Native American Legends
The Princess who rejected her cousin
A Tsimshian Legend
There was a custom among our people that the nephew of the chief
had to marry the chief's daughter, because the tribe of the chief
wanted the chief's nephew to be the heir of his uncle and to inherit
his place after his death.
This custom has gone on, generation after generation, all along
until now, and the places of the head men have thus been inherited.
So it is with this story.
A very long time ago there was a great village with many people.
They had only one chief. There was also his sister. They were the
only two chiefs in the large town. The chief also had a beautiful
daughter, and the chief's sister had a fine son. All the people
of the village were glad to see the young prince and the young princess
growing up, and they expected that these two would soon marry. Therefore
the relatives of the prince went and talked with the father of the
princess, and they also went to the uncles of the princess and talked
Now, the relatives of the girl accepted, but the girl rejected
the proposal and said that she would not marry him; but the young
prince loved her very much, and still she refused him The young
man loved her still more, and he was always true to her. Moreover,
he was very anxious to speak to her, but the young woman rejected
Now, the princess wanted to make a fool of her cousin. One day
she dressed herself up and went to the end of the village to take
some fresh air. The young man saw her pass by his door, and he went
after her. Soon he saw her sitting under a large tree, and went
up to her, and the girl was very kind to him. She smiled when she
saw him coming. Then the young man sat down by her side under the
tree as gently as he could. He asked her if she did not want to
marry him. The girl said, "If you make a deep cut in your cheek,
then you may marry me." Therefore the handsome young man took
his knife and cut down his right cheek. The girls laughed at him,
and they went home.
When the cheek of the young man was healed, the princess put on
her finest dress, passed the door of her cousin, and the young man
saw her pass by. He followed her, and saw her sit at the same place
where he had met her before.
He went to her; and she stretched out her hands to greet him, put
her arms around him, and kissed him once, since her cousin wanted
to marry her. Then the young man loved her still more because she
had kissed him the first time ever since he had loved her; and when
the young man was overflowing with love, she said, "If you
love me so much, show your love and make a cut down your left cheek;
then I shall know that you really love me." The young man did
not like to do it.
However, he wanted to marry her, and so he took his knife and made
a cut down his left cheek. They went home, and the young man was
always thinking of her.
Soon his wounded cheek was healed. He did not mind his foolish
acts. On the following day he saw her passing his door. The young
man followed her, and she was sitting under the tree. She smiled
at him when he was coming to her, and said, "Do you come to
me again, my beloved one?" and he replied, "Yes, I come
to marry you." Then he put his arms around her, and she kissed
him again. He asked her, "Do you love me, my dear cousin?"
and she replied, "Yes, you know how much I love you,"
and the princess asked him, "Do you also love me, cousin?',
and he replied, "Indeed, I love you very much."
Thus said the young man, for he wanted to marry her. Then the princess
said to him, "Now, show me your love. Cut off your hair; then
you may marry me." So the young prince took his knife and cut
off his beautiful yellow hair. (In those days the young men and
the old men wore their hair as long as women's hair, and it was
considered dishonorable to cut a man's hair as we do it now.)
They went home, and on the following day the young man sent some
one to her, saying that he wanted to marry her now. Therefore the
messenger went to her and told her what her cousin had said; but
the woman replied, "Tell him that I do not want to marry a
bad-looking person like him, ugly as he is"; and she gave him
the nickname Mountain With Two Rock Slides, as he had a scar down
each cheek. She laughed at him and scorned him' saying, "I
do not want to marry a man who cut his hair like a slave."
The young man's messengers came back to him and told him what she
had said. Therefore the youth was very much ashamed. He remembered
that he also was a prince, and he cried because his own cousin had
Now, he decided to leave his father's house and his uncle's house,
for he was ashamed before his fellows of the scars which he had
made on his own cheeks by order of his beloved one. He went about,
not knowing which way to go. Day by day he went, and he came to
a narrow trail. He walked along it, and saw a small hut away off.
He went toward it. Before it was evening he reached there; and when
he was near, he walked up to it quietly. He stood outside and looked
through a small hole.
Behold! a woman was sitting there by the side of a fireplace. She
said, "Come in, dear prince, if it is you who was rejected
by his own cousin!" So the young man went in, and the woman
made him sit down on the other side of the fire. She gave him to
eat. When he started from home, four young men, his own friends,
had accompanied him on his way; but three of them had gone back
home, and only one, his dearest friend, followed him all along the
way until they came to the little hut.
After the old woman had given them to eat, she said to the young
man, "Soon you will arrive at the large house of Chief Pestilence,
which is just across the little brook yonder. Leave your companion
at this side of the brook, and you yourself go to the large house.
When you get there, push open the large door, then say this: 'I
come to be made beautiful in the house of Pestilence!' Shout this
as loud as you can.
Then you will see that the house on both sides is full of maimed
persons. They will call you to come to their sides; but do not go
there, because they will make you like one of them. When they stop
calling you, then Chief Pestilence will call you to the rear of
Follow his calling. He will make you beautiful." Thus said
the old woman to him. On the following day, after they had had their
breakfast, they started. As soon as they crossed the brook, the
prince said to his companion, "Stay here, and I will go on
alone. Wait until I come back to you!" So the companion staid
Now he went on alone. Soon he saw a large house in the distance,
and went as quickly as he could. He pushed open the door, ran in,
and shouted at the top of his voice, "I came to be made beautiful,
Chief Pestilence!" Then all the maimed people on both sides
of the house beckoned to him and shouted. Those on one side would
say, "Come this way, come this way!" and those on the
other side said, "Come, come, come!" The prince remained
standing in the doorway. There were many good-looking women among
these maimed persons. They shouted and called him; but he stood
still, waiting until Chief Pestilence should come forth from his
room in the rear of the large house.
Soon the noise of the maimed people ceased. Then the door of the
chief's room was opened, and, behold! Chief Pestilence came forth
with his beautiful daughter. He said, "Dear prince, come this
way!" Then the young man went to him and sat down on his right
Then Chief Pestilence ordered his attendants to bring his bathtub.
They brought him a large tub full of hot water. Then the chief took
the young man, put him into this tub, and, as soon as he was in
the tub, the water began to boil and the water boiled over the tub,
boiling of its own accord. When the dross was all off, the chief
took the bare bones of the young man, put them on a wide board,
joining them together, and after he had done so, he called to his
young daughter, who leaped over the bones. Then the young man was
alive again. His features were changed, and his body was as white
Then the chief said, "Bring me a nice comb!" and his
attendants brought him a comb of crystal. The chief took it and
combed the prince's hair down to his loins. His hair was red, like
tongues of fire. He was the most beautiful of all.
The chief did not want to let him go at once, but kept him in his
house for two days. The young man thought he had been there two
days, but in reality two years had passed. Then the young man remembered
his friend whom he had left by the brook before he entered the house
of Chief Pestilence. Now, the prince told the young woman that he
loved his friend by the brook; therefore the young woman said, "Let
us go to see him!"
They went together; and when they came to the place, they found
the man's bare bones heaped up there. Therefore the young prince
wept, but the young woman commanded him to take the bare bones to
her father's house. The young man did what the young woman had told
him, and took the bare bones to the chief. The chief ordered his
attendants to bring his bathtub.
They brought it to him, and he put the bare bones into the tub.
Then the water began to boil, and the dross of the bare bones boiled
over the tub. Thus the young man saw what the Chief Pestilence had
done to him.
Then the chief took out the bones and placed them on a wide board
and joined them together; and the young woman leaped over them four
times, and the young man was alive again.
Next the chief asked for his own comb. They brought it to him,
and the chief asked what color of hair he wanted. The man said,
"Dark-yellow hair." He also asked him how long he wanted
it; and the man said, "Right down to the knee." So the
chief combed his hair down to his knees; and this man was lighter
color than the other. Now they started for home. It was not many
days before they arrived at their home. The prince looked like a
supernatural being, and his friend too was handsomer than any of
the other people. They came and visited them; and all the people
talked about these two men who had just come back from the house
of Chief Pestilence, who had transformed them and given them great
The young people coveted their beauty, and they questioned them
one day to know how far the house of Chief Pestilence was from their
village. Then the prince's friend told them that it was not very
Now, let us go back to the princess who years ago had refused to
marry her own cousin. She was very anxious to see her cousin who
had just come home from the house of Chief Pestilence. People were
talking about it, that he was more beautiful than any other person
in the village; and she heard the people say that he looked like
a supernatural being. Therefore the young woman tried hard to see
him. One day the chief, the father of the princess, invited his
nephew to his house.
The prince went with some of the chief's head men; and as soon
as the prince entered his uncle's house, the young princess looked
at him. Oh, how fine he looked! and more beautiful than any of the
people. Then she tried to make her rejected cousin turn and look
at her, but the young man took no notice of her courting. His hair
was like fire, and his face shone like the rays of the sun.
Now, the young woman came down from her room, and walked to and
fro behind the guests, laughing and talking, trying to make the
beautiful prince look at her; but he took no notice of her. As soon
as the feasting was over, he arose and went home, and the young
princess felt full of sorrow.
The following day she sent her maid to call the beautiful prince.
When the girl came to him and told him what her mistress had said
to the prince, he did not answer a word, and the maid went back
to her mistress and told her that the prince would not answer her
She sent to him again; and when the girl came to him, she told
him that her mistress wanted him to come and see her. But he said
to the girl, "Go and tell her that she rejected me then, so
I will not go to her now." Then the girl went and told her
mistress what the prince had said.
The princess sent her girl again. "Go and tell him that I
will do whatever he desires me to do." She went and told him
what her mistress had said: "My mistress says that whatever
you desire her to do she will do." Then the prince said to
the girl, "Go and tell her that I desire her to cut down her
right cheek, and I will come and be her guest."
Therefore the girl went and told her mistress what the prince had
said. So the princess took her knife and cut down her right cheek.
She said to her maid, "Go and tell him that I will do whatever
he wants me to do." She went and told the prince what her mistress
Again the beautiful prince said, "Just tell her to cut down
her other cheek, and then I will come and see her." So she
went and told her mistress, and thereupon the princess cut her left
cheek. Again she sent her maid, who went to him and told him. This
time he said, "Let her cut her hair, then I will go to her."
She went and told her, and the princess took her knife and shaved
off her hair, and she sent her hair to him.
The maid took it to the prince; but when the prince saw the hair,
he refused to accept it. "Don't bring it near me! It is too
nasty! Take it back to your mistress and tell her that I don't want
to see the ugly scars on her cheeks and her ugly shaved hair. It
is too nasty for me." Then he left, and laughed louder and
louder, mocking her; and the girl returned to her mistress very
She came slowly; and her mistress asked her, "My dear, what
tidings do you bring?" Then she told her mistress how scornfully
he had spoken of the ugly scars on her cheeks, and of her shaving
her hair, and that everybody had been laughing at her, and that
every one had heard him mocking her. Then the young princess was
very much ashamed. She set out with her maid, and walked along crying.
She wanted to hang herself, but her maid talked to her and comforted
her all the way. They went on and on, trying to go to the house
of Chief Pestilence. Her heart took courage, for she hoped to get
there and ask Chief Pestilence to make her beautiful. They went
on and on, and passed many mountains and rivers and valleys, and
reached the edge of a large plain. There they met a man, who asked
them which way they intended to go; and the princess told him that
they intended to go to the house of Chief Pestilence. She passed
by him, and did not look at him, for she was ashamed to let any
one look at her.
Soon they saw a large house in the distance. They went toward it;
and when they reached the door, they went right in and shouted as
they stood in the doorway, "We come to the house of Chief Pestilence
to be made beautiful!" Then all the maimed people on both sides
of the house called to them, "Come, come, come!" and those
on the other side shouted, "This way, this way, this way!"
and the princess went to those who called her to come; and the other
one went too those who shouted "This way!"
Then the maimed people fell on the princess, broke her backbone,
and made her lame. They turned her head to one side, and broke one
of her arms; and those on the other side plucked out one of the
eyes of her maid, tore up one side of her mouth, and scratched the
two women all over their bodies, and then threw them outside. There
they lay wounded, and nobody came to help them. The princess was
more severely injured than her maid.
When the maid felt a little better, she saw her mistress lying
there with wounds all over her body. She went too her, and saw how
she was bruised. They were both in great distress, and the princess
was groaning. So her maid helped her up and led her home. They spent
many days coming down, and finally arrived at their home. Then she
lay in bed, and finally died.
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