Native American Legends
Mooin, The Bear's Child
A Wabanaki Legend
Now in the Old Time there lived a boy called Sigo, whose father
had died when he was a baby. Sigo was too young to hunt and provide
food for the wigwam, so his mother was obliged to take another husband,
a jealous spiteful man who soon came to dislike his small stepson,
for he thought the mother cared more for the child than for himself.
He thought of a plan to be rid of the boy.
"Wife," said he, "it is time the boy learned something
of the forest. I will take him with me today, hunting."
"Oh no!" cried his wife. "Sigo is far too young!"
But the husband snatched the boy and took him into the forest,
while the mother wept, for she knew her husband's jealous heart.
The stepfather knew of a cave deep in the forest, a deep cave that
led into a rocky hill. To this cave, he led his stepson and told
him to go inside and hunt for the tracks of rabbit. The boy hung
"It is dark in there. I am afraid."
"Afraid!" scoffed the man. "A fine hunter you'll
make," and he pushed the boy roughly into the cave. "Stay
in there until I tell you to come out."
Then the stepfather took a pole and thrust it under a huge boulder
so that it tumbled over and covered the mouth of the cave completely.
He knew well there was no other opening. The boy was shut in for
good and would soon die of starvation.
The stepfather left the place, intending to tell the boy's mother
that her son had been disobedient, had run off and got lost, and
he had been unable to find him. He would not return home at once.
He would let time pass, as if he had been looking for the boy. Another
idea occurred to him. He would spend the time on Blomidon's beach
and collect some of Glooscap's purple stones to take as a peace
offering to his wife. She might suspect, but nothing could be proved,
and nobody would ever know what had happened.
Nobody? There was one who knew already. Glooscap the Great Chief
was well aware of what had happened and he was angry, very angry.
He struck his great spear into the red stone of Blomidon and the
clip split. Earth and stones tumbled down, down, down to the beach,
burying the wicked stepfather and killing him instantly.
Then Glooscap called upon a faithful servant, Porcupine, and told
him what he was to do.
In the dark cave in the hillside, Sigo cried out his loneliness
and fear. He was only six after all, and he wanted his mother. Suddenly
he heard a voice.
"Sigo! Come this way."
He saw two glowing eyes and went towards them, trembling. The eyes
grew bigger and brighter and at last he could see they belonged
to an old porcupine.
"Don't cry any more, my son," said Porcupine. "I
am here to help you," and the boy was afraid no longer. He
watched as Porcupine went to the cave entrance and tried to push
away the stone, but the stone was too heavy. Porcupine put his lips
to the crack of light between boulder and hill side and called out:
"Friends of Glooscap! Come around, all of you!"
The animals and birds heard him and came--Wolf, Raccoon, Caribou,
Turtle, Possum, Rabbit, and Squirrel, and birds of all kinds from
Turkey to Hummingbird.
"A boy has been left here to die," called the old Porcupine
from inside the cave. "I am not strong enough to move the rock.
Help us or we are lost."
The animals called back that they would try. First Raccoon marched
up and tried to wrap his arms around the stone, but they were much
too short. Then Fox came and bit and scratched at the boulder, but
he only made his lips bleed. Then Caribou stepped up and, thrusting
her long antlers into the crack, she tried to pry the stone loose,
but only broke off one of her antlers. It was no use. In the end,
all gave up. They could not move the stone.
"Kwah-ee," a new voice spoke. "What is going on?"
They turned and saw Mooinskw, which means she-bear, who had come
quietly out of the woods. Some of the smaller animals were frightened
and hid, but the others told Mooinskw what had happened. She promptly
embraced the boulder in the cave's mouth and heaved with all her
great strength. With a rumble and a crash, the stone rolled over.
Then out came Sigo and Porcupine, joyfully.
Porcupine thanked the animals for their help and said, "Now
I must find someone to take care of this boy and bring him up. My
food is not the best for him. Perhaps there is someone here whose
diet will suit him better. The boy is hungry--who will bring him
All scattered at once in search of food. Robin was the first to
return, and he laid down worms before the boy, but Sigo could not
eat them. Beaver came next, with bark, but the boy shook his head.
Others brought seeds and insects, but Sigo, hungry as he was, could
not touch any of them, At last came Mooinskw and held out a flat
cake made of blue berries. The boy seized it eagerly and ate.
"Oh, how good it is," he cried. And Porcupine nodded
"From now on," he said, "Mooinskw will be this boy's
So Sigo went to live with the bears. Besides the mother bear, there
were two boy cubs and a girl cub. All were pleased to have a new
brother and they soon taught Sigo all their tricks and all the secrets
of thee forest, and Sigo was happy with his new-found family. Gradually,
he forgot his old life. Even the face of his mother grew dim in
memory and, walking often on all fours as the bears did, he almost
began to think he was a bear.
One spring when Sigo was ten, the bears went fishing for smelts.
Mooinskw walked into the water, seated herself on her haunches and
commenced seizing the smelts and tossing them out on the bank to
the children. All were enjoying themselves greatly when suddenly
Mooinskw plunged to the shore, crying, "Come children, hurry!"
She had caught the scent of man. "Run for your lives!"
As they ran, she stayed behind them, guarding them, until at last
they were safe at home.
"What animal was that, Mother?" asked Sigo.
"That was a hunter," said his foster-mother, "a
human like yourself, who kills bears for food." And she warned
them all to be very watchful from now on. "You must always
run from the sight or scent of a hunter."
Not long afterwards, the bear family went with other bear families
to pick blueberries for the winter. The small ones soon tired of
picking and the oldest cub had a sudden mischievous thought.
"Chase me towards the crowd," he told Sigo, "just
as men do when they hunt bears. The others will be frightened and
run away. Then we can have all the berries for ourselves."
So Sigo began to chase his brothers towards the other bears, whooping
loudly, and the bears at once scattered in all directions. All,
that is, except the mother bear who recognized the voice of her
"Offspring of Lox!" she cried. "What mischief are
you up to now?" And she rounded up the children and spanked
them soundly, Sigo too.
So the sun crossed the sky each day and the days grew shorter.
At last the mother bear led her family to their winter quarters
in a large hollow tree. For half the winter they were happy and
safe, with plenty of blueberry cakes to keep them from being hungry.
Then, one sad day, the hunters found the tree.
Seeing the scratches on its trunk, they guessed that bears were
inside, and they prepared to smoke them out into the open.
Mooinskw knew well enough what was about to happen and that not
all would escape.
"I must go out first," she said, "and attract the
man's attention, while you two cubs jump out and run away. Then
you, Sigo, show yourself and plead for your little sister. Perhaps
they will spare her for your sake."
And thus it happened, just as the brave and loving mother bear
had said. As soon as she climbed down from the tree, the Indians
shot her dead, but the two male cubs had time to escape. Then Sigo
rushed out, crying:
"I am a human, like you. Spare the she-cub, my adopted sister."
The amazed Indians put down their arrows and spears and, when they
had heard Sigo's story, they gladly spared the little she- bear
and were sorry they had killed Mooinskw who had been so good to
an Indian child.
Sigo wept over the body of his foster mother and made a solemn
"I shall be called Mooin, the bear's son, from this day forwards.
And when I am grown, and a hunter, never will I kill a mother bear,
or bear children!"
And Mooin never did.
With his foster sister, he returned to his old village, to the
great joy of his Indian mother, who cared tenderly for the she-
cub until she was old enough to care for herself.
And ever since then, when Indians see smoke rising from a hollow
tree, they know a mother bear is in there cooking food for her children,
and they leave that tree alone.
Thus, kespeadooksit--the story ends.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends