Stories connect us to the time-tested wisdom of the world's peoples--and teach spiritual and moral lessons we want to pass on to our kids. Each week, Beliefnet will present a spiritual story from a different faith tradition, followed by simple activities that bring the message home. We invite you to share the stories with your children, do the activities together, and make "Teaching Tales" a joyous part of family life.

Reprinted with permission from "How the Children Became Stars" by Aaron Zerah, published by Sorin Books.

The coldest winter was about to come, a winter like none the world had ever seen before. This winter would destroy all the creatures of the earth if something was not done to save them.

So Ahura Mazda, the Creator, spoke to Yima, the first man and the first king of the earth, to tell him what was going to happen. "O Yima," he said, "upon all the living things in the world, both animals and plants, will fall a killing frost, and snow so heavy that the highest mountains will be covered.

"Before this terrible winter, the earth gave plenty of grass for cattle. Now the beasts that live in the wild places, from the mountaintops to the sweet meadows of the valleys, will have to find shelter under the earth. When the snow melts, O Yima, it will be a wonder to see the footprint of a sheep!

"O Yima," Ahura Mazda said, "this is what you must do. Make a place for the creatures to live and close it off on all sides so that they may be safe. Bring to that place oxen and sheep, human beings, dogs, birds, creatures of all kinds, and fires that burn red and hot.

"Build a special place, O Yima, for human beings to live and also one for the birds," Ahura Mazda told the man. "For the birds, make a stream flow in a pool. There the green plants will grow forever and the birds will always have food.

"You, too, shall build a house there, a big house, with a place from which to look out and a great yard in which to walk," Ahura Mazda said to Yima. "May all of you live a life of perfect happiness."

Bringing It Home

To Do This Week

  • Pretend you are Yima. What would you say when Ahura Mazda told you this awful winter was coming?

  • Draw or paint a picture of the world before the winter of destruction came. Draw or paint a picture of the world after the winter comes.

  • What does this story have in common with the Noah's Ark story?

  • As a family, find out about some of the animals and plants that used to live on the earth but have become extinct in the last fifty years. Find out about three animals or plants that almost became extinct but didn't because people did something to protect them. Talk about what your family can do to keep all the living things of the earth alive.

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