Native American Legends
Fish-Hawk and Scapegrace
A Micmac Legend
Two men met and talked: one was Fish-Hawk, the other was Scapegrace.
Now the Fish-Hawk can fly higher than any other ocean bird, and
he is proud and particular as to his food; he is only beaten by
the eagle. When he dives and takes a fish the eagle pursues him;
he lets it drop; the great sagamore of the, birds catches it; but
to less than the chief he yields nothing. But the Scapegrace will
eat anything; he is heavy in flying; he is slow and of low degree.
So when the Scapegrace proposed to the Fish-Hawk that they should
become partners the proud bird was angry in his heart, but said
nothing, as he was crafty, and as it occurred to him that he could
punish the other; and this he was the more willing to do because
the Scapegrace actually proposed to fly a race with him! So he said,
"Let us go together to a certain Indian village." And they went
The Fish-Hawk arrived there far before the other. And on arriving
he said, "Beware of him who will come after me. You will know him
by these signs: he is ugly and heavy; he will bring with him his
own food. It is coarse and common; in fact it is poison. He wishes
to kill you; he will offer it. Do not eat of it, or you will die."
Then having been very well entertained himself, he took his departure.
Scapegrace soon appeared, but was treated with great reserve. He
offered his food, and the people pretended to eat it, but took good
care to quietly throw it away. Then he told the chief that he was
seeking a wife, and asked if there were girls to marry in the town.
To which the chief replied, "Yes, there is a mother with several
daughters, of the Amalchooywech' or Raccoon tribe."
He went to see the girls. A bad name had gone before him. One of
them stood before the lodge. She saw him, and cried, "Mahgwis
wechooveet!" "Scapegrace is coming!" They received him as if
he had been Sickness. He was welcomed like filth on fine clothes.
They cried out, "Ulummeye!" "Go home!" He asked the mother if she
had daughters. She answered, "Yes." He asked her if she would give
him one. She replied, "I will not." So he went his way.
Now when he had gone Fish-Hawk came again, and asked if Scapegrace
had been there. He inquired if all had passed as he predicted. They
said it had. Then it occurred to him to pass himself off for a great
prophet, a wise magician, well knowing that he could make much of
it. So he said, "It is well. Remember that you would have all died
but for my foresight. That wizard would have poisoned you all. But
have no fear. In future I will watch over you."
Then he said to a man of the people that if at any time he should
see a large bird flying over the village it would be an omen of
great coming danger. "Then," he said, "think of me; call on me,
and I will come." So he departed.
The man thought it all over for a long time. He was shrewd and
wise. "He foretold the coming of Scapegrace," he reflected. "Now
he pretends to be a very great sorcerer. We shall see!"
Sure enough, in a few days he saw a bird flying on high. "That,"
said he, "must be the Wis-kuma-gwasoo." He called him, and
he came. "You spoke," he said, "of danger to our town. What is it?"
"There is great danger. In a few days your town will be attacked
by a Kookwes. Unless you save yourselves you will all be devoured."
"What shall we do to be saved?" asked the man. "When will he come?"
"In seven days," replied the Fish-Hawk. "Before that time you must
take to your canoes and flee afar. You may get beyond his reach,
but you cannot before that time get beyond the horrible roar of
his voice. And all who hear it will drop dead."
"How can we escape this second danger?" asked the man.
"You must all close your ears, so that you can hear nothing. When
the time is over you may return."
The man's name was Oscoon. He led the people away. He closed their
ears; he did not close his own. Once he heard a far-away whoop.
It was not very terrible. But he said nothing. After a time the
scouts who were sent out returned. They reported that the Kookwes
had departed. They had not even seen him. It was a great escape.
The people thought much of Oscoon. They made him their chief. In
a few days the Fish-Hawk returned. He spoke to Oscoon: "Did the
giant come?" "He did." "You escaped?" "By following your advice,
we did." "And in which direction did he go?" "Surely you, who know
so much about him, must know that better than we do." Then the Fish-Hawk
saw that he was found out. He flew away, and never returned to the
town to play the prophet.
He who would cheat must watch his words well.
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