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Why Possum Has a Bare Tail

Published February 24, 2017
Countries: USA (Native American
Age Levels: 5-6 and up

Possum and Raccoon lived close to each other in the forest. They liked to go the same places. They liked many of the same foods. They shared many of the same friends. They both even had a long furry tail.  

One day, Possum was walking in the woods around sunset when he saw Raccoon from behind. Now Opossum had always admired Raccoon because he had a beautiful tail with rings all around it. Raccoon’s tail was beautiful.

Possum went up to Raccoon and said: "How did you get those pretty rings on your tail?"

Raccoon stroked his fluffy long tail fondly and said: "Well, I wrapped dried grass and dried bark around the tail here and here and here," he pointed. "Then I stuck my tail into the fire. The fur between the strips of grass and bark turned black and the places underneath the bark remained white, just as you see!"

Possum thanked the Raccoon and hurried away to gather some bark. He wrapped dried grass and bark around his furry tail. He built a big bonfire, and stuck his tail into the flames. Only the bonfire was too hot and too fierce. The grass and bark caught fire right away along with the fur. The fire instantly burned all of the hair off the Opossum's tail, leaving it entirely bare.

Possum wailed and moaned when he saw his poor tail. But there was nothing he could do but wait for the fur to grow back. Possum waited and waited and waited. But the tail was too badly burned by the fire. The fur did not grow back. Possum's tail remained bare for the rest of his life.

Possum tails have been bare ever since.


*Story from the Creek and Muscogee Tribes – recorded by S.E. Schlosser