Long ago, Possum once had a beautiful bushy tail that was his pride and joy, but so boastful did he become that one day Rabbit decides to teach Possum a lesson. A Native American Folktale. (duration 8 minutes) An episode from Journey with Story, a storytelling podcast for kids.
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Why the Possum Has a Skinny Tail – Episode 121
January 21, 2021
A Cherokee folktale.
Do you know anyone who likes to boast a lot? Maybe he boasts about what a fast runner he is. Or maybe she boasts about what beautiful long hair she has or what nice new shoes she has. How does it make you feel when you hear someone boasting about what they have or how they look? Does it make you a bit annoyed? Maybe it makes you wish something would happen to make this person a little more humble?
Hello everyone. I’m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to Journey with Story. Today’s episode is an old Cherokee – Native American Folktale about a very boastful Possum who learns his lesson about boasting too much.
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Why the Possum Has a Skinny Tail
Many, many years ago, the Possum had a long, bushy tail. He was so proud of it that he combed it every morning. He sang about it whenever the animals held a dance. The Rabbit, who had had no tail since the Bear pulled it out, became very jealous. She made up her mind to play a trick on the Possum.
A great council meeting had been planned. There was to be a dance and all the animas were to be present. It was the Rabbit’s task to send out the news to everyone. As the Rabbit was passing the Possum’s house, she stopped to ask him whether he would be at the dance. The Possum said yes, but he would come only if he could have a special seat.
“I have such a handsome tail,” he said. “I ought to sit where everybody can see me.”
The Rabbit promised to take care of the Possum’s special seat. She also promised to send someone to prepare the Possum’s tail for the dance. The Possum was very much pleased and agreed to attend.
The Rabbit immediately went off to see the Cricket. Now, the Cricket was such an expert hair cutter, the Indians called him “the barber.” The Rabbit told the Cricket to go the next morning and get the Possum’s tail ready for the dance. She told the Cricket exactly what to do.
In the morning the Cricket went to the Possum’s house. “I have come to get you ready for the dance, Possum,” he said.
This pleased the Possum very much. He stretched himself out and shut his eyes. The Cricket began to work on the Possum’s tail. First, he carefully combed it. Then he quietly began to clip the Possum’s hair close to the roots! As he clipped, the Cricket wrapped red ribbon around the tail to hold the loose hair in place. The Possum, eyes tightly shut,
didn’t know what the Cricket was doing.
When night fell, the Possum went to the hall where the dance was to be held. There he found the best seat was ready for him, just as the Rabbit had promised. When the Possum’s turn came to dance, he stepped into the middle of the floor, grinning from ear to ear.
The drummers began to drum, and the Possum began to sing, “See my beautiful tail!”
Everyone shouted: This pleased the Possum, so he danced around the Circle again and sang, “See what a fine color my tail is!” Everyone shouted again and the Possum danced around the Circle once more. As he danced he sang, “See how my tail sweeps the ground!”
The animals shouted more loudly than before. The Possum was delighted. Now, to really show off his fur, he untied the ribbon. Then around and around he danced, singing, “See how fine is the fur on my tail!”
Suddenly everybody started to laugh. They laughed so long that the Possum wondered why they were laughing. He looked around the circle of animals. They were laughing at him! Then he looked down at his tail. He saw that there was not a hair left upon it. It was as bare as the tail of a lizard! He was so surprised and embarrassed he could not
say a word. Instead he rolled over helplessly on his back, grimacing with embarrassment, just as opossums still do today, when taken by surprise.
Oh, poor old possum – do you think he got what he deserved? Or do you feel a teeny tiny bit sorry for him. And of course, I know you will be able to tell me what this story’s souvenir is – yes, Do not boast about what you have or you might well lose it!
Cheerio then, join me next time for Journey with Story.