Native American Legends
The Great Flood
An Ottawa Legend
One very remarkable character reported in our legends, dimly seen
through the mist of untold centuries, is Kwi-wi-sens Nenaw-bo-zhoo,
meaning, in Algonquin dialect, "The greatest clown-boy in the
world." When he became a man, he was not only a great prophet
among his people, but a giant of such marvelous strength, that he
could wield his war-club with force enough to shatter in pieces
the largest pine-tree.
His hunting-dog was a monstrous black wolf, as large as a full-grown
buffalo, with long, soft hair, and eyes that shone in the night
like the moon. The deity of the sea saw the charming beauty of this
wolf-dog, and was so extremely jealous of him, that he was determined
to take his life.
So he appeared before him in the form of a deer; and as the dog
rushed to seize him, he was grasped by the deity and drowned in
the depths of the sea. He then made a great barbecue and invited
as his guests whales, serpents, and all the monsters of the deep,
that they might exult and rejoice with him that he had slain the
dog of the prophet.
When the seer-clown learned of the fate of his noble dog, through
cunning Waw-goosh (the fox), whose keen eyes saw the deception that
cost the wolf- dog his life, he sought to take revenge upon the
sea-god. So he went at once to the place where the latter was accustomed
to come on land with his monster servants to bathe in the sunshine,
and there concealed himself among the tall rushes until the "caravan
of the deep" came ashore.
When they had fallen fast asleep, he drew his giant bow, twice
as long as he was tall, and shot a poisoned arrow that pierced Neben
Manito, the water- god, through the heart. Neben Manito rolled into
the sea, and cried, "Revenge! Revenge!" Then all the assembled
monsters of the deep rushed headlong after the slayer of their king.
The prophet fled in consternation before the outraged creatures
that hurled after him mountains of water, which swept down the forests
like grass before the whirlwind. He continued to flee before the
raging flood, but could find no dry land. In sore despair he then
called upon the God of Heaven to save him, when there appeared before
him a great canoe, in which were pairs of all kinds of land-beasts
and birds, being rowed by a most beautiful maiden, who let down
a rope and drew him up into the boat.
The flood raged on; but, though mountains of water were continually
being hurled after the prophet, he was safe. When he had floated
on the water many days, he ordered Aw-milk (the beaver) to dive
down and, if he could reach the bottom, to bring up some earth.
Down the latter plunged, but in a few minutes came floating to the
surface lifeless. The prophet pulled him into the boat, blew into
his mouth, and he became alive again.
He then said to Waw-jashk (the musk-rat), "You are the best
diver among all the animal creation. Go down to the bottom and bring
me up some earth, out of which I will create a new world; for we
cannot much longer live on the face of the deep."
Down plunged the musk-rat; but, like the beaver, he, too, soon
came to the surface lifeless, and was drawn into the boat, whereupon
the prophet blew into his mouth, and he became alive again. In his
paw, however, was found a small quantity of earth, which the prophet
rolled into a small ball, and tied to the neck of Ka-ke-gi (the
raven), saying, "Go thou, and fly to and fro over the surface
of the deep, that dry land may appear."
The raven did so; the waters rolled away; the world resumed its
former shape; and, in course of time, the maiden and prophet were
united and repeopled the world.
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