Little Brave No Name

by Solveig Paulson Russell

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    Nothing important had ever happened to Little Brave. He had never found a beautiful rock with a yellow streak like Yellow Rock Finder had found. He had never run a race like Fast Runner had run. He had never sat quietly for a very long time watching butterflies as Butterfly Watcher had done.

    “No Name! No Name! Little Brave No Name!” the other boys often chanted as they circled around Little Brave. Then Little Brave would drop his head and clench his hands and wait until he had a chance to get away.

    One day Little Brave No Name went to his grandfather’s lodge to hide. Grandfather was not there, but hanging on posts were many masks the wise old man had carved from wood. One very fierce face lay on a log near the entrance. It had great big eyes and a long pointed nose.

    Little Brave picked up the mask and swung it by the rawhide laces. As it moved back and forth, Little Brave No Name said, “I wish I could, I wish I could—” Suddenly he stopped swinging the mask and cried, “I will!” Then he ran quickly out of Grandfather’s lodge with the mask in his hand.

    The boy hid the mask at the edge of the woods and hurried back to his own lodge. There he found a tough piece of smoked deer meat and placed it in the beaded pouch he wore at his waist. Then he returned to the woods.

    Little Brave put the mask on his face and tied the rawhide laces firmly behind his head. “Now,” he whispered, “I will go out and find a name! I will scare some creature so much it will not be able to move. Then I will grab it and take it home to the chanting boys.”

    The eyes in the mask were so far apart, Little Brave couldn’t see very well out of the eyeholes. He stepped carefully along the forest path, and with one eye he searched the bushes and trees. Little Brave crouched low so that the mask was very close to the bushes.

    Suddenly a rabbit jumped in front of him. Little Brave stopped and moved his head slowly from right to left. The rabbit stopped and looked at Little Brave. The rabbit’s nose quivered and its eyes blinked excitedly. Then its ears stood straight up, and with a wild jump the rabbit leaped away.

    Little Brave laughed. “Ki, yie! The long-eared one is very frightened. But I will not chase him. I would not want to be named for a rabbit.”

    Now the forest seemed very still to Little Brave. “I hear no birds. I see no bees. Perhaps they know a fearful face is walking in the woods and they are hiding.”

    A noisy chattering broke out beside the trial, and a fluffy-tailed gray squirrel scolded from a branch of a tree.

    “The bright-eyed one is not afraid, because he is safe high up in the tree. Oh, well, I do not want to be called Little Brave Squirrel.”

    Soon Little Brave came upon a round bushy fellow slowly moving through the forest.

    I will scare Mr. Porcupine! thought Little Brave as he left the trial and moved around through the bushes. Then Little Brave hunched himself together and moved his masked head slowly before the porcupine. “Boo-boo! Googy-boo!” he hissed in a deep scary voice.

    The porcupine stopped. It slowly raised its head and looked at the big mask. It hesitated just a moment and then put its head down again and started forward, straight for the mask and Little Brave.

    Little Brave did not want to feel the prickly quills of that animal. “A porcupine is an honorable animal,” he whispered, “but I would not want to be called Sticky One, so I will let it go. I will leave the trial and go through the thick woods to find a better animal to scare.”

    Traveling through the woods was not as easy as walking on the trial.

    It was very still in the woods. A stick cracked under his feet, and Little Brave stumbled. Down he went, and the fierce-looking mask tumbled off his face.

    He moved over beside a big log and hung the mask on a dead limb. Little Brave reached into his beaded pouch for the smoked deer meat. I will eat a little and then I will return the mask to Grandfather’s lodge, he decided.

    As Little Brave ate, he watched an ant crawl from under the log and stop to twitch its feelers in every direction. The boy broke off a small piece of meat and put it before the ant. He watched as the ant worked to carry the tiny bit away.

    Then Little Brave heard a twig snap. He turned just in time to see a golden fox reach its head through the loop made by the laces of the mask and snap up the rest of the meat off the log. As the fox drew its head back through the loop, the mask dislodged from the twig and the loop fell around its neck. As the mask dropped to the fox’s chest, the animal gave a startled yelp, whirled around, and then ran off through the forest.

    “Come back!” screamed Little Brave. “That is Grandfather’s mask! Come back!”

    Little Brave had taken the mask without permission, and he knew that his grandfather would be very angry if it were not returned. “Come back with that mask!” cried Little Brave as he ran after the fox.

    Over logs, through brush, and out into meadows went the golden fox. Finally it ran beside the river, where Yellow Rock Finder, Fast Runner, and Owl Catcher were splashing in a swimming hole.

    The boys gasped in surprise when they saw the fox dart from the woods with Little Brave chasing right behind the animal and yelling at the top of his voice!

    When the fox and boy disappeared, Fast Runner cried, “Did you see that? Little Brave No Name has put a mask on a swift fox, and now he is chasing the golden one!”

    “I can’t believe it!” Yellow Rock Finder exclaimed. “I did not know Little Brave had such courage!”

    “Let’s hurry to the village!” suggested Owl Catcher, who was anxious to tell what he had seen.

    Before long the fox grew tired. In one last effort to be rid of the mask, it jumped into a thicket and rolled in the brush. The stout rawhide strings held, but the mask moved up over the fox’s head and settled tightly about its eyes and nose.

    There Little Brave No Name found the animal lying, defeated by the mask.

    “Poor fellow,” said Little Brave. “How you run! But do not fear, for I will help you get the mask off. I know how it feels.”

    Then Little Brave knelt down and worked the mask from the fox’s head. As soon as the mask was free, the golden fox darted away.

    Little Brave No Name started back to the Indian village with the battered and scratched mask in his hand. “Grandfather will be angry, but he will not be nearly as angry as if I had lost the mask,” he said to himself.

    As soon as the villagers saw Little Brave No Name coming, they all went out to meet him. Little Brave looked down at the ground and dug his toes into the soft earth as he waited to hear Grandfather scold him.

    But instead of angry words, Little Brave heard Grandfather say, “Little Brave, though you took a mask without permission, I am not going to scold you. The boys have told us you were chasing a golden fox in the forest—a fox wearing a mask. No one will ever question your secret magic, for now you no longer are a brave without a name. You have proved your right to a name that is for you alone. From now on you will be called Fierce Fox Chaser!”

    So that’s how the name of Little Brave No Name was changed to Fierce Fox Chaser. And always he was kind to the creatures of the woods, but he was especially kind to golden foxes.

    Illustrated by Jerry Thompson