Man's friend

by Gail Emerson June 12, 2016

How the swallow got its forked tail

Shop Daniel's Swallow greetings card

Swallows have a distinctive forked tail, which marks them out from other birds. Daniel's Swallow design is currently the only repeating pattern in the DM Collection, and emphasizes the beauty of its trailing tail feathers.

This Native American story shows how faithful a friend the swallow has been to man from the beginning, and explains how the swallow got its distinctive forked tail .... 

When the earth was young, the animals were having some troubles settling into their new lives the Great Spirit had bestowed on them. He tired of hearing their constant complaints and called them all to him. They all went as fast as they could, eager to hear what he had to say. The winged animals arrived first, then the swallow, bluebird, owl, wasp and mosquito. Then the creatures on foot, the deer, squirrel, bear and, of course, man. Then the creatures on the ground, the serpent, the hedgehog and the lizard.

The Great Spirit addressed them all, 'My ears are weary of hearing your complaints. I will answer one of your requests, and then we can have peace'.

The bluebird answered, ' I do not like to build nests'

The squirrel answered, 'I do not like to live in a tree'

The bear said, 'I do not like to hunt so long for food'

Then the great spirit turned to man, who said 'I do not like how the serpent drinks my blood. Won't you give him some other food? I am the one you created first, grant my wish'.

The other animals were angry at man's arrogance. They buzzed, hissed, growled and jumped up and down. 'Be silent,' said the Great Spirit, 'it is true you have a special place in my heart. But I am father of them all, and the serpent must have his food. Mosquito, you travel far and wide. Go forth and find out whose blood will be best for the serpent, so that man may live in peace. Come back in a year and a day and your answer will be his new food.'

The mosquito travelled all over the earth, biting every creature he met to find the best new food. But the mosquito did not like man and decided the serpent's food should remain man's blood. On the way back to the Great Spirit, the swallow met him. When he told the bird of his conclusion the swallow thought quickly. He was a friend of man, so quick as a flash ripped out the mosquito's tongue.

When the great Spirit asked him, the mosquito could not say a word. The swallow interrupted, 'He's overcome having eaten so much! But I saw him earlier, and he said the frog would be the best for the serpent.'

'That is settled then', said the Great Spirit, 'man shall be no longer food of the serpent.'

The serpent was angry, he did not like frog's blood. As the swallow passed him, he lashed out and tore his tail in two. And that is why the swallow has a forked tail and why he is always man's friend.

Daniel's Swallow design is available as a greetings card. 




Gail Emerson
Gail Emerson

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