Native American Legends
Bluejay and his companions
A Quinault Legend
Bluejay and his chief, with Land Otter, Beaver, and another man,
used to go out seal-hunting together. In the same house with them,
but at the other end, lived Grouse.
Grouse was a widower with a lot of children, and he spent most
of his time in the woods building a canoe.
Every trip that the five men made, they caught five seals, very
fat ones; but they gave nothing but the poor, lean parts to Grouse.
Bluejay was at the bottom of this, and kept saying that fat was
too good for Grouse; and he poked fun at him and sneered at him
whenever he was about. Grouse never said a word, but took what was
given him without complaining.
One day Grouse made a wooden seal, carving it out of cedar, and
burning it until it was black. Then he talked to the seal, and told
it what it was to do; and it dived down into the water and went
out to sea.
Next day before daylight, the five men started out, and about sunrise
came upon a big seal, and speared it. The seal dived, and swam to
the westward, dragging the canoe after it until they were out of
sight of land. The spearman tried to get rid of it, but could not;
and when night came they were still rushing westward, and when they
waked in the morning they were still going, but not so fast.
Not long afterward the line slackened, and they heard something
butting against the canoe. Bluejay looked over, and saw a wooden
seal with the harpoon sticking into it just behind the flipper.
Then his chief began to scold Bluejay, and said, "I know this
is Grouse's work. He is angry because we gave him no fat, and because
you talked to him so much." Bluejay could only hang his head
and say nothing.
They cut the line and began to paddle back, but had no idea where
they were going. Three days and two nights they paddled, and the
third night they all fell asleep from exhaustion. When they waked
in the morning, the canoe was stuck fast and they thought they were
ashore, and one of them, the fifth man, jumped out, but he sank
and was drowned; and, then they saw that they were not ashore, but
that the seaweed was so thick that they had stuck fast in it.
So now there were only four of them, and they paddled on. On the
fourth night they did not feel like sleeping, for they thought they
could see the hills back of Quinault. In the morning they could
discern the coast plainly, and after paddling all day they reached
the shore, and landed at a place quite strange to them. Next morning
they went on again in what they thought was a southerly direction,
and suddenly, as they rounded a point, came upon a village. Several
canoes came out through the surf and helped them ashore, and they
were taken up to the village.
In the center of the village was a tall smooth pole which the people
said was Squirrel's pole, which he used for climbing; and they said
that Squirrel would like to have a climbing-match with Bluejay.
Bluejay's master said to him, "Now don't get frightened, but
go in and do your best. You know you can climb well, and if you
are beaten we may all be killed." Then both Squirrel and Bluejay
took sharp bones, so that if one got ahead he could hit the one
behind on the head; and they started to climb.
All the people crowded around to see the contest, for the pole
was high and the two were well matched. At last the people saw them
reach the top, and saw one of them strike the other on the head
so that he came tumbling down; and all the people shouted, for they
thought it was Bluejay. But when he reached the ground, they found
it was Squirrel who had lost. So now, since Bluejay had beaten their
best climber, they let him and his companions go.
They paddled on down the coast, and after some time they rounded
a point, and come upon another village, much like the first. Here
Hair-seal challenged Bluejay to a diving-match, and Bluejay found
himself in a difficult position, for he was no diver at all. But
his master turned the canoe over and washed it out, leaving the
brush from the bottom floating about it on the water. Then he told
Bluejay to accept the challenge and dive, but to come up under the
brush and lie there concealed, and not to show himself.
So both Bluejay and Hair-seal dived; and Bluejay came up immediately
under the brush, and floated there where no one could see him. He
waited until he shivered so with the cold that the brush moved with
his shaking, and his master began to be afraid the people would
notice it: so he rocked the canoe and made waves to conceal the
motion of the brush, and no one suspected that Bluejay was hidden
there. Now, they had agreed, that, when the sun had passed from
one tree to another not far off, each was to have the right to hit
the other in the head with a sharp bone. So, when Bluejay saw that
the sun had reached the second tree, he dived down, and found Hair-seal
lying with his head down close to the bottom.
Bluejay jabbed him with the bone before Hair-seal knew what was
happening, and Hair-seal came floating up to the surface. All the
people shouted, "Bluejay's up!" But it turned out to be
Hair-seal, while Bluejay went back under the brush without showing
himself There he waited about half an hour longer, and then came
out shouting and laughing, and saying that he felt splendidly and
not tired at all. In that way Hair-seal was beaten, and the people
let Bluejay and his party go on again.
They paddled on as before until they came to another village, and
there the people challenged the four wanderers to go into a sweat-house
with four of their people and see which could stand the most heat.
So four of the village people went into one corner of the sweat-house,
and the four travelers into the other. Then the door was closed
so that it was pitch dark, and soon it became very hot. But Beaver
and Land Otter began to dig, and in a very short time they had tunneled
to the river. Then all four got into the water and were as comfortable
as could be, while the four men from the village were nearly baked.
When the time was up, Bluejay and his friends came back into the
sweat house, and when the door was opened they all jumped out. Bluejay
and his friends were as fresh as possible, while the four men from
the village were nearly cooked, and their eyes were all white from
the heat. So, having beaten the people at their own game, they were
allowed to go on, and, paddling as hard as they could, before they
knew it they had rounded another point, and come upon a village
as before. They ran the canoe clear up on the beach and tied it,
and, taking their paddles, went into one of the houses.
The people immediately challenged the new arrivals to sit up five
days and five nights without sleeping, against four of their own
number. The friends were afraid not to accept, so they started the
match. One party sat on one side of the house and the other on the
other. The men from the village had spears, and when any one of
them was falling asleep, they would prod him with a spear and wake
him. They kept calling out to each other all night, "Are you
awake? Are you still awake?" And they reviled each other constantly.
Bluejay did all the talking for his side, and was hardly quiet
a minute. All the next day they jeered at each other, and so they
did the next night. Bluejay and the spokesman of the other side
kept talking back and forth the whole time. The next day they did
the same thing, and so on the third night; and the fourth day and
the fourth night it was still the same. On that night the men from
the village nearly went to sleep; but Bluejay's men were all right
as yet. Bluejay himself was almost done up; but his master would
pull his ears and kept him awake, for Bluejay's master was the best
man of them all.
The fifth night the men of the village went to sleep, and Bluejay's
master told Land Otter and Beaver to dig so that they could get
out. They did so, and fetched four pieces of old wood with phosphorescent
spots on them; and they placed the pieces where they had been sitting,
one piece for each man; and the spots looked like eyes.
Then, while the other crowd was still sleeping, they got out, and,
taking everything they could lay their hands on, they stole away
in the canoe. Just before daylight one of the other four waked,
and called Bluejay several times, but got no answer. So he waked
the others, and, taking their spears, they speared what they thought
were their rivals. But when daylight came, they saw that they had
been fooled, and that their spears were sticking into wood.
There was great excitement, and the people decided to give chase,
and, making ready their canoes, they started after the fugitives.
Along in the afternoon, Bluejay's master said, "I feel sure
some one is following us," and, looking back, they saw a lot
of canoes in pursuit. Then they paddled with all their might; and
Bluejay's master paddled so hard that at every stroke he broke a
paddle, until he had broken all they had, and they floated helpless.
Then the others turned to Bluejay and said, "You are always
talking about your tamanous. Make use of him now, if you have one,
for we are in a bad fix." But Bluejay could only hang his head,
for he had no tamanous. Then Land Otter called on his tamanous,
and a little wind arose. Then Beaver called upon his, and the wind
became a little stronger; but all the time the other canoes were
drawing closer. Then Bluejay's master called upon his tamanous,
and there swept down a great storm and a fog.
The storm lasted only a short time, and when it had passed, they
looked about them and saw hundreds of capsized canoes, but not a
man living; for all the people had been drowned. They went around
and gathered up all the paddles they wanted, and went on, and at
last reached the Quinault country, and were among good people. The
people who had pursued them were probably Makahs, for they are a
Finally they reached their home near Damon's Point, and after that,
whenever they came in from sealing, they were careful to give Grouse
the biggest and fattest seal.
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