'The Blizzard's Robe'

STORY TIME

January 31, 2001|By Robert Sabuda

* Editor's note: According to one culture, one girl's compassion creates the northern lights phenomena.

Far to the north by the great Arctic Sea, there once lived a clan of people. During the coldest part of winter, these people lived in almost total darkness. The people feared this time of darkness, most of all because with it came terrible Blizzard, which could destroy anything with its icy winds and snow. Early on, the people came to be known as "the People Who Fear the Winter Night." And among these people there lived a young girl named Teune.

During the spring and summer and fall, while the other children were fishing or playing, Teune would sit by the hearth in her small yaranga, making robes to keep her people warm once winter arrived.

"She is the finest robemaker I have ever seen," said the leader of the People Who Fear the Winter Night.

One winter evening, when darkness painted the land in a wash of black, mighty Blizzard whirled into the small village. The People Who Fear the Winter Night cried out as Blizzard's furious wind extinguished, one by one, the fires in their hearths.

In Teune's yaranga, there was no more wood to add to her fire. In her desperation to keep out Blizzard, she snatched up all her deerskins and stacked them atop the dying embers. Suddenly a great burst of sparks raced through the smoke hole at the top of her yaranga and out into the night.

At just that moment, Blizzard passed over Teune's yaranga. The shower of sparks caught in Blizzard's robe and in an instant burned enormous holes in the icy cloth. With a thundering whoosh, Blizzard fell to the ground and lay still.

The next morning, as the horizon was briefly pierced with light from the elusive sun, the villagers slowly gathered around the fallen Blizzard.

"Its robe has been destroyed," said one man. "Now it can no longer bring freezing misery into our village."

"We now have one less thing to fear from the Winter Night," said their leader.

That night, Teune had a dream. In the dream, Blizzard flew into her tiny yaranga.

"Daughter of the People Who Fear the Winter Night," said Blizzard, "imagine that you wander in the vast arctic plain. Imagine that your voice roars like cracking ice, sending fear into the hearts of others. But imagine, too, that you are alone. Imagine that you are me."

Blizzard slowly drifted up toward the yaranga's smoke hole.

"I am what I must be. Please help me, Teune," it whispered, "and I will honor your people with the greatest gift."

When Teune awoke, she stepped outside and saw at her feet rolls of cloth and needles, but the cloth seemed made of ice. Remembering her dream, she picked them up and went back inside. As soon as she set the cloth down by the hearth, it began to melt. So she hurried back outside again. In the dim light, Teune could work only a few minutes at a time before her small hands became stiff with cold. But slowly, she began to make a robe. She put designs of great frozen trees on the sleeves and pictures of the People Who Fear the Winter Night near the collar. On the hem of the skirt, she placed stars, scattered across the Winter Night.

Soon word spread throughout the village that the little robemaker was creating something unusual.

Finally, the leader of the People Who Fear the Winter Night came to visit Teune.

"You have made this robe for Blizzard!" accused the leader, as the wind began to dance more briskly around him.

"Sparks from my hearth destroyed its first one. It was only right for me to replace it. And Blizzard promised a great gift for our people," cried Teune, straining to be heard above the suddenly rushing air.

"What kind of gift could Blizzard give us?" shouted the leader.

By now, the wind had risen to a tremendous roar, and all at once it lifted the robe high above the village. As the robe fell to earth again, it gently floated down to where the motionless Blizzard was lying and covered him completely. Suddenly Blizzard rose, soared high into the sky, and streaked into the distance.

Warm light seemed to slowly dance across the darkness. The girl hurried outside and saw others as well, rejoicing and pointing upward. Colored waves of light washed over the once-dreaded Winter Night, illuminating the entire village. Winter Night was dressed in a brilliant, colorful robe of its own that flowed from horizon to horizon! The villagers laughed and cried with happiness, for if this were indeed a gift from Blizzard, they could fear him less and accept the Winter Night.

Excerpted from the book THE BLIZZARD'S ROBE. Copyright c 1999 by Robert Sabuda. Reprinted by permission of Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc., Children's Publishing. All rights reserved.

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