The Woodpecker, Turtle, and Deer
Re-told by Ellen C. Babbitt
Once upon a time a Deer lived in a forest near a lake. Not far from
the same lake, a Woodpecker had a nest in the top of a tree; and in
the lake lived a Turtle. The three were friends, and lived together
A hunter, wandering about in the wood, saw the footprints of the Deer
near the edge of the lake. "I must trap the Deer, going down into the
water," he said, and setting a strong trap of leather, he went his
Early that night when the Deer went down to drink, he was caught in
the trap, and he cried the cry of capture.
At once the Woodpecker flew down from her tree-top, and the Turtle
came out of the water to see what could be done.
Said the Woodpecker to the Turtle: "Friend, you have teeth; you gnaw
through the leather trap. I will go and see to it that the hunter
keeps away. If we both do our best our friend will not lose his life."
So the Turtle began to gnaw the leather, and the Woodpecker flew to
the hunter's house.
At dawn the hunter came, knife in hand, to the front door of his
The Woodpecker, flapping her wings, flew at the hunter and struck him
in the face.
The hunter turned back into the house and lay down for a little while.
Then he rose up again, and took his knife. He said to himself: "When I
went out by the front door, a Bird flew in my face; now I will go out
by the back door." So he did.
The Woodpecker thought: "The hunter went out by the front door before,
so now he will leave by the back door." So the Woodpecker sat in a
tree near the back door.
When the hunter came out the bird flew at him again, flapping her
wings in the hunter's face.
Then the hunter turned back and lay down again. When the sun arose, he
took his knife, and started out once more.
This time the Woodpecker flew back as fast as she could fly to her
friends, crying, "Here comes the hunter!"
By this time the Turtle had gnawed through all the pieces of the trap
but one. The leather was so hard that it made his teeth feel as if
they would fall out. His mouth was all covered with blood. The Deer
heard the Woodpecker, and saw the hunter, knife in hand, coming on.
With a strong pull the Deer broke this last piece of the trap, and ran
into the woods.
The Woodpecker flew up to her nest in the tree-top.
But the Turtle was so weak he could not get away. He lay where he was.
The hunter picked him up and threw him into a bag, tying it to a tree.
The Deer saw that the Turtle was taken, and made up his mind to save
his friend's life. So the Deer let the hunter see him.
The hunter seized his knife and started after the Deer. The Deer,
keeping just out of his reach, led the hunter into the forest.
When the Deer saw that they had gone far into the forest he slipped
away from the hunter, and swift as the wind, he went by another way to
where he had left the Turtle.
But the Turtle was not there. The Deer called, "Turtle, Turtle!"; and
the Turtle called out, "Here I am in a bag hanging on this tree."
Then the Deer lifted the bag with his horns, and throwing it upon the
ground, he tore the bag open, and let the Turtle out.
The Woodpecker flew down from her nest, and the Deer said to them:
"You two friends saved my life, but if we stay here talking, the
hunter will find us, and we may not get away. So do you, Friend
Woodpecker, fly away. And you, Friend Turtle, dive into the water. I
will hide in the forest."
The hunter did come back, but neither the Deer, nor the Turtle, nor
the Woodpecker was to be seen. He found his torn bag, and picking that
up he went back to his home.
The three friends lived together all the rest of their lives.