As globally we go into various stages of lockdown to ‘flatten the curve’ of Covid19, I pondered how much it is like being in hibernation during a severe winter. I recalled ‘Shingebiss and the North Wind’ as told by my storytelling friend and colleague Fran Stallings. It has its origins in a traditional Chippewa or Ojibwe story and has highly relevant themes: courage, enduring isolation, resourcefulness and staying calm in a crisis. We can translate the skills Shingebiss uses to survive the Winter Wind: keeping his nest warm and staying calm and cheerful, to the skills required to stay healthy and cope with lockdown: keeping ourselves cheerful and socially connected, limiting time outdoors despite longing to go out, maintaining physical distancing and washing our hands thoroughly. In the Southern hemisphere, winds from the north are warm, so I changed North Wind to Winter Wind. Fran tells Shingebiss as a woman, in other versions the character is a man and in others a duck. I wanted the story to work for youngish children, so I decided to make the protagonist a duck. Please tell your own version and rewrite the song to suit your purposes. 

I was inspired to weave this version in response to a Story Challenge, sent through the big-hearted couple behind ‘How to Tell Stories to Children’. There is a story challenge for adults and children and a growing collection of stories for our Covid19 situation. Check it out here. This story appears there also.

 

Shingebiss and the Winter Wind 

There was once a beautiful land which was very dangerous in the Winter. A fierce icy wind whistled and howled for many months. The creatures who lived in that place were scared of Winter Wind. They told stories about his angry face, his headdress made of glittering, silver icicles and his coat of fine white snow. 

Each Autumn, before Winter Wind arrived, the people, the animals, the birds and the insects traveled far away to a warmer place. They didn’t dare come back until Spring. Only one creature stayed: a brave little brown duck called Shingebiss. The other creatures shook their heads. 

‘You know, Winter Wind will freeze you Shingebiss. Don’t be foolish. Come with us!’

But Shingebiss said, ‘No. I’ll be fine. I know just what to do. My grandmother taught me how to build a good warm nest and gave me a fine song to keep me strong.’

Shingebiss worked hard to make his nest cosy and warm. He added a roof and lined it carefully with layers of tightly woven grass and feathers and down he’d saved. He caught fish and collected berries, dried them and stored them. Then he waited. Soon Winter Wind came whistling and blowing. 

Whoosha whoooosha! 

Ha ha ha, Ho Ho ho! 

Who dares stay where I do blow?

There’s nowhere safe for you to hide

Not even when you stay inside

 

But Shingebiss was brave and Shingebiss was calm. 

He sat in his nest, closed his eyes, 

And smiling sang: 

Winter Wind you can’t scare me.

I’m as safe as safe can be

With my cosy nest and my Courage song 

I’ll be fine when you’re long gone.

 

The Winter Wind was angry that Shingebiss dared to stay.

Ha ha ha, Ho Ho ho! 

Who dares stay where I do blow?

You won’t feel nice 

When you’re made of ice!

 Winter Wind blew most of the day and night: whistling and howling. He blew his icy breath across the gaps in the ice where Shingebiss had been fishing until they were frozen over. But Shingebiss was brave and Shingebiss was calm. He sat in his nest, closed his eyes, and smiling sang: 

 Winter Wind

You can’t scare me.

I’m as safe as safe can be

With my cosy nest and my Courage song 

I’ll be fine when you’re long gone.

 

Shingebiss told himself stories and dozed through the long dark days. When he ran out of fish, he waited until Winter Wind was blowing somewhere else, then waddled further from his nest until he found new holes in the ice to fish through. He brought home his catch and ate the fish with his berries. 

A long time passed. A long, long time passed. No matter how hard Winter Wind blew or tried to get into his nest, Shingebiss stayed brave and Shingebiss stayed calm.

Gradually, Winter Wind grew weaker. One day he said, ‘That little brown duck is brave. Perhaps I’ll let him stay.’ 

With that Winter Wind took himself far away. The sun grew stronger. The snow and ice began to melt. New green shoots began to push up from the Earth and sprout from the limbs of the bare trees. Shingebiss came out of his cosy nest. He sang:

 

Winter Wind

You never scared me.

I was safe, as safe can be

With my cosy nest and my Courage song 

Now I am fine and you’re long gone.

 

When all the creatures arrived back, they were amazed to find Shingebiss not only alive, but healthy and fat! He taught them all how to make warm cosy homes, how to store enough food and how to fish through the ice so they could also stay through the Winter Wind.

Then they all sang his grandmother’s song: 

Winter Wind

You can’t scare me.

I’m as safe as safe can be

With my cosy nest and my courage song 

I’ll be fine when you’re long gone.

 

 ~ ~ THE END ~ ~

 

My Covid19 version of the song is:

Rona Rona 

You can’t scare me.

Cos I know what to do 

I’ll wash my hands and sing my song 

I’ll be fine when you’re long gone.

 

How would you tell this story? 🙂

 

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