Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
March 11, 2000 - Issue 05

Spring Defeats Winter
Seneca-Northeast Woodlands Legend

When the world was new, long ago, an old man was wandering around. This old man had long, white hair and wherever he stepped, the ground grew hard as stone. When he breathed, the rivers stopped flowing and the ponds became solid. The birds and animals fled before him and plants dried up and died as the leaves shriveled and fell from the trees.

Finally, this old man found a place where he could set up his lodge. He made walls of ice and covered it over with snow. He sat inside his lodge, in front of a fire, which gave off no heat, though a strange flickering light came from it. His only friend was the North Wind, who sat beside the fire with him and laughed as they spoke of things they did to make the world a cold, hard place. They sat and smoked their pipes through the long, white nights.

One morning, though, as the two dozed by the fire, they felt that something was wrong. The air was harder to breathe and when they looked outside, they saw strange things happening. The snowdrifts were growing smaller. Cracks were forming in the ice on the ponds.

"Henh!" said the North Wind. "I can stay no longer." He went out of the lodge and flew through the air towards the north, not stopping until he again reached a place where snow and ice were deep and there was no hint of warmth. But, the old man did not stir. He knew that his magic was strong, he built his lodge to last.

Now, there came a knocking at his door. Someone was striking against the ice so hard that pieces were falling away, from the blows.

"Go away!" the old man shouted. "No one can enter my lodge."

Even as he said it, the door of the lodge broke and fell to the ground. A young man, with a smile on his face, stood there. Without a word, he stepped into the lodge and sat on the other side of the fire, from the old man. He held a green stick in his hand wand with it, he stirred the fire. As he stirred the fire, it began to grow warm. The old man felt sweat begin to run down his face.

"Who are you" said the old man. "Why have you broken my door? No one can come in here but my friend, North Wind. If you do not leave, I will freeze you with my breath." Then, the old man tried to blow his chilly breath at the young stranger, but only a thin mist came from his lips.

The young man laughed. "Old man," he said, "let me stay here and warm myself by your fire."

The old man grew angry. "I am the one who makes the birds and the animals flee. Wherever I step, the ground turns to flint. I make the snow and ice. I am mightier than you" As he spoke, though, the old man felt more sweat run off his brow, and the young man continued to smile.

"Listen," the stranger said, "I am young and strong. You cannot frighten me. Surely you know who I am. Do you not feel how warm my breath is? Wherever I breathe, the plants grow and the flowers bloom. Where I step, the grasses sprout and snow melts away. The birds and the animals come to me. See how long my hair is? Your hair is falling out now, Old Man. Wherever I travel I bring the sunshine and you cannot stay. Do you not know me, Old Man? Do you not hear my companion, the Fawn? She is the South Wind. She is blowing on your lodge. It is your time to leave."

The old man opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. He grew smaller and smaller and the sweat poured from his brow, as he melted away. Then he was gone The walls of his lodge of ice and snow fell in. Where his cold fire had burned, white flowers now bloomed. Once again, the Young Man, SPRING, had defeated the Old Man, WINTER.

When reading "Spring Defeats Winter," it's easy to imagine why Old Man Winter sits confidently in his lodge as Young Man Spring enters. When the cold winter wind blows snow into drifts and ice encrusts the ponds and rivers, the chilling grip over the land seems complete. Still, spring comes. Flowers bloom. Plants grow. Snow melts and birds return from the south. In this story, Young Man Spring and the Fawn, the South Wind, prevail over Old Man Winter. Yet, in time, Old Man Winter will win again, and the story goes on forever.

Now, answer these questions about our story:

      1. When you heard or read this story, did you want Old Man Winter to melt from Young Man Spring's warmth? Do you like the cold or hot season better?
      2. Do all parts of the world have four seasons? What are the seasons like in the tropics? The polor regions?
      3. What causes the seasons?
      4. How do the seasons affect people? Plants? Animals?

Click on the links below to print and color your pictures from this story:

Old Man Winter


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