How The Raccoon Got His Mask

By Tomas Urbina & Malika Pannek

Have you ever seen a raccoon before? They don’t like to be seen very much. So they sleep during the day and walk around at night. And if you look at their faces, it looks like they’re wearing masks. Have you noticed that?
But, you know, they didn’t always look that way. They didn’t always have masks. And they didn’t always come out at night. It all started a long time ago with one little raccoon named Rudy.

Part 1

Back then, the raccoons lived in the forest not in the city.
Rudy’s family lived in a giant oak tree deep in the forest with several other families. His mother told him the tree had been there for hundreds of years.
All the trees were much bigger back then and some were even taller than the skyscrapers in cities today.

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Part 2

For the longest time, Rudy spent his days exploring the forest and playing nutball with his best friend, Sunny.
Whenever they got hungry, they could always stop for a snack.
“Do you like bugs?” asked Sunny.
“I like everything!”

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Part 3

But food was getting harder to find since the bears and the wolves moved into the neighbourwood. There was enough food in the forest to go around, but with the big animals out there it just wasn’t safe. 
The only way the raccoons and the other little critters could get enough food was to go out after the wolves and bears had eaten. But that meant they had to wait until dark. And the forest was very dark.
“I can barely see my paws in front of my face.”
On some nights, the little animals would go hungry.

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Part 4

But in all of the forest, there was only one creature who might be able to help them.
“I know!” yelled Rudy. “What would Eldra do?”
Eldra was a wise elder owl who knew more than anyone else about the ways of the woodland.
“She’s a legend! I’m sure she can help us!” yelled Sunny.
Neither of them had ever seen Eldra, but everyone knew she only came out at night and she lived in one of the tallest trees in the forest.

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Part 5

The problem was no one knew exactly which tree was Eldra’s. But word traveled fast in the neighbourwood.
The next day at dusk when Rudy and Sunny were about to start their search for Eldra, a strange thing happened. An acorn fell on Rudy’s head.
Then one fell on Sunny’s head too. “Ouch!”
When they looked up, a little chickadee was sitting a few branches above them.
“If you want to find Eldra, listen carefully.”
Rudy's eyes widened. “We have to go to Great Rock.”

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Part 6

Great Rock was the highest point in the forest. Rudy had only been there once when he was very young.
But getting there wouldn’t be easy. Even though most of the big beasts had gone to sleep, some were still prowling as night fell. Rudy and Sunny had to step lightly.
“Shhh! Don’t wake the bears.”
It felt like they had walked for hours when Rudy bumped into something hard -- and cold.
“I think we made it,” said Rudy.
The chickadee had told them to go to the top of the rock and wait.
There, in the cold of the night, came an unmistakable sound.
“Hooooo! Who goes there?”
“Eldra, please, we’re raccoons and we need your help!”
The two friends couldn’t see her, but they knew Eldra was close by.
“It’s too dark and the small animals of the forest are going hungry!”
Something powerful swooped down and lifted Rudy up.
Up and up they flew into the heights of a giant tree.

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Part 7

They landed on a branch so high, all Rudy could do was hold tight onto the trunk and try not to look down.
“I’ve been watching and I can see we are losing balance in the forest”, said Eldra.
“But what can we do when the wolves and the bears keep us on the run?” asked Rudy.
“There is a way, but only if you turn to the night,” she said.
“You must climb to the top of this tree. When you get there you will be one with the night sky.”
“Reach up, up as high as you can and touch it. Beyond the darkness, there is light.”
“I’m scared.”
“Don’t be afraid, little one. But remember, once you have touched it you must make it a part of you and everyone must know it or else the darkness will return to the sky. Now go.”
Rudy swallowed hard and started to climb.

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Part 8

Up and up and up he went until finally he reached the top.
Hanging on tight, he stretched his arm upwards as high as he could and opened his hand.
The dark sky felt like a thick cream and he scooped up a handful.
As he held it in his hand, the spot he had touched started to change. It started to lighten. It got so bright he could hardly see. He knew this was something special.
Rudy remembered what Eldra had said. He had to make the dark sky a part of himself for the light to keep shining through. And everyone had to know. But how could he make sure everyone knew it was part of him?

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Part 9

Then it hit him. Nutball! He rubbed the dark sky onto his face and it tingled. It was warm and felt like it was shining.
He called out, “Eldra! I did it!”
In an instant, Eldra lifted him up again and they swooped towards the ground where Sunny was still waiting.
In the light that Rudy himself had made, Sunny could see his face.
“Your face -- it looks like you’re wearing a mask.”
“It’s not a mask, it was part of the dark sky and now it’s part of me.”
Only the very tallest trees in the world could reach the night sky, Eldra told them, and it would take time to find them all. But eventually, the raccoons and all the little animals would have enough light to search for food after dark.

And that’s what they’ve been doing under the moon and the stars ever since.

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