The Owl Never Sleeps At Night
Traditional African American


      Have you noticed that whenever a creature starts in this world with a habit, it stays with him all his life? Not only that, he passes it along to his children and his grandchildren. Whether the creatures have two legs or four legs or more legs, it works just the same. Another thing is that if you want to see anything, you must open your eyes.

             There's the case of the owl. At the very first, he was like the other birds; he had the same kind of eyes as the other birds, and he flew around and sang in the daytime, and when it came dark he went to roost and stuck his head under his wings and slept till daybreak, just like the others. But it wasn't long before he got into the habit of sitting up nights and calling out "Who-who," and he never has stopped that to this very day.

        Here's what happened. During the week that the creatures were all created and were just learning how to keep house, the Good Lord noticed that there was something going wrong in the night and he felt mighty nervous about the whole thing. One morning he found the pig's tail curled up; the deer's tail and goat's tail were cut clean off; the possum and the rat had had their hair all pulled off their tails; the duck had lost his forelegs, the snake had lost all of his; and the guinea hen and the turkey gobbler had lost all the hair off their heads; and nobody knew what was going to happen next.

        God had a suspicion that it was some of Old Nick's doings, but he never said anything to anybody. He just asked the owl if he wouldn't stay up that night and keep a lookout and see what the matter was and how it all had happened. And the owl said he'd be mighty proud to stay up, only he's afraid he couldn't see very well in the dark. The Good Lord told him that all he had to do to see in the dark is to open his eyes wider. So they fixed it up that way. And when it turned dark, the owl never went to bed; he just opened his eyes a little wider, and got out in the open where he could look around over the countryside. And every time it got a little darker the owl would open his eyes an little wider, and he didn't ever have any trouble seeing all the carryings-on.

        And sure enough, along about midnight he saw Old Nick tying knots in the horses' manes. And the owl called out, "Who-who, who-who, who-ah?" With that, Old Nick was so scared that he ran away and left the horses, and struck out across the country in the dark. But the owl opened his eyes wider than ever, and he followed after him and every once in a while he'd call out, "Who-who, who-who, who-who-ah!" Well, he sure scared Old Nick away; but when it became day, Mr. Owl had his eyes so wide open that he couldn't shut them, and the bright sun gave him a terrible headache. Then the Good Lord told the owl that as he'd been up all the night before he could find himself a shady place and sleep all day to make up for the loss of sleep the night before. But when night came around again the owl was rested, and he didn't have his headache anymore, and he felt so wide awake that he stayed up that night too. After that, he got the habit, and he's had it ever since.

                                                                --Retold by John C. Branner

The Owl Never Sleeps At Night Identifying Facts:

1. List three ways the owl was at first like the other birds.
      --He had the same eyes, flew and sang in the daytime, and slept at night.

2. Why does God ask the owl to stay up late one night?
      --He noticed that strange things are happening to the animals and wanted to see if the owl can find out what is happening.

3. What does the owl have to do to see in the dark?
     --He must open his eyes wider.

4. Why does the owl sleep all the next day? And why have owls since stayed awake at night?
     --The sun hurts his eyes and God tells him to rest.
     --He just got into the habit of staying up all night.

Interpreting Meanings:

5. This story is a "why" story. Find two examples of humor and exaggeration in the story and tell what origin the story explains.
     --Old Nick's being frightened off by the owl's call, the owl opening his eyes so wide that he couldn't shut them the next day are examples of exaggeration.
     --The story explains why animals look the way they do and why the owl is           nocturnal.

6. What moral, or lessons about life, does this story illustrate?
      --Traits are passed on from one generation to the next.
      --If we are alert and look around we'll be
able to spot evil and avoid it.