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Kwasind Or The Fearfully Strong Man






Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

Pauwating[40] was a village where the young men amused themselves very
much in ancient times, in sports and ball-playing.

One day, as they were engaged in their sports, one of the strongest and
most active, at the moment he was about to succeed in a trial of
lifting, slipped and fell upon his back. "Ha! ha! ha!" cried the
lookers-on, "you will never rival Kwasind." He was deeply mortified,
and when the sport was over, these words came to his mind. He could not
recollect any man of this name. He thought he would ask the old man,
the story-teller of the village, the next time he came to the lodge.
The opportunity soon occurred.

"My grandfather," said he, "who was Kwasind? I am very anxious to know
what he could do."

"Kwasind," the old man replied, "was a listless idle boy. He would not
play when the other boys played, and his parents could never get him to
do any kind of labor. He was always making excuses. His parents took
notice, however, that he fasted for days together, but they could not
learn what spirit he supplicated, or had chosen as the guardian spirit
to attend him through life. He was so inattentive to his parents'
requests, that he, at last, became a subject of reproach.

"'Ah,' said his mother to him one day, 'is there any young man of your
age, in all the village, who does so little for his parents? You
neither hunt nor fish. You take no interest in anything, whether labor
or amusement, which engages the attention of your equals in years. I
have often set my nets[41] in the coldest days of winter, without any
assistance from you. And I have taken them up again, while you remained
inactive at the lodge fire. Are you not ashamed of such idleness? Go, I
bid you, and wring out that net, which I have just taken from the
water.'

"Kwasind saw that there was a determination to make him obey. He did
not, therefore, make any excuses, but went out and took up the net. He
carefully folded it, doubled and redoubled it, forming it into a roll,
and then with an easy twist of his hands wrung it short off, with as
much ease as if every twine had been a thin brittle fibre. Here they at
once saw the secret of his reluctance. He possessed supernatural
strength.

"After this, the young men were playing one day on the plain, where
there was lying one of those large, heavy, black pieces of rock, which
Manabozho is said to have cast at his father. Kwasind took it up with
much ease, and threw it into the river. After this, he accompanied his
father on a hunting excursion into a remote forest. They came to a
place where the wind had thrown a great many trees into a narrow pass.
'We must go the other way,' said the old man, 'it is impossible to get
the burdens through this place.' He sat down to rest himself, took out
his smoking apparatus, and gave a short time to reflection. When he had
finished, Kwasind had lifted away the largest pine trees, and pulled
them out of the path.

"Sailing one day in his canoe, Kwasind saw a large furred animal, which
he immediately recognized to be the king of beavers. He plunged into
the water in pursuit of it. His companions were in the greatest
astonishment and alarm, supposing he would perish. He often dove down
and remained a long time under water, pursuing the animal from island
to island; and at last returned with the kingly prize. After this, his
fame spread far and wide, and no hunter would presume to compete with
him.

"He helped Manabozho to clear away the obstructions in the streams, and
to remove the great wind-falls of trees from the valleys, the better to
fit them for the residence of man.

"He performed so many feats of strength and skill, that he excited the
envy of the Puck-wudj In-in-ee-sug, or fairies, who conspired against
his life. 'For,' said they, 'if this man is suffered to go on, in his
career of strength and exploits, we shall presently have no work to
perform. Our agency in the affairs of men must cease. He will undermine
our power, and drive us, at last, into the water, where we must all
perish, or be devoured by the wicked Neebanawbaig.'[42]

"The strength of Kwasind was all concentrated in the crown of his head.
This was, at the same time, the only vulnerable part of his body; and
there was but one species of weapon which could be successfully
employed in making any impression upon it. The fairies carefully hunted
through the woods to find this weapon. It was the burr or seed vessel
of the white pine. They gathered a quantity of this article, and
waylaid Kwasind at a point on the river, where the red rocks jut into
the water, forming rude castles--a point which he was accustomed to
pass in his canoe. They waited a long time, making merry upon these
rocks, for it was a highly romantic spot. At last the wished-for object
appeared; Kwasind came floating calmly down the stream, on the
afternoon of a summer's day, languid with the heat of the weather, and
almost asleep. When his canoe came directly beneath the cliff, the
tallest and stoutest fairy began the attack. Others followed his
example. It was a long time before they could hit the vulnerable part,
but success at length crowned their efforts, and Kwasind sunk, never to
rise more.

"Ever since this victory, the Puck Wudj Ininee have made that point of
rock a favorite resort. The hunters often hear them laugh, and see
their little plumes shake as they pass this scene on light summer
evenings.

"My son," continued the old man, "take care that you do not imitate the
faults of Kwasind. If he had not so often exerted his strength merely
for the sake of boasting, he would not, perhaps, have made the
fairies feel jealous of him. It is better to use the strength you have,
in a quiet useful way, than to sigh after the possession of a giant's
power. For if you run, or wrestle, or jump, or fire at a mark, only as
well as your equals in years, nobody will envy you. But if you would
needs be a Kwasind, you must expect a Kwasind's fate."

[40] i.e. Place of shallow cataract, named Sault de Ste.
Marie on the arrival of the French. This is the local form of
the word, the substantive proper terminates in Eeg.

[41] Nets are set in winter, in high northern latitudes, through
orifices cut in the ice.

[42] A kind of water spirits.





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