Owl and his Jealous Wife
A Seneca Legend
There was a man and wife, O'Ówa People (owls), who quarreled every night. When morning came, all. was pleasant again.
One night a visitor came and as soon as O'Ówa saw him, he went out of the house and off into the woods. The visitor said, "It is strange that O'Ówa went just as I came. I will go, and come another time."
After a while O'Ówa came back. He was jealous and scolded his wife till they began to fight. He beat her and then started off, saying, "I am going to get another wife; I'll not be bothered this way."
The woman followed him, crying. At last he grew sorry and went back with her. In the morning he said, "had a dream and it told me I must kill a bear and be back before the dew is off the grass."
He started, but when out of sight he went to a woman's house and stayed there all day. Towards night he thought he would go home, but on the way he met a nice looking woman, "Where are you going?" asked he.
"'I am going home."
"I will go with you."
"All right, if you can overtake me," said the woman, and off she ran, O'Ówa after her. They ran all night toward the North. (The woman was a partridge.) About noon of the following day they came to a house and the woman went in. O'Ówa followed, but he lost sight of her. In the house were two old men. O'Ówa asked, "Did you see a woman pass?"
The men sat with their heads down and didn't answer. O'Ówa repeated the question. One of the men looked up, and said, "It seems to me that I hear something."
"It seems to me that I hear something," said the other old man.
"Get our canoe," said the first man.
Going to another part of the cabin, the second man came back with a bark canoe and two basswood knives.
"Now," said the first man, "I will catch the game that has come to us."
O'Ówa drew back. "Be careful, old man," said he, "I came to ask a question. I'll not harm you." He started to run, the old men followed him. After a time O'Ówa turned and running back to the house got a mallet he had seen there. The first man to appear he knocked down with a blow on the head; the second he treated in the same way.
Then one man said to the other, "Get up and do the best you can. It would be strange for us to be beaten by our game."
Again they were knocked down.
O'Ówa thought, "These men are Nosgwais (Toads). I cannot kill them." And he ran off.
After a while he came upon a woman's tracks and he followed them all day. When night came he thought he would soon overtake her, but the tracks were not the woman's tracks; he had made a circle. At daybreak he was far back and seeing his own tracks he said, "Another man is following the woman. When I overtake him, I will kill him."
Again he came to the house of the two Nosgwais men. When he asked for the woman, they caught him and threw him into their canoe, then they began to dispute as to which one should cut up the game. At last they back the canoe and left it. O'Ówa could not get up, he was fastened to the canoe.
Towards night he heard somebody say, "You think you are going to die?"
"Yes, I think so," said O'Ówa.
"You will not," said the invisible man. "At the end of the canoe is a string and on it hang the hearts of the two old men. Wait till dark then move and you will get loose and can get out of the canoe. I will give you light to see where the hearts are. Squeeze them and you will kill the old men. The canoe has great power, the Nosgwais use it when they travel. I will teach you the song that belongs to it."
O'Ówa was so weak he could hardly speak, the teacher sang, "Gayeihe onen Owaqdendi ne okhonwan (My canoe has started)."
When he finished singing, O'Ówa said, "I have learned the song."
As soon as it was dark, O'Ówa began to move and as he moved he gained strength. Looking around he saw a pale light at the end of the canoe. He found the hearts and took them from the string; as he crushed them he heard screams and groans. He put the hearts under the canoe and pounded them, then the cries ceased.
O'Ówa lay down and slept. The next morning he said, "Now I have something to travel in and I will soon overtake that woman." And carrying the canoe outside he turned it toward the North, got into it and began to sing.
The canoe started off so swiftly that only the whiz of the air could be heard. As it went on it rose higher and higher. O'Ówa began to be afraid that the canoe was carrying him to some bad place. It went higher and faster and he grew more and more afraid. All at once he heard a scrambling behind, as of some one trying to get into the canoe, and looking around he saw a man who said, "How fast you go! I was bound to get it, so I jumped. You are afraid that the canoe is going to carry you away. The reason the canoe goes higher and higher and faster and faster is that you keep repeating the words.
You must change the words, then you can guide it. I forgot to tell you this last night."
As the man finished speaking, he stepped from the stern of the canoe into the air and disappeared.
O'Ówa now sang, "My canoe is going down! My canoe is going down!" In a flash the canoe came to the ground.
"This is not what I wanted," said O'Ówa, "I wanted, to come lower but not to the ground."
Again he sang the first song; the canoe flew up like an arrow and off toward the North faster than before. As it went along O'Ówa saw the tracks of the woman ahead. Higher and higher went the canoe, the wind whizzed frightfully.
"I am getting too high," thought O'Ówa and he changed his song to, "My canoe must go lower, My canoe must go lower." It came down but its speed was so great that O'Ówa was troubled and began to sing, "My canoe must stop! My canoe must stop!" He came to the ground, but he had lost the woman's tracks and he was far from his own country.
Again he sat in the canoe but this time he sang, "Let my canoe travel just above the trees." The canoe obeyed but it soon came to an opening. Then, as there were no trees, it came to the ground.
O'Ówa thought, "I will go back to my wife," and he began to sing.
The canoe rose in the air going higher and higher as it went toward the South. It went up till it struck the Blue. The strength of the canoe was in the fore end and as it struck against the Blue it broke and the canoe came down, O'Ówa fell in at the smoke-hole of his own house.
"Get up!" screamed his wife, "You have put the fire out."
He couldn't move, she pulled him up, and asked, "Where have you been? You said you would be back before the dew was off the grass."
The woman was jealous. From words they began to quarrel and fight. At last O'Ówa said, "I'll not stay here."
The canoe had such power that if broken it soon became whole again. The man sat in it and began to sing. The canoe floated away and soon was over a village. Then O'Ówa sang, "Let my canoe come down." It came to the ground, and O'Ówa left in and went to the village. To the I first man he met, he said, "I have come to get men to go to war."
The man said, "I will call the people together."
When the people had assembled O'Ówa said, "An enemy is coming. I want volunteers to go against him."
Ten men agreed to go. (The people of this village were Racoons.)
They traveled for a long time but found no enemy to fight. At last they met a man and captured him.
The man said, "A captive is always permitted to sing his last war-song."
The party talked it over, and said, "That is fair and according to rule."
They released the captive and forming a line on each side let him walk through, singing as he went. He sang, "Djinónehe, Ágadyéngwâq oyâ´de," repeating the same words all the time.
The chief said, "He sings, 'I wish there were a hole!'"
"No," said the captive, "that is only the way the song goes."
As he walked he rubbed the ground with his feet to see if he could find a hole. At last he found one and dropped into it. The men grabbed at him as he was disappearing, but caught only the end of his tail. It broke off and that is why woodchucks have short tails, for the captive was a woodchuck.
When Woodchuck got away O'Ówa scolded and abused the Racoon men. They got mad and pounded him till they thought he was dead, then they left him and went home.
O'Ówa's wife was angry at his delay, and taking a basswood knife she started off to find him for she thought he was making love to some woman. When she found his canoe, she took a club and broke it to pieces, then went to the village and asked where O'Ówa was.
The men who had killed him said, "His body is over there not far away, you will find the pieces."
One of the men said, "I will go with you.'
The woman found O'Ówa's body and left it where she found it. She went home with the Racoon man and became his wife. When she found that he already had a wife, she was jealous and began to quarrel with the woman and then to fight with her. The two fought till both died.
Racoon felt sad and lonesome and soon he began to cry, and he cried till he changed to a dove and still he cried and Indians called him the crying dove (mourning dove), and that dove cries yet.
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