Jane Lind presents ...
Legends from the Forest
Theme: Survival and Native Culture, Young Adult
Legends from the Forest
Legends from the Forest is peopled with all kinds of creatures, both human
and those the humans call animal. The two groups are closely connected in
the life and legends of the boreal people and share special powers and
abilities, which the western mind often finds suspect because of its
obsessive need for scientific data to prove any occurrence or phenomenon
before acknowledging its existence.
The challenge and the delight of these stories, then, is to read them with
the heart and mind in readiness for finding out about things you perhaps
cannot see with your physical eyes, but that you can recognize as true.
The book is divided into eight sections according to topics of the stories.
The main character in the first set of stories is Weesakayjac, a hunter in
human form and the setting is in the time before human beings. Weesakayjac
is a figure in the spiritual world of the Woodland Cree, a trickster and
manager who can change animals and makes things happen. For example, in the
first story Weesakayjac built a big boat because of a great flood and helped
to recreate the earth after it had disappeared.
In the second set of stories, called "Creatures," humans and animals
interact. In the fourth story in this set we learn how the white crow became
"Duels with Neighbouring Clans" is the third set of stories, with a theme
of animosity between clans and the consequential killing of opponents.
The five stories in "Legends of the Yorkboat Men" are set in the era of the
expansion of the Hudson Bay Company, which developed the heavy boat named
for York Factory. Native men worked on the boats and these stories come from
All but one of the six stories in "Heroes from the Past: the Old Young Lad"
are told by Thomas Fiddler about Old Young Man of Sandy Lake. He was said to
be more than two hundred years old, but he had not aged. Not only that, he
had special powers that prevented others from killing him. Only when he was
tired of living did he die, of his own choice and not by the hand of another
"Man Always Sitting" and "The Marten: James Linklater" are two other sets
of stories about heroes. In each case, these heroes are invincible and can
conjure up powers over others.
"Bears and Wolves," the last set of stories focuses on the relationships
between bears and people and wolves and people. Wolves have never been known
to attack people, whereas bears do, and, in fact, in one of these stories a
bear kills a man and in another, injures one. But that has never been the
case with a wolf, we are told.
Story telling is a strong tradition among all Native peoples. You might
consider dividing your class into eight groups, with each group being
responsible to prepare a report for the rest of the class in the form of
story telling. Have the students read and absorb the stories in their
section, and then work out a way they can share in telling at least one of
the stories to the rest of the class.
After the groups have presented their stories, they can each take
responsibility for creating a section of a large wall mural to illustrate
Legends from the Forest. The starting point can be the drawings in the book
for each section, but the students should be encouraged to create their own
visual interpretations of the legends in paint and collage.
Eight large sheets of paper, at least 1 m x 1 m
Coloured paper for collage work
Natural materials such as dried grasses and bark
Glue sticks or glue
1. Each group of students can meet to discuss the main aspects of the
stories they wish to illustrate.
2. The second
step is to sketch in the main content of each section of the mural.
3. The students may want to use paper and natural materials for collage for
parts of the forest or scenes including tents or other textured parts of the
4. When each section has been completed, use tape to join them for a
wrap-around mural on the classroom wall.
As a conclusion for the unit, discuss the difference in approach between the
native experience of the spirit world and the Western attitude.
Theme Catalogue and Teaching Guide for Children's Books
written for Penumbra Press by Jane Lind
© Jane Lind