Native American Legends
Robbery and murder revenged
A Micmac Legend
Two men once lived together in one wigwam in the woods, on the
borders of a lake. The name of one was Plawej (Partridge); and that
of the other was Wejek (Spruce Partridge). These two men were always
associated together, and they lived by the chase.
One day Plawej was walking along the shore in the winter-time,
and he discovered three girls seated on the ice, arranging and braiding
their hair. He stole up towards them in order to spring upon them
and seize one or more; but they were too spry for him, and plunged
all together into a hole in the ice, and thus effected their escape.
Shortly after this he saw them again, and this time he was more
cautious. He took some fir boughs and concealed himself behind them,
and slowly creeping along he came so near, before the girls took
the alarm, that in her haste one of them dropped the string with
which she fastened her hair, the sakulobee. This he picked up and
carried home with him, and tied down to the place where he usually
sat and slept in the wigwam. It was not long before the girl who
had dropped her hair-string returned to search for it. She proceeded
to the wigwam where it was fastened, and quietly decided to remain
and be the wife of him who had thus wooed and won her.
After this, Plawej her husband (her "old man" is the
term usually applied, and is, contrary to our notions, a term not
of disrespect, but of honor) goes away into the forest to search
for game. In the mean time his comrade returns, and to his surprise
finds a woman installed in the place of female authority. He quietly
sits down by her. But soon after, his friend arriving, he is informed
that he has made a mistake; that he must not sit there, but march
over to the opposite side of the wigwam, as the woman is his (Plawej's)
wife. This is done without dispute or delay, and everything goes
On their next hunting-excursion the two men go away together, and
leave the woman in charge of the establishment. Her husband charges
her to keep the door closed, and to suffer no one to enter, - not
even her own nearest relatives, not brother or sister, father or
mother; for should she open to any one, she would be carried off
and murdered. She promises obedience, and the two men depart. They
are to be gone all night, and she prepares to take care of the house,
and to take care of herself, as directed. She carefully closes the
door and fastens it, and lies down to rest.
But at midnight she is awakened by a call outside; some one is
asking to be allowed to come in: Pantahdooe! - "Open the door
for me!" But she pays no heed to the call. It is a magician,
- a Pouin (a Powwow), - and he can imitate the voice of her relatives
with spirit-rapping accuracy. There are several of her relatives
there. She soon hears, as she supposes, her own brother calling,
Pantahdooe! - "Open the door for me!" Still she remains
firm to her promise; she pays no heed to the call. After a little
she hears, or seems to hear, her own mother call, 'Ntus ("My
daughter"), pantahdooe ("open the door for me")!
Still she stirs not, answers not. Shortly after, she hears her father
call, 'Ntus, pantahdooe; loke cyowchee ("I am very cold")!
Her resolution now gives way; she cannot refuse to let in her old
father; she cannot resist his earnest pleadings for admission. She
rises and opens the door. Alas for the poor thing! There stands
the wily wolf in the form of a man possessed of magical arts and
powers, who carries her off, and finally kills her.
Wejek' comes in from his hunting, and is surprised to find the
woman gone. He goes in quest of her. He soon comes among the scoundrels
who have carried her off, and is himself overpowered and killed.
Finally, Plawej' arrives home, and perceives that his wife and
his friend are both among the missing. He cannot tell what has become
of them, but he has some skill in magic, and puts this skill in
practice, first, to ascertain what has become of his wife and his
friend, and next, to discover and punish the robbers and murderers.
The mode of procedure is this: he takes a wooden dish and fills
it half full of water, and places this carefully close to the back
part of the wigwam just opposite the door, this being the chief
seat or place of honor (as in the Syrian house). Then he lies down
on his face and sleeps.
In the morning, on awaking, he examines the wolvtes, the wooden
dish, and finds it half full of blood. He knows by this that his
wife and his comrade have been murdered. He now resolves on revenge.
He will seek out and kill those who have robbed him and killed his
friends. He gathers up his weapons and equips himself for the expedition.
He takes his hatchet, his spear, his bow, and flint-headed arrows,
and starts. He goes on a long distance, carefully reconnoitering
and examining every unusual appearance. Soon he sees a man's knee
protruding from a high cliff, the owner of the knee being apparently
embedded in the solid rock. He knows what this means. The fellow
is trying to hide, but is displaying unconsciously a vulnerable
part. One blow from the hatchet severs the knee close to the rock,
and leaves its possessor hard and fast. A short distance farther
on he discovers a fellow's foot sticking out from the face of the
cliff. The chopping process is repeated; the foot is severed, and
the wretch is killed. A little farther on he discovers a poor little
squirrel crawling along half dead, and he takes it up and puts it
in his bosom, and talks to it. "You must fight today, my brave
little fellow," he says, "but I will be near to aid you.
When I tap you on the back, you will bring forth your young."
His next adventure was with a flock of wild geese sporting in a
lake, - magicians they were in reality who had assumed the form
of Senumkwak'. He assails them with his bow and arrows, and kills
them all. He ties them together by their heads, strings them across
his shoulders, and pursues his course in search of more enemies.
The next one he discovers is in the guise of an ordinary mortal.
He is quietly seated in a wigwam, which our hero enters without
ceremony, according to Indian custom. He gets a very cool reception.
The usual invitation, Kutakumoogwal' ("Come up higher"),
is not given. The owner of the establishment is sulky and taciturn.
He cooks some food, however, and divides it, dipping out a portion
for his unwelcome guest. But just as the stranger reaches out his
hand to receive it, he twitches it away from him and tells him in
a grossly insulting tone that he would rather give it to his dog.
He offers it to him again, and again twitches it away with the same
insulting remark. He then inquires, "Have you met with any
adventures today?" "I have," is the answer: "I
saw a fellow's knee sticking out from a cliff, and I chopped it
off; a little farther on I saw a fellow's foot sticking out in the
same way, and I chopped it off. Then I fell in with some wild geese
in a lake, and I shot them, and have brought them to your wigwam;
just step out of doors, and you will see them."
"Come on, then," he replies; "our dogs must fight."
"All right!" is the answer. "Bring out your dog!
" This is done, when, lo! instead of a dog (l'múj) there
comes forth a large, formidable, savage beast called a weisum.
Plawej produces his 'dog,' - a great contrast to the other, - a
tiny squirrel, and half dead at that, which he lays carefully before
the fire. But soon the little thing begins to move and stretch and
shake itself and grow larger, until its dimensions almost equal
those of its antagonist. The conflict now commences, and rages with
unabated violence for some time, when the weisum begins to get the
better of his antagonist. Then the master steps up and gives her
a tap on the back, and she immediately brings forth two young ones,
that grow up in a twinkling, and are as large, as strong, and as
active as their mother. They rush in and mingle in the fray, tearing
away with tooth and nail at the poor weisum. He is soon overpowered,
and his master begs for his life, owns that he is beaten, and entreats
the other to call off his dogs. "Friend," says he, "let
us part our dogs; this is not my own dog, but my old grandmother's.
"That is the last thing in the world Plawej' would think of
doing. He pays no attention to the entreaties of his antagonist,
and the weisum is soon stretched lifeless upon the ground. Whereupon
his owner expresses great regret, but not so much professedly on
his own account as on account of his poor grandmother, who set a
store by her "dog," and will take it grievously to heart
that he has been overcome, and has fallen in the fray.
He then proposes an excursion upon the river in a canoe. This is
agreed to, and the two launch the fragile "vessel" and
set sail. They are soon out into the middle of the river, and are
borne rapidly down by the current. Presently they reach a high perpendicular
cliff, against which the water is dashing with great violence. It
is soon discovered that there is a passage through these rocks,
and that the water goes thundering through. Into this narrow, dark
passage-way, amidst the boiling surges, the canoe is driven and
forced furiously on. Plawej' maintains his seat and steadies the
"bark," as it flies; but looking round he sees that he
is left alone, his wily companion having leaped ashore just as the
canoe was about entering this horrid hole. Soon, however, he emerges
out into the light, and finds the water calm and smooth, - so smooth
and still that he can scarcely discover any current at all. He now
begins to use his paddle, and moves quietly on. He soon discovers
a smoke near the shore, and lands. The smoke issues from a cave,
and standing near the door he hears the voices of parties within
engaged in earnest conversation: some one is relating to another
the adventures of the day. He soon ascertains that it is his "host,"
who has deserted him so unceremoniously in the hour of danger, telling
his grandmother of the death of the several worthies who had fallen
under the superior "magic" of Plawej'. When he relates
how the last magician who had assumed the form of the weisum, her
special friend and favorite, is killed, the old lady's wrath knows
no bounds. "If he were only still alive," she asseverates,
"and would come this way, I would roast him alive, - that I
would." "But he is not alive," replies her friend.
"I sent him where he'll not see the light again very soon,
I can assure you."
Their conversation is now interrupted by our hero's stepping boldly
in and presenting himself before them. "But I am alive,"
he says, "after all, old boy; now come on" (addressing
the old lady), Baksikboksooe', "roast me to death!" The
old woman gives him a hideous scowl, and says nothing, and he takes
his seat. She is of the porcupine "totem," and shows her
quills. She begins to rouse up the fire. She has formidable piles
of hemlock bark all dried for the purpose, and she piles it on with
an unsparing hand. The fire blazes, crackles, and roars, and the
heat becomes intense; but he does not stir until they have exhausted
their supply of fuel. It is now his turn. He goes out and collects
fuel, and bestows it unsparingly upon the fire, and then closes
and fastens the entrance to the cave. He hears them calling for
compassion, but he is deaf to their cries. The roof and sides of
the cavern glow and crack with the heat, and by and by the fire
goes down and all is still. The last of the robbers and murderers
are killed and burned to cinders.
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