Native American Legends
How Lox deceived the Ducks, cheated the Chief, and beguiled the Bear
A Passamaquoddy and Micmac Legend
Somewhere in the forest lived Lox, with a small boy, his brother.
When winter came they went far into the woods to hunt. And going
on, they reached at last a very large and beautiful lake. It was
covered with water-fowl. There were wild geese and brant, black
ducks and wood-ducks, and all the smaller kinds down to teal and
The small boy was delighted to see so much game. He eagerly asked
his brother how he meant to catch them. He answered, "We must first
go to work and build a large wigwam. It must be very strong, with
a heavy, solid door." This was done; and Lox, being a great magician,
thus arranged his plans for taking the wild-fowl. He sent the boy
out to a point of land, where he was to cry to the birds and tell
them that his brother wished to give them a kingly reception. (Nakamit,
to act the king.) He told them their king had come. Then Lox, arraying
himself grandly, sat with dignity next the door, with his eyes closed,
as if in great state. Then the little boy shouted that they might
enter and hear what the great sagamore had to say. They flocked
in, and took their seats in the order of their size. The Wild Geese
came nearest and sat down, then the Ducks, and so on to the smallest,
who sat nearest the door. Last of all came the boy, who entering
also sat down by the door, closed it, and held it fast. So the little
birds, altumadedajik, sat next to him.
Then they were all told "Spegwedajik!" "Shut your eyes!"
and were directed to keep them closed for their very lives, until
directed to open them again. Unless they did this first, their eyes
would be blinded forever when they beheld their king in all his
magnificence. So they sat in silence. Then the sorcerer, stepping
softly, took them one by one, grasping each tightly by the wings,
and ere the bird knew what he was about it had its head crushed
between his teeth. And so without noise or fluttering he killed
all the Wild Geese and Brant and Black Ducks. Then the little boy
began to pity the poor small wild-fowl. He thought it was a shame
to kill so many, having already more than they needed. So stooping
down, he whispered to a very little bird to open its eyes. It did
so, but very cautiously indeed, for fear of being blinded.
Great was his horror to see what Lox was doing! He screamed, "Kedumeds'lk!"
"We are all being killed!" Then they opened their eyes, and flew
about in the utmost confusion, screaming loudly in terror. The little
boy dropped down as if he had been knocked over in the confusion,
so that the door flew wide open, and the birds, rushing over him,
began to escape, while Lox in a rage continued to seize them and
kill them with his teeth. Then the little boy, to avoid suspicion,
grasped the last fugitive by the legs and held him fast. But he
was suspected all the same by the wily sorcerer, who caught him
up roughly, and would have beaten him cruelly but that he earnestly
protested that the birds knocked him down and forced the door open,
and that he could by no means help it: which being somewhat slowly
believed, he was forgiven, and they began to pluck and dress the
game. The giblets were preserved, the fowls sliced and dried and
laid by for the winter's store.
Then having plenty of provisions, Lox gave a feast. Among the guests
were Marten and Mahtigwess, the Rabbit, who talked together for
a long time in the most confidential manner, the Rabbit confiding
and the Marten attending to him.
Now while this conversation had been going on, Lox, who was deeply
addicted to all kinds of roguery and mischief, had listened to it
with interest. And when the two little guests had ceased he asked
them where their village was, and who lived in it. Then he was told
that all the largest animals had their homes there: the bear, caribou
or reindeer, deer, wolf, wild cat, to say nothing of squirrels and
mice. And having got them to show him the way, he some time after
turned himself into a young woman of great beauty, or at least disguised
himself like one, and going to the village married the young chief.
And having left little Marten alone in a hollow tree outside the
village, the boy, getting hungry, began to howl for food; which
the villagers hearing were in a great fright. But the young chief's
wife, or the magician Lox, soon explained to them what it meant.
"It is," she-he said, "Owoolakumooejit, the Spirit of Famine.
He is grim and gaunt; hear how he howls for food! Woe be unto you,
should he reach this village! Ah, I remember only too well what
happened when he once came among us. Horror! starvation!"
"Can you drive him back?" cried all the villagers.
Yes, 't is in my power. Do but give me the well-tanned hide of
a yearling moose and a good supply of moose-tallow, then the noise
will cease." And seizing it, and howling furiously the name of his
brother after a fashion which no one could understand,--Aa-chowwa'n!--and
bidding him begone, he rushed out into the night, until he came
to Marten, to whom he gave the food, and, wrapping him up well in
the moose-skin, bade him wait a while. And the villagers thought
the chief's wife was indeed a very great conjurer.
And then she-he announced that a child would soon be born. And
when the day came Badger handed out a bundle, and said that the
babe was in it. "Noolmusugakelaimadijul," "They kiss it outside
the blanket." But when the chief opened it what he found therein
was the dried, withered embryo of a moose-calf. In a great rage
he flung it into the fire, and all rushed headlong in a furious
pack to catch Badger. They saw him and Marten rushing to the lake.
They pursued him, but when he reached the bank the wily sorcerer
cast in a stick; it turned into a canoe, and long ere the infuriated
villagers could reach them they were on the opposite shore and in
Now it came to pass one day that as Lox sat on a log a bear came
by, who, being a sociable fellow, sat down by him and smoked a pipe.
While they were talking a gull flew over, and inadvertently offered
to Lox what he considered, or affected to consider, as a great insult.
And wiping the insult off, Lox cried to the Gull, "Oh, ungrateful
and insolent creature, is this the way you reward me for having
made you white!"
Now the Bear would always be white if he could, for the White Bear
(wabeyu mooin) is the aristocrat of Beardom. So he eagerly
cried, "Ha! did you make the Gull white?"
"Indeed I did," replied Lox. "And this is what I get for it."
Could you, my dear friend,--could you make me white?"
Then Lox saw his way, and replied that he could indeed, but that
it would be a long and agonizing process; Mooin might die of it.
To be sure the Gull stood it, but could a Bear?
Now the Bear, who had a frame as hard as a rock, felt sure that
he could endure anything that a gull could, especially to become
a white bear. So, with much ceremony, the Great Enchanter went to
work. He built a strong wigwam, three feet high, of stones, and
having put the Bear into it he cast in red-hot stones, and poured
water on them through a small hole in the roof. Erelong the Bear
was in a terrible steam.
"Ah, Doctor Lox," he cried, "this is awfully hot! I fear I am dying!"
"Courage," said Lox; "this is nothing. The Gull had it twice as
"Can't stand it any more, doctor. O-o-o-oh!"
Doctor Lox threw in more hot stones and poured more water on them.
The Bear yelled.
"Let me out! O-o-h! let me out! O-o-o-oh!"
So he came bursting through the door. The doctor examined him critically.
Now there is on an old bear a small white or light spot on his
upper breast, which he cannot see. And Doctor Lox, looking at this,
said,"What a pity! You came out just as you were beginning to turn
white. Here is the first spot. Five minutes more and you'd have
been a white bear. Ah, you have n't the pluck of a gull; that I
Now the Bear was mortified and disappointed. He had not seen the
spot, so he asked Lox if it was really there.
"Wait a minute," said the doctor. He led the Bear to a pool and
made him look in. Sure enough, the spot was there. Then he asked
if they could not begin again.
"Certainly we can," replied the doctor. "But it will be much hotter
and harder and longer this time. Don't try it if you feel afraid,
and don't blame me if you die of it."
The Bear went in again, but he never came out alive. The doctor
had roast bear meat all that winter, and much bear's oil. He gave
some of the oil to his younger brother. The boy took it in a measure.
Going along the creek, he saw a Muskrat (Keuchus, Pass.).
He said to the Muskrat, "If you can harden this oil for me, I will
give you half." The Muskrat made it as hard as ice. The boy said,
"If my brother comes and asks you to do this for him, do you keep
it all." And, returning, he showed the oil thus hardened to his
brother, who, taking a large measure of it, went to the Muskrat
and asked him to harden it. The Muskrat indeed took the dish and
swam away with it, and never returned.
Then the elder, vexed with the younger, and remembering the ducks
in the wigwam, and believing now that he had indeed been cheated,
slew him. This confused and strange story is manifestly pieced together
out of several others, each of which have incidents in common. A
part of it is very ancient. Firstly, the inveigling the ducks into
the wigwam is found in the Eskimo tale of Avurungnak. The Eskimo
is told by a sorcerer to let the sea-birds into the tent, and not
to begin to kill them till the tent is full. He disobeys, and a
part of them escape. In Schoolcraft's Hiawatha Legends, Manobozho
gets the mysterious oil which ends the foregoing story from a fish.
He fattens all the animals in the world with it, and the amount
which they consume is the present measure of their fatness. When
this ceremony is over, he inveigles all the birds into his power
by telling them to shut their eyes. At last a small duck, the diver,
suspecting something, opens one eye, and gives the alarm.
The sorcerer's passing himself off for a woman and the trick of
the moose abortion occurs in three tales, but it is most completely
given in this. To this point the narrative follows the Micmac, Passamaquoddy,
and Chippewa versions. After the tale of the chief is at an end
it is entirely Passamaquoddy; but of the latter I have two versions,
one from Tomah Josephs and one from Mrs. W. Wallace Brown.
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