Native American Legends
The Son In Law Tests
An Ojibwa Legend
Wemicus [animal-trickster] had a son-in-law who was a man. This
man's wife, the daughter of Wemicus, had had a great many husbands,
because Wemicus had put them to so many different tests that they
had been all killed off except this one.
He, however, had succeeded in outwitting Wemicus in every scheme
that he tried on him. Wemicus and this man hunted beaver in the
spring of the year by driving them all day with dogs.
The man's wife warned him before they started out to hunt, saying,
"Look out for my father; he might burn your moccasins in camp.
That's what he did to my other husbands." That night in camp
Wemicus said, "I didn't tell you the name of this lake. It
is called 'Burnt moccasins lake.'" When the man heard this,
he thought that Wemicus was up to some sort of mischief and was
going to burn his moccasins.
Their moccasins were hanging up before a fire to dry and, while
Wemicus was not looking, the man changed the places of Wemicus'
moccasins and his own, and then went to sleep. Soon the man awoke
and saw Wemicus get up and throw his own moccasins into the fire.
Wemicus then said, "Say! something is burning; it is your moccasins."
Then the man answered, "No, not mine, but yours." So Wemicus
had no moccasins, and the ground was covered with snow. After this
had happened the man slept with his moccasins on.
The next morning the man started on and left Wemicus there with
no shoes. Wemicus started to work. He got a big boulder, made a
fire, and placed the boulder in it until it became red hot. He then
wrapped his feet with spruce boughs and pushed the boulder ahead
of him in order to melt the snow. In this way he managed to walk
on the boughs. Then he began to sing, "Spruce is warm, spruce
When the man reached home be told his wife what had happened. "I
hope Wemicus will die," she said. A little while after this
they heard Wemicus coming along singing, "Spruce is warm, spruce
is warm." He came into the wigwam and as he was the head man,
they were obliged to get his meal ready.
The ice was getting bad by this time, so they stayed in camp a
while. Soon Wemicus told his son-in-law, "We'd better go sliding."
He then went to a hill where there were some very poisonous snakes.
The man's wife warned her husband of these snakes and gave him a
split stick holding a certain kind of magic tobacco, which she told
him to hold in front of him so that the snakes would not hurt him.
Then the two men went sliding.
At the top of the hill Wemicus said, "Follow me," for
he intended to pass close by the snakes' lair. So when they slid,
Wemicus passed safely and the man held his stick with the tobacco
in it in front of him, thus preventing the snakes from biting him.
The man then told Wemicus that he enjoyed the sliding.
The following day Wemicus said to his son-in-law, "We had
better go to another place." When she heard this, the wife
told her husband that, as it was getting summer, Wemicus had in
his head many poisonous lizards instead of lice. She said, "He
will tell you to pick lice from his head and crack them in your
teeth. But take low-bush cranberries and crack them instead."
So the man took cranberries along with him. Wemicus took his son-in-law
to a valley with a great ravine in it. He said, "I wonder if
anybody can jump across this?"
"Surely," said the young man, "I can." Then
the young man said, "Closer," and the ravine narrowed
and he jumped across easily.
When Wemicus tried, the young man said, "Widen," and
Wemicus fell into the ravine. But it did not kill him, and when
he made his way to the top again, he said, "You have beaten
me." Then they went on.
They came to a place of hot sand and Wemicus said, "You must
look for lice in my head."
"All right father," replied the son-in-law. So Wemicus
lay down and the man started to pick the lice. He took the cranberries
from inside his shirt and each time he pretended to catch a louse,
he cracked a cranberry and threw it on the ground, and so Wemicus
got fooled a second time that day. Then they went home and Wemicus
said to his son-in-law, "There are a whole lot of eggs on that
rocky island where the gulls are. We will go get the eggs, come
back, and have an egg supper." As Wemicus was the head man,
his son-in- law had to obey him.
So they started out in their canoe and soon came to the rocky island.
Wemicus stayed in the canoe and told the man to go ashore and to
bring the eggs back with him and fill the canoe. When the man reached
the shore, Wemicus told him to go farther back on the island, saying,
"That's where the former husbands got their eggs, there are
He then started the canoe off in the water by singing, without
using his paddle. Then Wemicus told the gulls to eat the man, saying
to them, "I give you him to eat." The gulls started to
fly about the man, but the man had his paddle with him and he killed
one of the gulls with it. He then took the gulls' wings and fastened
them on himself, filled his shirt with eggs, and started flying
over the lake by the aid of the wings.
When he reached the middle of the lake, he saw Wemicus going along
and singing to himself. Wemicus, looking up, saw his son-in-law
but mistook him for a gull. The man flew back to camp and told his
wife to cook the eggs, and he told his children to play with the
wings. When Wemicus reached the camp, he saw the children playing
with the wings and said, "Where did you get those wings?"
"From father," was the reply. "Your father? Why
the gulls ate him!" Then he went to the wigwam and there he
saw the man smoking. Then Wemicus thought it very strange how the
man could have gotten home, but no one told him how it had been
done. Thought he, "I must try another scheme to do away with
One day Wemicus said to his son-in-law, "We'd better make
two canoes of birch-bark, one for you and one for me. We'd better
get bark." So they started off for birch-bark. They cut a tree
almost through and Wemicus said to his son-in-law, "You sit
on that side and I'll sit on this." He wanted the tree to fall
on him and kill him. Wemicus said, "You say, 'Fall on my father-in-law,'
and I'll say, 'Fall on my son-in-law,' and whoever says it too slowly
or makes a mistake will be the one on whom it will fall."
But Wemicus made the first mistake, and the tree fell on him and
crushed him. However, Wemicus was a manitu and was not hurt. They
went home with the bark and made the two canoes. After they were
made, Wemicus said to his son-in-law, "Well, we'll have a race
in our two canoes, a sailing race." Wemicus made a big bark
sail, but the man did not make any, as he was afraid of upsetting.
They started the race. Wemicus went very fast and the man called
after him, "Oh, you are beating me."
He kept on fooling and encouraging Wemicus, until the wind upset
Wemicus' canoe and that was the end of Wemicus. When the man sailed
over the spot where Wemicus had upset, he saw a big pike there,
into which Wemicus had been transformed when the canoe upset. This
is the origin of the pike.
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