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Iosco Or The Prairie Boys' Visit To The Sun And Moon

Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha


One pleasant morning, five young men and a boy about ten years of age,
called Ioscoda, went out a shooting with their bows and arrows. They
left their lodges with the first appearance of daylight, and having
passed through a long reach of woods, had ascended a lofty eminence
before the sun arose. While standing there in a group, the sun suddenly
burst forth in all its effulgence. The air was so clear, that it
appeared to be at no great distance. "How very near it is," they all
said. "It cannot be far," said the eldest, "and if you will accompany
me, we will see if we cannot reach it." A loud assent burst from every
lip. Even the boy, Ioscoda, said he would go. They told him he was too
young; but he replied, "If you do not permit me to go with you, I will
mention your design to each of your parents." They then said to him,
"You shall also go with us, so be quiet."

They then fell upon the following arrangement. It was resolved that
each one should obtain from his parents as many pairs of moccasins as
he could, and also new clothing of leather. They fixed on a spot where
they would conceal all their articles, until they were ready to start
on their journey, and which would serve, in the mean time, as a place
of rendezvous, where they might secretly meet and consult. This being
arranged, they returned home.

A long time passed before they could put their plan into execution. But
they kept it a profound secret, even to the boy. They frequently met at
the appointed place, and discussed the subject. At length everything
was in readiness, and they decided on a day to set out. That morning
the boy shed tears for a pair of new leather leggings. "Don't you see,"
said he to his parents, "how my companions are dressed?" This appeal to
their pride and envy prevailed. He obtained the leggings. Artifices
were also resorted to by the others, under the plea of going out on a
special hunt. They said to one another, but in a tone that they might
be overheard, "We will see who will bring in the most game." They went
out in different directions, but soon met at the appointed place, where
they had hid the articles for their journey, with as many arrows as
they had time to make. Each one took something on his back, and they
began their march. They travelled day after day, through a thick
forest, but the sun was always at the same distance. "We must," said
they, "travel toward Waubunong,[93] and we shall get to the object, some
time or other." No one was discouraged, although winter overtook them.
They built a lodge and hunted, till they obtained as much dried meat as
they could carry, and then continued on. This they did several times;
season followed season. More than one winter overtook them. Yet none of
them became discouraged, or expressed dissatisfaction.

One day the travellers came to the banks of a river, whose waters ran
toward Waubunong. They followed it down many days. As they were
walking, one day, they came to rising grounds, from which they saw
something white or clear through the trees. They encamped on this
elevation. Next morning they came, suddenly, in view of an immense body
of water. No land could be seen as far as the eye could reach. One or
two of them lay down on the beach to drink. As soon as they got the
water in their mouths, they spit it out, and exclaimed, with surprise,
"Shewetagon awbo!" [salt water.] It was the sea. While looking on the
water, the sun arose as if from the deep, and went on its steady course
through the heavens, enlivening the scene with his cheering and
animating beams. They stood in fixed admiration, but the object
appeared to be as distant from them as ever. They thought it best to
encamp, and consult whether it were advisable to go on, or return. "We
see," said the leader, "that the sun is still on the opposite side of
this great water, but let us not be disheartened. We can walk around
the shore." To this they all assented.

Next morning they took the northerly shore, to walk around it, but had
only gone a short distance when they came to a large river. They again
encamped, and while sitting before the fire, the question was put,
whether any one of them had ever dreamed of water, or of walking on it.
After a long silence, the eldest said he had. Soon after they lay down
to sleep. When they arose the following morning, the eldest addressed
them: "We have done wrong in coming north. Last night my spirit
appeared to me, and told me to go south, and that but a short distance
beyond the spot we left yesterday, we should come to a river with high
banks. That by looking off its mouth, we should see an island, which
would approach to us. He directed that we should all get on it. He then
told me to cast my eyes toward the water. I did so, and I saw all he
had declared. He then informed me that we must return south, and wait
at the river until the day after tomorrow. I believe all that was
revealed to me in this dream, and that we shall do well to follow it."

The party immediately retraced their footsteps in exact obedience to
these intimations. Toward the evening they came to the borders of the
indicated river. It had high banks, behind which they encamped, and
here they patiently awaited the fulfilment of the dream. The appointed
day arrived. They said, "We will see if that which has been said will
be seen." Midday is the promised time. Early in the morning two had
gone to the shore to keep a look-out. They waited anxiously for the
middle of the day, straining their eyes to see if they could discover
anything. Suddenly they raised a shout. "Ewaddee suh neen! There it is!
There it is!" On rushing to the spot they beheld something like an
island steadily advancing toward the shore. As it approached, they
could discover that something was moving on it in various directions.
They said, "It is a Manito, let us be off into the woods." "No, no,"
cried the eldest, "let us stay and watch." It now became stationary,
and lost much of its imagined height. They could only see three
trees, as they thought, resembling trees in a pinery that had been
burnt. The wind, which had been off the sea, now died away into a
perfect calm. They saw something leaving the fancied island and
approaching the shore, throwing and flapping its wings, like a loon
when he attempts to fly in calm weather. It entered the mouth of the
river. They were on the point of running away, but the eldest dissuaded
them. "Let us hide in this hollow," he said, "and we will see what it
can be." They did so. They soon heard the sounds of chopping, and
quickly after they heard the falling of trees. Suddenly a man came up
to the place of their concealment. He stood still and gazed at them.
They did the same in utter amazement. After looking at them for some
time, the person advanced and extended his hand toward them. The eldest
took it, and they shook hands. He then spoke, but they could not
understand each other. He then cried out for his comrades. They came,
and examined very minutely their dresses. They again tried to converse.
Finding it impossible, the strangers then motioned to the Naubequon,
and to the Naubequon-ais,[94] wishing them to embark. They consulted
with each other for a short time. The eldest then motioned that they
should go on board. They embarked on board the boat, which they found
to be loaded with wood. When they reached the side of the supposed
island, they were surprised to see a great number of people, who all
came to the side and looked at them with open mouths. One spoke out,
above the others, and appeared to be the leader. He motioned them to
get on board. He looked at and examined them, and took them down into
the cabin, and set things before them to eat. He treated them very

When they came on deck again, all the sails were spread, and they were
fast losing sight of land. In the course of the night and the following
day they were sick at the stomach, but soon recovered. When they had
been out at sea ten days, they became sorrowful, as they could not
converse with those who had hats on.[95]

The following night Ioscoda dreamed that his spirit appeared to him. He
told him not to be discouraged, that he would open his ears, so as to
be able to understand the people with hats. I will not permit you to
understand much, said he, only sufficient to reveal your wants, and to
know what is said to you. He repeated this dream to his friends, and
they were satisfied and encouraged by it. When they had been out about
thirty days, the master of the ship told them, and motioned them to
change their dresses of leather, for such as his people wore; for if
they did not, his master would be displeased. It was on this occasion
that the elder first understood a few words of the language. The first
phrase he comprehended was La que notte, and from one word to another
he was soon able to speak it.

One day the men cried out, land! and soon after they heard a noise
resembling thunder, in repeated peals. When they had got over their
fears, they were shown the large guns which made this noise. Soon after
they saw a vessel smaller than their own, sailing out of a bay, in the
direction toward them. She had flags on her masts, and when she came
near she fired a gun. The large vessel also hoisted her flags, and the
boat came alongside. The master told the person who came in it, to tell
his master or king, that he had six strangers on board, such as had
never been seen before, and that they were coming to visit him. It was
some time after the departure of this messenger before the vessel got
up to the town. It was then dark, but they could see people, and
horses, and odawbons[96] ashore. They were landed and placed in a
covered vehicle, and driven off. When they stopped, they were taken
into a large and splendid room. They were here told that the great
chief wished to see them. They were shown into another large room,
filled with men and women. All the room was Shoneancauda.[97] The chief
asked them their business, and the object of their journey. They told
him where they were from, and where they were going, and the nature of
the enterprise which they had undertaken. He tried to dissuade them
from its execution, telling them of the many trials and difficulties
they would have to undergo; that so many days' march from his country
dwelt a bad spirit, or Manito, who foreknew and foretold the existence
and arrival of all who entered into his country. It is impossible, he
said, my children, for you ever to arrive at the object you are in
search of.

Ioscoda replied: "Nosa,"[98] and they could see the chief blush in
being called father, "we have come so far on our way, and we will
continue it; we have resolved firmly that we will do so. We think our
lives are of no value, for we have given them up for this object.
Nosa," he repeated, "do not then prevent us from going on our journey."
The chief then dismissed them with valuable presents, after having
appointed the next day to speak to them again, and provided everything
that they needed or wished for.

Next day they were again summoned to appear before the king. He again
tried to dissuade them. He said he would send them back to their
country in one of his vessels: but all he said had no effect. "Well,"
said he, "if you will go, I will furnish you all that is needed for
your journey." He had everything provided accordingly. He told them,
that three days before they reached the Bad Spirit he had warned them
of, they would hear his Sheshegwun.[99] He cautioned them to be wise,
for he felt that he should never see them all again.

They resumed their journey, and travelled sometimes through villages,
but they soon left them behind and passed over a region of forests and
plains, without inhabitants. They found all the productions of a new
country: trees, animals, birds, were entirely different from those they
were accustomed to, on the other side of the great waters. They
travelled, and travelled, till they wore out all of the clothing that
had been given to them, and had to take to their leather clothing

The three days the chief spoke of meant three years, for it was only at
the end of the third year, that they came within the sight of the
spirit's sheshegwun. The sound appeared to be near, but they continued
walking on, day after day, without apparently getting any nearer to it.
Suddenly they came to a very extensive plain; they could see the blue
ridges of distant mountains rising on the horizon beyond it; they
pushed on, thinking to get over the plain before night, but they were
overtaken by darkness; they were now on a stony part of the plain,
covered by about a foot's depth of water; they were weary and fatigued;
some of them said, let us lie down; no, no, said the others, let us
push on. Soon they stood on firm ground, but it was as much as they
could do to stand, for they were very weary. They, however, made an
effort to encamp, lighted up a fire, and refreshed themselves by
eating. They then commenced conversing about the sound of the spirit's
sheshegwun, which they had heard for several days. Suddenly the
instrument commenced; it sounded as if it was subterraneous, and it
shook the ground: they tied up their bundles and went toward the spot.
They soon came to a large building, which was illuminated. As soon as
they came to the door, they were met by a rather elderly man. "How do
ye do," said he, "my grandsons? Walk in, walk in; I am glad to see you:
I knew when you started: I saw you encamp this evening: sit down, and
tell me the news of the country you left, for I feel interested in it."
They complied with his wishes, and when they had concluded, each one
presented him with a piece of tobacco. He then revealed to them things
that would happen in their journey, and predicted its successful
accomplishment. "I do not say that all of you," said he, "will
successfully go through it. You have passed over three-fourths of your
way, and I will tell you how to proceed after you get to the edge of
the earth. Soon after you leave this place, you will hear a deafening
sound: it is the sky descending on the edge, but it keeps moving up and
down; you will watch, and when it moves up, you will see a vacant space
between it and the earth. You must not be afraid. A chasm of awful
depth is there, which separates the unknown from this earth, and a veil
of darkness conceals it. Fear not. You must leap through; and if you
succeed, you will find yourselves on a beautiful plain, and in a soft
and mild light emitted by the moon." They thanked him for his advice. A
pause ensued.

"I have told you the way," he said; "now tell me again of the country
you have left; for I committed dreadful ravages while I was there: does
not the country show marks of it? and do not the inhabitants tell of me
to their children? I came to this place to mourn over my bad actions,
and am trying, by my present course of life, to relieve my mind of the
load that is on it." They told him that their fathers spoke often of a
celebrated personage called Manabozho, who performed great exploits. "I
am he," said the Spirit. They gazed with astonishment and fear. "Do you
see this pointed house?" said he, pointing to one that resembled a
sugar-loaf; "you can now each speak your wishes, and will be answered
from that house. Speak out, and ask what each wants, and it shall be
granted." One of them, who was vain, asked with presumption, that he
might live forever, and never be in want. He was answered, "Your wish
shall be granted." The second made the same request, and received the
same answer. The third asked to live longer than common people, and to
be always successful in his war excursions, never losing any of his
young men. He was told, "Your wishes are granted." The fourth joined in
the same request, and received the same reply. The fifth made an humble
request, asking to live as long as men generally do, and that he might
be crowned with such success in hunting as to be able to provide for
his parents and relatives. The sixth made the same request, and it was
granted to both, in pleasing tones, from the pointed house.

After hearing these responses they prepared to depart. They were told
by Manabozho, that they had been with him but one day, but they
afterward found that they had remained there upward of a year. When
they were on the point of setting out, Manabozho exclaimed, "Stop! you
two, who asked me for eternal life, will receive the boon you wish
immediately." He spake, and one was turned into a stone called
Shin-gauba-wossin,[100] and the other into a cedar tree. "Now," said he
to the others, "you can go." They left him in fear, saying, "We were
fortunate to escape so, for the king told us he was wicked, and that we
should not probably escape from him." They had not proceeded far, when
they began to hear the sound of the beating sky. It appeared to be near
at hand, but they had a long interval to travel before they came near,
and the sound was then stunning to their senses; for when the sky came
down, its pressure would force gusts of wind from the opening, so
strong that it was with difficulty they could keep their feet, and the
sun passed but a short distance above their heads. They however
approached boldly, but had to wait sometime before they could muster
courage enough to leap through the dark veil that covered the passage.
The sky would come down with violence, but it would rise slowly and
gradually. The two who had made the humble request, stood near the
edge, and with no little exertion succeeded, one after the other, in
leaping through, and gaining a firm foothold. The remaining two were
fearful and undecided: the others spoke to them through the darkness,
saying, "Leap! leap! the sky is on its way down." These two looked up
and saw it descending, but fear paralyzed their efforts; they made but
a feeble attempt, so as to reach the opposite side with their hands;
but the sky at the same time struck on the earth with great violence
and a terrible sound, and forced them into the dreadful black chasm.

The two successful adventurers, of whom Iosco now was chief, found
themselves in a beautiful country, lighted by the moon, which shed
around a mild and pleasant light. They could see the moon approaching
as if it were from behind a hill. They advanced, and an aged woman
spoke to them; she had a white face and pleasing air, and looked rather
old, though she spoke to them very kindly: they knew from her first
appearance that she was the moon: she asked them several questions: she
told them that she knew of their coming, and was happy to see them: she
informed them that they were half way to her brother's, and that from
the earth to her abode was half the distance. "I will, by and by, have
leisure," said she, "and will go and conduct you to my brother, for he
is now absent on his daily course: you will succeed in your object, and
return in safety to your country and friends, with the good wishes, I
am sure, of my brother." While the travellers were with her, they
received every attention. When the proper time arrived, she said to
them, "My brother is now rising from below, and we shall see his light
as he comes over the distant edge: come," said she, "I will lead you
up." They went forward, but in some mysterious way, they hardly knew
how: they rose almost directly up, as if they had ascended steps. They
then came upon an immense plain, declining in the direction of the
sun's approach. When he came near, the moon spake--"I have brought you
these persons, whom we knew were coming;" and with this she
disappeared. The sun motioned with his hand for them to follow him.
They did so, but found it rather difficult, as the way was steep: they
found it particularly so from the edge of the earth till they got
halfway between that point and midday: when they reached this spot, the
sun stopped, and sat down to rest. "What, my children," said he, "has
brought you here? I could not speak to you before: I could not stop at
any place but this, for this is my first resting-place--then at the
centre, which is at midday, and then halfway from that to the western
edge.[101] Tell me," he continued, "the object of your undertaking
this journey and all the circumstances which have happened to you on
the way." They complied, Iosco told him their main object was to see
him. They had lost four of their friends on the way, and they wished to
know whether they could return in safety to the earth, that they might
inform their friends and relatives of all that had befallen them. They
concluded by requesting him to grant their wishes. He replied, "Yes,
you shall certainly return in safety; but your companions were vain and
presumptuous in their demands. They were Gug-ge-baw-diz-ze-wug.[102]
They aspired to what Manitoes only could enjoy. But you two, as I said,
shall get back to your country, and become as happy as the hunter's
life can make you. You shall never be in want of the necessaries of
life, as long as you are permitted to live; and you will have the
satisfaction of relating your journey to your friends, and also of
telling them of me. Follow me, follow me," he said, commencing his
course again. The ascent was now gradual, and they soon came to a level
plain. After travelling some time he again sat down to rest, for we had
arrived at Nau-we-qua.[103] "You see," said he, "it is level at this
place, but a short distance onwards, my way descends gradually to my
last resting-place, from which there is an abrupt descent." He repeated
his assurance that they should be shielded from danger, if they relied
firmly on his power. "Come here quickly," he said, placing something
before them on which they could descend; "keep firm," said he, as they
resumed the descent. They went downward as if they had been let down by

In the mean time the parents of these two young men dreamed that their
sons were returning, and that they should soon see them. They placed
the fullest confidence in their dreams. Early in the morning they left
their lodges for a remote point in the forest, where they expected to
meet them. They were not long at the place before they saw the
adventurers returning, for they had descended not far from that place.
The young men knew they were their fathers. They met, and were happy.
They related all that had befallen them. They did not conceal anything;
and they expressed their gratitude to the different Manitoes who had
preserved them, by feasting and gifts, and particularly to the sun and
moon, who had received them as their children.

Next: The Enchanted Moccasins

Previous: Aggodagauda And His Daughter Or The Man With His Leg Tied Up

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