Long ago, two young brothers went out into the cold winter woods to hunt for food, since the village was running low. In fact, they were a bit hungry when they began their search. They looked far and wide, and the younger brother said he found something.
“Can we eat this?”
“No, we can’t eat a dead leaf,” replied the elder.
They searched farther and wider, and grew hungrier.
“Can we eat this?” the younger asked again?
“No, we can’t eat pine needles.”
They searched farther and wider, and got much hungrier, and colder.
“Please, can we eat this?” asked the younger.
“I’m sorry brother, but no, we can’t eat twigs.”
And farther and farther they searched, and more and more they starved and froze. All they could think about was food for themselves, never mind their village so far away now.
I can’t eat leaves. I can’t eat pine needles. I can’t eat twigs. I can’t eat bark. Please, Spirits, show me something to eat.
“Can we eat this?”
The elder brother looked at the younger brother, who held a palm full of berries. He smiled as hot tears rolled down his cold cheeks.
“Yes,” said the tearful brother, “you can eat those.”
The younger offered half of them to his brother, but the elder insisted his brother should eat them all. “You found them after all; you earned them. And I’ll be fine for another day or two.”
“Thank you, brother,” said the smiling younger brother, as he popped the whole handful of berries into his mouth. They were deliciously sweet.
And so, they traveled farther, but the younger brother became very sick. He collapsed into the snow and went into a terrible fit. He called and reached out for his brother, but his elder brother ran a distance ahead, sank into the snow, covered his ears, shut his eyes, and tried to block out his brother’s cries for help. He wasn’t sure when, but the elder noticed his brother’s cries had ceased. He looked back to see his younger brother, splayed out in the snow, his eyes wet with tears, but unblinking. The elder’s tears were frozen on his cheeks as he looked down, expressionless. He kneeled over his brother and drew his knife.
Yes, I can eat this.
The brothers never returned to the village, but other hunters went out looking for them. They found a defiled corpse—its bones picked clean and the snow beneath them stained a ruddy brown. Those hunters later said that something stalks those woods now—with a cold heart and an insatiable hunger, as punishment for its terrible sins.