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Iagoo Chippewa

Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

Iagoo is the name of a personage noted in Indian lore for having given
extravagant narrations of whatever he had seen, heard, or accomplished.
It seems that he always saw extraordinary things, made extraordinary
journeys, and performed extraordinary feats. He could not look out of
his lodge and see things as other men did. If he described a bird, it
had a most singular variety of brilliant plumage. The animals he met
with were all of the monstrous kind; they had eyes like orbs of fire,
and claws like hooks of steel, and could step over the top of an Indian
lodge. He told of a serpent he had seen, which had hair on its neck
like a mane, and feet resembling a quadruped; and if one were to take
his own account of his exploits and observations, it would be difficult
to decide whether his strength, his activity, or his wisdom should be
most admired.

Iagoo did not appear to have been endowed with the ordinary faculties
of other men. His eyes appeared to be magnifiers, and the tympanum of
his ears so constructed that what appeared to common observers to be
but the sound of a zephyr, to him had a far closer resemblance to the
noise of thunder. His imagination appeared to be of so exuberant a
character, that he scarcely required more than a drop of water to
construct an ocean, or a grain of sand to form the earth. And he had so
happy an exemption from both the restraints of judgment and moral
accountability, that he never found the slightest difficulty in
accommodating his facts to the most enlarged credulity. Nor was his
ample thirst for the marvellous ever quenched by attempts to reconcile
statements the most strange, unaccountable, and preposterous.

Such was Iagoo, the Indian story-teller, whose name is associated with
all that is extravagant and marvellous, and has long been established
in the hunter's vocabulary as a perfect synonym for liar, and is
bandied about as a familiar proverb. If a hunter or warrior, in telling
his exploits, undertakes to embellish them; to overrate his merits, or
in any other way to excite the incredulity of his hearers, he is liable
to be rebuked with the remark, "So here we have Iagoo come again." And
he seems to hold the relative rank in oral narration which our written
literature awards to Baron Munchausen, Jack Falstaff, and Captain
Lemuel Gulliver.

Notwithstanding all this, there are but a few scraps of his actual
stories to be found. He first attracted notice by giving an account of
a water lily, a single leaf of which, he averred, was sufficient to
make a petticoat and upper garments for his wife and daughter. One
evening he was sitting in his lodge, on the banks of a river, and
hearing the quacking of ducks on the stream, he fired through the lodge
door at a venture. He killed a swan that happened to be flying by, and
twenty brace of ducks in the stream. But this did not check the force
of his shot; they passed on, and struck the heads of two loons, at the
moment they were coming up from beneath the water, and even went beyond
and killed a most extraordinary large fish called Moshkeenozha.[44] On
another occasion he had killed a deer, and after skinning it, was
carrying the carcass on his shoulders, when he spied some stately elks
on the plain before him. He immediately gave them chase, and had run,
over hill and dale, a distance of half a day's travel, before he
recollected that he had the deer's carcass on his shoulders.

One day, as he was passing over a tract of mushkeeg or bog-land, he
saw musquitoes of such enormous size, that he staked his reputation on
the fact that a single wing of one of the insects was sufficient for a
sail to his canoe, and the proboscis as big as his wife's shovel. But
he was favored with a still more extraordinary sight, in a gigantic
ant, which passed him, as he was watching a beaver's lodge, dragging
the entire carcass of a hare.

At another time, for he was ever seeing or doing something wonderful,
he got out of smoking weed, and in going into the woods in search of
some, he discovered a bunch of the red willow, or maple bush, of such a
luxuriant growth, that he was industriously occupied half a day walking
round it.

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