The Talking Earth

The Talking Earth

4.2 8
by Jean Craighead George

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"Billie Wind lives with her Seminole tribe. She follows their customs, but the dangers of pollution and nuclear war she's learned about in school seem much more real to her. How can she believe the Seminole legends about talking animals and earth spirits? She wants answers, not legends.

"You are a doubter,"say the men of the Seminole Council and so Billie goes

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"Billie Wind lives with her Seminole tribe. She follows their customs, but the dangers of pollution and nuclear war she's learned about in school seem much more real to her. How can she believe the Seminole legends about talking animals and earth spirits? She wants answers, not legends.

"You are a doubter,"say the men of the Seminole Council and so Billie goes out into the Everglades alone, to stay until she can believe. In the wilderness, she discovers that she must listen to the land and animals in order to survive. With an otter, a panther cub, and a turtle as companions and guides, she begins to understand that the world of her people can give her the answers she seeks.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
The conservation message grows naturally out of the excitement and concrete detail of the survival adventure story. .

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
A Trophy Bk.
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.32(d)
770L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Billie Wind could see the orange tree through the open walls of the council house. A white bird floated down upon it, and she wondered if it had a nest nearby.

"Billie Wind." The medicine man was speaking. "May I have your attention?" She was standing beside her sister Mary in the dim light of the house. Outside the sunlight was white and hot. Inside a soft trade wind blew under the palm-thatched roof, cooling the air pleasantly. Charlie Wind, the medicine man, who was also her uncle and friend, cleared his throat.

"Billie Wind," he repeated. "May I have your attention?" She promptly looked from the bird to the dark eyes of the elderly man.

"It is told that you do not believe in the animal gods who talk." He frowned.

"It is told that you do not believe that there is a great serpent who lives in the Everglades and punishes bad Seminoles." He shook his head, then cast a sober glance at the councilmen, who were seated on the hard earth around him.

"And it is told that you doubt that there are little people who live underground and play tricks on our people." He pulled his white Seminole cape closer around his lean shoulders, forcing Billie Wind to notice that it was too long. It almost touched the black-and-white border of his skirt.

"Are you listening to me?"

"Yes," she answered and smiled, tightening her lips so she would not giggle.

"The council has met. We are disturbed by your doubts."

Billie Wind caught her breath. She knew perfectly well these men did not believe in the serpent and the talking animals and the dwarfs. They were educated and wise men. She knew them well. Several were her uncles, others were the fathers of herbest friends. She waited for them to laugh understandingly as they usually did when the old legends and beliefs were discussed.

But they did not even smile. Charlie Wind crossed his arms on his chest.

"We are a tribe of the Seminole Indians," he said in a solemn voice. "We believe that each person is part of the Great Spirit who is the wind and the rain and the sun and the earth, and the air above the earth. Therefore we can not order or command anyone." He paused. "But we do agree that you should be punished for being a doubter. "

Billie Wind glanced from face to face, searching for the good humor that would soon end this to-do about serpents and dwarfs. No one smiled, not even her comical uncle, Three-Hands-on-the-Saddle.

"What do you think would be a suitable punishment for you, Billie Wind?"

She let her mind wander, waiting for someone to break the silence and send her off to play. When it became apparent that this would not happen, she concentrated on a punishment: something ridiculous, something they would not let her do, it would be so dangerous.

"I think," she said with dignity, "that I should go into the pa-hay-okee, the Everglades, where these spirits dwell, and stay until I hear the animals talk, see the serpent and meet the little people who live underground."

She waited for Charlie Wind to shake his head "no."

"Good," he said, much to her surprise. Promptly he turned to Mary Wind, who was two years older than she.

"Mary Wind," he said to the sturdy fifteen-year-old, who had been the one to tell the medicine man about Billie Wind's doubts, "go with your sister in the tribal dugout as far as Lost Dog Island. There you will find an ancient dugout pulled up on the alligator beach. In it are three white heron feathers. Wave them over Billie Wind so that she will have a safe journey. Then come on home."

Crossing his feet, he sat down among the councilmen, who were meeting, as they did once a year, on the tribal island of Panther Paw in the Everglades to settle arguments and reprimand the offenders of the Seminole laws. The Big Cypress Reservation, where they farmed and raised cattle, was about thirty miles west of their island. Most of the clan would return to their farms and homes after the four-day Green Corn Dance festival that would start the day after tomorrow.

Billie Wind was well known for her curiosity. Only last summer she had peeked through the cane screen at the rear of the council house to watch Charlie Wind open the sacred medicine bundle. Her foot had slipped, and she had knocked the screen over.

"What are you doing?" he had asked in surprise.

"Trying to see the magic in the medicine bundle," she had answered. "I want to see what makes the rain fall and cures the sick."

"And what did you see?"

"Nothing," she had answered honestly. "Just some minerals and stones, a snake's fang and the flint and steel you start the Green Corn Dance fires with-also some herbs." She had tipped her head inquiringly. "Do they really make the rain fall and cure the sick?"

Charlie Wind had not answered immediately. Instead he had reached for a feather broom, swept the ground, sat down and gestured for her to sit beside him.

"The medicine bundle," he had said, leaning so close that she could see the dust in the wrinkles of his face, "was given to two ancient medicine men by the adopted son of the Corn Mother.

"The bundle was divided between them, and they divided their bundles into forty more-one for each clan. When the Spaniards came to Florida they killed and ravaged and warred upon the ancient people. Most of the medicine bundles were burned or lost. Some were hidden and never have been found again. Only eight still exist. And this is one of them." He reverently patted the leather pouch with his long fingers.

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