Thursday, 1 March 2012

the legend of the indian paintbrush

Well the title of the book got us talking.  Legend.  What’s that?

Tanisha alone had heard the word but she was a little unsure what it meant.

The picture on the front cover was of an Indian boy standing on the slopes of a hill with some pots of paint and paintbrushes at his feet.  So we felt we knew what an Indian paintbrush was.

But back to that ‘legend’ word.

A legend is a story from long ago that was told to explain something.  In those days people would have believed these stories to be true - but nowadays we are not so sure…..

Anyway.  On with the legend of the Indian paintbrush.

Little Gopher was smaller than the other Indian boys in the tribe and he could not run as fast nor ride as well as they did.  This made him sad, but he did have another gift.  He was an artist. 

The village shaman had told him that he would one day be remembered because of his special gift.

When Little Gopher was almost grown up, he had a dream-vision.  In this dream he was given a pure white buckskin, pots of paint and the best sable paint brushes.  He was told that one day he would paint a picture that was as pure as the colours in the evening sky.

When the dream vision was over, Little Gopher returned to his village and practised and practised - but he was never satisfied with the results.  His paintings always seemed so much duller than the sunsets he saw.

Until one night when he heard a voice calling him.  ‘Go into the hills tomorrow evening.  There you will find what you need.’

The next evening the colours of the sunset spread across the sky.  And there, on the ground beside him were brushes filled with paint, each one a colour of the sunset.

Little Gopher began to paint…..

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using one brush and then another.  And as the colours in the sky began to fade…..

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Little Gopher gazed at his buckskin - and he was happy.  He carried his painting down to the village, leaving his paintbrushes on the hillside.


And the next day…..

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when the people awoke…..

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the hill was ablaze with colour…..

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because the brushes had taken root in the earth and multiplied into flowers of brilliant reds and oranges and pinks.

And these flowers, that bloom every spring in Texas, are called Indian Paintbrush flowers.  After Little Gopher - and his sunset paintbrushes.

(From The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, as retold first by Tomie de Paola and then by me.)

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