Native American Legends
The child and the cannibal
A Bella Coola Legend
Once upon a time there was a youth whose name was Anutkoats, who
was playing with a number of girls behind the village. While they
were playing, a noise like the cracking of twigs was heard in the
The noise came nearer and nearer. The youth hid behind a tree,
and saw that a Snanaik was approaching. She was chewing gum, which
caused the noise. He advised the children to run away, but they
did not obey. When they saw the gum, they stepped up to the Snanaik
and asked her to give them some. The Snanaik gave a piece of gum
to all the children, and when she saw Anutkoats, who was advising
the children to return home, she took him and threw him into the
basket which she was carrying on her back.
Then she took all the other children and threw them on top of him
into her basket. After she had done so, she turned homeward. Then
Anutkoats whispered to the girls to take off their cedar-bark blankets,
and to escape through a hole that he was going to cut in the basket.
He took his knife, cut a hole in the bottom of the basket, and fell
down. The girls also fell down one by one until only one of them
All the children returned home and told their parents what had
happened. The mother of the girl who had not been able to escape
began to cry, mourning for her daughter. She cried for four days
and four nights. Then her nose began to swell, because she had been
rubbing it all the time. She had thrown the mucus of her nose on
the ground. Now when she looked down, she saw that something was
moving at the place where it had fallen.
She watched it from the corners of her eyes, and soon she discovered
that her mucus was assuming the shape of a little child. The next
time she looked, the child had grown to the size of a new-born baby.
Then the woman took it up, and the child began to cry. She carried
it into the house, and washed the baby for four days.
Then the child, who was very pretty and had red hair, began to
speak, and said, "My father, the Sun, sent me to ask you to
stop crying. I shall go out into the woods, but pray don't cry,
for I am sent to recover your daughter. I know where she is. Make
a small salmon-spear for me, which I shall need." Thus spoke
Then the woman asked an old man to make a salmon-spear, which she
gave to her son. His mother gave him ear-rings made of abalone shells,
and the boy played about with his spear, and always wore his ear
One day when his mother was crying again, the boy said, "Mother,
I ask you once more, don't cry, for my father the Sun sent me down
to bring back your daughter. He will show me where she is. I shall
start today to recover my sister from the Snanaik, who stole her.
Don't worry about me."
Then the boy went up the river. After he had gone some distance,
he came to a tree which overhung the river. He climbed it, and looked
down in order to see if there were any fish in the water. Soon he
heard a noise some distance up the stream, and gradually it sounded
nearer. Then he saw the Snanaik coming down the river. When she
reached the tree, she stopped and looked down into the clear water.
She saw the image of the boy, who was sitting on the tree, and thought
it was her own reflection.
She said, "How pretty I am!" and she brushed her hair
back out of her face. When she did so, the boy imitated her movements
in order to make her believe that she was looking at her own reflection.
When she laughed, he laughed also, in order to deceive her. But
at last the Snanaik looked upward, and saw the boy sitting in the
Then she addressed him with kindly words, and asked him to come
down. She said, "What did your mother do in order to make you
The boy replied, "You cannot endure the treatment I had to
undergo in order to become as pretty as I am."
The Snanaik begged, "Oh, come down and tell me. I am willing
to stand even the greatest pain in order to become as pretty as
you are. What are you doing up there?"
Then the boy said, "I was watching for salmon, which I desire
to harpoon with my salmon-spear."
The Snanaik repeated, "Oh, come down, and do with me whatever
you please in order to make me as pretty as you are."
The boy replied, "I don't believe you can endure the wounds
that I have to inflict upon you."
She replied, "You may cut me as much as you please. I want
to become as pretty as you are."
Then the boy climbed down the tree, and the Snanaik asked, "What
must we do first?"
He said, "We must go up this river to find two stone knives
with which my mother used to cut off my head."
They walked up the river, and found the stone knives. Then the
boy said to the Snanaik, "Now lie down on this stone. Put your
neck on this knife."
The Snanaik did as she was bidden. Then the boy took the other
knife, told the Snanaik to shut her eyes, and cut off her head.
The head jumped back to the body, and was about to unite with it,
when the boy passed his hands over the wound, and thus prevented
the severed head from joining the body again. Thus he had killed
Then he went to the Snanaik's house. He found his sister whom the
Snanaik had killed and smoked over her fire. He took the body down,
and patted it all over with his hands. Thus he resuscitated the
On looking around in the house, he found the dried bodies of other
children, whom he also brought back to life. Then he took the girl
and the other children home.
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