A Legend of Northland | Class 9 Poem | Summary & Question Answer

A Legend of Northland- Poem

A Legend of Northland is a ballad written by Phoebe Cary.

Away, away in the Northland,

Where the hours of the day are few,

And the nights are so long in winter

That they cannot sleep them through;

Where they harness the swift reindeer

To the sledges, when it snows;

And the children look like bear’s

In their funny, furry clothes:

They tell them a curious story —

I don’t believe ’tis true;

And yet you may learn a lesson

If I tell the tale to you.

Once, when the good Saint Peter

Lived in the world below,

And walked about it, preaching,

Just as he did, you know,

He came to the door of a cottage,

In travelling round the earth,

Where a little woman was making

And baking them on the hearth;

And being faint with fasting,

For the day was almost done,

He asked her, from her store of cakes,

To give him a single one.

So she made a very little cake,

But as it baking lay,

She looked at it, and thought it seemed

Too large to give away.

Therefore she kneaded another,

And still a smaller one;

But it looked, when she turned it over,

As large as the first had done.

Then she took a tiny scrap of dough,

And rolled and rolled it flat;

And baked it thin as a wafer —

But she couldn’t part with that.

For she said, “My cakes that seem too small

When I eat of them myself

Are yet too large to give away.”

So she put them on the shelf.

Then good Saint Peter grew angry,

For he was hungry and faint;

And surely such a woman

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Was enough to provoke a saint.

And he said, “You are far too selfish

To dwell in a human form,

To have both food and shelter,

And fire to keep you warm.

Now, you shall build as the birds do,

And shall get your scanty food

By boring, and boring, and boring,

All day in the hard, dry wood.”

Then up she went through the chimney,

Never speaking a word,

And out of the top flew a woodpecker,

For she was changed to a bird.

She had a scarlet cap on her head,

And that was left the same;

But all the rest of her clothes were

Black as a coal in the flame.

And every country schoolboy

Has seen her in the wood,

Where she lives in the trees till
this very day,
oring and boring for food.

A Legend of Northland- Summary

The poem is a legend about an old lady who angered Saint Peter because of her greed. The story goes on like this. One day, Saint Peter was preaching around the world and reached the door of a cottage where this woman lived. She was making cakes and baking them on a hearth. St. Peter was fainting with hunger. He asked the lady to give him a piece of cake. The cake that she was baking then appeared to be too big, so she did not give him that and instead, she baked another smaller one. That also appeared to be big so she did not give him that also

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The second time she baked yet another smaller cake but found it too big to give away. In the third attempt, she took an extremely little scrap of dough and rolled it flat. She had it as thin as a wafer but was unable to part with that also. This angered St. Peter a lot. He said that she was not fit to live in human form and enjoy food and warmth. He cursed her and transformed her into a woodpecker bird who had to bore in hard, dry wood to get its scanty food. She can be seen in the trees all day boring and boring for food.

A Legend of Northland- Question Answers

1.    Which country or countries do you think “the Northland” refers to?

Ans:- Northland refers to the cold extreme-northern countries of the northern hemisphere, near and Arctic circle. Since the poet is American, she could be referring to Alaska.

 2.    What did Saint Peter ask the old lady for?

Ans:- Saint Peter asked the old lady for a single cake from her store of cakes.

In response to this request, the old lady proceeded to bake Saint Peter a tiny cake.

 3.    How did he punish her?

Ans:- Saint Peter punished the lady by turning her into a woodpecker bird which would have to get her food by boring into the tree all day.

4.    How does the woodpecker get its food?

Ans:- As the name suggests, the woodpecker pecks into wood of trees, boring in and out till it catches some inspect living inside the tree.


5.    Do you think that the old lady would have been so ungenerous if she had known who Saint Peter really was? What would she have done there?

Ans:- No, I believe if the old lady knew the true identity of Saint Peter, she would not have been so ungenerous.

She might have even shared her biggest and tastiest cake with him. Or if her miserly mind set prevented her from doing that, at the very least she would have given him one cake as he had asked for.

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6.    Is this a true story? Which part of this poem do you feel is the most important?

Ans:- No, this is not a true story but a legend.

The part of the poet which I felt being so selfish, even when Saint Peter chided the woman for being so selfish, even when she had excess to spare, and when he turned the ungenerous lady into a woodpecker so as to teach her a lesson. This goes on to show just how easy our life is compared to the birds and the animals. Unlike us, they have to scourge the entire day for the tiniest scarp of food. Yet we humans finish at the idea of having to share our opulence with people less fortunate than us.

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1.    What is a legend? Why is this poem call a legend?

Ans:-  A legend is a non-historical or unverifiable traditional old story that has been passed down through the ages.

This poem is called a legend because it is a traditional story popular in the northern countries, which has been told through the ages, but has no historical evidence of being true.

 2.    Write the story of “A legend of the Northland” in about ten sentences.

Ans:- Once upon a time, when Saint Peter lived on earth he moved from place to place spreading the word of the Lord. During one such travel, he arrived at the door of a woman who was baking cakes. Tired and hungry from fasting, he asked her for a single cake. Not wanting to part with her big cakes, the miserly woman made him a little cake.

However, she found it too; too big to give away and hence made an even smaller one. This went on until she made a wafer-than tiny cake. Her greed did not allow her to give him this too, and she said to herself that cakes that appeared too small when she ate them, seemed too large for giving away, and set all the cakes on the shelf. Saint Peter was enraged at the woman’s penurious nature and pronounced that she did not deserve to be a human and enjoy the comforts of life. He decided that she would now have to bore through wood to get even scanty food. Saying so he transformed her into a woodpecker, and to this day she pecks wood in the forests to look for food. 

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