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Friday, June 14, 2024

Skinner - Why Roses Have Thorns - Keeping the Public Domain

Years ago I tried to outsmart a dog who liked to dig next to the foundation of my house. A nearby garden center suggested "carpet roses." The thorns were predicted to stop him.  They didn't, but a fence around the roses did.  He's no longer alive, but a memory of many wonderful years.  I still have the roses to enjoy and remind me that while he was indeed a wonderful dog, he wasn't perfect.  (That helps keep the comparison fair next to our present dog.)

Today's story is about roses and their thorns from the summer anthology The Turquoise Story Book : Stories and Legends of Summer and Nature and was adapted by Eleanor Skinner from Algonquin Indian Tales, by Egerton R. Young.

by Micah Tindell on Unsplash


In the far-off days of long ago roses had no thorns. The branches of the bushes and the flower stems were smooth and delicate and made delicious food for the animals. They greedily ate the leaves, stems, and lovely blossoms; sometimes, indeed, they devoured the entire plant.

With grief the roses saw that each year the number of bushes was growing fewer and they feared the time would come when there would be none of their blossoms left to gladden the summer days. At last they held a council to see if anything could be done to prevent the animals from destroying the bushes. But no one could think of a way out of the difficulty.

"We must go to Manabozho, the Great 328Chief," said one of them. "He will advise us what to do."

Accordingly, it was decided that several messengers, chosen from the council, should seek the Great Chief and tell him how the animals were fast destroying the roses.

It was no easy matter to find Manabozho, for while he lived on earth among the Red Men he took many disguises. They who sought him were carried by the swiftest wind through valleys and meadows and far over the hilltops. All along the path of their journey, whenever they asked the question, "Where shall we find Manabozho?" they received the same answer, "Travel on toward the sunrise. There you will find the Great Chief. He is tending a wonderful garden."

At last one morning they saw the sun shining on a marvellous garden where vegetables grew in abundance. There were beds of cucumbers and squash, rows of corn and beans, and many other plants, whose names the messengers did not know. And what surprised them most was the beautiful hedge of rose-bushes which surrounded the garden. They 329looked anxiously for the Great Gardener Chief but he was nowhere to be seen. Silently the messengers hid themselves in a forest which grew near, for they believed Manabozho would soon return. The thought of talking to him filled them with awe, but they were determined to be brave and tell him their mission.

"He values roses or he would not have chosen them for his garden hedge," they whispered, looking with pride at the beauty of the flowering bushes.

While they were waiting a surprising thing happened. In the forest they heard quiet, stealthy steps approaching. Soon they saw a procession of animals from the woods. There were field mice, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, elks, and bears, all making their way to Manabozho's garden. They were sniffing the air as if they scented something delicious. On they came until they reached the rose-hedge where they stopped to taste the dainty, fragrant leaves. Various cries of satisfaction were uttered and immediately they began feasting on the delicate bushes. Leaves, flowers, 330and stems were all devoured and in a short time not one bit of the rose-hedge around the Great Chief's garden was left. It could not have disappeared more completely if Manabozho himself had cut it down. The dainty morsel of the rose-hedge, however, was not enough to satisfy the hunger of the animals from the woods. They turned their attention to the vegetables and were devouring the very choicest of them when suddenly the smaller animals pricked up their ears and listened. The next moment they scuttled away as fast as they could into the forest. The larger animals took this for a sign of danger and hurried after them.

In a little while the messengers of the Rose Council heard a loud voice singing. Manabozho was returning from his adventure. As he drew near his song ceased for he saw that destruction had come to his precious garden. His rage was terrible! In a voice which shook the neighboring hillsides he declared he would punish the intruders. He was particularly grieved at the destruction of his rose-hedge which he valued not only for its beauty 331but because he believed it was a means of protection to his garden.

When the messengers saw this they came forward and stated the object of their journey. Manabozho listened with eager interest while one of them told the story of the rapidly decreasing number of rose-bushes.

"Great Manabozho," said the speaker, "the animals of the woods find rose-bushes such delicious food that they eat blossoms, leaves, and stems. Our number is decreasing so rapidly that in a little while there will be none left to gladden the earth. The destruction of your hedge proves how ruthlessly the animals destroy us. Help us, O Chief! Devise some plan to protect us."

"You shall, indeed, have my help," said Manabozho, thoughtfully.

For some time the chief was silent. Then he said, "I'll give you weapons and you shall protect yourselves. Sharp thorns shall grow on your branches and needle-like prickles shall cover the stems which hold your lovely blossoms. While you are armed with these, 332the cruel animals will not venture to touch you."

The messengers thanked Manabozho with all their hearts. Delighted with his gift, they hastened back to tell the Council how the Great Chief had saved the roses of the world. Ever since that day roses have had thorns.

Adapted from Algonquin Indian Tales, by Egerton R. Young. Copyright, 1903, by Egerton R. Young. Reprinted by permission of the Abingdon Press, Publishers.


If you are looking to find seasonal material in the Public Domain, Duffield and Company in the early Twentieth Century produced a series of books known as the Jewel Series.  Many of them are anthologies specifically about the seasons by Ada M. Skinner and Eleanor L. Skinner with three not about the seasons by Penrhyn W. Coussens. 

The Jewel Series:

THE DIAMOND STORY BOOK. Compiled by Penrhyn W. Coussens. Illustrations in color by Ethel Green.

THE EMERALD STORY BOOK. Stories of Spring, Nature, and Easter. By Ada and Eleanor Skinner. Frontispiece in color by Maxfield Parrish.

THE RUBY STORY BOOK. Tales of Courage and Heroism. Retold by Penrhyn W. Coussens. Frontispiece in color by Maxfield Parrish.

THE SAPPHIRE STORY BOOK. Tales of the Sea. Collected and retold by Penrhyn W. Coussens. Frontispiece in color by Maxfield Parrish.

THE TOPAZ STORY BOOK. Stories and Legends of Autumn, Hallowe’en, and Thanksgiving. Compiled by Ada M. and Eleanor L. Skinner. Frontispiece in color by Maxfield Parrish.

THE TURQUOISE STORY BOOK. Stories and Legends of Summer and Nature. By Ada M. and Eleanor L. Skinner. Frontispiece in color by Maxfield Parrish.

THE PEARL STORY BOOK. Stories and Legends of Winter, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Compiled by Ada M. and Eleanor L. Skinner. Frontispiece in color by Maxfield Parrish.

THE GARNET STORY BOOK. Tales of Cheer both Old and New. Compiled by Ada M. and Eleanor L. Skinner. Frontispiece in color by Dugald S. Walker.

THE JADE STORY BOOK. Stories from the Orient. Compiled by Penrhyn W. Coussens. Frontispiece in color by Dugald Stewart Walker.

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