Native American Legends
Master-Carpenter and South-East
A Haida Legend
A Haida myth relates how Master-Carpenter, a supernatural being,
went to war with South-East (the South-East wind) at Squ-i, the
town lying farthest South on the Queen Charlotte Islands.
The South-East wind is particularly rude and boisterous on that
coast, and it was with the intention of punishing him for his violence
that Master- Carpenter challenged him. First of all, however, he
set about building a canoe for himself. The first one he made split,
and he was obliged to throw it away. The second also split, notwithstanding
the fact that he had made it stouter than the other. Another and
another he built, making each one stronger than the last, but every
attempt ended in failure, and at last, exceedingly vexed at this
unskillfulness, he was on the point of giving the task up. He would
have done so, indeed, but for the intervention of Greatest Fool.
Hitherto Master- Carpenter had been trying to form two canoes from
one log by means of wedges. Greatest Fool stood watching him for
a time, amused at his clumsiness, and finally showed him that he
ought to use bent wedges. And though he was perhaps the last person
from whom Master-Carpenter might expect to learn anything, the unsuccessful
builder of canoes adopted the suggestion, with the happiest results.
When at length he was satisfied that he had made a good canoe he
let it down into the water, and sailed off in search of South-East.
By and by he floated right down to his enemy's abode, and when
he judged himself to be above it he rose in the canoe and flung
out a challenge. There was no reply. Again he called, and this time
a rapid current began to float past him, bearing on its surface
a quantity of seaweed. The shrewd Master- Carpenter fancied he saw
the matted hair of his enemy floating among the seaweed. He seized
hold of it, and after it came South-East. The latter in a great
passion began to call on his nephews to help him. The first to be
summoned was Red-storm-cloud. Immediately a deep red suffused the
sky. Then the stormy tints died away, and the wind rose with a harsh
When this wind had reached its full strength another was summoned,
Taker- off-of-the-tree-tops. The blast increased to a hurricane,
and the tree-tops were blown off and carried away and fell thickly
about the canoe, where Master-Carpenter was making use of his magic
arts to protect himself. Again another wind was called up, Pebble-rattler,
who set the stones and sand flying about as he shrieked in answer
to the summons.
Maker-of-the-thick-sea-mist came next, the spirit of fog which
strikes terror into the hearts of those at sea, and he was followed
by a numerous band of other nephews, each more to be dreaded than
the last. Finally Tidal-wave came and covered Master-Carpenter with
water, so that he was obliged to give in. Relinquishing his hold
on South-East, he managed to struggle to the shore. It was said
by some that South-East died, but the shamans, who ought to know,
say that he returned to his own place.
South-East's mother was named Tomorrow, and the Indians say that
if they utter that word they will have bad weather, for South-East
does not like to hear his mother's name used by any one else.
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