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Ojeeg Annung Or The Summer-maker






Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

ODJIBWA.


There lived a celebrated hunter on the southern shores of Lake
Superior, who was considered a Manito by some, for there was nothing
but what he could accomplish. He lived off the path, in a wild,
lonesome, place, with a wife whom he loved, and they were blessed with
a son, who had attained his thirteenth year. The hunter's name was
Ojeeg, or the Fisher, which is the name of an expert, sprightly little
animal common to the region. He was so successful in the chase, that he
seldom returned without bringing his wife and son a plentiful supply of
venison, or other dainties of the woods. As hunting formed his constant
occupation, his son began early to emulate his father in the same
employment, and would take his bow and arrows, and exert his skill in
trying to kill birds and squirrels. The greatest impediment he met
with, was the coldness and severity of the climate. He often returned
home, his little fingers benumbed with cold, and crying with vexation
at his disappointment. Days, and months, and years passed away, but
still the same perpetual depth of snow was seen, covering all the
country as with a white cloak.

One day, after a fruitless trial of his forest skill, the little boy
was returning homeward with a heavy heart, when he saw a small red
squirrel gnawing the top of a pine bur. He had approached within a
proper distance to shoot, when the squirrel sat up on its hind legs and
thus addressed him:--

"My grandchild, put up your arrows, and listen to what I have to tell
you." The boy complied rather reluctantly, when the squirrel continued:
"My son, I see you pass frequently, with your fingers benumbed with
cold, and crying with vexation for not having killed any birds. Now, if
you will follow my advice, we will see if you cannot accomplish your
wishes. If you will strictly pursue my advice, we will have perpetual
summer, and you will then have the pleasure of killing as many birds as
you please; and I will also have something to eat, as I am now myself
on the point of starvation.

"Listen to me. As soon as you get home you must commence crying. You
must throw away your bow and arrows in discontent. If your mother asks
you what is the matter, you must not answer her, but continue crying
and sobbing. If she offers you anything to eat, you must push it away
with apparent discontent, and continue crying. In the evening, when
your father returns from hunting, he will inquire of your mother what
is the matter with you. She will answer that you came home crying, and
would not so much as mention the cause to her. All this while you must
not leave off sobbing. At last your father will say, 'My son, why is
this unnecessary grief? Tell me the cause. You know I am a spirit, and
that nothing is impossible for me to perform.' You must then answer
him, and say that you are sorry to see the snow continually on the
ground, and ask him if he could not cause it to melt, so that we might
have perpetual summer. Say it in a supplicating way, and tell him this
is the cause of your grief. Your father will reply, 'It is very hard to
accomplish your request, but for your sake, and for my love for you, I
will use my utmost endeavors.' He will tell you to be still, and cease
crying. He will try to bring summer with all its loveliness. You must
then be quiet, and eat that which is set before you."

The squirrel ceased. The boy promised obedience to his advice, and
departed. When he reached home, he did as he had been instructed, and
all was exactly fulfilled, as it had been predicted by the squirrel.

Ojeeg told him that it was a great undertaking. He must first make a
feast, and invite some of his friends to accompany him on a journey.
Next day he had a bear roasted whole. All who had been invited to the
feast came punctually to the appointment. There were the Otter, Beaver,
Lynx, Badger, and Wolverine. After the feast, they arranged it among
themselves to set out on the contemplated journey in three days. When
the time arrived, the Fisher took leave of his wife and son, as he
foresaw that it was for the last time. He and his companions travelled
in company day after day, meeting with nothing but the ordinary
incidents. On the twentieth day they arrived at the foot of a high
mountain, where they saw the tracks of some person who had recently
killed an animal, which they knew by the blood that marked the way. The
Fisher told his friends that they ought to follow the track, and see if
they could not procure something to eat. They followed it for some
time; at last they arrived at a lodge, which had been hidden from their
view by a hollow in the mountain. Ojeeg told his friends to be very
sedate, and not to laugh on any account. The first object that they saw
was a man standing at the door of the lodge, but of so deformed a shape
that they could not possibly make out who or what sort of a man it
could be. His head was enormously large; he had such a queer set of
teeth, and no arms. They wondered how he could kill animals. But the
secret was soon revealed. He was a great Manito. He invited them to
pass the night, to which they consented.

He boiled his meat in a hollow vessel made of wood, and took it out of
this singular kettle in some way unknown to his guests. He carefully
gave each their portion to eat, but made so many odd movements that the
Otter could not refrain from laughing, for he is the only one who is
spoken of as a jester. The Manito looked at him with a terrible look,
and then made a spring at him, and got on him to smother him, for that
was his mode of killing animals. But the Otter, when he felt him on his
neck, slipped his head back and made for the door, which he passed in
safety; but went out with the curse of the Manito. The others passed
the night, and they conversed on different subjects. The Manito told
the Fisher that he would accomplish his object, but that it would
probably cost him his life. He gave them his advice, directed them how
to act, and described a certain road which they must follow, and they
would thereby be led to the place of action.

They set off in the morning, and met their friend, the Otter, shivering
with cold; but Ojeeg had taken care to bring along some of the meat
that had been given him, which he presented to his friend. They pursued
their way, and travelled twenty days more before they got to the place
which the Manito had told them of. It was a most lofty mountain. They
rested on its highest peak to fill their pipes and refresh themselves.
Before smoking, they made the customary ceremony, pointing to the
heavens, the four winds, the earth, and the zenith; in the mean time,
speaking in a loud voice, addressed the Great Spirit, hoping that their
object would be accomplished. They then commenced smoking.

They gazed on the sky in silent admiration and astonishment, for they
were on so elevated a point, that it appeared to be only a short
distance above their heads. After they had finished smoking, they
prepared themselves. Ojeeg told the Otter to make the first attempt to
try and make a hole in the sky. He consented with a grin. He made a
leap, but fell down the hill stunned by the force of his fall; and the
snow being moist, and falling on his back, he slid with velocity down
the side of the mountain. When he found himself at the bottom, he
thought to himself, it is the last time I make such another jump, so I
will make the best of my way home. Then it was the turn of the Beaver,
who made the attempt, but fell down senseless; then of the Lynx and
Badger, who had no better success.

"Now," says Fisher to the Wolverine, "try your skill; your ancestors
were celebrated for their activity, hardihood, and perseverance, and I
depend on you for success. Now make the attempt." He did so, but also
without success. He leaped the second time, but now they could see that
the sky was giving way to their repeated attempts. Mustering strength,
he made the third leap, and went in. The Fisher nimbly followed him.

They found themselves in a beautiful plain, extending as far as the eye
could reach, covered with flowers of a thousand different hues and
fragrance. Here and there were clusters of tall, shady trees, separated
by innumerable streams of the purest water, which wound around their
courses under the cooling shades, and filled the plain with countless
beautiful lakes, whose banks and bosom were covered with water-fowl,
basking and sporting in the sun. The trees were alive with birds of
different plumage, warbling their sweet notes, and delighted with
perpetual spring.

The Fisher and his friend beheld very long lodges, and the celestial
inhabitants amusing themselves at a distance. Words cannot express the
beauty and charms of the place. The lodges were empty of inhabitants,
but they saw them lined with mocuks[55] of different sizes, filled with
birds and fowls of different plumage. Ojeeg thought of his son, and
immediately commenced cutting open the mocuks and letting out the
birds, who descended in whole flocks through the opening which they had
made. The warm air of those regions also rushed down through the
opening, and spread its genial influence over the north.

When the celestial inhabitants saw the birds let loose, and the warm
gales descending, they raised a shout like thunder, and ran for their
lodges. But it was too late. Spring, summer, and autumn had gone; even
perpetual summer had almost all gone; but they separated it with a
blow, and only a part descended; but the ends were so mangled, that,
wherever it prevails among the lower inhabitants, it is always
sickly.[56]

When the Wolverine heard the noise, he made for the opening and safely
descended. Not so the Fisher. Anxious to fulfil his son's wishes, he
continued to break open the mocuks. He was, at last, obliged to run
also, but the opening was now closed by the inhabitants. He ran with
all his might over the plains of heaven, and, it would appear, took a
northerly direction. He saw his pursuers so close that he had to climb
the first large tree he came to. They commenced shooting at him with
their arrows, but without effect, for all his body was invulnerable
except the space of about an inch near the tip of his tail. At last one
of the arrows hit the spot, for he had in this chase assumed the shape
of the Fisher after whom he was named.

He looked down from the tree, and saw some among his assailants with
the totems[57] of his ancestors. He claimed relationship, and told them
to desist, which they only did at the approach of night. He then came
down to try and find an opening in the celestial plain, by which he
might descend to the earth. But he could find none. At last, becoming
faint from the loss of blood from the wound on his tail, he laid
himself down towards the north of the plain, and, stretching out his
limbs, said, "I have fulfilled my promise to my son, though it has cost
me my life; but I die satisfied in the idea that I have done so much
good, not only for him, but for my fellow-beings. Hereafter I will be a
sign to the inhabitants below for ages to come, who will venerate my
name for having succeeded in procuring the varying seasons. They will
now have from eight to ten moons without snow."

He was found dead next morning, but they left him as they found him,
with the arrow sticking in his tail, as it can be plainly seen, at this
time, in the heavens.





Next: Chileeli Or The Red Lover

Previous: The Star Family Or Celestial Sisters



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