Native American Legends
The Giant Magicians
An Algonquin Legend
There was once a man and his wife who lived by the sea, far away
from other people. They had many children, and they were very poor.
One day this couple were in their canoe, far from land. There came
up a dense fog; they were quite lost.
They heard a noise as of paddles and voices. It drew nearer. They
saw dimly a monstrous canoe filled with giants, who greeted the
little folk like friends. "Uch keen, tahmee wejeaok?" "My
little brother," said the leader, "where are you going?" "I am lost
in the fog," said the poor Indian, very sadly. "Ah, come with us
to our camp," said the giant, who seemed to be a good fellow, if
there ever was one. "Truly, ye will be well treated, my small friends,
for my father is the chief; so be of good cheer!" And they, being
much amazed at this gentleness, sat still in awe, while two of the
giants, each putting a tip of his paddle under their bark, lifted
it up and put it into their own, as if it had been a chip. And truly
the giants seemed to be as much pleased with the little folk as
a boy would be who had found a flying squirrel.
And as they drew near the beach, lo! they beheld three wigwams,
high as mountains, in size according to that of the giants. And
coming to meet them was the chief, who was taller than the rest.
"Ha!" he cried. "Son, what have you there? Where did you pick up
that little brother? Noo, my father, I found him lost in the fog."
"Well, bring him home to the lodge, my son!" So the giant took the
small canoe in the palm of his hand, the man and his wife sitting
therein, and carried them home. Then they were taken into the wigwam,
and the canoe was laid carefully in the eaves, but within easy reach,
about a hundred and fifty yards from the ground.
Then an abundant meal was set before them, but the benevolent host,
mindful of their small size, did not give them more to eat than
they would have needed for about ten years to come, and informed
them in a subdued whisper, which could hardly have been heard a
hundred miles off, that his name was Oscoon.
Now it came to pass, a few days after, that a company of these
well-grown people went hunting, and when they returned the guests
must needs pity them that they had no game in their land which answered
to their size; for they came in with strings of such small affairs
as two or three dozen caribou hanging in their belts, as a Micmac
would carry a string of squirrels, and swinging one or two moose
in their hands like rabbits. Yet, what with these and many deer,
bears, and beavers, they made up in the weight of their game what
it lacked in size, and of what they had they were generous.
Now the giants became very fond of the small folk, and would not
for the world that they should in any way come to harm. And it came
to pass that one morning the chief told them that they were to have
a grand battle, since they expected in three days to be attacked
by a Chenoo. Therefore the Micmac saw that in all things it was
even with the giants as with his own people at home, they having
their troubles with the wicked, and the chiefs their share in being
obliged to keep up their magic and know all that was going on in
the world. Yea, for he would be a poor powwow and a necromancer
worth nothing who could not foretell such a trifle as the day and
hour when an enemy would be on them!
But this time the Sakumow, or sagamore, was forewarned, and bade
his little guests stop their ears and bind up their heads, and roll
themselves in many folds of dressed skins, lest they should hear
the deadly war-scream of the Chenoo. And with all their care they
hardly survived it; but the second scream hurt them less; and after
the third the chief came to them with a cheerful countenance, and
bade them arise and unpack themselves, for the monster was slain,
and though his four sons, with two other giants, had been sorely
tried, yet they had conquered.
But the sorrows of the good are never at an end, and so it was
with these honest giants, who were always being pestered with some
kind of scurvy knaves or others; who would not leave them in peace.
For anon the chief announced that this time a Kookwes--a burly,
beastly villain, not two points better than his cousin the Chenoo--was
coming to play at rough murder with them. And, verily, by this time
the Micmac began to believe, without bating an ace on it, that all
of these tall people were like the wolves, who, meeting with nobody
else, bite one another. So they were bound and bundled up as before,
and put to bed like dolls. And again they heard the horrible shout,
the moderate shout, and the smaller shout, until sooel moonoodooahdigool,
which, being interpreted, meaneth that they hardly heard him at
Then the warriors, returning, gave proof that they had indeed done
something more than kick the wind, for they were covered with blood,
and their legs were stuck full of large pines, with here and there
an oak or hemlock, for the fight had been in a forest; so that they
had been as much troubled as men would be with thistles, nettles,
and pine splinters, which is truly often a great trouble. But this
was their least trial, for, as they told their chief, the enemy
had well-nigh made Jack Drum's entertainment for them, and led them
the devil's dance, had not one of them, by good luck, opened his
eye for him with a rock which drove it into his brain. And as it
was, the chief's youngest son had been so mauled that, coming home,
he fell dead Just before his father's door. Truly this might have
been deemed almost an accident in some families; but lo! what a
good thing it is to have an enchanter in the house, especially one
who knows his business, as did the old chief, who, going out, asked
the young man why he was lying there. To which he replying that
it was because he was dead, his father bade him rise and walk, which
he did straight to the supper table, and ate none the less for it.
Now the old chief, thinking that perhaps his dear little people
found life dull and devoid of incident with him, asked them if they
were aweary of him. They, with golden truth indeed, answered that
they had never been so merry, but that they were anxious as to their
children at home. He answered that they were indeed right, and that
the next morning they might depart. So their canoe was reached down
for them, and packed full of the finest furs and best meat, when
they were told to tebah'-dikw', or get in. Then a small dog
was put in, and this dog was solemnly charged that he should take
the people home, while the people were told to paddle in the direction
in which the dog should point. And to the Micmac he said, "Seven
years hence you will be reminded of me." And then tokooboosijik
(off they went).
The man sat in the stern, his wife in the prow, and the dog in
the middle of the canoe. The dog pointed, the Indian paddled, the
water was smooth. They soon reached home; the children with joy
ran to meet them; the dog as joyfully ran to see the children, wagging
his tail with great glee, just as if he had been like any other
dog, and not a fairy. For, having made acquaintance, he without
delay turned tail and trotted off for home again, running over the
ocean surface as if it had been hard ice; which might, indeed, have
once astonished the good man and his wife, but they had of late
days seen so many wonders that they were past marveling.
Now this Indian, who had in the past been always poor, seemed to
have quite recovered from that complaint. When he let down his lines
the biggest fish bit; all his sprats were salmon; he prayed for
goslings, and got geese; moose were as mice to him now; yea, he
had the best in the land, with all the fatness thereof. So seven
years passed away, and then, as he slept, there came unto him divers
dreams, and in them he went back to the Land of the Giants, and
saw all those who had been so kind to him. And yet again he dreamed
one night that he was standing by his wigwam near the sea,--and
that a great whale swam up to him and began to sing, and that the
singing was the sweetest he had ever heard.
Then he remembered that the giant had told him he would think of
him in seven years; and it came clearly before him what it all meant,
and that he was erelong to have magical power given to him, and
that he should become a Megumoowessoo. This he told his wife,
who, not being learned in darksome lore, would fain know more nearly
what kind of a being he expected to be, and whether a spirit or
a man, good or bad; which was, indeed, not easy to explain, nor
is it clearly set down in the chronicles beyond this,--that, whatever
it might be, it was all for the best, and that there was a great
deal of magic in it.
That day they saw a great shark cruising about in their bay, chasing
fish, and this they held for an evil omen. But, soon after, there
came trotting towards them over the sea the same small dog who had
been their pilot from the Land of the Giants. So he, full of joy,
as before, at seeing them and the children, wagged his tail and
danced for glee, and then looked earnestly at the man as if for
some message. And to him the man said, "It is well. In three years'
time I will make you a visit. I will look to the southwest." Then
the dog licked the hands and the ears and the eyes of the man, and
went home as before over the sea, running on the water.
And when the three years had passed the Indian entered his canoe,
and, paddling without fear, found his way to the Land of the Giants.
He saw the wigwams standing on the beach; the immense canoes were
drawn up on the water's edge; from afar he beheld the old giant
coming down to welcome him. But he was alone. And when he had been
welcomed, and was in the wigwam, he learned that all the sons were
They had died three years before, when the shark, the great sorcerer,
had been seen.
They had gone, and the old man had but lingered a little longer.
They had made the magic change, they had departed, and he would
soon join them in his own kingdom. But ere he went he would
leave their great inheritance, their magic, to the man.
Therewith the giant brought out his son's clothes, and bade the
Indian put them on. Truly this was as if he had been asked to clothe
himself with a great house, since the smallest fold in them would
have been to him as a cavern. But he stepped in, and as he did this
he rose to great size; he filled out the garments till they fitted;
he was a giant, of Giant-Land. With the clothes came the wisdom,
the m'téoulin, the manitou power of the greatest
and wisest of the olden time. He was indeed Megumoowessoo,
and had attained to the Mystery.
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