Wig’damiwi Adio, Wli Nanawalmezi
(Goodbye, take care of yourself)
|We are the stars who sing, we sing with our light;
We are the birds of fire, we fly over the sky.
Our light is a voice.
We make a road for the spirits,
for the spirits to pass over.
Among us are three hunters who chase a bear.
There never was a time when they were not hunting.
We look down on the mountains.
This is the song of the stars.
This song was collected in Maine by Charles G. Leland around 1882; he gives a phonetic version in the language-dialect of that time, “Glint-wah-gnour, Pes Sausmok,” the “Song of the Stars”, in Algonquian Legends, Dover reprint (1992) of Leland’s 1884 book pubished by Houghton Mifflin.
Principal tribes of the Abnaki confederacy:
Norridgewock in part
Patsuiket (Sokoki in part)
Sokoki in part
In a letter sent by the Abnaki in 1721 to the governor
of New England their divisions are given as follows:
Ouanwinak (Wewenoc, south edge of N. H.)
Pegouakki (Pequawket, N. H.)
The following is a full list of Abnaki tribes:
(the Abnaki in the most limited sense)
Gens of the Abenaki
The Abenaki Tribe was broken down into gens which is similar to a clan.
Very little information is known about these gens or they no longer exist.
They had fourteen gentes:
Mals’-süm – Wolf
Ta-mä’-kwa – Beaver
Pis-suh’ – Black Wildcat
Maguh-le-loo’ – Caribou
Ah-weh’-soos – Bear
Kä-bäh’-seh – Sturgeon
Skooke – Snake
Moos-kwä’-suh’ – Muskrat
Ah-lunk-soo – Spotted Animal
K’-che-gä-gong’-go – Pigeon Hawk
Meh-ko-ä’ – Squirrel
Che-gwä’-lis – Spotted Frog
Koos-koo’ – Crane
In the Old Time, as you know, Ableegumooch was Glooscap’s forest guide and helped wayfarers lost in the forest. However, as time went on, Indians and animals learned to find their own way through the trees and did not need the rabbit’s services so often. Ableegumooch grew fat and lazy. If there was something easy and pleasant to do, he did it. If the thing were difficult or tiring, he did not. Now that is no way to keep a wigwam stocked with food. Often, poor old Noogumee, his grandmother, with whom he lived, had to hunt for food herself, or they would have gone hungry. And no matter how much she scolded him, Ableegumooch refused to mend his ways.
Glooscap, far away in his lodge on Blomidon, saw that the rabbit was becoming a thoroughly useless creature. He must be warned against the dangers of laziness. So, wasting no time, Glooscap descended from his lodge to the beach in three huge strides, launched his canoe, and paddled across the Bay of Fundy to the shore near the rabbit’s home.
It was a fine bright morning, the air cool and tasting of salt, as it always does in the Maritime Provinces. And presently along hopped the rabbit, singing with fine spirit:
It’s a lovely day to do
All the day through!
He paid no attention to the tasty leaves and berries he might have been gathering for dinner. He was much more interested in watching other people work. There was Miko the Squirrel scampering up the big maple tree, his cheeks bulged out with nuts, pausing only long enough to scold Ableegumooch for coming too near his storehouse. There was Mechipchamooech the Bumble Bee, busy at the golden rod, gathering honey for his hive. And there was Teetees the Blue Jay, flying worms to his family in the big pine. It was all so interesting that Ableegumooch stopped beside a stately fir tree to enjoy the scene. Suddenly behind him, he heard a voice.
“Ableegumooch, be careful!”
The rabbit jumped and whirled about, but there was nobody there. The voice spoke again, from somewhere over his head.
“Take care, Ableegumooch, or your lazy ways will bring you pain and sorrow.”
The rabbit looked up and saw the fir tree shake like a leaf in a storm, yet not a breath of wind stirred. Frightened out of his wits, he ran–and he never stopped running until he was safe at home, where he told his grandmother what had happened.
“Glooscap has given you a warning,” said his grand mother. “Be sure to obey him, grandson, or you will be sorry.”
The rabbit’s legs were still trembling from fright and exertion, and he promised at once that he would take care to mend his lazy ways in future. And indeed, for a while, he went busily about his hunting and kept the wigwam well stocked with food. But, when autumn came, he grew lazy again and went back to his old careless ways.
It’s a lovely day to do
All the day through!
So sang Ableegumooch as he sauntered through the glory of autumn trees. Noogumee begged and scolded and pleaded, but he continued to spend more time visiting his neighbours than gathering food. One day, when winter had come to the land, he came to the wigwam of Keoonik the Otter. Keoonik politely asked him to dine, and the rabbit promptly accepted. Keoonik turned to his elderly house keeper and addressed her in the usual Indian fashion:
“Noogumee, prepare the meal.”
Then he took some fishhooks and went off, the rabbit hopping along behind, curious to see what he was going to do. Keoonik sat on the snowy bank of the river and slid down an icy path into the water. In a moment, he reappeared with a string of eels which he carried to his grandmother, and she promptly cooked them for dinner.
“Gracious!” thought Ableegumooch. “If that isn’t an easy way to get a living. I can do that as well as Keoonik,” and he invited the otter to be his guest at dinner on the following day. Then he hurried home.
“Come,” he said to his grandmother, “we are going to move our lodge down to the river.” And in spite of all she could say, heinsisted on moving it. Noogumee reminded him that the wigwam was empty of food, and he ought to be out hunting, but Ableegumooch paid no attention. He was busy making a slide like Keoonik’s. The weather was cold, so all he had to do was pour water down the snowy bank, where it soon froze, and there was his fishing slide. Early next day, the guest arrived. When it was time for dinner, Ableegumooch said to his grandmother:
“Noogumee, prepare the meal.”
“There is nothing to prepare,” said she, sadly.
“Oh, I will see to that,” said the rabbit with a confident laugh, and he took his place at the top of the slide to go fishing. When he tried to push off, however, he found it was not so easy. His coat was rough and bulky and dry, not smooth and slippery like the otter’s. He had to wriggle and push with his heels until at last he slid down and plunged into the water. The cold took his breath quite away, and he suddenly remembered he was unable to swim. Struggling and squealing, he thought no more of fishing, for he was in great danger of drowning.
“What on earth is the matter with him?” Keoonik asked the grandmother.
“I suppose he has seen someone else do that,” sighed Noogumee, “and he thinks he can do it too.”
Keoonik helped the freezing, half-drowned rabbit out of the water and, since there was nothing to eat, went home hungry and disgusted.
But do you think that cold bath cured Ableegumooch? Not at all. The very next day, as he ran idly through the forest, he came to the lodge of some female woodpeckers. He was delighted when these Antawaas invited him to dinner.
He watched eagerly to see how they found food.
One of the woodpeckers took a dish, went up the side of an old beech tree and quickly dug out a plentiful supply of food, which was cooked and placed before the rabbit.
“My, oh my!” thought Ableegumooch. “How easily some people get a living. What is to prevent me from getting mine in that fashion?” And he told the Antawaas they must come and dine with him.
On the day following, they appeared at the rabbit’s lodge and Ableegumooch said to his grandmother importantly:
“Noogumee, prepare the meal.”
“You foolish rabbit,” said she, “there is nothing to prepare.”
“Make the fire,” said the rabbit grandly, “and I shall see to the rest.”
He took the stone point from an eel spear and fastened it on his head in imitation of a woodpecker’s bill, then climbed a tree and began knocking his head against it. Soon his head was bruised and bleeding, and he lost his hold and fell to the earth with a tremendous crash. The Antawaas could not keep from laughing.
“Pray what was he doing up there?”
“I suppose he has seen someone else do that,” said Noogumee, shaking her head, “and thinks he can do it too.” And she advised them to go home, as there would be no food for them there that day.
Now, sore as he was, you would certainly think the rabbit had learned his lesson. Yet, a day or two later, he was idling in the woods as usual when he came upon Mooin the Bear, who invited him to dinner. He was greatly impressed at the way in which the bear got his meal. Mooin merely took a sharp knife and cut small pieces off the soles of his feet. These he placed in a kettle on the fire, and in a short while they enjoyed a delicious meal.
“This must be the easiest way of all to get a dinner,” marvelled Ableegumooch, and he invited Mooin to dine with him next day. Now what the rabbit did not know was that the bears preserve food on their feet. They press ripe blueberries with their paws and, after the cakes have dried upon them, cut bits off to eat. The silly rabbit thought Mooin had actually cut pieces off his paws!
At the appointed time, Ableegumooch ordered his grand mother to prepare the meal, and when she said there was nothing to prepare, he told her to put the kettle on and he would do the rest. Then he took a stone knife and began to cut at his feet as he had seen Mooin do. But oh dear me, it hurt. It hurt dreadfully! With tears streaming down his cheeks, he hacked and hacked, first at one foot and then at the other. Mooin the Bear was greatly astonished.
“What on earth is the fellow trying to do?” he asked.
Noogumee shook her head dismally.
“It is the same old thing. He has seen someone else do this.”
“Well!” said Mooin crossly, “It is most insulting to be asked to dinner and get nothing to eat. The trouble with that fellow is– he’s lazy!” and he went home in a huff.
Then at last, Ableegumooch, nursing his sore feet, remembered what Glooscap had said. All at once, he saw how silly he had been.
“Oh dear!” he said. “My own ways of getting food are hard, but others’ are harder. I shall stick to my own in the future,” and he did.
From then on, the wigwam of Ableegumooch and his grandmother was always well stored with food, winter and summer, and though he still sings, his song has changed:
It’s a wiser thing to be
And far away on Blomidon, Glooscap, seeing his foolish rabbit mend his ways at last, set a light to his pipe and smoked contentedly.
And, kespeadooksit–the story ends.
There was in the Old Time a great rogue named Badger. The Wabanaki storytellers, who talk of men as though they were animals and animals as though they were men, sometimes spoke of Badger as a man and sometimes as an animal. It was agreed, however, that he had something of Lox in him–Lox, you remember, who was the son of Evil and who sometimes took on the form of a badger. And that is how this Indian known as Badger got his name.
Now this fearless and impudent rascal lived a carefree life on the labour of others, having no time from merrymaking to spend on hunting. In time, however, his neighbours grew tired of supporting him. One summer when food was scarce, the Chief of Badger’s tribe said to him:
“You take all and give nothing. We can no longer afford to share our meat with you. This is what we have decided. You will be given food for half a moon’s journey. You will then be too far away to trouble us, and must live as you can.”
For once, Badger’s face lost its grin.
“Who will take care of Little Brother when I’m gone?” he demanded. Now you see, Badger was not all bad. He had a small brother who was gentle and shy and not very clever, and ever since the boys had lost their parents, Badger had looked after Little Brother and treated him with affection.
“He will be given a home with foster parents,” said the Chief, but Little Brother burst into tears.
“I want to go with my elder brother,” he wailed.
“Very well, come along,” said Badger, and grinned saucily at the people. “Thanks, my friends, for giving us a chance to see the world!” Then, with all their possessions in a blanket slung over Badger’s shoulder, the two set jauntily off into the woods. However, they did not go far. Badger stopped before the mouth of a small cave and told Little Brother to go inside.
“This food will last you until the full of the moon, when I shall return,” he said. “I must play one last trick on our late friends! “
Then Badger dressed himself in the beads and feathers of a medicine man and put a mask on his face. Medicine men, you know, were the doctors of the Indians. Some of them understood how to make medicine from herbs and how to cure people; but others, like Badger, were frauds.
He knew that his former tribe had no medicine man at present, so he went back to the village and announced that he was a powerful man of magic. Not recognizing Badger behind the mask, his old neighbours treated him with great respect. They gave him a wigwam to live in and shared their food with him, begging him to treat their sick and use his magic to make meat more plentiful.
For a while, Badger played the medicine man with glee. He beat his drum and shook his rattle, and pretended to summon spirits. He sold charms and fell into trances, and all the time behind his mask, he was laughing. However, game in the district grew scarcer and scarcer, and as the people grew hungrier, they began to lose faith in the medicine man. If he was really a magician, why did he not make hunting better?
One day, near the full of the moon, a long loud wail came from the forest. The Indians shook with fear, but not Badger, who knew at once what it meant. It was Little Brother crying because he was lonely and his food was gone. The wail came again.
“It is the giant, Famine,” said Badger with a long face. “He says he is coming to this village.”
Then all the people began to groan with dismay, for when Famine comes, he brings death by starvation.
“Never fear,” said Badger calmly, “for I, your medicine man, will go out to meet him and drive him away.”
The people exclaimed with gratitude and admiration.
“Give me a bag of tallow,” said Badger, “to take with me, for I shall need plenty of strength to defeat that fellow.”
Tallow was a kind of fat, a great delicacy with the Indians in olden times. It was made by pounding and breaking the bones of a moose, then boiling the bones until the grease came to the top. The grease, a white substance as hard as wax, was then skimmed off with a wooden spoon. It was so nourishing, hunters used to take it with them on long hunting expeditions as their only provision.
So the people gave Badger a large bag of tallow, the last they had, and off he went, crying out in a commanding voice, “Ahhh Chowwwaaa!” The Indians thought this a cry of defiance against the giant, but it was really the secret name Badger had for his brother, to let him know he was coming.
They waited and listened, but heard no sound of battle. They waited long–and in vain–for the return of their medicine man.
Meanwhile, deep in the forest, Badger and Little Brother were feasting on the tallow, laughing together at Badger’s cleverness, when suddenly they heard a rushing sound in the forest. Badger jumped up, alarmed, as huge feet came crashing through the underbrush. The trees swayed as a great hand flung them aside, and all at once a fearsome giant stood before the brothers. His face was as green as the grass, and his hair sprang out from his huge head like needles on pine boughs. Before Badger knew what was happening, the Green Giant had seized Little Brother in his mighty green hand and had stuffed him into the bag he carried on his shoulder.
“Save me,” shrieked Little Brother.
Badger rushed upon the giant furiously, biting and punching and kicking, but the giant only laughed.
“What is tickling my legs?” he asked.
“Give me back my Little Brother,” stormed Badger.
“Certainly,” said the Green Giant, “as soon as you bring me the magic food of Glooscap which never grows less, no matter how much of it is eaten.”
Poor Badger stared at the giant in dismay. It was a long way to Blomidon where Glooscap lived, and the path to it was full of danger. Moreover, there was no certainty of Glooscap giving him the food when he got there.
“I shall wait for you here,” the Green Giant shouted, “but only for the space of time it takes the sun to run its full course. If you do not bring the food by then, I shall have to eat Little Brother instead.”
Without a word, Badger turned and set off through the trees at top speed. Late that same day, tired and breathless, he reached the shore of Minas Basin and looked up at Blomidon’s red slopes, immense against the darkening sky. He knew, in order to find Glooscap’s lodge, he must climb to the very top. He was terribly tired, and yearned to rest, but the thought of Little Brother in the hands of the Green Giant drove him up the red slope as fast as possible.
The red stone was slippery and covered him with red dust, but he kept on. Branches of low spruce and juniper scratched his face and tore his hands, but he paid no attention. His lungs pained, his head throbbed. His throat was hot and dry as he dragged himself the last few yards, and tumbled over full length on the grass at the summit. Too worn out for a moment to move, Badger lay still, recovering his breath. Then he got wearily to his feet. There stood Glooscap’s great wigwam, a fire glowing dimly within. The Great Chief himself was nowhere in sight, nor was there any sign of Noogumee, Glooscap’s grandmother, or of Marten his servant. Badger could not wait for their return to ask for the food–there was no time. Besides, the Great Chief might refuse to give it to him. Badger must get the food somehow and hurry back to the Green Giant.
He crept into the lodge and looked around, then cried out softly with triumph. A dish of Glooscap’s magic food stood beside the fire. He had only to reach out and take it; but as his fingers curved around the dish they were struck aside.
“Stop, thief!” a stern voice commanded. And Badger looked up to see the great Glooscap towering over him. But his fear for Little Brother was even greater than his fear of the Great Chief.
“Please, Master!” he cried. “Give me the magic food. I must save my brother from the Green Giant.”
“Why should I give you anything,” asked Glooscap, “you who have robbed and made fun of your neighbours?”
“You can’t let Little Brother die,” Badger cried. “It wasn’t his fault. If you don’t help me, the giant will eat him!”
“Will he?” asked Glooscap mysteriously, and before Badger’s surprised eyes, his shape began to change. His skin became green, his hair stood out from his head in green spikes, and his green face assumed a ferocious expression.
“The Green Giant was you all the time!” gasped Badger.
“And I hope he has taught you a lesson,” said Glooscap, resuming his own appearance. “Are you sorry for the way you have behaved?”
“Yes, indeed,” cried Badger.
“And will you promise to give up your silly tricks and do your share of the hunting?”
“I will, I will, if only–“
“Then look behind you.”
Badger turned and saw Little Brother, smiling and un harmed, standing beside the fire. So great was Badger’s relief, he nearly cried. For the first time, too, he realized how tired he was, and how hungry. The old impudent grin reappeared.
“I don’t suppose,” he suggested, “you could spare me a taste of that food?”
“Certainly not!” said Glooscap indignantly, “not until you can share it with the people you robbed of their tallow. Take this food to them at once. It will never grow less, no matter how much is eaten, until game is again plentiful in the forest.”
When the people of Badger’s old village saw him bringing the magic food of Glooscap, they forgave him and welcomed him back into the tribe. Famine no longer troubled the Indians, and Badger behaved himself for quite some time.
But if you think he had played his last trick, you are much mistaken, for you will hear again in time of Badger–and his mischief-making.
Until then, kespeadooksit!
Badger was up to his tricks again.
He had met a stranger in the forest and invited him to camp with him overnight. As they sat by the fire, they smoked their pipes and told stories until it grew very late, so late that Badger could hardly keep from yawning. However, it was a matter of pride with him not to fall asleep. Besides, being such a deceiver himself, he was always suspicious of other people. He would feel safer when the unknown Indian was asleep. He thought of a trick.
“My friend,” said he, “can you tell me what my backlog is?” meaning the log against which he was leaning.
“Hickory?” inquired the stranger.
“No, not hickory.”
“No, not maple.”
“No, not white oak.”
And so it went on, the stranger mentioning moose wood, ash, pine, cedar, birch, and all the wood he could think of, while Badger kept on saying no it was not this, or that. Their voices rose and fell with such monotonous regularity that the man grew sleepier and sleepier, until at last he slumped down fast asleep. Annoyed at the man for being so long about it, Badger thought of another trick to play. He spread sticky clay over the sleeper’s eyes and then quickly departed.
When the man awoke, he thought he was blind, and was in a terrible state until he discovered the clay and rubbed it off.
“If ever I meet with that fellow again,” he vowed bitterly, “I’ll crush him to bits!”
Now this man, as it happened, was a boooin, and such wizards are very unpleasant fellows. It would be well for Badger if he never crossed Koondao’s path again. Koondao, which means “stone,” was the wizard’s name, and he could become a huge stone at will.
Meanwhile, Badger had returned to his own lodge and told Little Brother to prepare for a journey.
“We are going to see what is new in the world,” he said, and as Little Brother was always willing to do what Badger said, away they both went.
They had not gone far when they met a very tall and handsome Indian, wearing a shining belt and a necklace of purple stones. Badger recognized the amethyst beads and knew at once it was Glooscap the Great Chief. He felt somewhat nervous, but when Badger is frightened he is always more impudent than ever.
“Kwah-ee, Master,” he saluted the Chief jauntily.
“Badger,” said Glooscap sternly, “some day, with those tricks of yours, you will go too far. If your mischief should be the death of you, what would become of Little Brother?”
“That’s just what’s been worrying me,” said the trouble maker merrily. “And so, my Chief, I think you should give me a teomul to keep me from harm!” A teomul, you know, is Indian for “magic charm.”
Glooscap was about to rebuke Badger for his impudence, but then he thought to himself that perhaps a reward might have more effect on the troublemaker than punishment. It was at least worth a trial.
“Very well,” he agreed, touching his magic belt. “I give you a charmed backbone.”
“Hurray!” cried Badger.
“But you may use its magic only once,” warned the Great Chief. “Be sure you use it wisely.” Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, Glooscap was gone.
“Hurray for my backbone,” laughed Badger. “And now, Little Brother, let us find some fun.”
“I’m hungry,” said Little Brother.
“Very well. I’ll take care of that.”
And away they went through the forest. Presently, they met two young boys. Now these boys, though Badger did not know it, were of the Culloo tribe, the Culloos being magicians who could, when they wished, turn themselves into enormous birds. Badger greeted the boys and asked where they lived. The boys pointed across the river, and Badger began to admire their bows and arrows.
“Let me feel how stiff they are,” he said, and when he had them in his hand, he bent them so sharply they broke in pieces. “Dear me,” said Badger in mock dismay, “what a pity. However, down the river a way, there is a large grove of birch which makes the very best bows. Listen!” and he cocked his head as if he could hear sounds. “There are some of your friends now, cutting down the trees. Hurry, so you may get your share.”
The boys could hear nothing but the wind in the trees and the birds singing, but they were anxious to have new bows, so theyhurried off down the river, going farther and farther from home. Badger laughed and told Little Brother to hide himself under a spruce tree.
“I am going to pay a visit to their lodge and get some dinner,” he said. He reached into his blanket and pulled out a fine shirt, a feathered headdress, and a string of shell beads. When he put them on, he looked as grand as a Chief, and when he presented himself at the lodge of the Culloo woman, she bowed deeply.
“What can I do for you, O Chief ?” asked she.
“Call your two boys,” said Badger imperiously, “for I have something of importance to say to them.”
The mother thought this must mean some good fortune, so she hurried away into the trees, calling out to her sons to come home. As soon as her back was turned, Badger lifted the meat off the fire and made off with it–and he and Little Brother shared a fine meal.
Soon afterward, the mother returned with her boys and found her dinner gone. It was clear that a trick had been played on them.
“It is that same rascal who broke our bows and led us on a wild goose hunt down the river,” said the boys. “Come, let us go after him and teach him a lesson!” And, turning themselves into birds, they flew off.
Badger saw them coming and told Little Brother to hide.
“I shall lead them a merry chase,” cried he, and was off like the wind, so fast the young Culloos could not overtake him–except one, who came close enough to snatch at the beads around his neck and break them. As the beads streamed away in the wind, Badger laughed.
“Thank you! Those beads were heavy. Now I can run much faster!”
The young Culloos called for help from their uncle, Kakakooch the Crow. Kakakooch flew after Badger and just managed to seize his headdress.
“Oh, how good you are,” the merry Badger laughed.
“You have done me a great favour. My head was growing very hot. Now I can run faster than ever.”
Then Kakakooch called on Uncle Kitpou the Eagle, begging him to catch Badger and punish him. Uncle Kitpou could fly faster than the others, but even so he only managed to snatch off Badger’s shirt.
“Oh, thank you, thank you,” cried Badger, as he ran on. “I was just wishing to be rid of that heavy shirt.”
It looked as though Badger would escape them all.
Then, suddenly, down out of the sky came the Culloo boys’ father, the giant Culloo himself, the biggest and strongest bird in the whole sky. He caught Badger up in his claws, body and bones, carried him to a high cloud, and let go! Badger fell heels over head, and from such a height he fell all night, from dusk to dawn, and the Culloo followed him down.
“Hurrah for a race!” cried Badger. “Swish, swish!” And he flapped his arms like the Culloo, imitating the sound of his wings. However, when at last he neared the ground, even Badger grew worried. That ground looked very hard. Just at the last moment, he remembered to cry out, “Oh spare my backbone!” and the next instant he struck the earth and was dashed to pieces. The Culloo flew away, satisfied.
Poor Badger. There he lay, in a hundred pieces, except for his backbone which remained whole.
On the following day, along came Little Brother, crying bitterly, “Oh, my brother, why have you deserted me?”
At the sound of Little Brother’s voice, Badger’s backbone suddenly stood up all by itself and Badger’s voice cried out:
“Ho, my leg come hither!” and the leg came and attached itself to the backbone. “Ho, my arm come hither!” cried the voice, and so it went on, Badger crying upon all the parts of his body until all the scattered bone and muscle and sinew and skin came together, and he was his old self again.
Little Brother clapped his hands with joy.
“That’s a good trick,” said Badger. “Too bad I can’t do it again. Never mind, Little Brother, we can have plenty of fun without it.”
So the two went on through the forest until they came to a hill and saw a huge stone. This, as it happened, was Koondao the boooin in his stone shape, but Badger had no idea of it.
“Let’s have a race,” cried Badger, and levering the stone from the earth, he sent it rolling down the hill.
Badger and his brother ran after it at top speed, shouting, “We can run faster than you!” They chased it to the bottom of the hill and raced past in triumph.
“We won, we won!” cried Little Brother, and sat down to recover his breath.
Badger was about to do the same when he heard a strange noise and looked around. There was the great stone coming straight at them.
“Run for your life, Little Brother!” cried Badger.
The stone thundered after them, up hills and down valleys, smashing rocks and trees in its path, gaining on the two Micmacs inch by inch. At the last moment, Badger thrust Little Brother to one side and allowed Koondao to strike him instead. The stone rolled over Badger, grinding him to powder, all of him this time, even his backbone. Then at last Koondao came to a halt, satisfied.
When all was still, Little Brother came and looked at the scattered bits of his brother and began to cry.
“The teomul will not work again,” he sobbed. “I have lost my brother forever.” But suddenly a voice thundered behind him.
“Koondao, you miserable stone, how dare you harm my people!” And there stood Glooscap, enlarged to an appalling size, so tall that his head touched the sky. In his fury the Great Chief set a light to the rock, and it burst into fire and burned down to black flakes. Then, returning to his normal size, Glooscap touched the flakes with his foot and they turned into flies.
“Little Brother,” said the Great Chief sadly, “Badger was warned, but he would not listen. If he had not used up his charm to escape the Culloos, it would have protected him from Koondao.”
Then, seeing the misery on Little Brother’s face, he added, “However, Badger gave his life to save yours, so perhaps there is hope for him yet. I think we will give him one more chance.” And, touching his magic belt, the Great Chief shouted:
“Ho, Badger’s leg come hither” and “Ho, Badger’s arm come hither,” and so on, until Badger stood before them, his old self again, but somewhat thoughtful.
“That bit of fun was nearly my end,” he remarked. “I hope I remember to be more careful in the future.”
The Great Chief smiled and called down one of the black flies from the tree around which they were buzzing. Suddenly, Badger jumped, then he howled as the black fly bit him again.
“That will remind you!” said Glooscap, roaring with laughter. “Each spring the black flies will come to the forest to tell you that an act which causes pain to others will in the end cause pain to yourself.”
And it is so to this day. The savage black flies still swarm through the eastern woodlands of Maine and the Maritime Provinces, reminding us of the Great Chief’s words, as they reminded Badger long ago.
Once more, kespeadooksit–the story ends.
One day Badger and his brother were sunning themselves in a meadow when along came two flighty girls of the Micmac tribe. They had been sent to pick blueberries but, idling their time away in talk, they had little to show for their morning’s work. Badger saluted the girls and asked what luck they were having.
“None at all,” said the elder sister, preferring the stranger to think the fault lay in the scarcity of berries and not in themselves.
“You’re not looking in the right place,” said Badger, hiding a grin. “You should follow the sun to its going-down place. There you will find more blueberries than you ever imagined.”
“Quick!” cried the younger girl, who was even more foolish and impetuous than her sister. “Let us find them before someone else does,” and away they went.
How Badger laughed, and Little Brother too.
“When they find the sun’s going-down place,” he told Little Brother, “it will be too dark to see blueberries or any thing else!”
The two foolish girls followed the sun all afternoon and when it dipped below the treetops, they looked for berries. In the dusk, of course, they could hardly see anything, and not a berry could they find. Then, at last, they realized how they had been fooled and knew they must build a lodge where they were for the night, since it was too dark to travel.
Luckily, even very young girls are taught in the Wabanaki land how to build a wigwam, for amongst the Indians that is a woman’s work. The sisters stripped young birches of their boughs and thrust them into the ground to form a cone. Then they laid birch bark over the cone and laid poles on the outside to hold the bark in position. Finally, they made beds of thick spruce boughs and lay down with their heads to the door, so they could look out at the sky.
“If you could marry a star,” asked the younger girl sleepily, “which one would you choose? That large bright star or the small twinkling one?”
The elder girl yawned.
“The large bright one,” she murmured, and fell asleep.
“I should like the little one,” said her sister, and then she too drifted into slumber.
In the morning, the elder sister was first awake, and cried out with surprise at the sight of a young man with large lustrous eyes, standing within the wigwam.
“You wished for me,” he said, “and here I am.”
Beside him stood an older, smaller man, who looked at the other girl with little twinkling eyes.
“We are tired of living alone,” he said.
Now the two astonished Indian maids did not remember their idle wishes of the night before, but they understood the men wished to marry them. They thought the men looked kind and that it would be very nice to have husbands to love and care for them, so they agreed to go and live with the men in their own country.
“Turn around three times,” said the younger man, “with your eyes tightly closed.” The girls did so, and on opening them, discovered they were in a strange new land. It was wide and open, without trees or water, and with a blue haze over everything. The girls thought it beautiful and settled down happily with their husbands in one large wigwam. The men were kind to them and gave them all they wanted, but warned them never to look under a certain flat stone which stood near the wigwam. Now, of course, this immediately aroused the girls’ curiosity. Time after time, they looked at the stone and asked each other “What can be under it?” and “Why can’t we look?”
At last, one day when their husbands were off hunting, the younger sister could bear it no longer.
“I must take just a tiny peep,” she said, and lifted the stone.
To the sisters’ amazement, they found themselves staring through a peephole at the earth itself! As if they were eagles, they could look down on green forests and lakes and rivers, their own land! Now at last they knew where they were– in the sky, with stars for husbands. At once they were homesick.
That night, when the husbands came home, they saw that the girls had been crying and guessed the reason. As they feared, the earth women now longed to return to their own people.
“Very well,” said the star men sadly. “If you wish to go, we will show you the way.”
“Go to sleep,” said the younger man, “and when you wake, you will find yourselves where you were when you first wished for star husbands.”
“Wait till you hear the chickadee sing,” said the older man, “but do not open your eyes. Wait till the red squirrel sings, but even then, do not open your eyes. Wait till you hear the gray phoebe sing–then you may open your eyes.”
The star wives slept for a long time, until at last they began to hear the familiar sounds of the forest. With closed eyes, they heard the chickadee sing. “Don’t move,” whispered the elder sister. Then the red squirrel sang. And the younger girl could wait no longer. Eagerly, she threw off her blanket.
“No, no!” cried her sister. “Wait till the gray phoebe sings!” But the younger star wife had already opened her eyes.
The star wives were no longer in the sky, but not on the ground either. They were on the topmost branch of a pine tree, halfway up to Sky and halfway down to earth, because they had not waited. Moreover, for their disobedience, they had been turned into weasels.
The elder girl wished very much to scold her younger sister for her impatience, but she knew that would not help. They must get down to the ground.
“There is Team the Moose,” said she. “Let us ask for his help.”
“Team, Team!” cried the younger sister. “Help us!”
“What will you give me if I do?” asked Team.
“Anything! You may even choose one of us to marry.”
But Team shook his head disdainfully.
“No, thank you. I’m married already,” and he passed on.
Next came Mooin the Bear.
“Oh, Mooin, save us and one of us will marry you!”
“I was married in the spring,” said Mooin and passed on. Then came Abistanooch the Marten, and he just laughed at them. “I don’t fancy marrying a weasel,” he said. “I shall choose a mate from my own kind,” and he, too, passed on.
“We ought to have stayed with our star husbands,” moaned the elder sister. “We have been very foolish.”
“Yes,” said the younger, who was also learning wisdom.
“It is better to live in the Sky than in a tree.”
“Look!” cried the first one. “There is the rascal who tricked us in the first place!”
Sure enough, it was Badger, looking up at them with a mocking grin. However, he did not recognize the girls he had fooled. To him they looked like ordinary weasels.
“What will you give me,” he asked, “if I help you down?”
The girls said they had only themselves to give, and Badger said that was just what he wanted. What he had in mind, though, was two roasted weasels, not live ones–one for himself and one for Little Brother.
“Tie your hair string around the branches,” the elder star wife whispered, not trusting Badger this time. “I shall do the same with mine.” Indian women wear strings of thin rawhide to bind their hair, and even though the girls were now weasels they still had their hair strings.
Badger carried the elder sister down first, and she told him that after he had brought her sister down, he must go up the tree again and bring down the hair strings which were very valuable and had magic in them. “Meanwhile,” she said, “my sister and I will prepare the wigwam for you.”
Badger willingly went up the tree since, if those hair strings were valuable, he wanted them for himself. But they were tied in many hard knots, and it took him a long time to get them free. While he was busy at this, the sisters were busy building and furnishing the wigwam.
At last, hearing Badger descend, they crept out the back way and ran for their lives.
“The fun is over,” cried Badger, drawing his knife. “Now for a good dinner of young weasel,” and he strode into the wigwam. “Ouch!” he cried, as sharp thorns ran through his moccasins, and “Help!” he shouted as he bumped into a hornet’s nest and the angry insects stung his face. “Oh, oh, oh!” moaned Badger as he stumbled over an anthill and the ants ran over him and bit him. The girls had prepared the wigwam well!
Now by the time Badger had escaped from the wasps and the ants and washed his stinging body in the brook, he was a very angry Indian indeed. He made up his mind that no matter what happened, he would find those weasels and punish them, and it was a simple matter to discover their track through the forest.
Meanwhile the two star wives, out of breath, had arrived at a broad river, too wide and too deep for two weasels to swim. Knowing Badger would soon be after them, they were very frightened and stared longingly at the other side. A croaking voice spoke behind them.
“Do you wish me to fly you across the river?”
It was Tumgwoligunech the Crane, and the girls joyfully accepted his offer.
“Hop on,” he said, and away they flew across the water.
As he set them down on the far side, however, the crane spoke in a different voice–a deep and musical voice full of wisdom and authority.
“Would you indeed like to be star wives again and live in the Sky?”
The star wives were dumbfounded. How did he know?
“Sometimes men call me the Trickster,” said the crane with meaning, and then the girls knew it was Glooscap.
“Oh yes, Master,” they cried. “If our husbands will have us back, we would very much like to live again in the sky. We don’t like being weasels at all!”
“Very well,” said Glooscap, and he told them to turn around three times with their eyes tightly closed, until they heard the voices of their husbands. The weasels did so, obeying his instructions, and only opened their eyes when they heard their husbands crying, “Welcome home!” And if you look carefully at the night sky in midsummer, you may see four small stars around a piece of sky the shape of a wigwam. They are the two sisters and their husbands shining happily up there to this day.
Back on earth, Glooscap flew back across the river to deal with Badger. Presently the mischief-maker came running out of the woods.
“Here, you Tumgwoligunech,” he shouted, “have you seen two weasels pass this way?”
“I just carried them over to the far side,” said Glooscap in the crane’s hoarse voice.
“Then take me over too!” demanded Badger. “And be quick about it.”
The crane, however, was in no hurry. He smirked and fluffed up his feathers proudly. “Tell me,” he said, “do I not have lovely smooth feathers?”
“Smooth–and dusty!” mocked Badger.
“But have I not a long, straight neck?”
“Very long,” laughed Badger, “and no straighter than this winding river.
“Confess at least,” the crane pleaded, “that my legs are very long and red.”
“Oh, bother!” cried Badger, losing patience. “As long as your tongue, you old chatterer. Take me across!” And he jumped on the crane’s neck.
Saying no more, the crane launched himself into the air and flew with Badger high over the river until, half way across, he gave himself a shake.
“Help!” cried Badger, as he tumbled off and fell down, down, down into the water with a tremendous splash.
Glooscap watched Badger struggle with all his might to gain the shore. At last–wet, tired and breathless–Badger dragged himself from the water. Then he looked up–and waved.
“Thanks!” he shouted with a weak grin. “Just what I wanted–a refreshing swim!”
And Glooscap smiled. For he loved an indomitable spirit and, for all Badger’s faults, he never gave in!
Now again, kespeadooksit–the story ends.
You have heard how Glooscap came to rule over the Wabanaki and how he made the animals, and how at first some of them were treacherous and disobedient. In time, however, he gave posts of honor to those whom he could trust, and they were proud to be Glooscap’s servants. Two dogs became his watchmen, and the loon his messenger and tale-bearer. And, because the rabbit had the kindest heart of all the animals in the forest, Glooscap made Ableegumooch his forest guide.
Now in those days Ableegumooch the Rabbit was a very different animal than he is today. His body was large and round, his legs were straight and even, and he had a long bushy tail. He could run and walk like other animals, not with a hop-hop-hop as he does today.
One day in springtime, when the woods were carpeted with star flowers and lilies-of-the-valley, and the ferns were waist-high, Ableegumooch lay resting beside a fallen log. Hearing a rustle on the path, he peered around his log to see who was coming. It was Uskool the Fisher, a large animal of the weasel tribe, and he was weeping.
“What is the matter with him,” wondered the rabbit, who was inquisitive as well as soft-hearted. He popped his head up over the log and Uskool nearly jumped out of his fur with surprise. “It’s only me–Ableegumooch,” said the rabbit. “Do you mind telling me why you are crying?”
“Oh, greetings, Ableegumooch,” sighed Uskool, when he had recovered from his fright. “I’m going to my wedding.”
“And that makes you cry?” asked the astonished rabbit.
“Of course not,” said Uskool. “I’ve lost my way, that’s the trouble.”
“Well, just take your time,” said the rabbit sensibly, “and you’ll soon find it again.”
“But I have no time to spare,” groaned the fisher. “My future father-in-law has sworn that if I do not arrive for the wedding by sunset today, he will marry his daughter to Kakakooch the Crow. And, look, already the sun is low in the sky!”
“In that case,” said Ableegumooch, “I’d better show you the way. Where are you going?”
“To a village called Wilnech,” said Uskool eagerly, “near the bend in the river!”
“I know it well,” said the rabbit. “Just follow me.”
“Thanks, Ableegumooch,” cried the happy fisher. “Now I shall be sure to arrive in time.”
So off they went on their journey. Uskool, who was not very quick on the ground, being more accustomed to travel in the trees, moved slowly.
“You go ahead,” he told the impatient rabbit, “and I’ll follow as fast as I can.”
So Ableegumooch ran ahead, and sometimes all Uskool could see of him was his long bushy tail whisking through the trees. So it was that Uskool, looking far ahead and not watching where he stepped, fell suddenly headfirst into a deep pit.
His cries soon brought Ableegumooch running back, and seeing the fisher’s trouble, he cried out cheerfully, “Never mind. I’ll get you out.”
He let his long tail hang down inside the pit.
“Catch hold, and hang on tight, while I pull.”
Uskool held on to the rabbit’s tail, and Ableegumooch strained mightily to haul him up. Alas, the weight of the fisher was too great. With a loud snap, the rabbit’s tail broke off short, within an inch of the root, and there was poor Ableegumooch with hardly any tail at all!
Now you would think that this might have discouraged the rabbit from helping Uskool, but not so. When Ableegumooch made up his mind to do something for somebody, he did it. Holding on to a stout tree with his front paws, he lowered his hinder part into the pit.
“Take hold of my legs,” he cried, “and hang on tight. I’ll soon pull you out.”
Ableegumooch pulled and he pulled until his waist was drawn out thin, and he could feel his hind legs stretching and stretching– and soon he feared he might lose them too. But at last, just as he thought he must give up, the fisher’s head rose above the edge of the pit and he scrambled to safety.
“Well!” said the rabbit as he sat down to catch his breath. “My waist isn’t so round as it was, and my hind legs seem a good bit longer than they were. I believe it will make walking rather difficult.”
And sure enough, it did. When the rabbit tried to walk, he tumbled head over heels. Finally, to get along at all, he had to hop.
“Oh, well,” said the rabbit, “hopping is better than nothing,” and after a little practice, he found he could hop quite fast. And so they hurried on through the forest.
At last, just before the sun touched the rim of the trees, they arrived at the bride’s village. All the fishers were gathered, waiting, and they smiled and cheered at sight of Uskool and his guide–all but Kakakooch the Crow, who was far from glad to see them! In fact, as soon as he saw Uskool take the bride’s hand, he flew out of the village in a temper, and never came back again. But nobody cared about him.
Ableegumooch was the most welcome guest at the wedding when Uskool told the other fishers what he had done. All was feasting and merriment, and the rabbit danced with the bride so hard she fell into a bramble bush and tore her gown. She was in a dreadful state when she found she was not fit to be seen in company, and ran to hide behind a tree. The rabbit was terribly sorry and wanted to help her, so he hopped away to get a caribou skin he had seen drying in the sun, and made a new dress out of it for the bride.
“You must have a fine girdle to go with it,” said he, and he cut a thin strip off the end of the skin. Then he put one end of the strip in his mouth and held the other end with his front paws, twisting the strip into a fancy cord. He twisted and twisted, and he twisted it so hard the cord snapped out of his teeth and split his upper lip right up to his nose! And now you see why it is that rabbits are hare lipped!
“Never mind,” said Ableegumooch, when the bride wept at his mishap, “it can’t be helped,” and he gave her the cord just as it was, to tie around her waist.
“Wait right here,” said the bride, and she ran off. In a moment she was back, carrying a lovely white fur coat.
“This is for you,” she said shyly. “It is the color of the snow, so if you wear it in winter, your enemies will not be able to see you.”
Ableegumooch was delighted with his present and promised not to put it on till the snow came, as his brown coat would hide him better in summer. The wedding was over now, and he said good-bye to Uskool and the bride, and started for home.
Now it happened that before he had gone far, he came to a small pool in the woods, so smooth it was like a mirror. Looking into it, the rabbit saw himself for the first time since his accidents, and was aghast. Was this he–this creature with the split lip, the hind legs stretched out of shape, and a tail like a blob of down?
“Oh dear, oh dear,” sobbed Ableegumooch, “how can I face my friends looking like this?” Then, in his misery, he remembered Glooscap, his Master. “O Master! See what has happened to your poor guide. I’m not fit to be seen any more, except to laugh at. Please put me back to my former shape.”
High up on Blomidon, Glooscap heard the rabbit and came striding down from his lodge to see what was wrong. When he saw poor Ableegumooch, all out of shape, he had all he could do to keep from laughing, though of course he kept a sober face so as not to hurt the rabbit’s feelings.
“Come now,” he said, “things may not be as bad as you think. You know how fond you are of clover, Ableegumooch?”
The rabbit nodded piteously.
“And you know how hard it is to find. Well, with that long cleft in your lip, you will be able to smell clover even when it is miles away!”
“That’s good,” said the rabbit, cheering up a little, “but it’s very uncomfortable having to hop everywhere I go.”
“Perhaps, for a time,” said Glooscap, “but have you noticed how much faster you hop than you used to run?”
The rabbit did a little hop, and a jump or two, just to see.
“Why I believe you’re right!” he cried, but then his face fell again. “But my tail, Master! I mind that most of all. I was so proud of it.”
“It was certainly a handsome tail,” admitted the Great Chief, “but recall how it used to catch in thorns and brambles.”
“That’s true!” cried the rabbit, excitedly, “and it was very awkward when Wokwes the Fox was chasing me! Now I can slip through the narrowest places with no trouble at all!” And he laughed with delight. “Why–with my new legs, my cleft lip, and without my long tiresome tail, I’m a better rabbit than I was before!”
“So you are!” said Glooscap, and at last he was able to laugh. When Glooscap laughs heartily, the land shakes and the trees bend over, so the rabbit had to hold on tightly to a tree to keep from being knocked over. “So you are indeed!” laughed Glooscap.
And that is why the rabbit and the rabbit’s children, and his children’s children have had, ever since that day, a little white scut of a tail, a cleft lip, and long hind legs on which they can hop all day and never tire. And since then, too, in winter, rabbits wear white coats.
And thus, kespeadooksit–the story ends.
A long time ago, when the Indians were first made, one man lived alone, far from any others. He did not know fire, and so he lived on roots, bark, and nuts. This man became very lonely for companionship. He grew tired of digging roots, lost his appetite, and for several days lay dreaming in the sunshine. When he awoke, he saw someone standing near and, at first, was very frightened.
But when he heard the stranger’s voice, his heart was glad, and he looked up. He saw a beautiful woman with long light hair! “Come to me,” he whispered. But she did not, and when he tried to approach her, she moved farther away. He sang to her about his loneliness, and begged her not to leave him.
At last she replied, “If you will do exactly what I tell you to do, I will also be with you.”
He promised that he would try his very best. So she led him to a place where there was some very dry grass. “Now get two dry sticks,” she told him, “and rub them together fast while you hold them in the grass.”
Soon a spark flew out. The grass caught fire, and as swiftly as an arrow takes flight, the ground was burned over. Then the beautiful woman spoke again: “When the sun sets, take me by the hair and drag me over the burned ground.”
“Oh, I don’t want to do that!” the man exclaimed.
“You must do what I tell you to do,” said she. “Wherever you drag me, something like grass will spring up, and you will see something like hair coming from between the leaves. Soon seeds will be ready for your use.”
The man followed the beautiful woman’s orders. And when the Indians see silk on the cornstalk, they know that the beautiful woman has not forgotten them.
The main body of Abenaki are in western Maine, mostly in the valleys of the Kennebec, Androscoggin, and Sacos rivers, and the neighbouring coast. They originally emigrated from the Southwest, having encountered John Cabot in 1498; but the Indians had no other dealings with white people at that time. In 1604, Champlain passed along the coast and visited Abenaki bands. In 1607 and 1608 the Plymouth Company made an unsuccessful effort to form a permanent settlement at the mouth of the Kennebec. Later, the Abenaki withdrew to Canada, settling around St. Francis.
The Abenaki (Abnaki, Alnobak) are a Native American tribe and a First Nations band government. They are one of the Algonquian-speaking peoples of northeastern North America. The Abenaki live in Quebec and the Maritimes of Canada and in the New England region of the United States, a region called Wabanahkik (“Dawn Land”) in the Eastern Algonquian languages.
The Abenaki are one of the five members of the Wabanaki Confederacy. “Abenaki” is a linguistic and geographic grouping; historically there was not a strong central authority, a large number of smaller bands and tribes who shared many cultural traits, and who became together as a post-contact community after their original tribes were decimated by colonization, warfare and disease.
In the Old Time of Glooscap’s People, a poor Indian widow and her son Tabulech lived in a wigwam by them selves at some distance from a Malicete village. Tabulech was a good lad, but awkward with bow and arrow. He could not shoot straight if his life depended upon it. He and his mother, therefore, had to live as best they could by trapping and fishing. With hard work, they could just manage, but there was never anything left over.
Now the Chief of the nearby village demanded a yearly tribute of wampum from all who lived within reach of his hand. Wampum, you know, is a kind of Indian money made of shells, and the Indians used it in trading. The people feared the Malicete chief because he claimed to be a magician and threatened to put an evil spell on the people if they refused to pay.
At the time of our story, the tribute was nearly due, and Tabulech and his mother had not a single piece of wampum in their lodge. In desperation, the mother took a treasured moose hide left to her by her husband and told Tabulech to go to the village and trade it for wampum.
So off Tabulech went, with the moose hide over his shoulder. He had not gone far when he met an old man, who raised his hand and said politely, “Kwah-ee, my son.”
Tabulech returned the greeting with equal politeness.
“I see you have a fine moose hide there,” said the old man. “I am in need of just such an article. Will you give it to me?”
Tabulech was sorry to refuse, but explained to the old man that he must sell the hide to get wampum for the tribute.
“Listen now,” the old man said coaxingly. “I’ll trade you this dish of food for it.”
Tabulech looked at the dish and saw a tiny portion of ground cooked meal, hardly enough for a good swallow, and shook his head. The old man shrugged and said cheerfully, “Oh, very well then, but taste a little before you go.”
Out of politeness, Tabulech did so, and found to his surprise that it was delicious.
“Have some more,” offered the old man slyly.
“Willingly!” cried Tabulech, and went on eating. To his amazement, no matter how much he ate (and he ate a great deal) there was just as much left in the dish. He ate and he ate, and at last he had eaten all he wanted and wished to stop. Then, to his horror, he found he had to keep on eating just the same.
Oh, how the old man laughed to see Tabulech try to push the dish away, at the same time grabbing the food and stuffing it into his mouth. He laughed till the tears came.
“Come,” said the old man gaspingly. “Give me the moose hide and you may stop eating. Moreover, you may have the dish of food to keep.”
By this time Tabulech felt he might burst if he ate another mouthful, so he gladly gave the moose hide to the old fellow, and taking the dish of food in exchange, walked sadly home to his mother to tell her what had happened.
Now I’ll tell you something Tabulech did not know. The old man he had met was none other than Glooscap, disguised. The Great Chief was something of a trickster, you see, and loved now and then to play jokes on his People, especially when by so doing he could help them.
The next day, Tabulech was sent off with another prized article, a fine bearskin. His mother bid him get a better bargain than he had the day before. However, there on the path again was the old man, holding a shabby old belt in his hand.
“Will you trade this belt for that skin?”
Tabulech took a firmer grip on his fine bearskin.
“I should say not! I am not such a fool as that!”
Instantly the belt jumped out of the old man’s hand and wrapped itself around Tabulech, squeezing him and squeezing him until he cried for mercy.
“Take it off, take it off!”
“The belt will come off quick enough,” the old man chuckled, “when I have that bearskin in my hand.” So, to keep from having the last breath squeezed out of him, Tabulech was obliged to trade the skin for the belt. His mother was scandalized.
“You foolish boy!” she scolded. “Now we have lost two valuable things. All that remains are these ten muskrat pelts. Take them to the village, Tabulech, and sell them for wampum, or the Chief will take our wigwam from over our very heads.”
Tabulech promised that this time he would avoid the usual path and have nothing to do with the old man. So he took a new way through the depths of the wood and had nearly reached the village when he heard the sound of music. Despite all he could do, his feet turned toward the sound and began to dance of their own accord. He danced and he danced and could not stop, not even when he had danced up to the old man who played on a broken flute.
“Stop, stop!” pleaded Tabulech. “Stop playing!” and he threw the muskrat skins at the old man’s feet.
The old man stopped playing, handed Tabulech the flute, and laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.
“All right, my son,” he said. “Go home now, and cheer up. You may have made better bargains than you know.”
But the mother of Tabulech did not think so.
“A morsel of food,” she wailed, “a shabby old belt, and a broken flute–for all those fine skins. And see, here comes the Chief for the tribute!”
It was so. The Chief, with a band of his braves, approached the wigwam. With a worried heart, but the customary Indian politeness, Tabulech invited the Chief to enter the lodge and showed him to the highest place. Having no other food, he offered the Chief the dish of food he had got from the old man. The guest looked disdainful, but tasted it, and then his expression changed. Never had he tasted anything so good! He ate and he ate, and the more he ate, the more there was. But the trouble was, he could not stop eating, even when his stomach began to hurt dreadfully.
“Take it away, or I shall die,” he groaned, and Tabulech laughed. He knew just how the Chief felt.
“I shall take it away,” he said boldly, “only when you promise that henceforth you will demand no tribute wampum, from me, or from any of the people!”
The Chief was terribly angry, but he was also in pain. He knew if he ate one more bite he would choke to death. So he gasped out, “Yes, yes! Anything you say!”
But as soon as Tabulech had removed the dish, he shouted to his braves:
“Seize this fellow and kill him!”
As the braves rushed forward, Tabulech threw down the magic belt and, quick as a striking snake, it jumped up and wound itself about the lot of them, and not one could stir a muscle. Then the Chief saw he was dealing with trickery, and cast about in his mind for a better trick.
“Let my men go,” he said, “and we will make a bargain.”
“Tell me what it is first,” said Tabulech suspiciously.
“I have a daughter,” said the Chief, “who never smiles, much less laughs. A spell was put upon her by Lox when she was a child.” He looked at Tabulech with a sly grin. “If you can cause her to laugh, I will make you my son-in-law, and you and your mother will never know want again. If you fail, however, you will die!”
Tabulech thought for a moment, then bravely agreed to the bargain. And the Chief laughed to himself, for he knew his daughter and he was sure that Tabulech would fail, and he would be rid of him.
Tabulech loosed the braves and accompanied the Chief to the village. There, before all the assembled people, the Malicete presented his gloomy daughter to Tabulech. She might have been a pretty maid had not her face stretched from here to here with sulky disdain.
Sitting at her feet, Tabulech began to tell a very funny story about an ant and a beaver, and the people laughed heartily, all but the Chief’s daughter. She just sighed and looked gloomier than ever. So Tabulech told another tale, even funnier than the first. All the people fairly shouted with laughter, but not the tiniest smile appeared on the face of the Chief’s daughter. In desperation, Tabulech tried standing on his head and making funny faces, but nothing was any good. He had failed.
“I should have been glad if you had succeeded,” the Chief said sourly, “for a gloomy face makes a dreary wigwam. However, you have failed and must pay the penalty.” And he gave his braves the signal to kill Tabulech. As the braves advanced upon him, Tabulech snatched up the flute and began to play. At once the braves began to dance merrily, and not only the braves, but the Chief himself and all the people except the Chief’s daughter, who still sat wrapped in gloom.
How they danced! They jigged and they whirled and they bobbed and they bounced! Fat and thin, short and tall, they all skipped about, and though they gasped for breath and wept with anger, they could not stop. They were a very funny sight indeed.
Suddenly a sound was heard above the music. It was the sound of laughter. Tabulech left off playing and stared at the Chief’s daughter. She was laughing! She was laughing so hard, she rocked back and forth and the tears ran down her cheeks. When the music ceased and all collapsed on the ground, she laughed harder than ever.
“Take her!” gasped the Chief. “You have won. It is clear that you are a magician, and your magic is stronger than mine.”
The people thought so too, for they made Tabulech their Chief instead, and since the old Chief’s daughter was now as cheerful as the summer sun, Tabulech married her and they had many children.
Only one thing puzzled Tabulech. Why, when he played the flute, had the Chief’s daughter not danced too? But then, you see, he didn’t know of Glooscap’s part in the affair, and Glooscap really is a great magician!
Kespeadooksit–the story ends.
Long ago, in the days of Glooscap, there lived a boy named Widjek who could never do anything properly. Perhaps this was because people laughed at him. Nobody disliked Widjek, for he was gentle and friendly, but his awkwardness was funny and so they laughed. The more Widjek tried to win their respect, the more funny he seemed, and the more they laughed, the harder it was for poor Widjek to do anything right.
So, even when he became a man, he was as awkward as ever. He would keep dropping things and falling over his own feet. The people called him Widjek the Moonstruck, because they said he must once have slept with the moon’s rays on his face and so spoiled his wits; but Widjek himself was sure he was just like other men except that people didn’t laugh at them.
One day Widjek asked his grandmother to make an evening visit. To “make an evening visit” means in the Wabanaki to arrange a marriage. Now the grandmother knew it would not be easy to find a bride for Widjek, but she loved him and determined to do her best. She went first to the Chief’s wigwam.
“My grandson is tired of living alone,” she said timidly. The Chief smiled but shook his head.
Then she went to each lodge in turn, without success, until she came to the last one of all, which belonged to a man named Nokum who had three unmarried daughters.
“Which of you, my daughters,” laughed Nokum, “wishes to marry Widjek the Moonstruck?”
The two older girls indignantly refused, but the youngest daughter, Masusi, who was a kindhearted girl, looked troubled.
“The poor fellow must have someone to care for him and keep his lodge,” she said. “I will marry him.”
Nokum scowled. He did not like this at all, for Masusi was his favorite daughter, and he hoped to marry her to someone better.
“If your grandson will provide all the meat for my lodge for a full year,” he told Widjek’s grandmother, “I shall accept him as my son-in-law.” Nokum was pretty sure, you see, that the young man would fail.
However, Widjek was so happy to hear Masusi would have him as a husband that he set out next day, determined to show he could be a good provider. But it was the same old story. He could find little game, and even when he did, he stalked it so clumsily that his prey was off and away before he came within arrowshot. Poor Widjek hunted until dusk and got nothing.
Tired and discouraged, he started back to camp, wondering how he was to tell Masusi he had failed again.
Suddenly, he heard music. It was such beautiful music he stopped in his tracks, utterly bewitched. Then, in the path in front of him, appeared three small hairy men playing flutes. They were Megumoowesoos, the Little People of the forest, who are great magicians. Though they were only half as tall as himself, Widjek was so surprised to see them, he tumbled head over heels backwards. He had never met any Megumoowesoos before. However, they spoke to him in a friendly way and led him into their cave through a door cut out of the solid rock. There they offered him food and drink, and invited him to stay the night.
It was growing dark now and Widjek was glad to delay his return to camp empty-handed, so he accepted the invitation and enjoyed a good meal and a refreshing sleep. In the morning, when the Little People led him from the cave, he saw a great heap of venison lying on the ground.
“It is yours,” said the chief Megumoowesoo. “Take it and if you need more, come back–but tell no one where you have been or who gave you these things.”
Thanking them joyfully, Widjek hurried back to camp with the bundle on his back. Now his future was sure! With the help of the friendly Megumoowesoos, he could easily keep Nokum’s wigwam supplied with meat for a year.
When Widjek walked triumphantly into the village, the people stared at him strangely and his grandmother came running to him with tears in her eyes.
“Grandson!” she cried. “Why have you been gone so long? It is a whole year since you went away. We thought you dead.”
Widjek was amazed, for it seemed to him he had been gone only a night and a day.
“It was the magic of the Megumoowesoos,” he exclaimed and, forgetting the Little People’s warning, he related all that had happened. The people listened with awe, but when he opened his bundle to show them the venison, they burst out laughing. Inside, there was nothing but a heap of poplar bark.
“It is clear,” said Nokum coldly, “that you have deceived us. All year you have been ashamed to come home without meat, and now you think to fool us with this made-up story.”
“It is all true!” protested poor Widjek. “I could show you the path I took, and the cave, and the footprints of the Megumoowesoos outside!”
The people laughed scornfully.
“Widjek the Moonstruck!”
But the Chief called for silence.
“Poplar bark,” he said, “is the food of beavers. It may be that where he found this bark, we will find good beaver hunting.”
Widjek gladly offered to lead the hunters to the spot, and he had no difficulty finding the path. It led straight to the place where he had met the Megumoowesoos. Widjek rushed to the end of the path and stared around in dismay. There was no cave now–no door–only bare rock! More over, there were no tracks, and no sign of poplar bark or beaver.
“This settles it,” said Nokum. “You have had the year granted you, and have failed.” Then all went back to camp, angry with the moonstruck one for disappointing them.
Poor Widjek lingered in the forest, ashamed to follow them. If only he had kept quiet about the Little People. Now his people would laugh at him more than ever. Perhaps even Masusi!
“Oh, why is it,” he groaned, “why is it everything I do turns out badly? Am I indeed moonstruck?”
“Certainly not!” growled a strange voice, and Widjek jumped and looked behind him. There, coming down the path towards him, was the largest bear he had ever seen!
Widjek was no coward, but he had left his weapons some distance away and was helpless. He could never tackle such a creature with his bare hands! So he turned to run–and as usual in his excitement and nervousness, he tripped over his own feet and would have gone sprawling had not the bear stretched out a paw to steady him.
“Fear not, Widjek,” said the bear, “for I am he who made your ancestors from the ash tree.”
Then Widjek knew he was in the presence of Glooscap.
“O Master,” he cried, “I am not worthy of my ancestors. I try and I try to do things right, but I always fail.”
“Never mind,” said Glooscap, “you will do better in the future, if you will do as I tell you.”
“Oh, I will!” cried Widjek eagerly.
Then Glooscap gave him a long curved horn.
“Put this to your ear, and you will hear animals talking a long way off. Follow the sound of their voices and you will always find game.”
“They will hear me coming and run away,” said Widjek sorrowfully. “They always do.”
Then Glooscap gave him also a bag of white feathers and told him to burn them when he was drawing close to game.
“The smoke will be carried on the breeze to them, and they will fall asleep,” said Glooscap. “Kill no more than you need for food and these magical powers will never fail you. Hereafter you will be known not as Widjek the Moon struck, but as Widjek the Magician.”
And before the young Indian could utter a word of thanks, the great bear had slowly dissolved into space.
This time Widjek kept his own counsel. He was learning wisdom at last.
He went hunting the very next day and quickly found game by listening through the horn. Then he put the animals to sleep with the smoke from the burning feathers. When he returned to camp with a great load of venison– enough for Nokum’s family as well as his own–the people were astonished.
On each succeeding day, he returned with meat enough for both wigwams. Then the people knew he must have some secret power.
“He has become a magician,” they whispered to each other, and from that time on, they called him Widjek the Magician.
Now Widjek was a great and honoured member of his tribe, and all the young maidens of the village, including the daughters of the Chief, wished to have him for a husband. The Chief called all the maidens together and told Widjek he could have any one he chose for a wife.
The young man walked slowly down the line of girls, looking carefully at each, and at last he came to Masusi– Masusi, who had chosen him when he was poor and lonely and despised.
“This is my bride,” he said.
And far away on Blomidon, Glooscap nodded and puffed great smoke rings from his pipe. In his wisdom, he had known all the time that under Widjek’s foolish appearance lay a brave and gentle heart. Now all the people knew it too, and would never laugh at him again.
And so–kespeadooksit, once again.
Before 1890, Mrs. W. Wallace Brown wrote that folktales among the Wabanaki must have been extensive, for, though these legends were so swiftly dying out, there seemed to be few things in nature for which they had no legend of its life or beginning. They were known as people living at the sunrise in northeastern and northwestern Maine. A large Wabanaki camp was situated in the Kennebec Valley of Maine.
Old Chief M’Sartto, Morning Star, had only one son, so different from the other boys of the tribe as to be a worry to Old Chief. The boy would not stay and play with the others, but would take his bow and arrows, and leave home for many days at a time, always going toward the north.
When he came home his family asked, “Where have you been and what did you see?” But he had no reply. At last Old Chief said to his wife, “The boy needs watching. I will follow him when he takes off again.”
A few days later, Old Chief followed the boy’s trail and they travelled for a long time. Suddenly, Old Chief’s eyes closed. He could not hear. A curious feeling came over him. Then he knew nothing.
Later, when his eyes opened, he found himself in a strange light country, with no sun, no moon, no stars, but the country was lit by a peculiar brightness. He saw many beings, but all of them different from his own people. They gathered around him and tried to talk, but he did not understand their language.
Old Chief M’Sartto did not know where to go or what to do. He was very well treated by this strange tribe. He watched them play games and became attracted to a wonderful game of ball that he had never seen played before. The game seemed to turn the light into many colours. The players all had lights on their heads and wore very curious kinds of belts, called Menquan, or “Rainbow” belts.
In a few days, an old man came and spoke to Old Chief in his own language, asking if he knew where he was. “No,” Old Chief replied.
“You are in the country of Wa-ba-ban of the northern lights,” the stranger said. “I came here many years ago. I was the only one here from the ‘Lower Country,’ as we usually call it. But now there is a boy who comes to visit us every few days.”
“How did you get here, and what tribe did you come from?” Old Chief asked.
“I follow the path called Spirits’ Path, through the Milky Way,” said the old man.
“That must be the same path I followed to come here,” said Old Chief M’Sartto, Morning Star. “Did you have a queer feeling, as if you lost all sense of knowledge when you travelled here?”
“Yes, exactly that kind of sensation,” he replied. “I could neither see nor hear.”
“We did come by the same path,” Old Chief said. “Can you now tell me how I can go to my home at the Wabanaki camp?”
“Yes, the Chief here can direct you.”
“Now can you tell me where I can see my son? He’s the boy who comes here to visit you.”
“Stay here and watch, you will see him playing ball,” said the old man, as he left to visit many wigwams to invite everyone out to a ball game.
Old Chief was very glad to hear the news of his son, and soon the ball game began, and many beautiful colours spread out over the playing field.
“Do you see your son playing?” the old man asked.
“Yes, the boy with the brightest light on his head is my son.”
The two men then went to see the Chief of the Northern Lights. The old man spoke up and said to him, “The Chief Morning Star of the Lower Country wants to go home and desires to take his son with him.”
Chief of Northern Lights called all of his people together to bid good-bye to Old Chief Morning Star and his son. Then he ordered two great birds to carry them to their home. When they travelled the Milky Way, Old Chief again felt the same strange feelings he had experienced when going there.
When Old Chief came to his senses again, he found himself near his home. His wife was very glad to see him. Her son had arrived first and told her that his father was safe and would come soon. She paid little notice to that announcement for she had thought that her husband had lost his way.
Now her wigwam was filled with joy again at the sight of her son and Old Chief M’Sartto, Morning Star, returned to Wabanaki.
There was once a Malicete Indian village on the edge of a lake in the land of the Wabanaki, and in this village lived three sisters. The two older girls, Oona and Abit, were handsome and proud, but the youngest, whom they called Oochigeas, was timid and plain. She suffered much from the selfishness of her sisters, but bore all their ill-treatment without complaint.
Because these girls had no parents, they were given meat by the tribe’s hunters in return for making pottery. Through much practice, they had become the best makers of pots in the village. And this is how they made them. First Oona, the eldest, wove a basket from ash splints, then Abit lined it with wet clay. Finally, it was given to the youngest girl to harden in the fire. As the clay slowly baked, the wind blew the fire into Oochigeas’ face, and in time her hair was singed close to her head and her face covered with burns. And that is why her sisters mocked her with the name of Oochigeas, which means “little scarred one.”
Now Glooscap the Great Chief knew all his People. He saw the misery of Oochigeas and pitied her, and he scowled at the cruelty of her sisters–yet he did nothing. And this was something that Marten, his servant, could not understand.
“My elder brother,” said Marten, “though she is plain, her heart is kind. Can you not help her?”
“We will see,” said the Great Chief with a wise nod. “Oochigeas must help herself first. Kindness is a great virtue, but courage is the first rule of my People.”
Now on the far side of the lake, remote from the village, there lived an Indian youth called Team, who had the wonderful power of making himself invisible. To all save his sister he was as the rustle of a leaf in the forest, a sigh of wind in the treetops, or a breath of air in the heavens. His name meant “moose” and the moose was his teomul, or charm, that gave him his power. Having this magical power, Team needed no bow and arrow. He could walk straight up to game, without being seen or heard, and slay it with his bare hands.
One day, Team’s sister appeared in the village.
“My brother is tired of living alone,” she said to the people. “Team will marry the first girl who is able to see him.”
Now, though no person had seen Team, or knew if he was tall or short, fat or thin, plain or handsome, yet they knew of his magic power and his great success in hunting. To the Indians, who live by hunting, a brave who can keep meat in his lodge all the time is admired above all others. He is a kind of prince. It is no wonder that every maiden in the village yearned to become the bride of the Invisible Boy.
All the unmarried maidens were eager to try their fortune and, one after another, each made a visit to the lodge across the lake. And, one after another, each came back disappointed. At last, all had made the attempt except the three Sisters.
“Now it is my turn,” said Oona. “I’m sure I shall be able to see him.”
“You indeed!” sniffed Abit. “I’m as likely to see him as you are. Why should you go first?”
“I am the eldest!”
“Team is sure to want a younger woman!”
The two sisters glared at each other.
“You needn’t think I shall let you go alone,” declared Oona angrily.
“Then we’ll go together,” said Abit. And so they did.
Dressing themselves in their finest robes, they set off for the lodge across the lake. Team’s sister received them kindly and took them to the wigwam to rest after their journey. Then, when it was time for her brother’s return, she led them to the shore.
“Do you see my brother?” she asked.
The two girls gazed eagerly out over the lake. They saw a canoe approaching, but though it moved swiftly through the water, it appeared to be empty! No paddle could be seen, for whatever Team held or wore became also invisible.
Abit thought to herself that she would pretend to see him, and Team’s sister would never know the difference.
“I see him!” she cried.
And Oona, not to be outdone, echoed, “Yes! I see him too!”
Team’s sister knew that at least one of the girls lied, for only one maiden would be allowed to see her brother and that would be his future bride.
“Of what is his shoulder strap made?” she asked.
The two girls thought for a moment. They knew that, generally, Indians used rawhide or withe for their shoulder straps.
“A strip of rawhide,” guessed Abit.
“No–withe!” cried Oona.
Then Team’s sister knew that neither had seen her brother and she resolved to punish them for their dishonesty.
“Very well,” she said quietly. “Come to the wigwam and help me prepare my brother’s supper.”
The two girls were anxious to know which of them had given the correct answer, so they followed Team’s sister and helped her prepare the meal. Each hoped that she alone would see Team when he came. When all was ready, the sister of Team warned the girls not to sit in her brother’s place but to remain on her side of the fire. Then, looking up, she greeted her brother–but the girls could see no one.
“Take my brother’s load of meat,” she told Abit, who looked around her in dismay. As long as the meat was on Team’s shoulder, it could not be seen. Suddenly, a great load of venison dropped from nowhere on Abit’s toes. Abit screamed and ran from the lodge in pain and fright. Now Team’s sister told Oona to remove her brother’s wet moccasins and put them to dry. Of course Oona could not do so. A pair of wet moccasins came suddenly sailing through the air and slapped her across the face. Then Oona too ran away, crying with mortification.
“My bride is a long time coming,” sighed Team. “And those were very fine looking girls.”
“Patience, my brother. You must have one who is brave and truthful, as well as lovely, and such a one has not come yet.”
Abit and Oona returned home to vent their rage and spite on poor Oochigeas. To escape their cruelty, she fled to the woods and there, in a secluded spot, relieved her heart with tears. But when there were no tears left, and her spirit had been calmed by the peace of the forest, Oochigeas began to think. Now that her sisters had failed, she was the only maid left in the village who had not tried to see the Invisible Boy. Yet, if her fine sisters had failed, what chance had she, poor and plain as she was? A great hunter like Team would not wish a scar-faced girl like Oochigeas for a bride. All the same, hope stirred in her breast. Her heart began to beat fast at the thought of going to Team’s lodge. She had no fine clothes to wear. Her sisters might try to stop her. The people would laugh. It would take courage–
Her mind was made up!
Oochigeas gathered sheets of birch bark and cut out a gown and cap and leggings, and sewed them together with grass. The clothing was stiff and awkward, and it crackled when she walked, but it covered her. Then she went home and found a pair of Oona’s discarded moccasins. They were huge on her small feet and she had to tie them on by winding the strings around her ankles. She was truly an odd-looking sight, and her two sisters stared at her in amazement.
“Where are you going in that ridiculous outfit?” Oona asked.
“I am going to Team’s lodge,” answered Oochigeas.
“What! You foolish girl! Come back!”
“Oh, let her go,” said Abit. “Let the people see her and she’ll come back soon enough, in tears.”
Oochigeas’ way lay through the village, and the men and boys shouted and jeered at her.
“See how her burned hair sticks out from her cap!”
“Why does she wear birch bark instead of skins?”
“Come back, Oochigeas. Where do you think you’re going? To see Team?” And they laughed so hard they rolled on the ground.
But, though her heart burned with shame, Oochigeas pretended not to hear, and walked on with her head high, until she was out of their sight. Then she hurried through the woods and around the edge of the lake, trying not to think of the ordeal ahead. Doubtless Team’s sister would laugh at her too. Still she went on, and came at last to the lodge and saw Team’s sister at the door.
“I have come,” gasped Oochigeas before the other could speak, “I have come–to see Team–if I can.” And she looked pleadingly at Team’s sister.
“Come in and rest,” said the sister of Team gently, and Oochigeas nearly wept at the unexpected kindness, but she managed to retain her dignity as they waited in silence for the sun to go down. Then Team’s sister led her to the lake.
“Do you see my brother?” she asked.
Oochigeas looked and saw a canoe, empty. She heard the dip of a paddle and the swish of the water at the bow, but though she gazed with all her might, she saw no one. She whispered with a sinking heart, “No, I cannot see him.”
“Look again,” urged Team’s sister, out of pity, and be cause the girl had so far been truthful. Oochigeas gazed once more at the canoe, and suddenly gave a gasp.
“Oh! Yes! Now I see him!”
“If you see him,” said Team’s sister quickly, “of what is his shoulder strap made?”
“Why it is made of a rainbow,” marvelled Oochigeas, and Team’s sister knew her brother had found his bride. She led the girl back to the wigwam and stripped off her ugly clothes, bathed her, and dressed her in doeskin, then gave her a comb to tidy her hair.
“Alas,” thought Oochigeas, “I have so little hair to comb,” but as she drew the comb against her head, she found to her amazement that her hair had grown suddenly long and thick. Moreover, the scars had gone from her face. She was beautiful!
Then the handsome Team came, laughing, and crying out, “At last I’ve found you, my lovely bride.” And he led her to the wife’s place in the wigwam. And from that day on, Oochigeas and Team, and Team’s sister, lived out their days in peace and happiness.
Far away on Blomidon, Glooscap looked at Marten with a wise smile. He had known all along, you see, that Oochigeas had courage under her gentleness–and a brave spirit makes all things possible.
And so it happened. Kespeadooksit.
Now, while Glooscap was engaged in his struggle with Winter, his People were having a sad and bewildering time.
In the summer that Glooscap left them, the Wabanaki were happy. The running brooks were brimful of fish, and the meadows sweet with berries. Game of all kind abounded in the forest, and as long as the birds sang in the thickets– as long as the streams laughed and glistened and the soft air was fragrant with flowers- -the Indians’ days were merry and long.
But when the days grew shorter and the red leaves of the maples became brittle and dropped from their branches, the Wabanaki began to be afraid. What was happening to their lovely land? The air had grown chill. The bark walls of their wigwams let in great drafts, and their handsome clothing of scraped and decorated doeskin no longer kept them warm.
The ground grew hard and a white mist began to fall. It sifted through the open places in their lodges and made all damp and dismal. The Indians had never seen snow before, and it frightened them. Who had made it? Where had it come from? Some thought it a spell thrown upon the land by an evil giant, and of course they were right. At that very moment, though they did not know it, their Great Chief was setting out to challenge the Ice King, Winter.
Greater still was the Wabanaki’s dismay when ice stilled the brooks and rivers, and the fish were lost to them under the ice. The earth became sick and famished with cold, as deeper and deeper fell the snow, and thicker and thicker froze the river. The Wabanaki hunters crept out of their half-uried homes each morning to hunt for food, but in the white silence they found little or no game, and the least effort exhausted them. Weak from hunger and numbed by cold, many fell and lay silent in the snow. And all this bitter time Glooscap, under Winter’s magic spell, lay sleeping and could not help them.
But at last the Great Chief awoke and summoned Coolpujot, who made the sun to shine again and the snow to melt. Alas, however, by now only a few of the Indian families were still alive. In one of these was a youth named Nokome, stronger and more resourceful than the rest. Late in the months of cold he had thought to fasten branches on his feet so he could walk on top of the snow, and in this way, wearing the first snowshoes, he had been able to snare sufficient game to keep himself and his neighbours from starving.
Warmed and heartened by the sun, Nokome watched gladly as the snow melted from the hills and the ice from the river, and all floated down with a gush of laughing water–all except one huge ice cake near the shore. This lodged in a crook of the river and refused to melt, making the air cold all around it. Nokome decided to be rid of it.
Arming himself with a heavy pole, he boldly attacked the monster ice cake. As he pounded away, he sang merrily, “Come on, villain, do your worst. Freeze me if you can!”
At every blow, the enemy gave way a little, until finally it tumbled over on its back and was borne away by the current. As it slid downstream, Nokome heard a loud harsh cry.
“Who dares defy the Ice King? Woe to him who tries Winter’s strength!”
Nokome was startled at first, but called back stoutly, “Away with you, Winter, and never come back!”
“I shall come back, never fear!” the voice roared. “Coolpujot’s charm will not last long, and then we will discover who is Master! “
As the ice cake slipped out of sight, Nokome laughed, and soon forgot the Ice King’s warning, thinking the fine warm days would last forever. But he was wrong. In time, as Coolpujot’s charm lost its power, the earth grew cold again. Once more the snow fell and the Indians shivered and grew hungry. Nokome and the other hunters had all they could do to keep alive, and even so a few of them perished before Glooscap found Summer and the warm days came again.
Nokome saw that something must be done. Each time the Ice King came, more people died. In time, if this continued, all the Wabanaki would perish. Nokome would have braved anything to keep Winter away for good, but what could an ordinary mortal do against a giant?
Then, suddenly, it came to him what he must do. Had not Glooscap, their Great Chief, told them that whenever his people sought him diligently in time of trouble, he would help them? Why had he not thought of this before? He, Nokome, would seek out Glooscap and ask him to destroy Winter!
Now this was a very brave thing for Nokome to decide, for no Indian had seen Glooscap since the early days of summer, or knew exactly where he lived. However, the Indians in their fishing expeditions had travelled as far as the mainland and were acquainted with the lobster-shaped peninsula we now call Nova Scotia. Glooscap’s canoe had been seen once in Minas Basin, on the far side of that peninsula, and it was rumoured that the Master lived somewhere near the green and red mountain of Blomidon.
So, one day, as the red leaves fluttered from the trees, Nokome set out alone in his canoe, crossing the strip of sea which separated Uktamkoo from the mainland, and entered the mouth of a river. He followed this river to its source, a lake in the South Mountain. After crossing this lake, he lifted his canoe from the water and carried it on his back to a second lake which he also crossed–and so on, from lake to lake in this way, until he came to a stream which led directly down into Minas Basin. Now, far across the Bay, he saw Blomidon, purple in the mist of distance.
It was a long voyage across the Bay, but at last Nokome ran his canoe ashore on Blomidon’s beach and gazed up at the red sandstone cliff studded with evergreens and purple stones. He felt suddenly very sure that Glooscap was somewhere near at hand. He would climb the mountain and from its summit be able to see all the territory for miles around. Thus he would discover where Glooscap had his lodge.
Nokome began climbing. The red stone was slippery and he slid back time and again. Ground juniper scratched his face and scraped his hands, but he struggled on. Up and up, until at last he reached the top. Tired and dirty, and gasping for breath, he fell face down upon the grass.
The Indian word of greeting echoed in the still air, and Nokome felt a giant hand help him to his feet. There before him stood the immense figure of Glooscap, with beyond him a great wigwam set in the midst of birch trees and guarded by two huge dogs, one black and one white. Nokome had found Glooscap’s lodge.
“O Great Chief,” cried Nokome, “kill the giant, Winter, or he will destroy us all!” But Glooscap shook his head.
“I have promised Winter he may rule for six months,” he said. “Be thankful you have Summer the rest of the year.”
“But, Master,” Nokome stammered sadly, “even in six months the Ice King can kill many people.”
“True,” said the lord of men and beasts. “But if you do as I say, you will find you have the power yourself to defeat Winter.”
Nokome begged eagerly to be told what to do, but even as Glooscap spoke, his heart sank. He had expected to receive a magician’s power, but instead the Great Chief spoke of gathering sunflowers and cutting wood. When at last he ceased speaking, Nokome thanked Glooscap, hiding his disappointment as well as he could, and departed. He paddled wearily back across the lonely miles, convinced his journey had been in vain. Glooscap had put him off with empty words.
Arriving home at last, he saw with alarm that already the dry leaves lay thick on the ground, and he had noticed that whenever the leaves fell, Winter came soon afterwards. He must try the remedy Glooscap had suggested, for he could think of nothing else. Springing ashore, he called the people and told them what to do.
Listening to his words and following his example, the Indians covered their bark wigwams with skins of fur, then laid heavy spruce boughs at the cracks and edges. They cut down all the driest trees, split them into slender sticks, and stored the wood in their lodges. Then they made themselves new clothes, not scraping the fur from the hide as they had always done before. The clothes were ugly and bulky, but warm.
Then the children were set to picking fruits and berries, and the women to cutting up meat, and while the meat smoked over the fire, Nokome taught the women how to make snowshoes of ash splints fastened together with thongs of rawhide. Then the dried meat and fruits were stored in the lodges with the wood. Last of all, Nokome squeezed oil from sunflower seeds and stored the oil in a basket lined with hardened clay.
Now at last, if Glooscap spoke the truth, they were ready for the Ice King, and only just in time. For all through the forest the giant’s breath could be felt, stiffening the water in the brooks and coating the ground with frost. The cold air stung the Indians’ throats and hurt their chests, and the earth felt like iron under their moccasins. Then the snow came, drifting over the hunting trails, and at last–the Ice King himself!
Nokome, in his wigwam, saw the giant at his door. The Ice King’s hair was like a snowdrift. Icicles hung from his beard, and in his cold blue hand he held a glittering spear.
Bending his head with an icy clatter, he entered the wigwam, and when he spoke, his cold breath made Nokome shake from head to foot.
“Kwah-ee, Nokome!” The familiar Indian greeting sounded like ice shattering as it fell.
“Come up to the highest place,” stuttered Nokome through chattering teeth, for it is a matter of pride with the Indian to treat any stranger in his home, friend or enemy, with politeness.
The Ice King took the honoured place by the fire and seated himself with calm dignity, knowing he had only to remain there a short time and Nokome would be dead of cold and exposure. Indeed, the youth’s body already felt so stiff and chilled, he wondered if he could ever move again. Yet he must! Somehow he managed to stir his dull limbs and creep to the fire. He laid a few bits of wood on the dying flame and blew upon it feebly.
The Ice King smiled scornfully at his weak labours.
With enormous effort, Nokome managed to lift heavier boughs on the blaze, and now the flames began to crackle. Warmed a little, and moving more quickly now, Nokome added heavier and heavier logs, and the fire shot up higher.
The Ice King scowled and moved back a little.
Now Nokome, feeling life surge through him once more, heaped more and more wood upon the fire. The flames roared higher still, and the lodge grew hotter and hotter. The Ice King began to gasp, and great drops of sweat ran from his brow. Then at last Nokome took his precious store of sunflower oil and dashed it upon the fire. Up the flames shot with a roar, to the very peak of the wigwam!
The Ice King could bear it no longer. With a cry of rage and agony, he shrank back against the wall of the wigwam. Water streamed from his crown and his spear was melting quickly.
“Mercy!” gasped the giant. “Enough! You have won the victory. Now let me go!”
Nokome rose and raked away the fire.
“Go then,” he cried triumphantly, “and know that, when you return hereafter, we will always be ready for you.”
“You have conquered me fairly,” groaned the giant. “Twice! Now you are my master forever.” And he fled from Nokome’s lodge and away from the village.
Then amongst the Wabanaki there was great rejoicing. The people praised their Great Chief Glooscap for his wisdom, and made Nokome their village chief for his wit and courage. Never again would the Wabanaki fear the Ice King’s power, for they had learned to turn Winter into Summer with their own hands.
And so, kespeadooksit–the story ends.