The Song of Little Crow
The world keeps turning
Listen to the sound
of the world turning round -
It's only a little crow, not a big one. A girl-crow, not one of your big boys. Still, a crow's a crow, no nightingale, no robin redbreast, the real thing - black, fierce, a crow. Say hello to Little Crow. Hello! Do you like her? Some think she's not very pretty. I like her. She's not afraid of anything. Just look at those feathers! Strictly waterproof. That beak, strong enough to nip your finger right off if you try anything funny. And the wings are absolutely real - this crow flies.
Where do you come from, Little Crow? Who were your father and your mother? Who your sister and your brother? Ah! That's one of Little Crow's secrets - she has lots of secrets, and that's one. She's not going to tell you, or if she's in a talking mood she'll give you a different story for every day of the week, for every week of the year. Last Monday, for instance, she was born inside a black volcano - her father was old Vulcan himself, her mother a falling star that happened to fall right into the volcano's wide open mouth. Down the smoky gullet went the star. Only moments later in a shower of sparks up flew Little Crow. 'That's where I got my fiery temper,' she says, and laughs aloud. Little Crow is always laughing. She has lots of stories like this. She has as many stories as there are stars in the sky.
Sometimes when the nights are very bright and a cold wind blows Little Crow goes for a walk across the sky. The stars are hard little stones under her feet, she steps carelessly from one to another, right up into the sky. 'Hoooo! Hoooo!' That's the voice of Little Crow, she blows on the stars to keep them warm, doesn't let the cold wind blow them out. Way down below the world keeps turning, round and around - she walks through the sky and under her feet is now Africa, now Japan, now the North Pole shining white as a whistle, under her feet is the big empty ocean. She walks and walks all night long among the stars. Some of them come and sit on her wings, some cling to her feet, others gather round her head to make a crown. When she's tired the stars make a chair for her to sit down - you can see it up there in the night sky - Little Crow's chair. Here's a song she made up one night while out sky-walking:
One step! across the world
One step! I'm back again
Pretty good trick
The Education of Little Crow
She wasn't always as wise as she is now. Once upon a time she was a thirsty and ignorant young thing. How did she become so wise? Listen, and I'll tell you. She travelled about, here and there, she kept her eyes wide open, she kept her ears open. And the very first thing she learned is this: Nothing is here by accident. Everything is here for a reason all its own. If you keep your eyes wide open, you'll see for yourself. If you keep your ears open - especially at night! you'll catch the music of it.
She kept far away from the habitations of men - men are the most interesting of all creatures, but they are packed so full of manifold reasons, their music is difficult to understand. Not for beginners! She kept away from books - the things written down in books are only the shadows and dreams of this world, she went looking for the world itself...
What the Bear Said
Once she saw a black bear fishing in a tream. Hour after hour he stood quite still, up to his knees in ice water. Hour after hour the cold water singing in streams about his legs, the sun on the water now low now high now low again in the sky, the blue flies dancing. Little Crow settled down on a branch to watch.
'What are you waiting for?' she said at last. 'Are you going to stand there all day?'
'If I have to,' said the black bear. 'Now quiet down - I need to concentrate.'
The bear stood perfectly still. In his heart, desire for fish. Many fish got away. The moon rose over the mountains, the water grew dark, the bear could no longer see into the stream. At last he caught a fish, a great big silver slapping fish, and he ate it right up, and his big heart was quiet within him. 'Now I know what faith is,' said Little Crow.
What the Trees Said
She travelled far and she travelled wide. After a while she came to a forest, a great bright leaping green-gold forest. Have you ever heard a forest sing? A single leaf is softer than a whisper, but when the wind of heaven visits the forest, how it roars! The trees are clad in their own skins, rough or smooth, dark or silver bright, under the skins the sticky sap, a blood that slumbers and flows again with the seasons. The bright leaves dancing! The leaves all singing! All crying in the rain, or laughing in the sun, never quite still the thousand upon thousand green-gold girls of the forest. They have pretty little teeth, they have ruffles ripples petticoats perfume, they are soft as the skin on the inside of a maiden's arm. Shaded with all the shadows of the waning sky, they hang like golden earrings, they flutter like thin birds, with the first frost they mottle and fall and curl and crumple and die. 'Now I know what beauty is,' said Little Crow.
When the last leaf lay dead on the ground Little Crow sat down among them and began to cry. 'Boo - hoo!' she bawled, at the top of her considerable voice. 'Boo - hoo - hoo!'
'Why are you crying, Little Crow?' came a soft, whispery voice close beside her. Little Crow jumped, and looked all around her - nobody there!
'Who said that?' said Little Crow, so surprised that she left off crying.
'We did,' said the whispery voice.
'Who's that?' said Little Crow. 'I don't see anybody...'
'We are the leaves of the forest,' said the whispery voice.
Little Crow looked at the bare black branches of the trees shivering, clickety-crack! in the autumn wind, she looked at the piles of dead leaves around her. 'How can you talk if you're dead?' she said.
'We're not dead forever - we'll be back again as good as new in the spring,' said the whispery voice.
'Spring?' said Little Crow. 'What is spring?' She was only a young crow then and had never seen one.
'Wait and see,' said the whispery voice. 'We'll be back, wait and see, when the beautiful sun shines hot again in the sky, then we'll put on our green gowns and dance. The whole earth will dance when the spring comes.'
'When is it coming?' said Little Crow. 'Is it coming soon? I want it to come right now! Oh, tell me, please, when is it coming?' But the soft, whispery voice didn't speak again. 'Now I know what hope is,' said Little Crow.
What the Moon Said
That night the first snow fell. It lay thick and white on the bare branches, it lay deep under the trees, it lay on the tip of Little Crow's nose where she lay tucked up in her warm little nest. She sneezed - 'Ah - choo!' a most terrible sneeze, and woke up. 'Who did that?' said Little Crow, but nobody answered. She looked all around from her nest high in the old oak tree - nothing doing, everybody sleeping. She looked up into the night sky - the Man in the Moon was wide awake, looking down at her. 'What are you staring at?' said Little Crow, in a cross voice. She hated being woken up, and her nose was cold. The Man in the Moon didn't answer, he just went right on staring. He stared at the snowy branches, he stared at the snow-covered ground, he stared and stared at the frozen stream. But most of all he stared at Little Crow. 'It's not polite to stare!' she said, but still he took no notice of her at all but went right on staring. This made her so angry that she stood up in the nest and shook her feathers till they gleamed in the moonlight. 'Ready or not, here I come!' she cried.
Little Crow flew all the way to the moon. When she got there her wings were tired. She sat down on a moonbeam to catch her breath. Once she had caught it she started to hop around, trying to catch moonbeams in her claws, but they always got away somehow. She ran this way and that, she pounced on them from above and behind, but not a single moonbeam did she catch. This made the Man in the Moon laugh. He laughed and laughed and as he laughed the whole ground shook under Little Crow's feet. Little Crow stamped her foot so hard she nearly tumbled over. 'What's so funny?' she demanded furiously.
'You are,' said the Man in the Moon. 'Trying to catch a moonbeam like that with your greedy little claws.'
'How do I catch one then?' she said.
'Why, you make a hole in the ice,' said the Man in the Moon. 'That's all there is to it. All this hopping and leaping and grabbing won't get you anywhere at all.'
'Why wouldn't you answer my questions before? Why do you stare and stare at everything like that?' But the Man in the Moon had shut up his mouth again and never answered another word. Perhaps he had gone to sleep.
Little Crow flew all the way back to the forest. She was very tired when she got home, and very cold too. She walked out onto the frozen stream, slipping and sliding on the ice. Then, with her sharp beak, she cut a nice neat round hole in the ice. With her sharp little claws she pushed the circle of ice out of the way. Then she peered down into the hole and saw - not one beam of bright silvery moonlight, not two bright silvery beams, not three, but the whole bright silvery face of the Man in the Moon himself, laughing at her! 'Good joke!' said Little Crow, and she tumbled about on the ice, laughing. She looked up at the Man in the Moon high in the sky, and he looked back at her, still laughing. The stars shook with laughter and the whole forest was ringing with the sound of it.
The Man in the Moon
Looked out of the moon
Looked out of the moon and said:
Good night, Little Crow
Good night, Little Crow,
And off you go to bed!
And that is just what she did.
Moon of my heart
Watch over the world
Moon of my heart, this night
Through the valley of dreams
Through the valley of night
O bright moon of gentleness
Watch over us all this night.