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Moowis






Source: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian

In a large village there lived a noted belle, or Ma-mon-da-go-Kwa,
who was the admiration of all the young hunters and warriors. She
was particularly admired by a young man who, from his good figure
and the care he took in his dress, was called the Beau-Man, or
Ma-mon-da-gin-in-e. This young man had a friend and companion whom
he made his confidant.

"Come," said he one day, in a sportive mood, "let us go a-courting to
her who is so handsome, perhaps she may fancy one of us."

She would, however, listen to neither of them; and when the handsome
young man rallied her on the coldness of her air, and made an effort
to overcome her indifference, she repulsed him with the greatest
contempt, and the young man retired confused and abashed. His sense of
pride was deeply wounded, and he was the more piqued because he had
been thus treated in the presence of others, and this affair had been
noised about in the village, and became the talk of every lodge
circle. He was, besides, a very sensitive man, and the incident so
preyed upon him that he became moody and at last took to his bed. For
days he would lie without uttering a word, with his eyes fixed on
vacancy, and taking little or no food. From this state no efforts
could rouse him. He felt abashed and dishonoured even in the presence
of his own relatives, and no persuasions could induce him to rise, so
that when the family prepared to take down the lodge to remove he
still kept his bed, and they were compelled to lift it from above his
head and leave him upon his skin couch. It was a time of general
removal and breaking up of the camp, for it was only a winter
hunting-camp, and as the season of the hunt was now over, and spring
began to appear, his friends all moved off as by one impulse to the
place of their summer village, and in a short time all were gone, and
he was left alone. The last person to leave him was his boon companion
and cousin, who had been, like him, an admirer of the forest belle.
The hunter disregarded even his voice, and as soon as his steps died
away on the creaking snow the stillness and solitude of the wilderness
reigned around.

As soon as all were gone, and he could no longer, by listening, hear
the remotest sound of the departing camp, the Beau-Man arose.

Now this young man had for a friend a powerful guardian spirit or
personal manito, and he resolved, with this spirit's aid, to use his
utmost power to punish and humble the girl, for she was noted in her
tribe for her coquetry, and had treated many young men, who were
every way her equals, as she had treated this lover. He resolved on a
singular stratagem by way of revenge.

He walked over the deserted camp and gathered up all the cast-off bits
of soiled cloth, clippings of finery, and old clothing and ornaments,
which had either been left there as not worth carrying away, or
forgotten. These he carefully picked out of the snow, into which some
of them had been trodden, and collected in one place. These gaudy and
soiled stuffs he restored to their original beauty, and made of them a
coat and leggings, which he trimmed with beads, and finished and
decorated after the best fashion of his tribe. He then made a pair of
moccasins and garnished them with beads, a bow and arrows, and a
frontlet and feathers for the head. Having done this he searched about
for cast-out bones of animals, pieces of skin, clippings of dried
meat, and even dirt. Having cemented all this together he filled the
clothes with it, pressed the mass firmly in, and fashioned it,
externally, in all respects like a tall and well-shaped man. He put a
bow and arrows in its hands, and the frontlet on its head. Having
finished it he brought it to life, and the image stood forth in the
most favoured lineaments of his fellows. Such was the origin of
Moowis, or the Dirt-and-Rag Man.

"Follow me," said the Beau-Man, "and I will direct you how you shall
act."

Moowis was, indeed, a very sightly person, and as the Beau-Man led him
into the new encampment where the girl dwelt, the many colours of his
clothes, the profusion of his ornaments, his manly deportment, his
animated countenance, drew all eyes to him. He was hospitably
received, both old and young showing him great attention. The chief
invited him to his lodge, and he was there treated to the moose's hump
and the finest venison.

No one was better pleased with the handsome stranger than
Ma-mon-da-go-Kwa. She fell in love with him at first sight, and he was
an invited guest at the lodge of her mother the very first evening of
his arrival. The Beau-Man went with him, for it was under his
patronage that he had been introduced, and, in truth, he had another
motive in accompanying him, for he had not yet wholly subdued his
feelings of admiration for the object against whom he had,
nevertheless, exerted all his necromantic power, and he held himself
ready to take advantage of any favourable turn which he secretly hoped
the visit might take in relation to himself. No such opportunity,
however, arose. Moowis attracted the chief attention, every eye and
heart was alert to entertain him. In this effort on the part of his
entertainers they had well-nigh brought about his destruction by
dissolving him into his original elements of rags, snow, and dirt, for
he was assigned the most prominent place near the fire, where he was
exposed to a heat that he could by no means endure. However, he warded
this calamity off by placing a boy between him and the fire; he
shifted his position frequently, and evaded, by dexterous manoeuvres
and timely remarks, the pressing invitation of his host to sit and
enjoy the warmth. He so managed these excuses as not only to conceal
his dread of immediate dissolution, but to secure the further
approbation of the fair forest girl, who was filled with admiration of
one who had so brave a spirit to endure the paralysing effects of
cold.

The visit proved that the rejected lover had well calculated the
effects of his plan. He withdrew from the lodge, and Moowis triumphed.
Before the Beau-Man left he saw him cross the lodge to the coveted
abinos, or bridegroom's seat. The dart which Ma-mon-da-go-Kwa had so
often delighted in sending to the hearts of her admirers she was at
length fated to receive. She had married an image.

As the morning began to break the stranger arose, adjusted his
warrior's plumes, and took his forest weapons to depart.

"I must go," said he, "for I have important work to do, and there are
many hills and streams between me and the object of my journey."

"I will go with you," said Ma-mon-da-go-Kwa.

"The journey is too long," replied her husband, "and you are ill able
to encounter the perils of the way."

"It is not so long but that I will go," answered his wife, "and there
are no dangers I will not share with you."

Moowis returned to the lodge of his master, and told him what had
occurred. For a moment pity took possession of the young man's heart.
He regretted that she whom he so loved should thus have thrown
herself away upon an image, a shadow, when she might have been the
mistress of the best lodge in the camp.

"It is her own folly," he said; "she has turned a deaf ear to the
counsels of prudence. She must submit to her fate."

The same morning Moowis set forth, and his wife followed him at a
distance. The way was rough and intricate, and she found that she
could not keep up with him, he walked so quickly. She struggled hard
and obstinately to overtake him, but Moowis had been for some time out
of sight when the sun rose and commenced upon his snow-formed body the
work of dissolution. He began to melt away and fall to pieces. As
Ma-mon-da-go-Kwa followed in his track she found piece after piece of
his clothing in the path. She first found his mittens, then his
moccasins, then his leggings, then his coat, and after that other
parts of his garments. As the heat unbound them the clothes also
returned to their filthy condition. Over rocks, through wind-falls,
across marshes, Ma-mon-da-go-Kwa pursued him she loved. The path
turned aside in all directions. Rags, bones, leather, beads, feathers,
and soiled ribbons she found, but caught no sight of Moowis. She spent
the day in wandering, and when evening came she was still alone. The
snow having now melted, she had completely lost her husband's track,
and she wandered about uncertain which way to go and in a state of
perfect despair. At length with bitter cries she lamented her fate.

"Moowis, Moowis," she cried, "nin ge won e win ig, ne won e win
ig!"--"Moowis, Moowis, you have led me astray, you are leading me
astray!"

With this cry she wandered in the woods.

The cry of the lost Ma-mon-da-go-Kwa is sometimes repeated by the
village girls who have made of it a song--

Moowis! Moowis!
Forest rover,
Where art thou?
Ah! my bravest, gayest lover,
Guide me now.

Moowis! Moowis!
Ah! believe me,
List my moan:
Do not, do not, brave heart, leave me
All alone.

Moowis! Moowis!
Footprints vanished!
Whither wend I?
Fated, lost, detested, banished
Must I die!

Moowis! Moowis!
Whither goest thou,
Eye-bright lover?
Ah! thou ravenous bird that knowest,
I see thee hover,

Circling, circling
As I wander,
And at last
When I fall thou then wilt come
And feed upon my breast.





Next: The Girl Who Married The Pine-tree




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