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A Marriage Blessed by the Sun

Inspired by a Mayan Indian legend

Long, long ago, when the world was not yet complete, the great god Maya looked around the sacred spot where he had created the various species of birds and noticed a few leftover greyish-white feathers, a long slender beak, a few tiny bones and muscles that hadn't been used. Because he couldn't stand the idea of wasting even what little remained, he picked them up and put them together to create the frame of a very tiny bird to which he added a long beak. He then gave this tiny new bird the gift of life.

The bird spread its tiny wings, opened its bright black eyes and looked at the god Maya. Fearing that its tiny size and long beak would put it at a disadvantage, the Great God made sure it could fly in every direction so that it could feed on flower nectar, good food that no other bird could easily access. Then, with a breath of air, he sent the little bird to find a place where it could live. The Mayan people called this tiniest of birds, the Dzunuume, because when it flew, the air that passed through its feathers produced a sound that resembled dzu-nu-ume, dzu-nu-ume.

Naturally, the great god knew that a single bird of this species wasn't enough: each creature must have its mate. So he called upon his magic powers: more greyish-white feathers, bones as tiny and a beak as long as those he had used then appeared. He assembled them in the same manner and gave this new little bird the gift of life. Then he told Dzunuume and his new companion to make that day their wedding day and to live happily ever after.

Onlookers wanting to see the couple and attend the celebration approached. A few spiders wanted to help and began weaving webs to decorate the bridal path, telling the bride she could use them later to build her nest. "Oh, it's going to be beautiful!" babbled the finch with a cape and throat as red as cayenne pepper. "The best and most beautiful things for a beautiful bride and a handsome groom. The most beautiful." All of a sudden he stopped: Dzunuume and his bride were not beautiful, not at all. Their feathers were dull, dreary grey. No pretty colours at all. The finch looked at the other birds nearby: "something has to be done to make these two little grey birds beautiful."

The long-tailed Quetzal, the most splendid bird in all of the Mayan land, was the first to speak. "Use my feathers," he offered, spreading his long green tail feathers. "And take part of mine," said the Violet-green Swallow leaning low enough so that they could pluck pearl white feathers from its chest. "Now you need some of my red feathers for a scarf," screeched the finch. He gave so many red feathers to Dzunuume that there were only a couple left for the tiny bride.

Before anyone else could add another colour, the sun, appearing from behind a cloud, announced to the two little green-coats that they were married forever and ever. As a blessing, the sun sent them one of its rays. It fell directly on Dzunuume's throat, making it shine red and gold, like a leaping flame. "Oh-h-h! Ah-h-h!" the birds, butterflies, and spiders exclaimed at this awesome sight. Then another sunbeam brightened the green feathers on the back, making them look like polished jade. "Oh-h-h! Ah-h-h!" they all repeated in chorus.

The sun made a solemn promise. "The feathers of all hummingbirds will always shine with this magic of fire and jade," it said, "on the condition that they look at me. But every time they turn from the light, their feathers will darken again, to remind them of the grey feathers they once had." Since that day everytime hummingbirds turn from the sunlight, some of their shiny feathers darken, just as fire turns to ashes.