It was the longest darkest night, of the longest harshest winter. Many of the creatures of the forest would usually be hibernating in the ground, but it was so cold this winter that the earth had frozen solid. The creatures sat in the forest huddled together for warmth.
There was movement and a fox burrowed its way through the others to reach the centre of the circle and found the Great Bear at the centre:
"Great Bear, something must be done. The smaller creatures on the edge are so cold. If they don't get more warmth, they may not survive much longer."
The bear took an deep breath, sighed and slowly nodded. He stood up and called loudly; “ Who of us will head south and bring back the sun to break this winter?” There was silence. Fox spoke “It must be a creature who can travel fast, has courage and can bring the sun back”
“Yes” said the Great Bear; “also a creature that can travel long distances”.
Fox said “May be it should be a bird. Birds can travel far and fast”. Fox called out to the Birds. “Birds will you go?”
The leader of the birds shook its head. “We cannot go, we are too weak to carry the sun, plus it would burn our beaks, and burn our feathers”.
The bear nodded, but asked again; “Is there any creature who will go to the Southern Hemisphere and bring back the sun”. There was once again silence.
But then there was a rustle from the far edges of the gathering. A creature stood up with brown fur, a wet black nose and velvety antlers that reached toward the sky.
“ I will go” said the Reindeer.
“Yes” cheered Fox. “You are a courageous creature with a good heart, you can travel long distances and are fast," Fox paused and spoke again, "but, how will you bring back the sun?”
The reindeer said; “See my antlers? They are perfect for holding the sun. I will bring back the sun and warm the Northern lands”.
The Great Bear nodded; “Brother reindeer, you have my blessing”.
The reindeer looked with wide eyes at the bear and tilted it's head.
“Great Bear, do you know nothing about herds of reindeers? In the winter, male reindeers shed their antlers. No, it is I who must go, and I am not a brother reindeer. With that SHE turned and walked on through the forest.
She walked through the cold dark night and focused on her mission, to get to the sun. She knew it could be days and days until she reached the southern isles, but she went with her courageous and brave heart. She’d walked for hours and seen no creature, but then in the distance she heard something in the forest. She walked on until she came to a clearing in the forest, and there she saw a big burly old man dressed in a long green cloak, made with all the plants of the forest, and he wore a big green hood over his head and cartried a large sack on his back. He had dirty long white and grey hair and a long matching beard. The man looked like he lived in the forest and had been there for a liong time, years, may be decades - or even centuries.
When he spotted the reindeer, he went down on one knee - as he knew of her power and strength, and that she was to be respected.
He said “Reindeer, what are you doing in the forest? At this time of year you are usually out grazing on the plains?” She told him of her journey to the Southern hemisphere and her mission to bring back the sun.
“But that could take weeks,” he exclaimed. He reached into his sack and pulled out some food. “Here, Eat this” he said “and you will have the magic of the forest”. She did as he said and thanked this man of the forest, and continued on her way.
This time she ran, and as she ran she was swift and dodged the trees and weaved through the forest. When she reached a clearing something in her heart told her to run even faster, as fast as she could. She ran fast towards the trees, but she didn’t crash into the trees - just before she was about to enter the forest again, she went skyward - up and up she went as she flew above the treetops. Below she could see the land covered in snow and ice, she could see the trees and frozen lakes. She continued to fly south until she saw light emerging. On the far horizon there was the sun!
She flew to the sun and pleaded “Sun goddess, please return to the northern lands, we need you to warm the earth. This winter has been so long”. The Sun goddess spoke; “But I am so tired. I have been warming the Southern isles for the last few months and I don’t have the energy to move that quickly”.
The reiundeer lowered her head and said “climb between my antlers and I will carry you north”. The sun goddess did so, and as quickly as the reindeer had gone south, she returned to the north. As she did, the light of the sun began to break the darkness, and a beautiful sunrise appeared. Once again the forest was warmed, and all was well.
Adapted from traditional folk tales, with images by Ellie Lewis Illustrator