Why Possum has a Naked Tail
As told by the Cherokee

In the old days, Possum had the most beautiful tail of all the animals.  It was covered with long silky hair and Possum liked nothing better that to wave it around when the Animal People met together in council.  He would hold up his tail and show it to the Animal People.  

"You see my tail," he would say.  "Is it not the most beautiful tail you have ever seen?  Surely, it is finer than any other animal's."

He was so proud of his tail, that the other animals became tired of hearing him brag about it.  Finally, Rabbit decided to do something about it.  Rabbit was the messenger for the animals and he was the one who always told them when there was to be a council meeting.  He went to Possum's house.

"My friend," Rabbit said, "there is going to be a great meeting.  Our chief, Bear wants you to sit next to him in council.  He wants you to be the first one to speak because you have such a beautiful tail."

Possum was flattered.  "It is true," he said, "one who has such a beautiful and perfect tail, as I have, should be the first one to speak in council."  He help up his tail, combing it with his long fingers.  "Is not my tail the most wonderful thing you have ever seen?"

"My friend," Rabbit said, "it seems to me as if your tail is just a little dirty.  I think that it would look even better if you would allow me to clean it.  I have some special medicine that will make your tail look just the way it should look."


Possum looked closely at his tail.  It did seem as if it was a little bit dirty.  "Yes," Possum said, "that is a good idea.  I want all of the animals to admire my tail when I speak in council."

Then Rabbit mixed up his medicine.  It was very strong, so strong, that it loosened all of the hair on Possum's tail.  But, as he put the medicine on Possum's tail, he wrapped the tail in the skin which had been shed by a snake.

"This snakeskin will make sure the medicine works well," Rabbit said.  "Do not take it off until you speak in council tomorrow.  Then people will all see your tail, just as it should be seen."

Possum did as Rabbit said.  He kept the snakeskin wrapped tightly around his tail, all through the night. The next day, when the animals met for council, Possum sat next to Chief Bear.  As soon as the meeting began, he stood up to speak.  As he spoke, he walked back and forth, swinging his tail, still wrapped in the snakeskin.  He smiled as he thought of how good his tail would look because of the medicine Rabbit put on it.  All of the animals were watching him very closely, looking at his tail.  Possum grinned at the thought of how beautiful his tail would look.  The time was right.

"My friends," Possum said, holding up his tail and beginning to unwrap the snakeskin, "I have been chosen to start this council because of my tail.  It is the finest of all the tails.  Look at my beautiful tail."

Possum pulled off the snakeskin wrapping and as he did so, all the hair fell off his tail.  His tail was bare and ugly.  When Possum saw it, the grim froze on his face.  All of the animals were looking at him.  Possum was so ashamed, that he fell to the ground and pretended to be dead.  He did not move, until long after all the other animals had gone.

To this day, Possum still has that foolish grin on his face.  Whenever, he feels threatened, he pretends that he is dead.  So, because he was so vain, Possum has the ugliest tail of all the animals.



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