Native American Legends
How one of the Partridge's wives became a Sheldrake-Duck, and why her feet and feathers are red
An Algonquin Legend
N'karnayoo, of the old time, there was a hunter who lived
in the woods. He had a brother, who was so small that he kept him
in a box, and when he went forth he closed this very carefully,
for fear lest an evil spirit (Mitche-hant) should get him.
One day this hunter, returning, saw a very beautiful girl sitting
on a rock by a river, making a moccasin. And being in a canoe he
paddled up softly and silently to capture her; but she, seeing him
coming, jumped into the water and disappeared. On returning to her
mother, who lived at the bottom of the river, she was told to go
back to the hunter and be his wife; "for now," said the mother,
"you belong to that man."
The hunter's name was Mitchihess, the Partridge. When she came
to his lodge he was absent. So she arranged everything for his return,
making a bed of boughs. At night he came back with one beaver. This
he divided; cooked one half for supper and laid by the other half.
In the morning when she awoke he was gone, and the other half of
the beaver had also disappeared. That night he returned with another
beaver, and the same thing took place again. Then she resolved to
spy and find out what all this meant.
So she laid down and went to sleep, wide awake, with one eye open.
Then he quietly rose and cooked the half of the beaver, and taking
a key (Apkwosgehegan) unlocked a box, and took out a little
red dwarf and fed him. Replacing the elf, he locked him up again,
and lay down to sleep. And the small creature had eaten the whole
half beaver. But ere he put him in his box he washed him and combed
his hair, which seemed to delight him.
The next morning, when her husband had gone for the day, the wife
sought for the key, and having found it opened the box and called
to the little fellow to conic out. This he refused to do for a long
time, though she promised to wash and comb him. Being at length
persuaded, he peeped out, when she pulled him forth. But whenever
she touched him her hands became red, though of this she took no
heed, thinking she could wash it off at will. But lo! while combing
him, there entered a hideous being, an awful devil, who caught the
small elf from her and rail away.
Then she was terribly frightened. And trying to wash her hands,
the red stain remained. When her husband returned that night he
had no game; when he saw the red stain he knew all that had happened;
when he knew what had happened he seized his bow to beat her; when
she saw him seize his bow to beat her she ran down to the river,
and jumped in to escape death at his hands, though it should be
by drowning. But as she fell into the water she became a sheldrake
duck. And to this day the marks of the red stain are to be seen
on her feet and feathers.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends