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The flying canoe

A Passamaquoddy Legend

Beside a beautiful lake not far from the sea, there lived three brothers. They were young rivals, each trying to do everything better than the others.

Sometimes they were visited by an old woman. She was nearly blind so crippled that she could hardly walk, and always hungry. But when she had eaten some food, she could do wonderful things, and she could give remarkable power to a person she liked.

Joseph, the youngest of the three young men, treated her very well. Whenever he gave her food, she was grateful. One day after he had fed her, she said to him, "Take your axe and make some moccasins for yourself--some wooden ones. In them you will be able to run as fast as a bird."

And so Joseph made for himself a pair of wooden moccasins. When he wore them, he could run very fast. In fact, he could run faster than the swiftest animals. He caught game animals and brought home much meat.

His two brothers were jealous because the youngest was a more skillful hunter. They wondered what he had been doing, and they watched him continually. One day they saw him open his birch-bark box and take out his wooden moccasins. Then he disappeared.

The brothers had already noticed certain curious chips where Joseph had been working. So they were very glad when they saw what he took from his box. They gathered together all the wood chips and made moccasins for themselves. In their wooden moccasins they could run even faster than Joseph.

Then Joseph knew that they had learned his secret.

The next time the old woman came for food, he fed her as usual. This time she said, as she thanked him, "Make for yourself a dugout canoe. Then you shall soar across the water like a bird."

So Joseph made a dugout canoe. Using it on the lake, he caught big fish and many birds. Again his brothers were jealous, and again they watched him in all that he did. Finding some chips after he had made his boat, the two older brothers gathered them and built a canoe for themselves. Working together, they made it better than Joseph's. It was a wonderful canoe. In it they went out to sea and speared many whales.

This time Joseph was angry. He called the old woman and fed her well, giving her more food than ever before.

"Now you will make another canoe," she said when she had eaten. "This one will fly in the air. You will really fly like a bird."

And so Joseph made another dugout. When he had finished making it, he carefully picked up all the chips and burned them. Then he took leave of his brothers and sailed off in the air.

He saw many strange lands and many strange people below him. He passed over high mountains and rivers and lakes. He passed over oceans. At last, after much journeying through the air, and after many adventures in other lands, Joseph returned home. There he lived in peace.

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