Oddly enough, Woodland Tales by Ernest Thompson Seton, was a book I bought for it’s cover. Perhaps I was drawn to it because it was so tattered. The words of introduction were enough to sink the hook too deeply for retrieval. I was a goner and forced therefore to pony up the required $3.50 expected by the lady at the ‘Friends of the Library’ service table. The sign above the cash box said “DONATIONS”, but it didn’t look like they would just let me walk out with the book either. Turned out to be the first in my collection of American folk and fairy stories, and an answer to a half-spoken prayer.
“Ho Wayseeker,” she called, “I have watched your struggle to find the pathway, and I know that you will love the things that belong to it. Therefore, I will show you the trail, and this is what it will lead you to: a thousand pleasant friendships that will offer honey in little thorney cups, the twelve secrets of the underbrush, the health of sunlight, suppleness of body, the unafraidness of the night, the delight of deep water, the goodness of rain, the story of the trail, the knowledge of the swamp, the aloofness of knowing,–yea, more, a crown and a little kingdom measured to your power and all your own.
“But there is a condition attached. When you have found a trail your are thereby ordained a guide. When you have won a kingdom you must give it to the world or lose it. For those who have got power must with it bear responsibility; evade the one, the other fades away.”
This is the pledge I am trying to keep; I want to be your Guide. I am offering you my little kingdom.
~ The last paragraphs from the Introduction of Woodland Tales, by Ernest Thompson Seton c. 1905
The book is a collection of nature stories, Native American and old Eastern States fairy stories, and part how-to junior woodsman survival training as if it were an early, rather pagan, version of a Boy Scout Manual. Turns out to be exactly what it was.
And I cannot help but tease you with the first of this Introduction, the portion of the hook I could not wriggle out of. Good Fortune, Wayseeker! I’ll see you on the trail…