried, "You are a thief,"
and to still another, "You tell lies."
At last the bird flew toward a lodge. In the
door was a poor woman taking care of a sick old
"Pretty Bird! Pretty Bird!" called she. "I
cannot follow you now. Will you not come here
and give me your fire?"
"What good have you done?" asked the bird.
"I have done no good," answered the woman sadly.
"I have had no time for that. I must stay here
and care for my sick father, and look after my
"Kind woman," said the Firebird, "you do your
duty, so you are doing good. Bring some wood and
put it on my tail, and take the fire."
The woman hastened joyfully to fetch some wood,
and when she laid it on the Firebird's tail, the
flames blazed up. Then all the other women of
the tribe brought wood and got fire from her,
and ever after they were able to cook their meat
and warm themselves.
As for the Firebird, it flew away and they never
saw it again.
That is how the Indians of Puget Sound say they
The Story of the Firebird
This story of the Firebird is featured in the book
entitled the Red Indian Fairy Book by Frances
Jenkins Olcott published in Boston, New York by
Houghton Mifflin Company in 1917