A tale from the Seneca Tribe of the Northeast Woodlands
When the world was new, long ago, an old man wandered about the earth. He had long white hair and wherever he stepped the ground froze and became hard as stone. When he breathed the river stopped flowing and the ponds became ice. Plants dried up and died, and birds and animals ran away.
Finally the old man built himself a lodge. He invited his only friend, the North Wind to sit with him in the lodge by the ice cold fire that was in the middle. They sat and smoked their pipes in the cold white nights.
One morning as they dozed they awakened to find the air hard to breathe. They looked outside and saw strange things happening…cracks were forming on the pond and the snowdrifts were shrinking.
“I must go now,” said the North Wind and he flew off to the north to find a place where the air was still freezing cold with no hint of warmth. The old man stayed, though. He was stubborn and believed his magic was so strong and would last.
Suddenly there was a knocking at his door so hard that pieces of ice from his lodge started to crack and fall off.
“Go away!” the old man shouted. But as he shouted this, the door of the lodge crumbled and a young man with a smile on his face stepped in and sat across the cold fire from the old man. The young man held a green stick in his hand and he began to stir the cold fire with it. As he did so, the fire began to grow warm and the old man felt sweat begin to drip from his face.
“Who are you?” the old man grumbled. “No one is allowed here except my friend North Wind. If you do not leave I will freeze you with my breath.” But when the old man blew his breath, only a thin mist came out.
The young man laughed. “Old man”, he said, “I am here to stay.”
The old man grew angry. “I am the one who makes the birds and the animals flee. Wherever I step the ground turns to stone. I make snow and ice. I am mightier than you!” As he spoke, though, the old man was dripping sweat and the young man continued to smile.
“No,” said the smiling young man, “I am young and strong. You cannot frighten me. Surely you must know who I am. Do you not feel my warm breath that causes the grasses to sprout and the plants to grow, the birds and animals to return and flowers to bloom? Wherever I travel I bring sunshine and my companion is the fawn, the South Wind that blows warmth to melt your lodge. You cannot stay old man.”
The old man opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. He grew smaller and smaller as his lodge melted further and further. Soon he and the lodge melted away and in the place where the cold fire had been, white flowers bloomed.
Once again Young Man Spring had defeated Old Man Winter.