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The Arrow Chain

A Tlingit Legend

Two very high-caste boys were chums. The father of one was town chief and had his house in the middle of the village, but the house of the other boy's father stood at one end.

These boys would go alternately to each other's houses and make great quantities of arrows which they would play with until all were broken up.

One time both of the boys made a great quantity of arrows to see which could have the more. Just back of their village was a hill on the top of which was a smooth grassy place claimed by the boys as their playground, and on a certain fine, moonlight night they started thither.

As they were going along the lesser chief's son, who was ahead, said, "Look here, friend. Look at that moon. Don't you think that the shape of that moon is the same as that of my mother's labret and that the size is the same, too?" The other answered, "Don't: You must not talk that way of the moon."

Then suddenly it became very dark about them and presently the head chief's son saw a ring about them just like a rainbow. When it disappeared his companion was gone. He called and called to him but did not get any answer and did not see him. He thought, "He must have run up the hill to get away from that rainbow." He looked up and saw the moon in the sky. Then he climbed the hill, and looked about, but his friend was not there.

Now he thought, "Well! the moon must have gone up with him. That circular rainbow must have been the moon."

The boy thus left alone sat down and cried, after which he began to try the bows. He put strings on them one after the other and tried them, but every one broke. He broke all of his own bows and all of his and his chum's except one which was made of very hard wood.

He thought, "Now I am going to shoot that star next to the moon." In that spot was a large and very bright one. He shot an arrow at this star and sat down to watch, when, sure enough, the star darkened. Now he began shooting at that star from the big piles of arrows he and his chum had made, and he was encouraged by seeing that the arrows did not come back.

After he had shot for some time he saw something hanging down very near him and, when he shot up another arrow, it stuck to this. The next did likewise, and at last the chain of arrows reached him. He put a last one on to complete it.

Now the youth felt badly for the loss of his friend and, lying down under the arrow chain, he went to sleep. After a while he awoke, found himself sleeping on that hill, remembered the arrows he had shot away, and looked up. Instead of the arrows there was a long ladder reaching right down to him. He arose and looked so as to make sure. Then he determined to ascend.

First, however, he took various kinds of bushes and stuck them into the knot of hair he wore on his head. He climbed up his ladder all day and camped at nightfall upon it, resuming his journey the following morning. When he awoke early on the second morning his head felt very heavy. Then he seized the salmon berry bush that was in his hair, pulled it out, and found it was loaded with berries.

After he had eaten the berries off, he stuck the branch back into his hair and felt very much strengthened. About noon of the same day he again felt hungry, and again his head was heavy, so he pulled out a bush from the other side of his head and it was loaded with blue huckleberries. It was already summer there in the sky.

That was why he was getting berries. When he resumed his journey next morning his head did not feel heavy until noon. At that time he pulled out the bush at the back of his head and found it loaded with red huckleberries.

By the time he had reached the top the boy was very tired. He looked round and saw a large lake. Then he gathered some soft brush and some moss and lay down to sleep. But, while he slept, some person came to him and shook him saying, "Get up. I am after you." He awoke and looked around but saw no one. Then he rolled over and pretended to go to sleep again but looked out through his eyelashes.

By and by he saw a very small but handsome girl coming along. Her skin clothes were very clean and neat, and her leggings were ornamented with porcupine quills. Just as she reached out to shake him he said, "I have seen you already."

Now the girl stood still and said, "I have come after you. My grandmother has sent me to bring you to her house." So he went with her, and they came to a very small house in which was an old woman. The old woman said, "What is it you came way up here after, my grandson?" and the boy answered, "On account of my playmate who was taken up hither." "Oh!" answered the old woman, "He is next door, only a short distance away. I can hear him crying every day. He is in the moon's house."

Then the old woman began to give him food. She would put her hand up to her mouth, and a salmon or whatever she was going to give would make its appearance. After the salmon she gave him berries and then meat, for she knew that he was hungry from his long journey. After that she gave him a spruce cone, a rose bush, a piece of devil's club, and a small piece of whetstone to take along.

As the boy was going toward the moon's house with all of these things he heard his playmate screaming with pain. He had been put up on a high place near the smoke hole, so, when his rescuer came to it, he climbed on top, and, reaching down through the smoke hole, pulled him out. He said, "My friend, come. I am here to help you." Putting the spruce cone down where the boy had been, he told it to imitate his cries, and he and his chum ran away.

After a while, however, the cone dropped from the place where it has been put, and the people discovered that their captive had escaped. Then the moon started in pursuit. When the head chief's son discovered this, he threw behind them the devil's club he had received from the old woman, and a patch of devil's club arose which the moon had so much trouble in getting through that they gained rapidly on him.

When the moon again approached, the head chief's son threw back the rose bushes, and such a thicket of roses grew there that the moon was again delayed. When he approached them once more, they threw back the grindstone, and it became a high cliff from which the moon kept rolling back. It is on account of this cliff that people can say things about the moon nowadays with impunity. When the boys reached the old woman's house they were very glad to see each other, for before this they had not had time to speak.

The old woman gave them something to eat, and, when they were through, she said to the rescuer, "Go and lie down at the place where you lay when you first came up. Don't think of anything but the playground you used to have." They went there and lay down, but after some time the boy who had first been captured thought of the old woman's house and immediately they found themselves there.

Then the old woman said, "Go back and do not think of me any more. Lie there and think of nothing but the place where you used to play." They did so, and, when they awoke, they were lying on their playground at the foot of the ladder.

As the boys lay in that place they heard a drum beating in the head chief's house, where a death feast was being held for them, and the head chief's son said, "Let us go," but the other answered, "No, let us wait here until that feast is over." Afterward the boys went down and watched the people come out with their faces all blackened. They stood at a corner, but, as this dance is always given in the evening, they were not seen.

Then the head chief's son thought, " I wish my younger brother would come out," and sure enough, after all of the other people had gone, his younger brother came out. He called to his brother saying, "Come here. It is I," but the child was afraid and ran into the house instead. Then the child said to his mother, "My brother and his friend are out here."

"Why do you talk like that?" asked his mother. "Don't you know that your brother died some time ago?" And she became very angry. The child, however, persisted, saying, "I know his voice, and I know him."

His mother was now very much disturbed, so the boy said, "I am going to go out and bring in a piece of his shirt." "Go and do so," said his mother. "Then I will believe you."

When the boy at last brought in a piece of his brother's shirt his mother was convinced, and they sent word into all of the houses, first of all into that of the second boy's parents, but they kept both with them so that his parents could come there and rejoice over him. All of the other people in that village also came to see them.

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