Native American Legends
A Cree Legend
Once upon a time the Indians were camping. They had ten lodges.
There were ten of them; and the eldest brother, Mudjikiwis, was
sitting in the doorway.
It was winter, and all the Indians had their side-bags on; and
every day they went off and hunted in the direction which they faced
as they sat. Mudjikiwis always took the lead, and the others followed.
Once when he came home to his camp, he saw smoke just as he crossed
the last hill. When he approached the lodge, he saw a pile of wood
neatly stacked by the door. He himself had always cooked the dinner;
and when he saw it ready, he was very glad. "There is surely
a girl here!" he thought. "There must be some one who
has done this."
He had many brothers younger than himself. "Maybe some one
is trying to marry them, or some girl wants me!"
When he arrived at the lodge, he saw a girl's pigeon-toed tracks,
and he was delighted. "It is a girl!" he cried, and he
rushed in to see her, but there was no one there. The fire was just
started, the meat cooked and ready, and water had been drawn. Some
one had just finished work when he came. There were even ten pairs
of moccasins hanging up. "Now, at last, there is some one to
sew for us! Surely one of us will get married!" he thought,
and he also thought that he would be the fortunate one. He did not
touch anything, but left everything as he had found it for his brothers
After a while the brother next to him in age came in. He looked
up and saw all the moccasins, and he too was very glad. Then Mudjikiwis
said, "I do not know which of us is going to be married. A
girl has just left here, but I cannot tell who she is, and there
are ten of us. One of us is loved by some one!"
They soon were joined by the third, and then by the fourth brother,
and the fire was out by that time. The youngest brother was the
most handsome one of the family. "If one of us should marry,
Mudjikiwis, we shall have to hunt hard and not let our sister-in-law
hunger or be in need," he said. "I shall be very glad
if we have a sister-in-law. Don't let her chop wood; she cannot
attend to all of us. We just want her to cook and mend our clothes."
At night they were all crying, "He, he, he!" until dark
came, because they were so glad. "I cannot attend to all my
brothers, and I do not need to do so any more!" cried Mudjikiwis.
The next day nine went off, and left the youngest brother on guard
to see the girl. Mudjikiwis came back first, and found that the
tenth boy had not been taken. "Oh, well! leave our ninth brother
next time, "he said "Then we will try it once more with
our eighth brother."
Three of them then kept house in succession, but the woman did
not come. They then left the fifth one, and said, "If no one
comes, make dinner for us yourself." Soon after they had left,
some one came along making a noise like a rattle, for she had bells
on her leggings.
"Oh, she shall not know me!" said the youth. "I
shall be a bit of eagle-down," and he flew up between the canvas
and the poles of the lodge. Presently the girl entered. She had
very long hair, and was very pretty. She took the axe and went out
to cut wood, and soon brought in four armfuls. Then she made the
fire, took down the kettles, and prepared dinner. When she had done
so she melted some snow, took another armful of wood, and started
After she had finished she called to the youth to come down from
his hiding- place. "Maybe you think I don't know you are up
there," she said. So he came down and took a seat with her
by the fire.
When Mudjikiwis came home, he saw another big pile of wood. When
he came near, he cried, "He, he, he!" to show that he
was well pleased. "I could not attend to the needs of my brothers,"
he shouted, "I could not cook for them, and I could not provide
my relatives with moccasins!" He entered the door and bent
down, for Mudjikiwis had on a fisher-skin head-band with an eagle-quill
thrust in behind. As he came in, he saw a pretty girl sitting there.
When he sat down, he said, "Hai, hai, hai! The girl is sitting
like her mother."
He pulled off his shoes and threw them to his youngest brother,
and received a fine pair of moccasins from his sister-in-law. He
was delighted, and cried, "Hai, hai, hai!" Soon all the
other brothers came back, all nine of them, and each received new
Mudjikiwis said, "I have already advised you. Do not let our
sister-in-law chop wood or do any hard work. Hunt well, and do not
let her be hungry." Morning came, and Mudjikiwis was already
half in love with his sister-in-law. He started out, pretending
that he was going to hunt, but he only went over a hill and stopped
there. Then he wrapped his blanket around himself. It was winter,
and he took some mud from under the snow and rubbed it over his
forehead and on his hat-band. He had his ball-headed club with him,
which had two eyes that winked constantly. Soon he saw his sister-in-law,
who came out to chop wood.
He went to speak to her, but the girl had disappeared. Soon she
came back. There was one pile of wood here, and one there. Mudjikiwis
stopped at the one to the west. He had his bow, his arrows, and
his club with him. He held his club on the left arm, and his bow
and arrow on the right arm, folded his arms across his breast, and
was smiling at her when she came up. "O my brother-in-law!
I don't want to do that," she cried.
Then Mudjikiwis was angry because she scorned him. He took an arrow
and shot her in the leg, and fled off to hunt. That night he returned
late, last of all. As he came close to the lodge, he called out,
"Yoha, yoha! what is wrong with you? You have done some kind
of mischief. Why is there no wood for our sister-in-law?" He
went in. "What is wrong with our sister-in-law, that she is
not home?" he demanded. His brother then said, "Why are
you so late? You used to be the first one here."
Mudjikiwis would not speak in reply. The married brother came in
last. The young brother was tired of waiting, and asked each, "You
did not see your sister-in-law, did you?" The others replied,
"Mudjikiwis came very late. He never did so before."
"I shall track my wife," said the husband. So he set
off in pursuit of her. He tracked her, and found that she had brought
one load of wood. Her second trail ended at a little lodge of willows
that she had made, and where she was. She cried to him, "Do
not come here! Your brother Mudjikiwis has shot me. I told him I
did not want to receive him, and then he shot me down. Do not come
here. You will see me on the fourth night. If you want to give me
food, put it outside the door and go away, and I shall get it."
Her husband went home, as she commanded. After that the youth would
bring her food, after hunting, every night. "It is well. Even
though our brother shot my wife, I shall forgive him, if I can only
see her after four nights," he said. The third night he could
hardly stay away, he wanted to see her so badly. The fourth day
at dawn he went to the lodge; and as he drew near, she cried, "Do
not come!" but he went in, anyway, and saw her there. "I
told you not to come, but you could not restrain yourself. When
your brothers could not attend to themselves, I wished to help them,"
she cried. So he went home satisfied, since he had seen her.
They breakfasted, and he started out again with food for her. She
had gone out, for he found her tracks, little steps, dabbled with
blood. Then he went back home, and said to his brothers, "My
brothers, I am going to go after my wife."
He dressed, and followed her footprints. Sometimes he ran, and
at sunset he wanted to camp. So he killed a rabbit; and as he came
out of the brush, he saw a lodge. "He, my grandchild!"
called a voice, "You are thinking of following your wife. She
passed here at dawn. Come in and sit down! Here is where she sat
before you." He entered, and found an old woman, who told him
to sit in the same place where his wife had sat.
He gave her the rabbit he had shot, as he was really hungry. "Oh,
my grandchild must be very hungry!" she cried, " so I
shall cook for him," said the old crone. Her kettle was no
larger than a thimble. She put in one morsel of meat and one little
berry. The youth thought that was a very small allowance, when he
was really hungry.
"O my grandchild!" the old woman said aloud in answer
to his thoughts, "no one has ever eaten all my kettle holds.
You are wrong if you think you won't get enough of this."
But he still thought so, and did not believe her. After the food
was cooked, she said, "Eat, nosis!" and gave him a spoon.
He took out the piece of meat and the berry; but when he had eaten
it, the kettle was still full. He did this many times over. When
he had finished, he had not eaten it all, yet he had enough. Then
the grandmother told him that he had married one of ten sisters.
"They are not real people," she said, "they are
from way up in the skies. They have ten brothers. There are three
more of your grandmothers on the road where you are going. Each
will tell you to go back, as I advised you; but if you insist, I
will give you two bones to help you climb over the mountains."
Now, this old woman was really a moose, and not a human grandmother
at all. "If you get into difficulties, you must cry, 'Where
is my grandmother?' and use these two front shin-bones of the moose
that I gave you." He slept there, and in the morning she gave
him breakfast from the same kettle. When he was through she said,
"Do not walk fast. Even if you rest on the way, you will reach
your next grandmother in the evening. If you walk as fast as you
can, you will get there at night."
He followed the trail as fast as he could, for he did not believe
his grandmother. In the evening he killed a rabbit; and when he
came out of the brush, there stood another lonely lodge, as before.
"O my grandchild! there is room in here for you to come in,"
cried a voice. "Your wife passed here early yesterday morning."
Yet he had traveled two days. "She came in here!"
The old woman cooked for him in the same way as his other grandmother
had done. Again he did not believe in her kettle, for he had already
forgotten about his first grandmother. This grandmother was older
than the first one whom he had left, and who was the youngest of
the four grandmothers he was to meet. They were all sisters. "Why
did you not believe my sister when she told you to go slowly? When
you go fast, you make the trail longer. Hau, nosis! it is a difficult
country where you are going," she cried. She gave him a squirrel-skin,
saying, "Use this, nosis, whenever you are in difficulties.
'Where is my grandmother?' you shall say. This is what makes everything
easy. You will cry, and you will throw it away. You will not leave
me till the morning."
So very early next day he started off. He went very slowly; and
in a few minutes it was night, and he killed another rabbit. When
he came out of the brush, he saw another lodge, a little nearer
than the others, and less ragged.
The old woman said to him, "Your wife passed here the same
morning that she left up there"; and this grandmother made
supper for him, as the others had done. This time the food was corn.
"Nosis, your last grandmother, who is my sister, will give
you good advice. Your wife has had a child already. Go very slowly,
and you will reach there at night; it is not far from here. It is
a very difficult country where you are going. Maybe you will not
be able to get there."
She gave him a stuffed frog and some glue. "Whenever the mountains
are too steep for you to climb, cry, 'Where is my grandmother?'
put glue on your hands, and climb, and you will stick to the rocks.
When you reach your next grandmother, she will advise you well.
Your child is a little boy."
In the morning he had breakfast, and continued on the trail. He
went on slowly, and it was soon night, and he killed another rabbit.
When he reached the next lodge, nearer than all the rest, his grandmother
said, "They have been saying you would be here after your wife;
she passed here four days ago at dawn."
The youth entered the tent, and found that this grandmother was
a fine young girl in appearance. She said, "Tomorrow at noon
your wife is going to be married, and the young men will all sit
in a circle and pass your child around. The man upon whom he urinates
will be known as his father, and she will marry him." The old
woman took off her belt, rolled it up nicely, and gave it to him.
"This is the last one that you will use," she said, "When
you are in trouble, cry out, 'Where is my grandmother?' and throw
the belt out, and it will stick up there, so you can climb up to
the top. Before noon you will reach a perpendicular precipice like
a wall. Your wife is not of our people. She is one of the Thunderers."
That night the youth camped there. In the morning he had food.
"If you manage to climb the mountain somehow," his grandmother
said to him before he started, "you will cross the hill and
see a steep slope, and there you will find a nest. There is one
egg in it. That is a Thunderer's nest. As you come down, you will
strike the last difficult place. There is a large log across a river.
The river is very deep, and the log revolves constantly. There you
will find a big camp, headed by your father-in-law, who owns everything
there. There is one old woman just on this side. She is one of us
sisters; she is the second oldest of us. You will see bones strewn
about when you get there. Many young men go there when they are
looking for their wives, and their bones you will see lying about.
The Thunderer destroys everything. Some have been cut in halves
when they tried to get over the cut-knife mountain."
When the youth came to the mountain, he took first the two bones,
and cried, "O grandmother! where are you?" and as he cried,
she called from far off, "He, nosis, do not get into trouble!"
He drove the bones into the mountain and climbed up hand over hand,
driving them in as he climbed. The bones pierced the rock. When
he looked back, he saw that he was far up. He continued until the
bones began to grow short, and at last he had to stop. Then he took
out the squirrel-hide, called upon his grandmother for help, and
threw the skin ahead. He went up in the air following it. All at
once he stopped, and his nails wore out on the rock as he slipped
back. Then he took the glue out of its bundle.
He cried for his grandmother, and heard her answer. She had told
him that he would find a hollow at one place, and there he rested
on a ledge when his glue gave out. Then he called for his next grandmother,
heard her answer, and cast out his belt, unrolling it. Then he climbed
up the sharp summit. He felt of the edge, which was very sharp indeed.
Then he became apiece of eagle-down. "The eagle-down loved
me once. I shall be it, and blow over the ledge," he cried.
When he got across, he saw the Thunderer's nest and the two Thunderers
and their egg. He found a trail from there on, until he came to
the rolling log that lay across the deep river. Then he became down
again, and blew across; and though many others had been drowned
there, he crossed alive. He went on, and at last saw a small, low
lodge with a little stone beside it. His last grandmother had told
him to enter, as this was the abode of one of her sisters. So he
"Ha, ha, ha, nosis!" she cried, "They said a long
time ago that you were following your wife. She is to be married
right now."--"Yes," he said. The marriage was to
be in a lodge. He went there, peeped in, and a man saw him, who
said, "Are you coming in? Our chief says he will pass the child
about and he on whose breast it urinates shall marry its mother."
So he went in. The girl saw him, and told her mother. "Oh,
that is the one I married."
When he arrived there, Mudjikiwis (not the youth's brother, but
another one, a Thunderer) was there too. They took the child, and
one man passed it. Mudjikiwis, the Thunderer, held some water in
his mouth. He seized the child, crying, "Come here, nosis!"
and spat the water over himself; but, when he tried to claim the
child, all the others laughed, as they had seen his trick. When
the child's real father took it up, it urinated on him. Then all
went out. The chief said, "Do not let my son-in-law walk about,
because he is really tired. He shall not walk for ten days."
His father-in-law would go off all day. Hanging in the lodge the
youth saw his brother's arrow, with which his wife had been shot.
The father-in-law would burn sweet-grass for the arrow at the rare
intervals when he came back, for he would be off for days at a time.
On the fifth night the youth felt rested, and could walk a little.
Then he asked his wife, "Why does your father smoke that arrow?"
and she answered, "Oh, we never see those things up here. It
is from below, and he thinks highly of it; therefore he does so."
On the sixth night he was able to walk around in the brush; and
he came to a spring, where he found, on the surface of the water,
a rusty stain with which he: painted his face. He returned, and,
as he was entering, his father-in-law cried, "Oh, that is why
I want a son-in-law that is a human being! Where did he kill that
bear? He is covered with blood. Go and dress it," he ordered.
The youth was frightened, as he had not seen any bear at all. "You
people that live below," his wife said, "call them Giant
Panthers. Show your brothers-in-law where it is." The youth
took his brother-in-law to the spring. "Here is where I found
the Panther," he said.
The ten Thunderers came up and struck the spring, and killed something
there. After that the youth looked for springs all the time, and
it came to pass that he found a number. One day he asked his wife,
"Why does your father go away for whole days at a time?"
and his wife said, "There is a large lake up here, and he hunts
for fish there. He kills one every day, seldom two. He is the only
one that can kill them."
The next morning the youth went to the lake, and found his father-in-law
sitting by the shore fishing. The old man had a peculiar spear,
which was forked at the end. The youth took it, and put barbs on
it, so that the old man was able to catch a number of fish quickly.
Then they went home. When they arrived, his father-in-law said,
"My son-in-law has taken many of them. I myself can only kill
one, and sometimes two."
So he told all the people to go and get fish and eat them freely.
On the following day, the young man, according to his mother-in-law's
wish, took his wife to fish. They took many fish, and carried them
home. The father-in-law knew, before they returned, that they had
The old man had a dream. When he saw how the youth prepared the
spear which his daughter had given him, he said, referring to his
dream, "My dream was wrong, I thought the youngest of the ten
liked me the best. I made the spear in the way I saw it, not as
this one has shown me. It is due to my dream that it is wrong. Your
nine brothers are having a hard time. Now, my sons, your sisters
are going away soon to be married."
For nine nights the youth saw a dim light at a distance. The father-in-law
said to him, " Do not go there, for a powerful being lives
there." The tenth night, however, the youth disobeyed this
injunction. When he reached there, he saw a tall tree, and a huge
porcupine that was burrowing at the foot of the tree. The porcupine
struck the tree, and tried to kill it by shooting its quills into
it. After the porcupine had shot off all its quills, the youth knocked
it on the head, took two long quills from the tree, and carried
Even before he got there, his father-in-law knew what had happened.
They were delighted, for they said that the porcupine would kill
the Thunderers when they tried to attack it. The father-in-law went
out, and called to his sons to go and dress the porcupine that the
youth had killed. The latter gave the two quills to his wife, though
his father-in-law wanted them. The father-in-law said, "My
children, this porcupine killed all our friends when they went to
war against it. My sons-in-law below are miserable and lonely."
The eldest of the daughters, who was called Mudjikiskwe'wic, was
delighted at the news. "You will marry the oldest one, Mudjikiwis,"
she was told. They were all to be married in order, the eldest girl
to the eldest brother, the youngest to the youngest one. The old
man said, "Mudjikiskwe'wic shall take her brother-in-law with
her when she goes down to the earth." The young women went
down. Sh-swsh! went Mudjikiskwe'wic (the girl) with her dress.
They reached the steep place, and the married woman said to her
husband that they would fly around. " If you do not catch me
when I fly past, you will be killed here." The women went off
a little ways, and a heavy thunderstorm arose, big black clouds
and lightning, yet he saw Mudjikiskwe'wic in it. She was green,
and so was the sun; and as they passed she shouted once, then again
a little nearer, and again close by.
Then he jumped off and caught her by the back. He closed his eyes
as he did so, and did not open them until the Thunderer wife said,
"Now let go!" Then he found himself at home. He left the
girls behind, and went to the lodge and opened the door a little.
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