For Children

William Tomlinson

Ashboy: A Native American Cinderella Story

2011 3rd-4th Grade Prose Winner

There was once a young boy long ago who was the son of a great warrior of the Crow tribe of the Great Plains. One day the boy's father grew ill, so ill that he could not get up. He called his son over to his side and said, "I fear that I will die soon, but near the river lives a nice woman with two daughters and a son. When I am dead, go live with them in their tipi."

The boy was very sad but he agreed to live with the nice woman. After his father's death, he walked to the woman's tipi. The woman and her children welcomed him. He liked the woman. She was short and had jet black eyes.

At first his new family was kind to him, but after a while things began to change. They made him do all the hard work. The woman, whose name was Short Bird, did not allow him to hunt with her son, but made him butcher the dead buffalo and scrape the hides. Her daughters made him do all the tasks that they used to doógather firewood, clean the tipi, pick berries and nuts and mix them with dry buffalo meat and fat to make pemmican. He had to sleep on the hard, cold ground. He did not get enough to eat. His breechcloth and leggings were torn and dirty. One day after he had finished his work, the woman's son pushed him into the ashes from the fire and called him Ashboy. From then on, everyone called him Ashboy.

One night he asked, "Give me a buffalo skin to sleep on."

Short Bird replied, "You are too dirty to have a buffalo skin. You would make it black."

Many nights, however, Ashboy would wait until everybody was asleep. Then he would sneak out and hunt with a sharpened stick. He learned how to track small animals, even in the dark. His eye≠sight grew very sharp. After he had caught an animal, he would leave it outside the medicine man's tipi and sneak back into Short Bird's tipi.

This went on for many years until one day the tribe was preparing to raid a nearby Sioux camp for horses. The warriors gathered together to ask for the blessing of the spirits in a ceremony with loud singing, drumming, and dancing. But when they were about to leave, the chief died suddenly. He had no sons to take his place. So the medicine man said, "Whoever is the bravest in battle and in hunting will take the chief's place." Short Bird's son was certain that he would get to be the new chief. He boasted to all the villagers, "No person in this camp is as brave as I am."

Right after the war party left, Ashboy grabbed an old spear that had belonged to Short Bird's husband. The tip was broken, so he replaced it with a sharp piece of bone that he had been saving. Once Ashboy had repaired the spear, he set off on foot after them. He walked for hours and still he could not see the other warriors. He walked a little more and soon he could hear shouts from up ahead. Then he saw warriors fighting. He threw himself into the battle and all of the warriors saw how bravely he fought. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Short Bird's son flee in terror. Soon the battle was over and the Crow warriors had won.

Two days later, the men of the village prepared for the buffalo hunt. Once again, they had a huge ceremony where they danced with buffalo masks. Short Bird told everybody that Ashboy was sick so that he would not join in. But this time Ashboy was allowed to go on the hunt because he had been so brave in battle. He was even given a horse by the medicine man who told him, "You'll need this." The men rode for a couple hours until they saw little black spots on the horizon. They got excited and rushed into the herd. Ashboy gripped his spear tightly. He doubted that he would kill the most buffalo, but before he knew it he had killed five buffalo. The rest of the herd ran away.

The medicine man was impressed. He asked, "Ashboy, where did you learn how to hunt so well?" But Ashboy didn't want to answer him and give away his secret.

When they got back to camp, Ashboy found out that Short Bird's son and two other men had also caught five buffalo. The medicine man said, "Four men killed five buffalo, so we will have another test. We will take you a long way away with no horse, no food, and no water, and the first person to get back will become the new chief."

The following morning, each of the four men was taken away from camp. From the moment Ashboy was left on his own, he began to track the horse that belonged to the person who had taken him out. He saw where the dry grass had been bent and the dirt had been disturbed. He tracked the horse the whole day, but did not see the camp. Then he saw a buffalo ahead of him. And that was when he realized he had been tracking a buffalo. So he turned around and retraced his steps. He saw how the buffalo had crossed the horse's trail and why he had been confused. It was getting dark, so Ashboy lay down to rest in a clump of very long grass.

The next morning, he started out again. When he saw tipis on the horizon, he began to run and he got to the camp five minutes later. Short Bird's son got back to the camp just after he did, but the other two men were never seen again.

That night, the whole camp had a big celebration. Everybody was happy except for Short Bird and her children. When Ashboy went for a walk the next night Short Bird and her son hid in the bushes next to a cliff. They waited and waited until they saw him coming and then jumped out and pushed him over the cliff. As he was falling, Ashboy managed to grab onto a big rock that was jut≠ting out of the cliff and pulled himself onto it.

When Short Bird and her son got back to the camp they told the medicine man, "Ashboy walked too close to the edge of a cliff and fell over the side." Everyone was shocked. After a minute of silence, the medicine man replied, "You got back second. You will be our new chief."

Ashboy wondered how he would ever get back up to the top of the cliff. He sat thinking and thinking, while some birds flew above him. Finally, he had an idea. He broke his spear in half and rubbed the two pieces together above a little bundle of dry grass that he had found in a crack on the cliff. A spark hit the bundle and it caught on fire.

Back at the camp, the medicine man saw some wispy black smoke a little ways away. He asked two men, "Go find out where that smoke is coming from."

The two men set off. In a while, they reached the cliff. They saw that the smoke seemed to be coming from the side of the cliff. They looked over and saw Ashboy sitting on a ledge far below with a small fire beside him.

"We thought you were dead!" they yelled. "Short Bird and her son hid in the bushes and pushed me over the cliff," replied Ashboy. "Really!" they said,

"We did not think that they were that mad!"

The two men threw down a rope that they had brought with them and slowly pulled Ashboy up. When they got back to the camp, everyone welcomed Ashboy.

The medicine man said to him, "You have shown bravery, strength, and intelligence in battle, hunting, and tracking. What you have done now is like a fourth test because it shows you can deal with the unexpected. A good chief needs all of these qualities."

Soon after, Short Bird and her children were banished from the tribe forever.


It was said that Ashboy was a good chief and he led the tribe for 20 years. Short Bird and her children were killed by a stampeding buffalo herd. The two men who never made it back to the camp were captured and taken in by the Sioux who had fought and been defeated earlier by Ashboy and the Crow tribe.