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A Legend Of Manabozho






Source: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian

Manabozho made the land. The occasion of his doing so was this.

One day he went out hunting with two wolves. After the first day's
hunt one of the wolves left him and went to the left, but the other
continuing with Manabozho he adopted him for his son. The lakes were
in those days peopled by spirits with whom Manabozho and his son went
to war. They destroyed all the spirits in one lake, and then went on
hunting. They were not, however, very successful, for every deer the
wolf chased fled to another of the lakes and escaped from them. It
chanced that one day Manabozho started a deer, and the wolf gave
chase. The animal fled to the lake, which was covered with ice, and
the wolf pursued it. At the moment when the wolf had come up to the
prey the ice broke, and both fell in, when the spirits, catching them,
at once devoured them.

Manabozho went up and down the lake-shore weeping and lamenting. While
he was thus distressed he heard a voice proceeding from the depths of
the lake.

"Manabozho," cried the voice, "why do you weep?"

Manabozho answered--

"Have I not cause to do so? I have lost my son, who has sunk in the
waters of the lake."

"You will never see him more," replied the voice; "the spirits have
eaten him."

Then Manabozho wept the more when he heard this sad news.

"Would," said he, "I might meet those who have thus cruelly treated me
in eating my son. They should feel the power of Manabozho, who would
be revenged."

The voice informed him that he might meet the spirits by repairing to
a certain place, to which the spirits would come to sun themselves.
Manabozho went there accordingly, and, concealing himself, saw the
spirits, who appeared in all manner of forms, as snakes, bears, and
other things. Manabozho, however, did not escape the notice of one of
the two chiefs of the spirits, and one of the band who wore the shape
of a very large snake was sent by them to examine what the strange
object was.

Manabozho saw the spirit coming, and assumed the appearance of a
stump. The snake coming up wrapped itself around the trunk and
squeezed it with all its strength, so that Manabozho was on the point
of crying out when the snake uncoiled itself. The relief was, however,
only for a moment. Again the snake wound itself around him and gave
him this time even a more severe hug than before. Manabozho
restrained himself and did not suffer a cry to escape him, and the
snake, now satisfied that the stump was what it appeared to be, glided
off to its companions. The chiefs of the spirits were not, however,
satisfied, so they sent a bear to try what he could make of the stump.
The bear came up to Manabozho and hugged, and bit, and clawed him till
he could hardly forbear screaming with the pain it caused him. The
thought of his son and of the vengeance he wished to take on the
spirits, however, restrained him, and the bear at last retreated to
its fellows.

"It is nothing," it said; "it is really a stump."

Then the spirits were reassured, and, having sunned themselves, lay
down and went to sleep. Seeing this, Manabozho assumed his natural
shape, and stealing upon them with his bow and arrows, slew the chiefs
of the spirits. In doing this he awoke the others, who, seeing their
chiefs dead, turned upon Manabozho, who fled. Then the spirits pursued
him in the shape of a vast flood of water. Hearing it behind him the
fugitive ran as fast as he could to the hills, but each one became
gradually submerged, so that Manabozho was at last driven to the top
of the highest mountain. Here the waters still surrounding him and
gathering in height, Manabozho climbed the highest pine-tree he could
find. The waters still rose. Then Manabozho prayed that the tree would
grow, and it did so. Still the waters rose. Manabozho prayed again
that the tree would grow, and it did so, but not so much as before.
Still the waters rose, and Manabozho was up to his chin in the flood,
when he prayed again, and the tree grew, but less than on either of
the former occasions. Manabozho looked round on the waters, and saw
many animals swimming about seeking land. Amongst them he saw a
beaver, an otter, and a musk-rat. Then he cried to them, saying--

"My brothers, come to me. We must have some earth, or we shall all
die."

So they came to him and consulted as to what had best be done, and it
was agreed that they should dive down and see if they could not bring
up some of the earth from below.

The beaver dived first, but was drowned before he reached the bottom.
Then the otter went. He came within sight of the earth, but then his
senses failed him before he could get a bite of it. The musk-rat
followed. He sank to the bottom, and bit the earth. Then he lost his
senses and came floating up to the top of the water. Manabozho awaited
the reappearance of the three, and as they came up to the surface he
drew them to him. He examined their claws, but found nothing. Then he
looked in their mouths and found the beaver's and the otter's empty.
In the musk-rat's, however, he found a little earth. This Manabozho
took in his hands and rubbed till it was a fine dust. Then he dried it
in the sun, and, when it was quite light, he blew it all round him
over the water, and the dry land appeared.

Thus Manabozho made the land.





Next: Pauppukkeewis

Previous: The Girl Who Married The Pine-tree



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