Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Puffins and the Wolf

A long time ago when the earth was blue and green there was an island in the North Atlantic Sea, the prettiest you've ever seen. On this rocky coast of crag and scarp lived a colony of puffins. They made a meager but sustained life living off the sea, diving for fish off the shores. Some years were lean and their young grew weak, but in the good years they feasted on fish and danced through the evening.

One fateful March, they were cold and hungry and grew weary in wait for the capelin that would wash in with the waves of June. The sea would offer the bounty that had sustained them for generations, but the nights were long and the wait was proofing unbearable. Other fish had been scarcer than previous years and their young were disappearing in great numbers. The elder puffins assembled, unbeknownst to them the tiny island had been visited that year by a cunning wolf.

Our young are hungry, the puffins cried, and we are cold and fear we will not survive to see the warmth of summer. Just then as the puffins were assembled came a low rumbling that filled the air like thunder. The puffins shook and all at once swung their coloured beaks to the direction of the rumble. It was a voice, the voice of the wolf:

I know your problem, rumbled the wolf with wet fangs flashing in the low evening sun, and it is I alone who can help you. You can have all the comforts of the modern world, treasures and comforts that a bird with such poor useless wings could never dream of. You will be warm and your bellies full. For my generous philanthropy I would only ask for fresh eggs and a gift of fish. The puffins, anxious to see a better live for their children agreed to the terms of partnership with the wolf.

Daily the puffins brought their eggs and a share of their fish. Dear wolf, they would say as they knelt at the feet of the dog, dear wolf these gifts I bring to thee so that we may live in harmony with you. The arrangement between the wolf and puffins lasted many years, until at last the fish became hard to find. With the Wolf’s substantial share of fish the waters off the shores were being harvested heavily. The puffins caught as much fish as they could but the bounty at the feet of the wolf became less and less. At long last the poor puffins could not sustain themselves and the wolf. Their children were again dwindling in numbers and many were hungry.

The elders again went to the wolf who was not at all pleased. Why is it that your gifts have become so few? he asked, his snout thrust toward the puffins and his teeth bared. Dear Wolf, spoke the elders, our children are again cold and hungry the fish are harder to find, we must fly further and dive deeper to fish. Our eggs are left unguarded. Too often we are returning with no fish to find our nests empty. And... one puffin stepped forward, and dear wolf, if I may, some puffins have seen the sea gulls bringing you fish.

The wolf stood to his full eight towering over the leaders of the puffin colony. “You are puffins” he snarled, “you fish, that is what you do, if you cannot provide for me I will find someone who will.”

So the Puffins fished even harder. They flew longer and dove even deeper. But try as they might they could not provide for their young and also provide a modest gift to the Wolf.

All of the puffins this time assembled. Many cried out that they were better off in the years before the wolf. But the elders were divided, many could still remember March in the years before the wolf when they were hungry and cold. All agreed that they would return to the wolf to renegotiate the terms of their union. But just then their bodies shook and they swung their coloured beaks to the back of the crowd to the low familiar rumbling of the Wolf’s voice.

I told you he barked that if you could not provide for me I would find someone that would. He licked his salivating lips and in that instant he leapt into the assembled colony of puffins and devoured them one by one.

Looking around the tiny island the greedy wolf realized how desolate it had become. There was nothing now to sustain neither a puffin nor a wolf. He ran to the shore leaping into the water and swam to the big northern land where it was said the caribou traveled in great numbers like living rivers.

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