Return to Lengend Link Page

How the Beaver Got His Tail
an Ojibwe legend retold by
Roland LaBarge

Once upon a time there was a beaver that loved to brag about his tail. One day while taking a walk, the beaver stopped to talk to a bird. The beaver said to the bird, "Don't you love my fluffy tail?"

"Why, yes I do little beaver," replied the bird.

"Don't you wish your feathers were as fluffy as my tail? Don't you wish your feathers were as strong as my tail? Don't you wish your feathers were just as beautiful as my tail?" the beaver asked.

"Why do you think so much of your tail, little beaver?" asked the bird. This insulted the beaver and he walked away.

After walking for a while, he stopped for a drink by the river and saw a muskrat. He walked to the muskrat and said, "Hello little muskrat. What do you think about my tail?"

"Well, it is very beautiful and big and fluffy," answered the muskrat. "Is it also a strong tail?"

"Why, yes it is," the beaver answered. "Do you wish you had a tail like mine?"

"I didn't say I wanted a tail like yours. I just asked if it was strong," the muskrat replied with a disgusted voice.

The beaver quickly turned and began walking back to his dam. He was angry because he felt that the animals were being rude to him. He was very upset and decided to take out his frustration by cutting down trees. After cutting down a couple of trees, he came to a very large one. He knew that it would be a great challenge for him. So he went to it. But as he was cutting, he kept thinking about his tail and didn't notice that he was cutting at a bad angle. Before he knew what was happening, the tree began to fall toward him. He jumped to get out of the way, but he didn't jump fast enough, and the huge tree fell on his beautiful tail! He tugged and pulled and finally dug away the earth to free himself. When he finally pulled his tail from under the tree, he was horrified to see that it was flat. The beaver was very sad and started to cry. As he was crying he heard a voice. It was the Creator.

"Why are you crying?" asked the Creator

"A tree has crushed my beautiful tail," the beaver cried. "Now no one will like me."

The Creator told him that a beaver is not liked for his tail but for his kindness and wisdom. He also told him how to use his flat tail. "Now your tail will help you swim rapidly," the Creator said. "And when you want to signal a message to a friend, all you have to do is slap your tail on the water."

Hearing this made the beaver happy again. When the animals saw his flattened tail they were shocked! But the beaver said, "It's better this way."

From that day on, the beaver never bragged about his tail, and all the animals liked him.

That's how the beaver got his flat tail.


How the Beaver Got His Tail
Word Problems

Join: Result Unknown
There were ___ animals listening to the beaver brag about his tail. ___ got tired of his bragging and walked away. How many stayed and listened to the bragging?
(8, 6) (19, 15) (46, 39)

Part Part Whole: Whole Unknown
The beaver bragged to ___ gold finches and ___ chickadees. How many birds heard the beaver brag?
(6, 3) (14, 14) (27, 33)

Compare: Difference Unknown
On the hill near the beaver's pond there are ___ poplar trees and ___ maple trees.
How many more maple trees than poplar trees are near the pond?
(4, 7) (25, 34) (48, 57)

The beaver bragged to ___ animals. He bragged ___ times to each animal.
How many times did he brag altogether?
(3, 3) (11, 5) (12, 7)

Measurement Division
After his tail was flattened, the beaver apologized ___ times to each of his friends. Altogether, he apologized ___ times. How many friends heard the beaver's apologies?
(2, 8) (6, 18) (4, 32)

Partitive Division
The beaver tucked ___ chips of wood into holes in his dam. He tucked the same number of wood chips in each hole. There were ___ holes in the dam. How many wood chips did the beaver tuck in each hole?
(12, 2) (24, 6) (30, 6)

Join: Change Unknown
The beaver sent a message by slapping his tail on the water. First he slapped it ___ times softly.
Then he slapped it loudly. Altogether, he slapped his tail ___ times.
How many times did he slap his tail loudly?
(5, 11) (22, 35) (43, 61)

Separate: Change Unknown
The beaver had ___ berries to give to his friends. While walking to the forest, he ate some of them.
When he got to the forest, he had ___ berries left. How many berries did the beaver eat?
(9, 4) (28, 6) (33, 16)

Part Part Whole: Part Unknown
In the forest the beaver met ___ little furry creatures. ___ were field mice, and the rest were rabbits.
How many rabbits did the beaver meet?
(6, 4) (32, 23) (34, 26)

Compare: Referent Unknown
The muskrat caught ___ fish. He caught ___ more fish than the beaver. How many fish did the beaver catch?
(8, 3) (18, 7) (32, 15)

Two Step Problem
The beaver softly slapped his tail against the water ___ times. Then he slapped it ___ times loudly.
He repeated this tail slapping pattern ___ times. Altogether, how many times did the beaver slap his tail?
(2, 4, 2) (4, 5, 3) (5, 6, 10)

Encourage students to write and solve their own word problems and to share their problems with classmates.