Tell-It Tuesday: A Retelling of Rainbow and the Autumn Leaves

Rainbow and the Autumn Leaves

A Canadian Folktale

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, when woodlands burst with color from the turning leaves–bright oranges, brilliant yellows, and radiant reds. Why do the leaves turn colors?

This is a retelling of a Native American folktale from Canada called Rainbow and the Autumn Leaves.

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Turtle was the oldest and wisest creature on Earth.

All the animals wanted to go to the sky to see what life was like up there. But, they had no idea how to get to the sky so they asked Turtle.

Turtle prayed to the Thunder God to show him the way to the sky.

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With a great clap of thunder, Turtle found himself whisked up to the sky where he moved around like a cloud.

Turtle loved life in the sky. He wanted to stay there forever. The sky-people agreed and asked him where he would like to live. He said where the waters of the ponds, streams and lakes was, because he lived near these places on Earth. This place was called the Black Cloud.

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Every council meeting, Turtle traveled to Earth in the Black Cloud. The other animals wished they could go to the Sky with him.

One day the animals learned that a new race of creatures would come from across the ocean and take over their land. Now they really wanted to go to the sky with Turtle and live there, where they could be safe and not have to worry about their land and the new creatures.

But Turtle never told them how he came to live in the sky so they had no idea how to travel there.

One day, Deer, who traveled through the forest alone often, came across Rainbow.

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“Please, Rainbow, take me to the sky so I can talk to Turtle.”

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Rainbow wanted to help, but wanted to ask the Thunder God for permission. “Come back in a few days,” he told Deer. “When fog covers the water.”

The animals grew more worried about their land as Deer waited to speak with Rainbow.

When the fog fell across the lake, Deer rushed there to wait for Rainbow.

When Rainbow came, he drove the fog away, and told Deer, “Follow my colors through the forest and across the hills and streams, and soon you will come to the sky where Turtle lives.”

Deer followed the colored path into the sky country. He liked the sky country so much that he decided to stay with Turtle.

When the Great Council met again, Deer was not there. When Turtle showed up, he told the angry animals that Deer had followed Rainbow’s path and now lived in the sky. He recommended that all the animals follow Rainbow’s path the next time. They could all live in the sky together.

Many animals weren’t happy with Deer for going to the sky without them. In particular, Bear was furious with him.

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When the animals walked on the rainbow trail to the Sky, Bear met Deer. Deer got angry with Bear, and with his new found confidence and pride, he rushed at Bear with his sharp antlers lowered to push Bear off the rainbow path.

But Bear, who had fought many deer on Earth, was not afraid. They fought and clashed loudly, causing all the other animals to be afraid. They didn’t want Deer or Bear to die in this fight.

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The frightened animals sent Wolf to talk with Deer and Bear and end the fight. Before he could stop the fight, Deer and Bear were badly injured. The blood from their wounds fell from the sky onto the leaves of the trees on Earth, changing their colors to red, orange, and yellow. Every autumn, tree leaves return to these bright colors.

All the animals decided to live in the sky. And if you look closely, sometimes they can be seen traveling across the night sky.

Have a great Tuesday. What tales can you find about why trees turn colors in the fall?


Kathy, Nature Mamaw

All photographs are courtesy of

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