American Indian Fairy Tales (2 of 2)


Uploaded by The16thCavern on 22.11.2012

Transcript:
Grasshopper
THERE was once a merry young Indian who could jump so high, and who
played so many pranks, that he came to be known as Grasshopper. He was a tall,
handsome fellow, always, up to mischief of one kind or another;
and though his tricks were sometimes amusing, he carried
them much too far, and so in time he came to grief.
Grasshopper owned all the things that an Indian likes
most to have. In his lodge were all sorts of pipes and weapons,
ermine and other choice furs, deer-skin shirts wrought with
porcupine quills, many pairs of beaded moccasins, and more
wampum belts than one person could have honestly come by.
The truth is, Grasshopper did not get these things by his
skill and courage as a hunter. He got them by shaking pieces
of colored bone and wood in a wooden bowl, then throwing
them on the ground. That is to say, Grasshopper was a
gambler, and such a lucky gambler that he easily won from
others, with his game of Bowl and Counters, the things that
they had obtained by risking their lives in the hunt.
If people put up with his ways, and even laughed at some
of his mad pranks, it was because he could dance so well.
Never had there been such a dancer. Was there a wedding
to be celebrated, or some feast following a successful hunt —
then who but Grasshopper could so well supply the entertainment?
He could dance with a step so light that it seemed to leave
no mark upon the earth. He could dance as the Indian
dances when he goes to war, or as when he holds a festival in
honor of the corn. But the dance in which he excelled was a
furious, dizzy dance, with leaps and bounds, that fairly turned
the heads of the beholders.
It was then that Grasshopper became a kind of human
whirlwind. As he spun round and round, his revolving body
drew up the dry leaves and the dust, till the dancer all but
faded from view, and you saw instead what looked like
a whirling cloud.
Once, when the great Manito, named Man-a-bo-zho, took
a wife and came to live with the tribe, that he might teach
them best how to live, Grasshopper danced at the wedding.
The Beggar's Dance, he called it, and such a dance! On the
shores of the Big-Sea-Water, Gitche Gumee, are heaps of
sand rising into little hills known as dunes. Had you asked
Iagoo, he would have told you that these dunes were the work
of Grasshopper, who whirled the sands together, and piled
them into hills, as he spun madly around in his dance at
Man-a-bo-zho's wedding.
But though Grasshopper came to the wedding, and danced
this crazy Beggar's Dance, it seems probable that he did it
more to please himself, and to show his skill, than to honor
the great Man-a-bo-zho. Grasshopper really had no respect
for anybody. When Iagoo's grandfather was in the middle
of some interesting story, and had come to the most exciting
part, Grasshopper likely as not would yawn and stretch himself,
and say in a loud whisper that he had heard it all before.
So, too, with Man-a-bo-zho. This great Manito, who was
the son of the West- Wind, Mud-je-kee-wis, had magic powers
which he used for the good of the tribe. It was he who fasted
and prayed, that his people might be given food other than
the wild things of the woods; and whose prayer was answered
with the gift of the Indian corn. Then when Kah-gah-gee,
King of ravens, flew down with his band of black thieves,
to tear up the seed in the ground, it was Man-a-bo-zho who
snared him, and tied him fast to the ridge-pole of his lodge,
to croak out a warning to the others.
But Man-a-bo-zho's goodness and wisdom had little effect
on Grasshopper. "Pooh!" he would say. "Why should an
Indian bother his head with planting corn, when he can draw
his bow and kill a good fat deer?" Then he shook his wolf-
skin pouch, and rattled the pieces of bone and wood. "As
long as I have these," he said to himself, "I need nothing more.
After all, it is everybody else that works for the man who
knows how to use his head."
He walked through the village, very proud and straight,
with his fan of turkey-feathers, a swan's plume fastened in his
long, black hair, and the tails of foxes trailing from his heels.
In his white deer-skin shirt, edged with ermine, his leggings
and moccasins ornamented with beads and porcupine quills,
he cut a fine figure. There was to be a dance that night, and
Grasshopper, who was a great dandy and a favorite with all
the young girls and women, had decked himself out for the
occasion. He had painted his face with streaks of blue and
vermilion; his blue-black hair, parted in the middle, and
glistening with oil, hung to his shoulders in braids plaited with
sweet grass. The warriors might call him Shau-go-daya, a
coward, and make jokes at his expense, but he did not care.
Could he not beat them all when it came to playing ball or
quoits, and were not the maidens all in love with his good looks ?
Meanwhile, Grasshopper wished to pass the time in some
pleasant way. Glancing through the door of a lodge, he saw
a group of young men seated on the ground, listening to one
of old Iagoo's stories.
"Ha !" he cried. "Have you nothing better to do ? Here's
a game worth playing."
He drew from his pouch the thirteen pieces of bone and
wood, and juggled them from one hand to the other. But
no one paid any attention to him. After all, Grasshopper
had "more brains in his heels than in his head." For once he
had been too cunning; fearing his skill, no one could be found
who would play with him.
"Pooh!" muttered Grasshopper, as he turned away.
"I see how it is. The pious Man-a-bo-zho has been preaching
to them again. This village is getting to be pretty tiresome
to live in. It's about time for me to strike out, and find a
place where the young men don't sit around and talk to the
squaws,"
He walked along, bent on mischief. Even the dance was
forgotten; he wondered what he could do to amuse himself.
As he came to the outskirts of the village, he passed the lodge
of Man-a-bo-zho. "I would like to play him some trick,"
he said, under his breath, "so he will remember me when I am
gone." But he was well aware that Man-a-bo-zho was much
more powerful than himself; so he hesitated, not knowing
exactly what do to.
At last he walked softly to the doorway, and listened, but
could hear no sound of voices. "Good!" he said with a grin.
"Perhaps nobody is at home." With that, he spun around
the outside of the lodge, on one leg, raising a great cloud of
dust. No one came out; but on the ridge-pole of the lodge,
the captive Kah-gah-gee, King of ravens, flapped his big
black wings, and screamed with a hoarse, rasping cry.
"Fool!" cried Grasshopper. "Noisy fool!"
With a bound, he leapt clear over the lodge, and then back
again; at which the raven screamed more harshly than ever.
But within the lodge all was silent.
Grasshopper grew bolder. Going to the doorway again,
he rattled the flap of buffalo hide. Nobody answered; so,
cautiously drawing the curtain to one side, he ventured to
peer in. Then he chuckled softly. The lodge was empty.
"This is my chance!" he exclaimed. "Man-a-bo-zho is
away, and so is his foolish wife. I'll just pay my respects
before they come back, and then I'll be off for good."
Saying this, he went in, and began to turn everything
upside down. He threw all the bowls and kettles in a corner,
filled the drinking gourds with ashes from the fire, flung the
rich furs and embroidered garments this way and that, and
strewed the floor with wampum belts and arrows. When he
finished, one might have thought a crazy man had been there.
No woman in the village was more neat and orderly than the
wife of Man-a-bo-zho, and Grasshopper knew this would vex
her more than anything else he could do.
"Now for Man-a-bo-zho," he grinned as he left the lodge,
well pleased with the mischief he had wrought.
"Caw, caw!" screamed the King of ravens.
"Kaw!" answered Grasshopper, mocking him. "A pretty
sort of pet you are. Does Man-a-bo-zho keep you sitting
there because you are so handsome? Or is it your beautiful
With that, he made a leap to the ridge-pole, seized the raven
by the neck, and whirled it round and round till it was quite
limp and lifeless. Then he left it hanging there, as an insult
to Man-a-bo-zho.
He was now in high good humor, and went his way through
the forest, whistling and singing, and turning hand-springs to
amuse the squirrels. There was a high rock, overlooking the
lake, from the top of which one could view the country for
miles and miles. Grasshopper climbed it. He could see the
village plainly, so he thought he would wait there till
Man-a-bo-zho came home. That would be part of the joke.
As he sat there, many birds darted around him, flying close
over his head. Man-a-bo-zho called these fowls of the air
his chickens, and he had put them under his protection. But
Grasshopper had grown reckless. Along came a flock of
mountain chickens, and he strung his bow, and shot them as they
flew, for no better reason than because they were Man-a-bo-zho's,
and not because he needed them for food. Bird after bird
fell, pierced by his arrows; when they had fallen, he would
throw their bodies down the cliff, upon the beach below.
At last Kay-oshk, the sea-gull, spied him at this cruel
sport, and gave the alarm. "Grasshopper is killing us,"
he called. "Fly, brothers! Fly away, and tell our protector
that Grasshopper is slaying us with his arrows."
When Man-a-bo-zho heard the news, his eyes flashed fire,
and he spoke in a voice of thunder:
"Grasshopper must die for this! He cannot escape me.
Though he fly to the ends of the earth, I shall follow, and visit
my vengeance upon him."
On his feet he bound his magic moccasins with which, at
each stride, he could step a full mile. On his hands he drew
his magic mittens with which, at one blow, he could shatter
the hardest rock. Then he started in pursuit.
Grasshopper had heard the warning call of the sea-gull,
and knew it was time to be off. He, too, could run. So
fleet of foot was he that he could shoot an arrow ahead of him,
and reach the spot where it fell before it dropped to earth.
Also, he had the power to change himself into other shapes,
and it was almost impossible to kill him. If, for example,
he entered the body of a beaver, and the beaver was slain, no
sooner had its flesh grown cold than the Jee-bi, or spirit, of
Grasshopper would leave the dead body, and Grasshopper
would become a man again, ready for some new adventure.
But at first he trusted to his legs and to his cunning. On
rushed Man-a-bo-zho, breathing vengeance; swiftly, like a
moving shadow, fled Grasshopper. Through the forest and
across the hills he fled, faster than the hare. His pursuer was
hot on the trail. Once he came upon the forest bed where the
grass was still warm and bent; but the Grasshopper, who
had rested there, was far away. Once Man-a-bo-zho, high on a mountain, spied him in the meadow
below. Grasshopper had shown himself on purpose,
and mocked the great Manito, and defied him. The truth is, Grasshopper
was just a bit conceited.
At last he grew tired of running. Not that his legs ached
him or his feet were sore. But this kind of life was not much
to his liking, and he kept his eye open for something new.
Pretty soon he came to a stream where the water was backed
up by some kind of a dam, so that it flooded the banks.
Grasshopper had run about a thousand miles that day —
counting all the turns and twists. He was hot and dusty, and the
pond, with its water-lilies and rushes, looked cool and
refreshing. From far, far away came a faint sound; it was the voice
of Man-a-bo-zho, shouting his war-cry.
"Tiresome fellow!" said Grasshopper. "I could almost
wish I were a beaver, and lived down there at the bottom of
the pond, where no one would disturb me."
Then up popped the head of a beaver, who looked at him
suspiciously.
"Don't be alarmed. I left my bow and arrows over there
in the grass," explained Grasshopper. "Besides, I was just
thinking I would like to be a beaver myself. What do you
say to that?"
"I shall have to consult Ahmeek, our chief," answered the
friendly animal.
Down he dived to the bottom, and pretty soon Ahmeek's
head appeared above the water, followed by the heads of
twenty others.
"Let me be one of you," said Grasshopper. "You have a
pleasant home down there in the clear, cool water, and I am
tired of the life I lead."
Ahmeek was pleased that such a strong, handsome young
Indian should wish to join their company.
"But I can help you," he answered, "only after you have
plunged into the pond. Do you think you can change
yourself into one of us?"
"That is easy," said Grasshopper.
He waded into the water up to his waist; and behold! he
had a broad flat tail. Deeper and deeper he went; as the
water closed above his head he became a beaver, with glossy,
black fur, and feet webbed like a duck's. Down he sank with
the others to the bottom, which was covered with heaps of
logs and branches.
"That," explained Ahmeek, "is the food we have stored
for the winter. We eat the bark, and you will soon be as fat
as any of us."
"But I want to be even fatter," said Grasshopper. "Fatter
and ten times as big."
"As you please," agreed Ahmeek. "We can help to make
you just as big as you wish."
They reached the lodge where the beavers lived, and
entered the doorway, leading into a number of large rooms.
Grasshopper selected the largest one for himself.
"Now," he said, "bring me all the food I can eat, and when
I am big enough I will be your chief."
The beavers were willing. They set to work getting
quantities of the juiciest bark for Grasshopper, who was
delighted with this lazy life, and did little more than eat or sleep.
Bigger and bigger he grew, till at last he was ten times the
size of Ahmeek, and could barely manage to move around. in
his lodge. He was perfectly happy.
But one day the beaver who kept watch up above, among
the rushes of the pond, came swimming to the lodge in a state
of great excitement.
"The hunters are after us," he panted. "It is indeed
Man-a-bo-zho himself, with his hunters. They are breaking
down our dam!"
Even as he spoke, the water in the pond sank lower and
lower; the next moment came the tramping of feet, as the
hunters leapt upon the roof of the lodge, trying to break it open.
All the beavers but Grasshopper scampered out of the
lodge, and escaped into the stream, where they hid themselves
in some deep pools, or swam far down with the current.
Grasshopper did his best to follow them, but could not. The
doorway was too small for his big, fat body; when he attempted
to go through it, he found himself stuck fast.
Then the roof gave way, and the head of an Indian
appeared.
"Ty-au!" he called. "Tut-ty-au! See what's here!
This must be Me-shau-mik, the King of the beavers."
Man-a-bo-zho came, and gave one look.
"It's Grasshopper!" he cried. "I can see through his
tricks. It's Grasshopper in the skin of a beaver."
Then they fell upon him with their clubs; and eight tall
Indians, having swung his limp carcass upon poles, carried it
off in triumph through the woods.
But his Jee-bi, or spirit, was still in the body of the beaver,
and struggled to escape. The Indians bore him to their lodges
and prepared to make a feast. Then, when the squaws were
ready to skin him, his flesh was quite cold, and the spirit
of Grasshopper left the beaver's body, and glided swiftly
away. As the shadowy shape fled across the prairie, into the
forest, the watchful Man-a-bo-zho saw it take the human form
of Grasshopper, and he started in pursuit.
Grasshopper's life among the beavers had made him lazier
than ever, and as he ran he looked around for some easier way
than running. Soon he came upon a herd of elk, a species of
deer with large, spreading horns. The elk were feeding
contentedly, and looked sleek and fat.
"They lead a free and happy life," said Grasshopper as he
watched them. "Why fatigue myself with running? I'll
change myself into an elk, and join their band."
Horns sprouted from his head; in a few minutes the
transformation was complete. Still he was not satisfied.
"I am hardly big enough," he said to the leader. "My
feet are much too small, and my horns should be twice the
size of yours. Is there nothing I can do to make them grow?"
"Yes," answered the leader of the elks. "But you do it
at your own risk."
He took Grasshopper into the woods, and showed him a
bright red berry that hung in clusters on some small, low bushes.
"Eat these," he said, "and nothing else, and your horns
and feet will soon be much bigger than ours. However, it
would be wise if you did not eat too many of them."
The berries were delicious. Grasshopper felt that he could
not get enough, and he ate them greedily whenever he could
find them. Before long his feet had grown so large and heavy
he could hardly keep up with the herd, while his horns had such
a huge spread that he sometimes found them rather in his way.
One cold day the herd went into the woods for shelter;
pretty soon some of the elks who had lingered behind came
rushing by with snorts of alarm. Hunters were pursuing
them.
"Run!" called out the leader to Grasshopper. "Follow
us out on the prairie, where the Indians cannot catch us."
Grasshopper tried to follow them; but his big feet weighted
him down, and he ran slowly. Then, as he plunged madly
through a thicket, his spreading horns were entangled in some
low branches that held him fast. Already several arrows had
whizzed by him; another pierced his heart, and he sank to the
ground.
Along came the hunters, with a whoop. "Ty-au!" they
exclaimed when they saw the enormous elk. "It is he who
made the large tracks on the prairie. Ty-au!"
As they were skinning him, Man-a-bo-zho joined the party;
and at that moment the Jee-bi, or spirit, of Grasshopper escaped
through the mouth of the dead elk, and passed swiftly to
the open plains, like a puff of white smoke driven before the
wind. Then, as Man-a-bo-zho watched it melt away, he
saw once more the mortal shape of Grasshopper; and once more
he followed after, breathing vengeance.
As Grasshopper ran on, a new thought came into his head.
Above him in the clear blue sky the birds wheeled and soared.
"There is the place for me," he said, "far up in the sky. Let
me have wings, and I can laugh at Man-a-bo-zho."
Ahead of him was a lake; approaching it, he saw a flock of
wild geese known as brant, feeding among the rushes. "Ha,"
said Grasshopper, admiring them as they sailed smoothly
here and there. "They will soon be winging their way to the
North. I would like to fly in their company."
He spoke to them, calling them Pish-ne-kuh, his brothers,
and they consented to receive him as one of the flock. So he
floated on his back till feathers sprouted on him, and he
became a brant, with a broad black beak, and a tail that would
guide him through the air as a rudder steers a ship.
Greedy as ever, he fed long after the others had had enough,
so that he soon grew into the biggest brant ever seen. His
beak looked like the paddles of a canoe; when he spread his
wings they were as large as two large au-puk-wa, or mats.
The wild geese gazed at him in astonishment. "You must
fly in the lead," they said.
"No," answered Grasshopper. "I would rather fly behind."
"As you please," they told him. "But you will have to be
careful. By all means keep your head and neck straight out
before you, and do not look down as you fly, or you may meet
with an accident."
It was a beautiful sight to see them flap their wings, stretch
their long necks, and rise with a "whir" from the lake, mounting
the wind, and rushing on before it. They flew with a breeze
from the south, faster and faster, till their speed was like the
flight of an arrow.
One day, passing over a village, they could hear the people
shouting. The Indians were amazed at the size of the big
brant, flying in the rear of the flock; yelling as loud as they
could yell, their cries made Grasshopper curious. One voice
especially seemed familiar to him, and he could not resist
the temptation to draw in his neck and stretch it down
toward the earth. As he did so, the strong wind caught his tail,
and turned him over and over. In vain he tried to recover
his balance; the wind whirled him round and round, as it whirls
a leaf. The earth came nearer, the shouts of the Indians grew
louder in his ears; at last he fell with a thud, and lay lifeless.
It was a fine feast of wild goose that had dropped so suddenly
from the skies. The hungry Indians pounced upon him,
and began to pluck his feathers. This was the very village
where Grasshopper had once lived; little had he dreamed that
he would ever return to supply it with such a dinner, a dinner
at which he himself was to be the best dish.
But again his Jee-bi, or spirit, went forth, and fled in the
form of Grasshopper; again Man-a-bo-zho, shouting his war-
cry, followed after.
Grasshopper had now come to the desert places, where
there were few trees, and no signs of animal life.
Man-a-bo-zho was gaining on him; he must play some new trick.
Coming at last to a tall pine-tree growing in the rock, he climbed it,
pulled off all the green needles, and scattered them about,
leaving the branches quite bare. Then he took to his heels
again. When Man-a-bo-zho came, the pine spoke to him,
saying:
"See what Grasshopper has done. Without my foliage
I am sure to die. Great Manito, I pray you give me back
my green dress."
Man-a-bo-zho, who loves and protects all trees, had pity
on the pine. He collected the scattered needles, and restored
them to the branches. Then he hastened on with such speed
that he overtook Grasshopper, and put his hand out to clutch
him. But Grasshopper stepped quickly aside, and spun
round and round on one leg in his whirlwind dance, till the air
all about was filled with leaves and sand. In the midst of
this whirlwind he sprang into a hollow tree, and changed
himself into a snake. Then he crept out through the roots,
and not a moment too soon; for Man-a-bo-zho smote the tree
with one of his magic mittens, and crumbled it to powder.
Grasshopper changed himself back into his human form,
and ran for dear life. The only thing left for him to do was
to hide. But where? In his headlong flight he had come
again to the shores of the Great Lake; and he saw rising before
him the high cliff of the Picture Rocks. If he could but manage
to reach these rocks, the Manito of the Mountain, who lived
in one of the gloomy caverns, might let him in. Sure enough!
As he reached the cliff, calling out for help, the Manito opened
the door, and told him to enter.
Hardly had the big door closed with a bang, than along
came Man-a-bo-zho. With his mitten he gave a tap on the
rock that made the splinters fly.
"Open!" he cried, in a terrible voice.
But the Manito was brave and hospitable.
"I have sheltered you," he said to Grasshopper, "and I
would rather die myself than give you up."
Man-a-bo-zho waited, but no answer came.
"As you will," he said at last. "If the door is not opened
to me by night, I shall call upon the Thunder and the Lightning to do my bidding."
The hours passed; darkness fell. Then from a black cloud
that had gathered over the Great Lake, Way-wass-i-mo, the
red-eyed Lightning, shot his bolts of fire. Crash — boom —
crash! An-ne-mee-kee, the Thunder, shouted hoarsely from
the heavens. A wild wind arose; the trees of the forest swayed
and groaned, and the foxes hid in their holes.
Way-wass-i-mo, the Lightning, leapt from the black cloud,
and darted at the cliff. The rock trembled; the door was
shivered, and fell apart. Out from his gloomy cavern came the
Manito of the Mountain, asking Man-a-bo-zho for mercy.
It was granted, and the Manito fled to the hills.
Grasshopper then appeared; the next moment he was
buried under a mass of rock shaken loose by An-ne-mee-kee,
the Thunder. This time he had been killed in his human form,
he could play his mad pranks no more.
But Man-a-bo-zho, the merciful, remembered that
Grasshopper was not wholly bad.
"Your Jee-bi" he said, "must no longer remain upon the
earth in any form whatever. As a man you lived an idle,
foolish life, and you are no longer wanted here. Instead, I
shall permit you to inhabit the skies."
Saying this, he took the ghost of Grasshopper, and clothed
it with the shape of the war-eagle, bidding him to be chief
of all the fowls.
But Grasshopper, the mischievous, is not forgotten by the
people. In the late winter days, snow fine as powder fills
the air like a vapor. It keeps the hunter from his traps, the
fisherman from his hole in the ice. Suddenly a puff of wind
seizes this light, powdery snow, blows it round and round,
and sets it whirling along; and when this happens, the Indians
laugh and say:
"Look! There goes Grasshopper. See how well he dances."
So ends Grasshopper
Mish-o-sha, The Magician
IN the heart of the great green forest once lived a hunter whose lodge was many miles
distant from the wigwams of his tribe. His wife had long since died, and he dwelt there
all alone with his two young sons, who grew up as best they could without a mother's care.
When the father was away on a hunting trip, the boys had
no companions but the birds and beasts of the forest, and with
some of the smaller animals they became fast friends.
Ad-ji-dau-mo, the squirrel, scampering from tree to tree, would
let his nut-shells fall plump on the roof of the lodge. That
was his way of knocking at the door, coming to pay a morning
call. He was a great talker, without much to say — as is
often so with those whose voices are seldom still. But he
was bright and merry, chattering away cheerfully about
nothing in particular; and it made no difference whether you
listened to him or not.
Wa-bo-se, the little white hare, was another friend. One
winter's day, when forest food was scarce, O-ne-o-ta, the lynx,
was just about to pounce upon him, when the boys' father
let fly an arrow — and O-ne-o-ta was no longer interested in
little white hares.
Wa-bo-se was grateful for this, and sometimes in his shy
way he tried to show it.
The father and the boys lived mostly on big game, like
bear and venison. This meat would be cut in strips, and cured;
sometimes it had to last them many a long day, when game
was scarce, or the woods so dry for want of rain that the twigs
would snap under the hunter's feet, and warn the animals
he was coming. So the boys were used to being left alone for
weeks at a time, when their father was absent.
Then came a season of famine. No berries grew on the
bushes, grass withered on the stalk, few acorns hung on the
oaks. Some of the brooks went dry. Thus it happened
that the hunter had gone far in search of game.
Many months passed. When Seegwun, the elder boy,
saw that but little meat remained, he said to his younger
brother Ioscoda:
"Let us take what meat is left, and strike out through the
forest, toward the North. I remember our father saying that
many moons distant lies a great lake called Gitche Gumee,
whose waters are alive with fish."
"But can we find our way?" asked Ioscoda, doubtfully.
"Never fear!" called out a voice from overhead. It was Ad-ji-dau-mo, the squirrel, frisky
as ever, though a little lean for lack of nuts.
"I'll go along with you," he continued, "and so will
Wa-bo-se, the white hare. He can hop ahead and find the
trail, and I can jump from tree to tree, and keep a look-out.
Between us, we are bound to go right."
It proved to be a good idea, and Wa-bo-se took the lead.
Where the trail was overgrown with grass, he would nose his
way along the ground, without once going wrong; where the
track was plain, he would run ahead, then stop and sit up on his
haunches, to wait for the boys, his long ears pricked up and
moving, to detect the slightest danger.
But nothing happened to alarm them. The lynx, the wild-
cat and the wolf had all fled before the famine, and the silent
forest was empty of savage beasts. On and on they went,
till it seemed as if the woods would never end. Then, one
day, Ad-ji-dau-mo climbed a tall pine, from whose topmost
bough he could see far over the forest. The sun was shining
bright; as he cocked his eye and looked toward the north,
something that seemed to meet the sky sparkled like silver.
It was Gitche Gumee, the Great Lake.
They had reached a place where nuts were plentiful, and
many green things grew that would fatten the white hare.
So Wa-bo-se and the squirrel bade good-bye to the boys, who
could now make their way with ease. Soon they came to
the edge of the woods. They heard a piping cry. It was
Twee-tweesh-ke-way, the plover, flying along the beach; in
another moment the great glittering waters lay before them.
Seegwun with his sharp hunting knife cut a limb from an
ash-tree, and made a bow; from an oak bough he whittled some
arrows, which he tipped with flint. He found feathers fallen
from a gull's wing for the shaft; a strip cut from his deer-skin
shirt supplied the bow-string. Then giving the bow and arrow
to Ioscoda, to practice with, he gathered some seed pods from
the wild rose, to stay their hunger.
An arrow, badly aimed by his brother, fell into the lake,
and Seegwun waded in, to recover it. He had walked into
the water till it reached his waist, and put out his hand to
grasp the arrow, when suddenly, as if by magic, a canoe came
skimming along like a bird. In the canoe was an ugly old man,
who reached out, seized the astonished boy, and pulled him
on board.
"If I must go with you, take my brother, too!" begged
Seegwun. "If he is left here, all alone, he will starve."
But Mish-o-sha, the Magician, only laughed. Then striking
the side of the canoe with his hand, and uttering the
magic words, Chemaun Poll, it shot across the lake like a thing
alive, so that the beach was quickly lost to sight. Soon it
came to rest on a sandy shore, and Mish-o-sha, leaping out,
beckoned him to follow.
They had landed on an island. Before them, in a grove
of cedars, were two wigwams, or lodges; from the smaller one
two lovely young girls came out, and stood looking at them.
To Seegwun, who had never before seen a girl, these maidens
looked like spirits from the skies. He gazed at them in wonder,
half expecting they would vanish. For their part they looked
at him without smiling; in their dark eyes were only sympathy
and sadness.
"My daughters!" said the old man to Seegwun, with a
chuckle that displayed his long, yellow teeth. Then turning
to the girls:
"Are you not glad to see me safely back?" he asked, "and
are you not pleased with my handsome young friend here?"
They bent their heads politely, but said nothing.
"It's a long time since you were favored with such a
visitor," he went on, in a loud whisper to the elder girl. "He
would make you a fine husband."
The maiden murmured something under her breath, and
Mish-o-sha gave her a wicked look.
"We shall see, we shall see!" he muttered to himself,
laughing like a magpie, and rubbing his long, bony hands
together.
Seegwun, much troubled in mind, and hardly knowing
what to make of it all, resolved to keep his eyes open. Luckily
Mish-o-sha was sometimes careless. He walked on ahead,
and entered his lodge, leaving the others together; whereupon
the elder girl, approaching Seegwun, spoke to him quickly:
"We are not his daughters," she said. "He brought us
here as he brought you. He hates the human race. Every
moon he seizes a young man, and pretends he has borne him
here as a husband for me. But soon he takes him off in his
canoe, and the young man never comes back. We feel sure
Mish-o-sha has made away with them all."
"What must I do?" asked Seegwun. "I care less for myself
than for my little brother. He was left behind on a wild
beach, and may die of hunger."
"Ah!" said the maiden. "You are really good and unselfish;
so, no matter what comes of it, we must aid you.
Ko-ko-ko-ho, the great owl, keeps watch all night on the bare
limb of that big cedar. Wait till Mish-o-sha falls asleep,
then wrap yourself from head to foot in his blanket, and steal
softly to the door of our lodge. Whisper my name,
Nin-i-mo-sha, and I shall come out and tell you what to do."
"Nin-i-mo-sha," murmured the youth. "What a beautiful
name!" Then, before he could thank her, the girls were gone.
Mish-o-sha now appeared, and made a sign to Seegwun to
join him. The old man seemed to be in a good humor, and
passed the time telling stories; but Seegwun was not deceived
by this pretense of friendship. When the Magician was sound
asleep, he rose, wrapped Mish-o-sha's blanket around him,
and walked carefully to the door of the little lodge.
"Nin-i-mo-sha!" he whispered, and his heart beat fast;
for Nin-i-mo-sha in the Indian tongue is "My Sweetheart."
"Seegwun!" she answered; and his name, meaning "Spring,"
came like music from her lips.
She drew aside the curtain, and came out.
"Here," she said, "is food that will last your brother for
several days. Get into Mish-o-sha's canoe, pronounce the
magic charm, and it will take you where you wish. You can
be back before daybreak."
"But the owl?" asked Seegwun. "Will he not cry out?"
"Walk with a stoop, the way Mish-o-sha walks," she
explained. "Ko-ko-ko-ho, when he sees you, will cry 'Hoot,
hoot!' You must answer, 'Hoot, hoot, whoo! Mish-o-sha.'
Then he will let you pass."
Seegwun did as he was told, and was soon skimming across
the lake. Having landed on the beach, he began to bark like
a squirrel; and at this friendly signal his brother ran up and
flung his arms around him. Seegwun made a shelter for the
boy, and told him he would come again. Then he returned
in the canoe, and was soon fast asleep in the Magician's lodge.
Mish-o-sha, who trusted in his owl, suspected nothing.
How should he know what lovers can do when they put their
heads together?
"You have slept well, my son," said he. "And now we
have a pleasant journey before us. We are going to an island
where thousands of gulls lay their eggs in the sand, and we
shall get all we can carry away."
Remembering what Nin-i-mo-sha had said, Seegwun shivered.
But she kissed her hand, and waved him a good-bye; and this put heart in him.
As the canoe sped away, he made sure that his hunting knife
slipped easily in its sheath, and he did not take his eyes off
Mish-o-sha for a moment.
When they reached the island the gulls rose in great
numbers, and flew screaming above their heads.
"You gather the eggs," said the Magician, "while I keep
watch in the canoe."
Seegwun hastened ashore, glad to quit the old man's company.
Then the Magician cried out to the gulls:
"Ho, my feathered friends! Here is the human offering
I promised you when you agreed to call me master.
Fly down, my pretty ones! Fly down, and devour him!"
Striking the side of his canoe, he abandoned the youth to
the mercy of the birds.
With harsh cries, the gulls swept down on Seegwun.
Never had he heard such a clamor. Ten thousand wings
beat the air, and stirred it like a storm. Whirling and darting
they came upon him in a cloud. But Seegwun did not flinch.
Shouting the Saw-saw-quan, or war-cry, he seized the first
bird that attacked him. Then grasping it by the neck, he
held it high above his head in his left hand, and with his
right hand drew his knife, which glittered in the sun.
"Hold!" he cried. "Hold, you poor fools! Beware the
vengeance of the Great Spirit."
The gulls paused in their attack, but still circled around
him, with sharp beaks extended.
"Hear me, O Gulls!" he continued. "The Great Spirit
gave you life that you might serve mankind. Slay me, and
you slay one made to rule over all the beasts and birds. I tell
you, beware!"
"But Mish-o-sha is all powerful." screamed the gulls.
"He has bidden us destroy you."
"Mish-o-sha is no Manito," answered Seegwun. "He is
only a wicked magician who would use you for his own evil
ends. Bear me on your wings back to his island; for it is he
who must be destroyed."
Then the gulls, persuaded that Mish-o-sha had tricked
them, drew close together, that the youth might lie upon their
backs. Rising on the wind, they carried him across the
waters, setting him down gently by the lodge before the
Magician had arrived there.
Nin-i-mo-sha rejoiced when she saw it was really Seegwun.
"I was not mistaken in you," she told him. "It is plain that
the Great Spirit protects you. But Mish-o-sha will try again,
so be on your guard."
The Magician now arrived in his magic canoe. When he
saw Seegwun he tried to smile pleasantly. But having had
little practice in thinking kind thoughts, he only grinned like
a gargoyle, which, excepting perhaps the hyena, has the most
painful possible smile.
"Good, my son !" he managed to say. "You must not
misunderstand me. I did it to test your courage; and now
Nin-i-mo-sha is sure to love you. Ah, my children, you will
make a happy pair!"
Nin-i-mo-sha turned away to hide her disgust, but Seegwun
pretended to believe the malicious old man was in earnest.
"However," continued the Magician, "I owe you something
for having seemed to play you such a trick. I see you wear
no ornaments. Come with me, then, to the Island of Glittering Shells,
and soon you will be attired as becomes a handsome warrior."
The island where they landed was indeed a wonderful place,
covered with colored shells that gleamed in the sun like jewels.
"Look!" said Mish-o-sha, as they walked along the beach.
"Out there a little way. See it shining on the bottom."
Seegwun waded in. When the water reached his thighs,
the Magician made a leap for the canoe, and shoved it far out
into the lake.
"Come, King of Fishes!" he called. "You have always
served me well. Here is your reward."
Then, striking his canoe, he quickly disappeared.
Immediately an enormous fish, with jaws wide open, rose
to the surface a few feet away. But Seegwun only smiled,
saying as he drew his long blade:
"Know, Monster, that I am Seegwun — named after him
whose breath warms the ice-bound waters and clothes the hills
with green. The cowardly Mish-o-sha, fearing the anger of
the Great Spirit, seeks to make you do what he dares not do
himself. Spill but one drop of my blood, and it will dye the
waters of the lake, in which all your tribe will miserably perish.'
"Mish-o-sha has deceived me," said the King of Fishes.
"He promised me a tender maiden, and has brought instead
a youth with the eyes of a warrior. How shall I aid you,
my Master?"
"Wretch!" exclaimed Seegwun. "Rejoice that he did not
keep his frightful promise. You deserve to die at my hands,
but I give you a chance to repent. Take me on your back to
the island of Mish-o-sha, and I will spare your life."
The King of Fishes hastened to take Seegwun astride his
broad back, and swam so swiftly that he reached the island
soon after Mish-o-sha. The Magician was explaining to
Nin-i-mo-sha how the youth had fallen from the canoe into the
jaws of a big fish, when along came Seegwun himself, strolling
up from the Lake as if he had returned from an everyday
excursion. Even so, Mish-o-sha still sought to excuse himself.
"My daughter," said he. "I was only trying to find out
how much you cared for him."
But all the while he was saying to himself that the next
time he would not fail. And the next time was the very next day.
"My owl is growing old, and cannot live much longer,"
he explained. "I should like to catch a young eagle, and
tame him. Will you help me?"
Seegwun consented, and went with him in the magic canoe
to a rocky point of land reaching out into the lake. There, in
the fork of a tall pine, was an eagle's nest, in which were some
young eagles, who could not yet fly.
"Quick!" said Mish-o-sha. "Climb the tree before the
old birds return."
Seegwun had almost reached the nest when the Magician
spoke to the pine, commanding it to grow taller. At once it
began to rise, until it was so high, and swayed so in the wind,
that he felt it would take all his courage to get down again.
At the same time the Magician uttered a peculiar cry, at which
the father and mother eagles came swooping from the clouds
to protect their young.
"Ho, ho!" laughed Mish-o-sha. "This time I have made
no mistake. Either you will fall and break your neck, or the
eagles will scratch your eyes out."
Striking his canoe, he vanished in the mist.
The eagles now circled around Seegwun, who, resting on a
branch, thus addressed them:
"My brothers, behold the eagle's feather in my hair! It
proves my admiration for your bravery and skill. Yet in me
you see your master; for I am a man, and you are only birds.
Obey me, then, and bear me to Mish-o-sha's island."
This praise pleased the eagles, who respected the youth's
cool courage. Mounting on the back of the enormous male
bird, Seegwun was borne through the air, and set down safely
on the enchanted island.
Mish-o-sha now saw that neither bird nor beast would
harm this handsome youth, who seemed to be protected by
some powerful Manito. It must be done some other way.
"One more test," he said to Seegwun, "and then you may
take Nin-i-mo-sha for your wife. But first you must prove
your skill as a hunter. Come!"
They made a lodge in the forest; and Mish-o-sha, by his
magic, caused a snow-storm, with a stinging gale from the
north, like a flight of icy arrows. Seegwun, that night, before
going to sleep, had hung his moccasins and leggings by the
fire to dry; and Mish-o-sha, rising first, at daybreak, took one
of each and threw them into the flames. Then he rubbed his
hands, and laughed like a prairie wolf.
"What is it?" asked Seegwun, sitting up.
"Alas, my son!" said Mish-o-sha. "I was just too late.
This is the season of the moon when fire attracts all things.
It has drawn to it one of your moccasins and leggings, and
destroyed them. Yeo, yeol I should have warned you."
Seegwun held his tongue, though the thing was plain
enough. Mish-o-sha meant that he should freeze to death.
But Seegwun, praying silently to his Manito for aid, took from
the fireplace a charred stick with which he blackened one leg
and foot, murmuring at the same time a charm. Then putting
on his remaining moccasin and legging, he was ready
for the hunt.
Their way led through snow and ice, into thickets of thorn,
and over bogs half-frozen, where Seegwun sank to the knees.
But his prayer had been heard; the charm worked, and the
youth walked on, dry shod. With his first arrow he slew a bear.
"Now," he said, looking the Magician full in the eye.
"I see you are suffering from the cold. Let us go back to your island."
At Seegwun's bold look, Mish-o-sha bent his head, and
mumbled some foolish answer. At last he had met his match:
and he knew it.
"Take up the bear on your shoulders!" commanded Seegwun.
Again the Magician obeyed. For the first time they returned
together to the island, where the two young girls
looked on in amazement to see the proud Mish-o-sha staggering
under the weight of the bear, grunting with helpless rage.
"His power is broken," agreed Nin-i-mo-sha, when Seegwun
had told her all. "But we shall never sleep in safety until
we are really rid of him. What is best to do?"
They put their heads together; and when they had talked
it over, Nin-i-mo-sha laughed merrily.
"He deserves a greater punishment," she said. "The
world will not be safe as long as he has life. Yet what we plan
to do will revenge us, without shedding a single drop of blood."
The next day Seegwun said to the Magician:
"It is time that we rescued my brother, whom we left all
alone on the beach. Come with me."
Mish-o-sha made a wry face, but prepared to go. Landing
on the beach, they soon spied the boy, who joyfully clambered
into the canoe. Then Seegwun said to the old man:
"Those red willows over on the bank would make good
smoking mixture. Could you manage to climb up there and
cut me some?"
"To be sure, my son, to be sure," answered Mish-o-sha,
walking rapidly toward the willows. "I am not so weak and
good-for-nothing as you seem to think."
Seegwun struck the canoe with his hand, pronouncing the
magic words, Chemaun Poll; and away it went with the two
brothers aboard, leaving the Magician high and dry, and
gnashing his yellow teeth.
The girls ran to meet them at the shore, Nin-i-mo-sha rejoicing that the old man had been left behind,
while her sister could think of nothing but the attractive
boy who looked so much like his big brother.
"But Mish-o-sha can call the canoe back to him," said
Nin-i-mo-sha, "until a way is found to break the charm. Some
one must keep watch, with his hand upon it."
Ioscoda begged permission to do his part; so they left him,
with night coming on, sitting on the sand and holding fast
to the canoe.
It was a tiresome task for a little boy already weary with
long waiting. To amuse himself he began to count the stars.
First he counted those in the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper,
then the ones that look like a high-back chair, and the three
big bright ones in the belt of Orion the Hunter. He did not
know them by these names, which were given them long
afterward; but he recognized the cluster called O-jeeg An-nung,
the Fisher, who brought Summer from the sky because his
boy was cold.
Ioscoda also was cold, sitting there in the wet sand. But
Indian boys do not complain. Yet seeing the Fisher stars,
he thought of his own dear father, and wondered where he
might be. Had Ioscoda been a white boy, instead of a red,
we think the sand he sat on might have been a little wetter
for his tears. As it was, he found himself looking at the sky
through a kind of fog. What was it? He rubbed his eyes,
lost his count, and began all over again.
The worst of it was that Indians could reckon only with
their fingers — unless you include their toes; and Ioscoda's
toes were tucked away snugly in his moccasins, quite out of
sight and question. How many fingers had he counted —
and how — many — stars — ?
The fog, or whatever it was, filled his eyes. Lap, lap!
went the little waves, rocking the canoe like a cradle.
Soo, soo! sighed the wind in the cedars. All else earthly nodded
and was still; even the stars blinked and winked, as if weary
of watching the world.
And Ioscoda slept.
Whoo, whoo! The cry of Ko-ko-ko-ho, the owl, shrilled
evilly on the ears. It was only for a moment. The shadows
lifted, a squirrel barked. Wa-bun, the East Wind, rising
above the rim of the waters, let loose his silver arrows. It
was day.
Ioscoda sat up, only half aroused, and looked out over the
lake. Was he still on the wild beach, waiting for his brother?
Then he remembered, and gave a guilty start. The canoe was gone!
Gone, but come again ! There it appeared, gliding straight
toward him; and in it sat Mish-o-sha.
"Good-morning, child!" called the Magician, as the canoe
grated on the sand. "Are you not glad to see your grand-
father again?"
Ioscoda clenched his small fists. He was very brave, and
he was angry.
"You are not my grandfather," he said, "and I am not
glad to see you again."
"Esa, esa! (Shame, shame!)" chuckled the old man.
"But Seegwun will be glad to see me, and so will my dear
daughters. I hope they have not been worried about me."
He was much pleased with his cleverness in outwitting them
all, and was now as impudent as before. But Seegwun bided
his time. He thought of another plan.
"Grandfather," said he, "it seems that we must continue
to live here together. Let us therefore lay in a supply of
meat for the winter. Come with me to the mainland. I am
sure you must be a mighty hunter."
Mish-o-sha's vanity was his weakest point.
"Eh, yah!" he answered, boastfully. "I can run all day
with a dead deer on my back. I have done it."
"Good!" said Seegwun. "The wind is going north again,
and we shall need all our strength on the march."
Now Seegwun had somehow learned the Magician's dearest
secret, which was this: Mish-o-sha's left leg and foot were
the only parts of his body that could be harmed. No arrow
could pierce his heart; a war-club brought down upon his head
would be shivered into splinters. As well strike him with a
straw. But his left leg and foot. Ah! It was not for
rheumatism that his legging was so well laced. And why
did he always sit down with his left foot tucked up under him?
Ha! Why, indeed? Seegwun had found the answer.
They made a rude lodge in the forest, just as they had done
before. And again it came bitter cold; only this time it was
Seegwun that brought the storm. He could not help laughing.
There was the blazing fire, and there on the couch was
Mish-o-sha, sound asleep.
Seegwun softly rose, took both the Magician's moccasins
and leggings, and threw them into the flames.
"Get up, grandfather," he called. "It's the season when
fire attracts all things, and I fear you have lost something
you may need."
When Mish-o-sha saw what had happened he looked so
frightened that Seegwun was almost sorry for him. But
remembering Nin-i-mo-sha and his little brother, he could
think of no other way. "We must be going," he said.
They set out through the snow. My, how cold it was!
Mish-o-sha began to run, thinking this would help; while
Seegwun followed, fearing that if he led, the Magician might
send an arrow through his back. After running for an hour,
the Magician was quite out of breath, and his legs and feet
were growing numb and stiff.
They had come to the edge of the forest, and reached the
shore of the lake. Here Mish-o-sha stopped. When he tried
to take another step, he could not lift his feet. How heavy
they had grown! He tried again; but something strange had
happened. His toes sank into the sand, and took the form of
roots. The feathers in his hair, and then the hair itself,
changed gradually into leaves. His outstretched arms were
branches, swaying in the wind; bark appeared on his body.
Seegwun looked and wondered. That which had been
Mish-o-sha was no longer a man, but a tree, a sycamore hung
with button-balls, leaning crookedly toward the lake.
At last the wicked old Magician had met his master. No
more would his evil spell be cast on the young and innocent
Seegwun lingered a moment, to make sure that Mish-o-sha
would not come to life. Then he took his way across the
water, where the others, anxiously awaiting him, were told
the good news.
"Mish-o-sha is no more," said Seegwun. "He can never
harm us again. Let us leave this place where we have suffered
so much, and make our home on the mainland."
So together they went forth, his sweetheart, her sister, and
the boy, with Seegwun showing the way. The trail he took
led them again to the great forest, and once more to the
lodge from which he had set out. And there they lived happily
for the rest of their days.
So ends Mish-o-sha, The Magician
The Fairy Bride
ONCE there was a lovely young girl named Neen-i-zu, the only daughter of an Indian chief, who
lived on the shore of Lake Superior; Neen-i-zu,
in the Indian language, means "My Dear Life." It
was plain that her parents loved her tenderly, and did everything
in their power to make her happy and to shield her from
any possible harm.
There was but one thing that made them uneasy. Neen-i-zu
was a favorite with the other young girls of the village,
and joined them in their play. But she liked best of all to
walk by herself in the forest, or to follow some dim trail that
led to the heart of the little hills. Sometimes she would be
absent for many hours; and when she returned, her eyes had
the look of one who has dwelt in secret places, and seen things
strange and mysterious. Nowadays, some persons would have
called Neen-i-zu "romantic." Others, who can never see a
thing that is not just beneath their noses, would have laughed a
little, in a superior sort of way, and said she was a "dreamer."
What was it that Neen-i-zu saw and heard, during these
lonely walks in the secret places of the hills? Was it perhaps
the fairies? She did not say. But her mother, who wished
her to be more like other girls, and who would have liked to
see her marry and settle down, was much disturbed in mind.
The mischievous little fairies known as Puk-Wudjies were
believed tc inhabit the sand dunes where Neen-i-zu so often
went to walk. These were the sand-hills made by
Grasshopper, when he danced so madly at Man-a-bo-zho's wedding,
whirling the sand into great drifts and mounds that may be
seen to this very day. The Puk-Wudjies loved these hills,
which were seldom visited by the Indians. It was just the
place for leap-frog and all-hands-'round; in the twilight of
summer days they were said to gather here in little bands,
playing all manner of pranks. Then, as night came, they
would make haste to hide themselves in a grove of pine-trees
known as the Mantto IVac, or the Wood of the Spirits.
No one had ever come close to them; but fishermen, paddling
their canoes on the lake, had caught glimpses of them from
afar, and had heard the tiny voices of these merry little men,
as they laughed and called to one another. When the fishermen
tried to follow, the Puk-Wudjies would vanish in the
woods; but their foot-prints, no larger than a child's, could be
seen on the damp sand of a little lake in the hills.
If anything more were needed to convince those doubters
who did not believe in fairies, the proof was quickly supplied
by fishermen and hunters who were victims of their tricks.
The Puk-Wudjies never really harmed anyone, but they were
up to many kinds of mischief. Sometimes a hunter, picking
up his cap in the morning, would find the feathers plucked
out; sometimes a fisherman, missing his paddle, would
discover it at last in a tree. When such things happened it was
perfectly plain that Puk-Wudjies had been up to their pranks,
and few persons were still stupid enough to believe it could
be anything else.
Neen-i-zu had her own ideas concerning these little men;
for she, like Morning Glory, had often listened to the tales
that old Iagoo told. One of these stories was the story of a
Happy Land, a far-off place where it was always Summer;
where no one wept or suffered sorrow.
It was for this land that she sighed. It filled her thoughts
by day, when she sought the secret places of the hills, and sat
in some lonely spot, listening to the mysterious voices that
whispered in the breeze. Where was this Happy Land — this
place without pain or care?
Tired out at night, she would sink into her bed. Then
from their hiding places would come stealing the small messengers
of Weenz, the Spirit of Sleep. These kindly gnomes —
too small for the human eye to see — crept quickly up the face
of the weary Neen-i-zu and tapped gently on her forehead
with their tiny war-clubs, called pub-ga-mau-guns. Tap — tap — tap! — till her eyelids
closed, and she sought the Happy Land in that other pleasant land of dreams.
She, too, had seen the foot-prints of the Puk-Wudjies on
the sandy beach of the little lake, and had heard their merry
laughter ring out in the grove of pines. Was it their only
dwelling place, she asked herself, or were they not messengers
from the Happy Land, sent to show the way to that mortal
who believed in it, and longed to enter.
Neen-i-zu came to think that this must be really so.
Oftener than ever, she made her way to the meadow bordering
on the Spirit Wood, and sat there gazing into the grove.
Perhaps the Puk-Wudjies would understand, and tell the
fairies whom they served. Then some day a fairy would
appear at the edge of the pines, and beckon her to come.
That would surely happen, she thought, if she wished it long
enough, and could give her wishes wings. So, sitting there,
she composed the words of a song, and set it to the music the
pines make when the south wind stirs their branches.
Then she sang:
Spirit of the laughing leaves, Fairy of the forest pine,
Listen to the maid who grieves
For that happy land of thine. From your haunt in summer glade
Hasten to your mournful maid.
Was it only her fancy, that she seemed to hear the closing
words of her song echoed from the deep woods where the merry
little men had vanished ? Or was it the Puk-Wudjies mocking
her?
She had lingered later than usual; it was time to go. The
new moon swung low in the western sky, with its points turned
upwards to the heavens. An Indian would say he could
hang his powder horn upon it, and that it meant dry weather,
when the leaves crackled under the hunter's feet, and the
animals fled before him, so that he was unable to come near
enough to shoot. And Neen-i-zu was glad of this. In the
Happy Land, she declared no one would suffer, and no life
would be taken.
Yet it was a hunter that her mother wished her to marry,
a man who spent his whole life in slaying the red deer of the
forest; who thought and talked of almost nothing else.
This came into her mind as she rose from her seat in the
meadow, and cast a farewell glance at the pines. The rays of
the crescent moon touched them with a faint light; and again
her fancy came into play. What was it that seemed to move
along the edge of the mysterious woods? Something with
the dim likeness of a youth — taller than the Puk-Wudjies —
who glided rather than walked, and whose garments of light
green stood out against the darker green of the pines.
Neen-i-zu looked again; but the moon hid behind the hills. All was
black to the eye; to the ear came no sound but the creepy cry
of the whip-poor-will. She hastened home.
That night she heard from her mother's lips what she had
long expected and feared. "Neen-i-zu," said her mother.
"I named you 'My dear Life,' and you are as dear as life to me.
That is why I wish you to be safe and happy. That is why
I wish you to marry a good man who will take the best care of
you now, and will protect and comfort you when I am gone.
You know the man I mean."
"Yes, mother," answered Neen-i-zu. "I know him well
enough — as well as ever I want to know him. He hunts the
deer, he kills the deer, he skins the deer. That is all he does,
that is all he thinks, that is all he talks about. It is perhaps
well that someone should do this, lest we starve for want of
meat. Yet there are many other things in the world, and this
hunter of yours is content if he does but kill."
"Poor child!" said her mother. "You are too young to
know what is best for you."
"I am old enough, mother dear," answered Neen-i-zu, "to
know what my heart tells me. Besides, this hunter you would
have me marry is as tall as a young oak, while I am not much
taller than one of the Puk-Wudjies. When I stand up very
straight, my head comes little higher than his waist. A pretty
pair we would make!"
What she said was quite true. Neen-i-zu had never grown
to be much larger than a child. She had a graceful, slender
body, little hands and feet, eyes black as midnight, and a mouth
like a meadow flower. One who saw her for the first time,
passing upon the hills, her slight figure sketched against the
sky, might have thought that she herself was a fairy.
For all her gentle, quiet ways, and her love of lonely places,
Neen-i-zu was often merry. But now she seldom laughed;
her step was slow; and she walked with her eyes fixed upon the
ground. "When she is married," thought her mother, "she
will have other things to occupy her mind, and she will no
longer go dreaming among the hills."
But the hills were her one great joy — the hills, and the
flowery meadows where the lark swayed to and fro, bidding
her be of good cheer, as he perched on a mullein stalk. Every
afternoon she sat, singing her little song. Soon she would
sing no more. The setting sun would gild the pine grove,
the whip-poor-will would complain to the stars; but the picture
would be incomplete; there would be no Neen-i-zu. For
the wedding day was named; she must be the hunter's wife.
On this day set for her marriage to the man she so disliked,
Neen-i-zu put on the garments of a bride. Never had she
looked so lovely. Blood-red blossoms flamed in her jet-black
hair; in her hand she held a bunch of meadow flowers mingled
with the tassels of the pine.
Thus arrayed, she set out for a farewell visit to the grove.
It was a thing they could not well deny her; but as she went
her way, and the hills hid her from sight, the wedding guests
looked uneasily at one another. It was something they could
not explain. At that moment a cloud blew up from nowhere,
across the sun; where light had been there was now a
shadow. Was it a sign? They glanced sidelong at the
hunter, but the bridegroom was sharpening his sheath knife on
a stone. Sunshine or shadow, his thoughts were following
the deer.
Time passed; but Neen-i-zu did not return. Then so late
was the hour, that the wedding guests wondered and bestirred
themselves. What could be keeping her so long? At last
they searched the hills; she was not there. They tracked
her to the meadow, where the prints of her little moccasins
led on and on — into the grove itself; then the tracks disappeared.
Neen-i-zu had vanished.
They never saw her more. The next day a hunter brought
them strange news. He had climbed a hill, on his way home
by a short cut, and had paused there a moment to look around.
Just then his dog ran up to him, whining, with its tail between
its legs. It was a brave dog, he said, that would not run from
a bear, but this one acted as if he had seen something that
was not mortal.
Then the hunter heard a voice, singing. Soon the singing
stopped, and he made out — far off — the figure of Neen-i-zu,
walking straight toward the grove, with her arms held out
before her. He called to her, but she did not hear, and drew
nearer and nearer to the Spirit wood.
"She walked like one who dreams," said the hunter, "and
when she had almost reached the woods, a young man, slender
as a reed, came out to meet her. He was not one of our tribe.
No, no! I have never seen his like. He was dressed in the
leaves of the forest, and green plumes nodded on his head.
He took her by the hand. They entered the Sacred Grove.
There is no doubt that he was a fairy — the fairy Evergreen.
There is nothing more; I have finished."
So Neen-i-zu became a bride, after all.
So ends the Fairy Bride The final tale of
American Indian Fairy Tales Collected by H. R. Schoolcraft
and retold by W. T. Larned �