Over the last six months, I've been thrilled to be collaborating with the writer and artist Robert Webb. Robert is a contemporary folktale writer, and when he approached me to illustrate some of his tales, I could not resist! The stories drew me in immediately and I was hooked.
For the first time, one of our completed projects is on display at Ciel Gallery in Charlotte, NC for the "Storytellers" show. "The Storm Brothers" art and folktale will be available for live viewing through the end of February. But for the benefit of the rest of us many miles away, here is Robert's inspiring tale:
The Storm Brothers
There once was an American Indian mother who had three unruly sons. They were constantly fighting and not getting along. Most of the time they were lazy and did no chores. She was very worried that her boys would not grow up to be good men, so she prayed to the ancient animal spirits.
The wind carried her soft desperate prayers to the spirits. They heard her and chose to counsel together. They decided to teach the children a valuable life lesson. They sent the white buffalo to the village the next morning.
The buffalo approached the three boys and tapped each one on the shoulder with his horns. He told them, “Today will be the last day you are boys. At sunset, if you have not found the ability to work together, you will see what it means to be truly wild.” The white buffalo turned and walked away.
Pretending to be brave, they ignored the warning. The day came and went. They fought as usual and showed no respect to their mother. The sun dipped low into the evening and came to rest on the distant rocky ridge. Its final rays of light cast vibrantly onto the boys. They began to change. The first boy was turned into a great salmon. The next boy morphed into a huge bear. The last became a majestic eagle.
Frightened, the people of the village ran away. The mother, not bothered by these transformations, approached her sons and kissed them each on the forehead. She carried her salmon son to the river’s edge and placed him into the cold running water. “You must now go and live in the wilderness,” she said to them with tears in her eyes. She turned and walked away.
That night, the frightened brothers stayed close together. They waited through the darkness next to the river. Then, sometime in the middle of the night, the white buffalo stepped from behind a group of trees. He addressed the brothers.
“Eagle, you are now the guardian of the sky. Watch over all of your new family of fowl. See to it that they move to warmer lands when winter stretches from the north. Your eyes will be as sharp as your talons. They will be able to spot dangers from far away.”
“Bear, protect all that walks on four feet. Keep the Dark Wolf at bay. You will smell his fear reaching into the hearts of the small. He will sense your strength and stay far away. Allow him to hunt, but watch him closely. You are the guardian of the land.”
“Last, but certainly not least, Salmon you are to care for all rivers, lakes, streams and oceans. It is large and vast. Your powerful tail will allow you to swim faster than any. Your new world will have many dangers. Govern these waters so that your new kin may find their way back home each year to create new life.”
“These are your responsibilities. You must work together to bring balance and harmony to the world. If you are successful I will return you to your former selves,” the buffalo said. A bright light flashed around him, and then he was gone.
The brothers set out to fulfill each task. Each worked hard and created many stories to tell. After a long while, the white buffalo saw the good they did and offered to change the boys back as they were before. Surprisingly they refused the offer. They loved their new roles in the world. This made the animal spirits happy and their mother proud.
From time to time, they would see each other. They would celebrate as in the old days by wrestling as they had when they were young boys. Thus the great storms were created. Bear’s giant paws slapped at the water making a thunderous sound and sending water high into the air. Eagle’s wings stirred up tremendous winds that carried the spray across the land. Salmon leaped from his river high into the sky, flashing his bright beautiful scales.
Then the brothers would rest, knowing that their mother had loved them so.