Native American Legends
Of the Wolverine and the Wolves, or how Master Lox froze to death
A Passamaquoddy Legend
Of old times it came to pass that Master Lox, the Wolverine, or
Indian Devil, he who was slain many times and as often rose from
the dead, found himself deeply down in luck; for he was crossing
a wide and dismal heath in winter-time, being but poorly provided
in any way for travel. The wind blew like knives; the snow fell;
sleet, frost, hail, and rain seemed to come all together in bad
company, and still Lox was not happy, although he had no blanket
or fur coat beyond his own. Yet this evil-minded jolly companion
with every vice had one virtue, and that was that of all the beasts
of the forest or devils in P'lamkik' he was the hardest hearted,
toughest, and most unconquerable, being ever the first to fight
and the last to give in, which even then he did not, never having
done it and never intending to; whence it happened that he was greatly
admired and made much of by all the blackguardly beasts of the backwoods,--wherein
they differed but little from many among men.
Now as of all rowdies and rascals the wolves are the worst, we
may well believe that it was with great joy Lox heard, as the darkness
was coming on, a long, sad howl, far away, betokening the coming
of a pack of these pleasant people; to which he raised his own voice
in the wolf tongue, for he was learned in many languages, and
soon was surrounded by some fifteen or sixteen lupine land-loafers,
who danced, rolling over, barking and biting one another, all for
very joy at meeting with him. And the elder, he who was captain,
or the sogmo, said, "Peradventure thou wilt encamp with us
this night, for it is ill for a gentleman to be alone, where he
might encounter vulgar fellows." And Lox thanked him as if he were
doing him a favor, and accepted the best of their dried meat, and
took the highest place by their fire, and smoked the chief's choicest
tomawe out of his best pipe, and all that with such vast condescension
that the wolves grinned with delight.
And when they laid them down to sleep he that was the eldest, or
the sogmo, bade the younger cover their guest Lox over very carefully.
Now the tail of the wolf has broad-spreading, shaggy hair, and Lox,
being sleepy, really thought it was a fur blanket that they spread,
and though the night was cold enough to crack the rocks he threw
the covering off; twice he did this, and the chief who looked after
him, with all the rest, admired him greatly because he cared so
little for the cold or for their care.
And having eaten after they arose, when in the morning they would
wend away, the Wolf Chief said unto Lox, "Uncle, thou hast yet three
days' hard travel before thee in a land where there is neither home,
house, nor hearth, and it will be ill camping without a fire. Now
I have a most approved and excellent charm, or spell, by which I
can give thee three fires, but no more; yet will they suffice, one
for each night, until thou gettest to thy journey's end. And this
is the manner thereof: that thou shalt take unto thee dry wood,
even such as men commonly burn, and thou shalt put them together,
even as boys build little wigwams for sport, and then thou shalt
jump over it. And truly, uncle, this is an approved and excellent
charm of ripe antiquity, kept as a solemn secret among the wolves,
and thou art the first not of our holy nation to whom it hath been
given." So they parted.
Now Lox trudged on, and as he went westwards kept thinking of this
great secret of the pious and peculiar people, and wondering if
it were even as the Wolf said, or only a deceit; for however kindly
he was treated by people, he always suspected that they mocked him
to scorn, or were preparing to do so; for as he ever did this thing
himself to every condition of mankind or beasts, he constantly awaited
to have it done to him. And being curious withal, and anxious to
see some new thing, he had not walked half an hour ere he said,
"Tush! let me try it. Yea, and I will!" So building up the sticks,
he jumped over them, and at once they caught fire and blazed up,
and it came to pass even as the Wolf had prophesied.
Now having solaced himself by the heat, Lox went on. And anon it
grew cold again, and he began to think how pleasant it was to be
warm; and being, like most evil people, wanting in a corner of wisdom,
he at once put the sticks together again and jumped over them, and
as before there rose a blaze, and he was happy. And this was the
second fire, and he had still three cold nights before him before
he could reach his home.
And yet this Wolverine, who was so wise in all wickedness and witty
in evil-doing, had not walked into the afternoon before he began
to think of the third fire. "Truly," he said to himself, "who knows
but the weather may take a turn to a thaw, and give us a warm night?
Hum! ha! methinks by the look of the clouds the wind will soon be
southwesterly. Have I not heard my grandmother say that such a color,
even the red, meant something? I forget what, but it might be a
warm change. Luck be on me, I will risk the odds." And, saying this,
he set up the sticks again; and this was the last fire, though it
was not even the first night.
And when he came after dark to the first camping place it grew
cold in earnest. Howbeit Lox, thinking that what was good for once
must be good forever, made him his little pile of sticks and jumped
over them. It was of no avail. Finally, when he had jumped twenty
or thirty times more, there arose a little smoke, and, having his
heart cheered by this, he kept on jumping. Now it is said that there
can be no smoke without fire, but this time it went not beyond smoke.
Then Lox jumped again, and this time the Indian Devil came up within
him, and he swore by it that he would jump till it blazed or burst.
So he kept on, and yet there came no comfort, not even a spark;
and being at last aweary he fell down in a swoon, and so froze to
death. And so the Devil was dead, and that was the last of him for
that turn; but I think he got over it, for he has been seen many
a time since.
In two stories Lox (once as the loup cervier) is intimate
with the wolves. Loki was the father of the wolves. Loki is fire;
here Lox dies for want of fire. Since I wrote the foregoing, Mrs.
W. Wallace Brown has learned that Lox is definitely the king or
chief of the wolves, and that many Indians deny that he is really
an animal at all, though he assumes the forms of certain animals.
He is a spirit, and the Mischief Maker. It will be admitted that
this brings the Lox much nearer to Loki.
It is said that when Glooskap left the world, as he took away with
him the kings of all the animals, Lox went with him as king of the
Wolves. This is an identification of him with Malsum, the Wolf,
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