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Big Eater's Wife

A Pequot Legend

Big Eater ate and ate. He never stopped eating. He had his wigwam and two canoes on an island close to the mainland shore. Big Eater was powerful, but sometimes an evil ghost woman can defeat the most powerful man. One day Big Eater was looking across the water, and there on the opposite shore he saw a beautiful young woman digging clams. How could he know that she was a ghost-witch? He hailed her across the water: "Beautiful girl, come live with me. Be my wife!" "No," she said. "Yes - No. Yes. No. Yes, yes, yes! Well, all right." Big Eater got in one of his two canoes and paddled over. The woman was even more beautiful close up. "All right, pretty one, step into the canoe." "Yes, but first I must get my things." Soon the girl came back with a mortar and pestle and some eggs. She put them in the canoe, and Big Eater paddled her over. They ate. The beautiful woman said: "Oh my, what great heaps of food you can eat!" "Yes, I'm powerful that way." They went to bed. "Oh my, how often you can do it!" "Yes, I'm powerful that way." "Indeed this is so!" So they lived happily for a long time. But after a while this girl got tired of Big Eater. She thought, "He's fat, he's not young. I want a change; I want to have a young, slim man loving me. I'll leave."

So when Big Eater went out fishing in one of his canoes, the girl made a doll, large as a grown woman. She placed the doll in her bed, took her mortar, pestle, and eggs, put them in Big Eaters' second canoe, and paddled off. Big Eater came home early from fishing. Thinking it was his wife he was climbing in with, he got into bed. He touched the doll, and the doll began to scream and shriek. "Wife," he said, "stop this big noise or I'm going to beat you." Then he saw that it was a doll lying in bed with him. Big Eater jumped up and looked around. The mortar and pestle and eggs were gone. He ran down to the shore, got into the remaining canoe, and paddled furiously after his wife. Soon he saw her, also paddling hard. But he was stronger than she and pulled closer and closer. He drew up behind her canoe until both almost touched. "Now I'll catch her," he thought. Then the woman threw her mortar out of the canoe over the stern. At once all the water around him turned into mortars, and Big Eater was stuck. He couldn't paddle until at last he lifted his canoe and carried it over the mortars. By the time he gained clear water again, his wife was a long way off.

Again he paddled furiously. Again he gained on her. Again he almost caught her. Then she threw her pestle over the stern, and at once the water turned into pestles. Again Big Eater was stuck, trying to paddle through this sea of pestles but unable to. He had to carry his canoe over them, and when he hit open water again, his wife was far distant. Again Big Eater drove through the water with all his strength. Again he gained on her; again he almost caught her. Then from the stern of her canoe the woman threw the eggs out. At once the water turned into eggs, and once more Big Eater was stuck. The eggs were worse than the mortar and pestle, because Big Eater couldn't carry his canoe over them. Then he hit the eggs, smashing them one by one and cleaving a path through the gooey mess. He hit clear water, and his wife's canoe was only a dot on the horizon. Again he paddled mightily.

Slowly he gained on her again. It took a long time, but finally he was almost even with her. "This time I'll catch you!" he shouted. You have nothing left to throw out." But his wife just laughed. She pulled out a long hair from her head, and at once it was transformed into a lance. She stood up and hurled this magic lance at Big Eater. It hit him square in the chest, piercing him through and through. Big Eater screamed loudly and fell down dead. That's what can happen to a man if he marries a ghost-witch.

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