Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha
The vernal equinox in the north, generally takes place while the ground
is covered with snow, and winter still wears a polar aspect. Storms of
wind and light drifting snow, expressively called poudre by the
French, and peewun by the Indians, fill the atmosphere, and render it
impossible to distinguish objects at a short distance. The fine powdery
flakes of snow are driven into the smallest crannies of buildings and
fixtures, and seem to be endowed with a subtle power of insinuation,
which renders northern joinerwork but a poor defence. It is not
uncommon for the sleeper, on waking up in the morning, to find heaps of
snow, where he had supposed himself quite secure on lying down.
Such seasons are, almost invariably, times of scarcity and hunger with
the Indians, for the light snows have buried up the traps of the
hunters, and the fishermen are deterred from exercising their customary
skill in decoying fish through orifices cut in the ice. They are often
reduced to the greatest straits, and compelled to exercise their utmost
ingenuity to keep their children from starving. Abstinence, on the part
of the elder members of the family, is regarded both as a duty and a
merit. Every effort is made to satisfy the importunity of the little
ones for food, and if there be a story-teller in the lodge, he is sure
to draw upon his cabin lore, to amuse their minds, and beguile the
In these storms, when each inmate of the lodge has his conaus, or
wrapper, tightly drawn around him, and all are cowering around the
cabin fire, should some sudden puff of wind drive a volume of light
snow into the lodge, it would scarcely happen, but that some one of the
group would cry out, "Ah, Pauppukkeewiss is now gathering his harvest,"
an expression which has the effect to put them all into good humor.
Pauppukkeewiss was a crazy brain, who played many queer tricks, but
took care, nevertheless, to supply his family and children with food.
But, in this, he was not always successful. Many winters have passed
since he was overtaken; at this very season of the year, with great
want, and he, with his whole family, was on the point of starvation.
Every resource seemed to have failed. The snow was so deep, and the
storm continued so long, that he could not even find a partridge or a
hare. And his usual resource of fish had entirely failed. His lodge
stood in a point of woods, not far back from the shores of the
Gitchiguma, or great water, where the autumnal storms had piled up the
ice into high pinnacles, resembling castles.
"I will go," said he to his family one morning, "to these castles, and
solicit the pity of the spirits who inhabit them, for I know that they
are the residence of some of the spirits of Kabiboonoka." He did so,
and found that his petition was not disregarded. They told him to fill
his mushkemoot, or sack, with the ice and snow, and pass on toward his
lodge, without looking back, until he came to a certain hill. He must
then drop it and leave it till morning, when he would find it filled
They cautioned him, that he must by no means look back, although he
would hear a great many voices crying out to him, in abusive terms, for
these voices were nothing but the wind playing through the branches of
the trees. He faithfully obeyed the injunction, although he found it
hard to avoid turning round, to see who was calling out to him. And
when he visited his sack in the morning, he found it filled with fish.
It chanced that Manabozho visited him on the morning that he brought
home the sack of fish. He was invited to partake of a feast, which
Pauppukkeewiss ordered to be prepared for him. While they were eating,
Manabozho could not help asking him, by what means he had procured such
an abundance of food, at a time when they were all in a state of
Pauppukkeewiss frankly told him the secret, and repeated the
precautions which were necessary to insure success. Manabozho
determined to profit by his information, and as soon as he could, he
set out to visit the icy castles. All things happened as he had been
told. The spirits seemed propitious, and told him to fill and carry. He
accordingly filled his sacks with ice and snow, and proceeded rapidly
toward the hill of transmutation. But as he ran he heard voices calling
out behind him, "Thief! thief! He has stolen fish from Kabiboonoka,"
cried one. "Mukumik! mukumik! Take it away! Take it away!" cried
In fine, his ears were so assailed by all manner of opprobrious terms,
that he could not avoid turning his head, to see who it was that thus
abused him. But his curiosity dissolved the charm. When he came to
visit his bags next morning, he found them filled with ice and snow. A
high drifting snow storm never fails to bring up this story. The origin
of this queer character is as queer as his acts are phantastic. The
myth asserts, that a man of large stature, and great activity of mind
and body, found himself standing alone on a prairie. He thought to
himself, "How came I here? Are there no beings on this earth but
myself? I must travel and see. I must walk till I find the abodes of
men." So soon as his mind was made up, he set out, he knew not where,
in search of habitations. No obstacles could divert him from his
purpose. Neither prairies, rivers, woods, nor storms had the effect to
daunt his courage or turn him back. After travelling a long time he
came to a wood, in which he saw decayed stumps of trees, as if they had
been cut in ancient times, but no other traces of men. Pursuing his
journey, he found more recent marks of the same kind; and after this,
he came to fresh traces of human beings; first their footsteps, and
then the wood they had cut, lying in heaps. Continuing on, he emerged
towards dusk from the forest, and beheld at a distance a large village
of high lodges, standing on rising ground. He said to himself, "I will
arrive there on a run." Off he started with all his speed; on coming to
the first large lodge, he jumped over it. Those within saw something
pass over the opening, and then heard a thump on the ground.
"What is that?" they all said.
One came out to see, and invited him in. He found himself in company
with an old chief and several men, who were seated in the lodge. Meat
was set before him, after which the chief asked him where he was going
and what his name was. He answered, that he was in search of
adventures, and his name was Paup-Puk-Keewiss. A stare followed.
"Paup-Puk-Keewiss!" said one to another, and a general titter went
He was not easy in his new position; the village was too small to give
him full scope for his powers, and after a short stay he made up his
mind to go farther, taking with him a young man who had formed a strong
attachment for him, and might serve him as his mesh-in-au-wa. They
set out together, and when his companion was fatigued with walking, he
would show him a few tricks, such as leaping over trees, and turning
round on one leg till he made the dust fly, by which he was mightily
pleased, although it sometimes happened that the character of these
tricks frightened him.
One day they came to a very large village, where they were well
received. After staying in it some time, they were informed of a number
of manitoes who lived at a distance, and who made it a practice to kill
all who came to their lodge. Attempts had been made to extirpate them,
but the war-parties who went out for this purpose were always
unsuccessful. Paup-Puk-Keewiss determined to visit them, although he
was advised not to do so. The chief warned him of the danger of the
visit; but, finding him resolved,
"Well," said he, "if you will go, being my guest, I will send twenty
warriors to serve you."
He thanked him for the offer. Twenty young men were ready at the
instant, and they went forward, and in due time described the lodge of
the manitoes. He placed his friend and the warriors near enough to see
all that passed, while he went alone to the lodge. As he entered he saw
five horrid-looking manitoes in the act of eating. It was the father
and his four sons. They looked hideous; their eyes were swimming low in
their heads, as if half starved. They offered him something to eat,
which he refused.
"What have you come for?" said the old one.
"Nothing," Paup-Puk-Keewiss answered.
They all stared at him.
"Do you not wish to wrestle?" they all asked.
"Yes," he replied.
A hideous smile came over their faces.
"You go," they said to the eldest brother.
They got ready, and were soon clinched in each other's arms for a
deadly throw. He knew their object--his death--his flesh was all they
wanted, but he was prepared for them.
"Haw! haw!" they cried, and soon the dust and dry leaves flew about
as if driven by a strong wind.
The manito was strong, but Paup-Puk-Keewiss soon found that he could
master him; and, giving him a trip, he threw him with a giant's force
head foremost on a stone, and he fell like a puffed thing.
The brothers stepped up in quick succession, but he put a number of
tricks in force, and soon the whole four lay bleeding on the ground.
The old manito got frightened and ran for his life. Paup-Puk-Keewiss
pursued him for sport; sometimes he was before him, sometimes flying
over his head. He would now give him a kick, then a push or a trip,
till he was almost exhausted. Meantime his friend and the warriors
cried out, "Ha! ha! a! ha! ha! a! Paup-Puk-Keewiss is driving him
before him." The manito only turned his head now and then to look back;
at last, Paup-Puk-Keewiss gave him a kick on his back, and broke his
back bone; down he fell, and the blood gushing out of his mouth
prevented him from saying a word. The warriors piled all the bodies
together in the lodge, and then took fire and burned them. They all
looked with deep interest at the quantity of human bones scattered
Paup-Puk-Keewiss then took three arrows, and after having performed a
ceremony to the Great Spirit, he shot one into the air, crying, with a
"You who are lying down, rise up, or you will be hit!" The bones all
moved to one place. He shot the second arrow, repeating the same words,
when each bone drew towards its fellow-bone; the third arrow brought
forth to life the whole multitude of people who had been killed by the
manitoes. Paup-Puk-Keewiss then led them to the chief of the village
who had proved his friend, and gave them up to him. Soon after the
chief came with his counsellors.
"Who is more worthy," said he, "to rule than you? You alone can
Paup-Puk-Keewiss thanked him, and told him he was in search of more
adventures. The chief insisted. Paup-Puk-Keewiss told him to confer the
chieftainship on his friend, who, he said, would remain while he went
on his travels. He told them that he would, some time or other, come
back and see them.
"Ho! ho! ho!" they all cried, "come back again and see us," insisting
on it. He promised them he would, and then set out alone.
After travelling some time he came to a large lake; on looking about,
he discovered a very large otter on an island. He thought to himself,
"His skin will make me a fine pouch," and immediately drew up, at long
shots, and drove an arrow into his side. He waded into the lake, and
with some difficulty dragged him ashore. He took out the entrails, and
even then the carcass was so heavy that it was as much as he could do
to drag it up a hill overlooking the lake. As soon as he got him up
into the sunshine, where it was warm, he skinned him, and threw the
carcass some distance, thinking the war-eagle would come, and he should
have a chance to get his skin and feathers as head ornaments. He soon
heard a rushing noise in the air, but could see nothing; by and by, a
large eagle dropped, as if from the air, on the otter's carcass. He
drew his bow, and the arrow passed through under both his wings. The
bird made a convulsive flight upwards with such force, that the heavy
carcass (which was nearly as big as a moose) was borne up several feet.
Fortunately, both claws were fastened deeply into the meat, the weight
of which soon brought the bird down. He skinned him, crowned his head
with the trophy, and next day was on his way, on the lookout for
After walking a while he came to a lake, which flooded the trees on its
banks; he found it was only a lake made by beavers. He took his station
on the elevated dam, where the stream escaped, to see whether any of
the beavers would show themselves. He soon saw the head of one peeping
out of the water to see who disturbed them.
"My friend," said Paup-Puk-Keewiss, "could you not turn me into a
beaver like yourself?" for he thought, if he could become a beaver, he
would see and know how these animals lived.
"I do not know," replied the beaver; "I will go and ask the others."
Soon all the beavers showed their heads above the water, and looked to
see if he was armed; but he had left his bow and arrows in a hollow
tree at a short distance. When they were satisfied, they all came near.
"Can you not, with all your united power," said he, "turn me into a
beaver? I wish to live among you."
"Yes," answered their chief; "lay down;" and he soon found himself
changed into one of them.
"You must make me large," said he; "larger than any of you."
"Yes, yes!" said they. "By and by, when we get into the lodge, it shall
In they all dove into the lake; and, in passing large heaps of limbs
and logs at the bottom, he asked the use of them; they answered, "It is
for our winter's provisions." When they all got into the lodge,
their number was about one hundred. The lodge was large and warm.
"Now we will make you large," said they. "Will that do?" exerting
"Yes," he answered, for he found he was ten times the size of the
"You need not go out," said they. "We will bring your food into the
lodge, and you will be our chief."
"Very well," Paup-Puk-Keewiss answered. He thought, "I will stay here
and grow fat at their expense." But, soon after, one ran into the lodge
out of breath, saying, "We are visited by Indians." All huddled
together in great fear. The water began to lower, for the hunters had
broken down the dam, and they soon heard them on the roof of the lodge
breaking it up. Out jumped all the beavers into the water, and so
escaped. Paup-Puk-Keewiss tried to follow them; but, alas! they had
made him so large that he could not creep out of the hole. He tried to
call them back, but to no effect; he worried himself so much in trying
to escape, that he looked like a bladder. He could not turn himself
back into a man, although he heard and understood all the hunters said.
One of them put his head in at the top of the lodge.
"Ty-au!" cried he; "Tut Ty-au! Me-shau-mik--king of the beavers is
in." They all got at him, and knocked his skull till it was as soft as
his brains. He thought, as well as ever he did, although he was a
beaver. Seven or eight of them then placed his body on poles and
carried him home. As they went, he reflected in this manner: "What will
become of me? my ghost or shadow will not die after they get me to
their lodges." Invitations were immediately sent out for a grand feast.
The women took him out into the snow to skin him; but, as soon as his
flesh got cold, his Jee-bi went off.
Paup-Puk-Keewiss found himself standing near a prairie, having
reassumed his mortal shape. After walking a distance, he saw a herd of
elk feeding. He admired the apparent ease and enjoyment of their life,
and thought there could be nothing pleasanter than the liberty of
running about and feeding on the prairies. He asked them if they could
not turn him into their shape.
"Yes," they answered, after a pause. "Get down on your hands and feet."
And he soon found himself an elk.
"I want big horns, big feet," said he; "I wish to be very large."
"Yes! yes!" they said.
"There!" exerting their power; "are you big enough?"
"Yes!" he answered, for he saw that he was very large. They spent a
good time in grazing and running. Being rather cold one day, he went
into a thick wood for shelter, and was followed by most of the herd.
They had not been long there before some elks from behind passed the
others like a strong wind. All took the alarm, and off they ran, he
with the rest.
"Keep out on the plains," they said.
But he found it was too late, as they had already got entangled in the
thick woods. Paup-Puk-Keewiss soon smelt the hunters, who were closely
following his trail, for they had left all the others and followed him.
He jumped furiously, and broke down saplings in his flight, but it only
served to retard his progress. He soon felt an arrow in his side; he
jumped over trees in his agony, but the arrows clattered thicker and
thicker upon his sides, and at last one entered his heart. He fell to
the ground, and heard the whoop of triumph sounded by the hunters. On
coming up, they looked on the carcass with astonishment, and with their
hands up to their mouths exclaimed Ty-au! Ty-au! There were about sixty
in the party, who had come out on a special hunt, as one of their
number had, the day before, observed his large tracks on the plains.
After skinning him and his flesh getting cold, his Jee-bi took its
flight from the carcass, and he again found himself in human shape,
with a bow and arrows.
But his passion for adventure was not yet cooled; for, on coming to a
large lake with a sandy beach, he saw a large flock of brant, and,
speaking to them, asked them to turn him into a brant.
"Yes," they replied.
"But I want to be very large," he said.
"Very well," they answered; and he soon found himself a large brant,
all the others standing gazing in astonishment at his large size.
"You must fly as leader," they said.
"No," answered Paup-Puk-Keewiss, "I will fly behind."
"Very well," they said. "One thing more we have to say to you. You must
be careful, in flying, not to look down, for something may happen to
"Well! it is so," said he; and soon the flock rose up into the air, for
they were bound north. They flew very fast, he behind. One day, while
going with a strong wind, and as swift as their wings could flap, while
passing over a large village, the Indians raised a great shout on
seeing them, particularly on Paup-Puk-Keewiss's account, for his wings
were broader than two large aupukwa. They made such a noise, that
he forgot what had been told him, about looking down. They were now
going as swift as arrows; and, as soon as he brought his neck in and
stretched it down to look at the shouters, his tail was caught by the
wind, and over and over he was blown. He tried to right himself, but
without success. Down, down he went, making more turns than he wished
for, from a height of several miles. The first thing he knew was, that
he was jammed into a large hollow tree. To get back or forward was out
of the question, and there he remained till his brant life was ended by
starvation. His Jee-bi again left the carcass, and he once more found
himself in the shape of a human being.
Travelling was still his passion; and, while travelling, he came to a
lodge in which were two old men with heads white from age. They treated
him well, and he told them that he was going back to his village to see
his friends and people. They said they would aid him, and pointed out
the direction he should go; but they were deceivers. After walking all
day, he came to a lodge looking very much like the first, with two old
men in it with white heads. It was, in fact, the very same lodge, and
he had been walking in a circle; but they did not undeceive him,
pretending to be strangers, and saying, in a kind voice, "We will show
you the way." After walking the third day, and coming back to the same
place, he found them out in their tricks, for he had cut a notch on the
"Who are you," said he to them, "to treat me so?" and he gave one a
kick and the other a slap, which killed them. Their blood flew against
the rocks near the lodge, and this is the reason there are red streaks
in them to this day. He then burned their lodge down, and freed the
earth of two pretended good men, who were manitoes.
He then continued his journey, not knowing exactly which way to go. At
last he came to a big lake. He got on the highest hill to try and see
the opposite side, but he could not. He then made a canoe, and took a
sail into the lake. On looking into the water, which was very clear,
before he got to the abrupt depth, he saw the bottom covered with dark
fishes, numbers of which he caught. This inspired him with a wish to
return to his village and to bring his people to live near this lake.
He went on, and towards evening came to a large island, where he
encamped and ate the fish he had speared.
Next day he returned to the main land, and, in wandering along the
shore, he encountered a more powerful manito than himself, called
Manabozho. He thought best, after playing him a trick, to keep out of
his way. He again thought of returning to his village; and,
transforming himself into a partridge, took his flight towards it. In a
short time he reached it, and his return was welcomed with feastings
and songs. He told them of the lake and the fish, and persuaded them
all to remove to it, as it would be easier for them to live there. He
immediately began to remove them by short encampments, and all things
turned out as he had said. They caught abundance of fish. After this, a
messenger came for him in the shape of a bear, who said that their king
wished to see him immediately at his village. Paup-Puk-Keewiss was
ready in an instant; and, getting on to the messenger's back, off he
ran. Towards evening they went up a high mountain, and came to a cave
where the bear-king lived. He was a very large person, and made him
welcome by inviting him into his lodge. As soon as propriety allowed,
he spoke, and said that he had sent for him on hearing that he was the
chief who was moving a large party towards his hunting-grounds.
"You must know," said he, "that you have no right there. And I wish you
would leave the country with your party, or else the strongest force
will take possession."
"Very well," replied Paup-Puk-Keewiss. "So be it." He did not wish to
do anything without consulting his people; and besides, he saw that the
bear-king was raising a war party. He then told him he would go back
that night. The bear-king left him to do as he wished, but told him
that one of his young men was ready at his command; and, immediately
jumping on his back, Paup-Puk-Keewiss rode home. He assembled the
village, and told the young men to kill the bear, make a feast of it,
and hang the head outside the village, for he knew the bear spies would
soon see it, and carry the news to their chief.
Next morning Paup-Puk-Keewiss got all his young warriors ready for a
fight. After waiting one day, the bear war-party came in sight, making
a tremendous noise. The bear-chief advanced, and said that he did not
wish to shed the blood of the young warriors; but that if he,
Paup-Puk-Keewiss, consented, they two would have a race, and the winner
should kill the losing chief, and all his young men should be slaves to
the other. Paup-Puk-Keewiss agreed, and they ran before all the
warriors. He was victor, and came in first; but, not to terminate the
race too soon, he gave the bear-chief some specimens of his skill and
swiftness by forming eddies and whirlwinds with the sand, as he leaped
and turned about him. As the bear-chief came up, he drove an arrow
through him, and a great chief fell. Having done this, he told his
young men to take all those blackfish (meaning the bears), and tie them
at the door of each lodge, that they might remain in future to serve as
After seeing that all was quiet and prosperous in the village,
Paup-Puk-Keewiss felt his desire for adventure returning. He took a
kind leave of his friends and people, and started off again. After
wandering a long time, he came to the lodge of Manabozho, who was
absent. He thought he would play him a trick, and so turned everything
in the lodge upside down, and killed his chickens. Now Manabozho calls
all the fowls of the air his chickens; and among the number was a
raven, the meanest of birds, which Paup-Puk-Keewiss killed and hung up
by the neck to insult him. He then went on till he came to a very high
point of rocks running out into the lake, from the top of which he
could see the country back as far as the eye could reach. While sitting
there, Manabozho's mountain chickens flew round and past him in great
numbers. So, out of spite, he shot them in great numbers, for his
arrows were sure and the birds very plenty, and he amused himself by
throwing the birds down the rocky precipice. At length a wary bird
cried out, "Paup-Puk-Keewiss is killing us. Go and tell our father."
Away flew a delegation of them, and Manabozho soon made his appearance
on the plain below. Paup-Puk-Keewiss made his escape on the opposite
side. Manabozho cried out from the mountain--
"The earth is not so large but I can get up to you." Off
Paup-Puk-Keewiss ran, and Manabozho after him. He ran over hills and
prairies with all his speed, but still saw his pursuer hard after him.
He thought of this expedient. He stopped and climbed a large pine-tree,
stripped it of all its green foliage, and threw it to the winds, and
then went on. When Manabozho reached the spot, the tree addressed him.
"Great chief," said the tree, "will you give me my life again?
Paup-Puk-Keewiss has killed me."
"Yes," replied Manabozho; and it took him some time to gather the
scattered foliage, and then renewed the pursuit. Paup-Puk-Keewiss
repeated the same thing with the hemlock, and with various other trees,
for Manabozho would always stop to restore what he had destroyed. By
this means he got in advance; but Manabozho persevered, and was fast
overtaking him, when Paup-Puk-Keewiss happened to see an elk. He asked
him to take him on his back, which the elk did, and for some time he
made great progress, but still Manabozho was in sight. Paup-Puk-Keewiss
dismounted, and, coming to a large sandstone rock, he broke it in
pieces and scattered the grains. Manabozho was so close upon him at
this place that he had almost caught him; but the foundation of the
rock cried out,
"Haye! Ne-me-sho, Paup-Puk-Keewiss has spoiled me. Will you not restore
me to life?"
"Yes," replied Manabozho; and he restored the rock to its previous
shape. He then pushed on in the pursuit of Paup-Puk-Keewiss, and had
got so near as to put out his arm to seize him; but Paup-Puk-Keewiss
dodged him, and immediately raised such a dust and commotion by
whirlwinds as made the trees break, and the sand and leaves dance in
the air. Again and again Manabozho's hand was put out to catch him; but
he dodged him at every turn, and kept up such a tumult of dust, that in
the thickest of it, he dashed into a hollow tree which had been blown
down, and changed himself into a snake, and crept out at the roots.
Well that he did; for at the moment he had got out, Manabozho, who is
Ogee-bau-ge-mon, struck it with his power, and it was in fragments.
Paup-Puk-Keewiss was again in human shape; again Manabozho pressed him
hard. At a distance he saw a very high bluff of rock jutting out into
the lake, and ran for the foot of the precipice, which was abrupt and
elevated. As he came near, the local manito of the rock opened his door
and told him to come in. The door was no sooner closed than Manabozho
"Open it!" he cried, with a loud voice.
The manito was afraid of him, but he said to his guest--
"Since I have sheltered you, I would sooner die with you than open the
"Open it!" Manabozho again cried.
The manito kept silent. Manabozho, however, made no attempt to open it
by force. He waited a few moments. "Very well," he said; "I give you
only till night to live." The manito trembled, for he knew he would be
shut up under the earth.
Night came. The clouds hung low and black, and every moment the forked
lightning would flash from them. The black clouds advanced slowly, and
threw their dark shadows afar, and behind there was heard the rumbling
noise of the coming thunder. As they came near to the precipice, the
thunders broke, the lightning flashed, the ground shook, and the solid
rocks split, tottered, and fell. And under their ruins where crushed
the mortal bodies of Paup-Puk-Keewiss and the manito.
It was only then that Paup-Puk-Keewiss found he was really dead. He had
been killed in different animal shapes; but now his body, in human
shape, was crushed. Manabozho came and took their Jee-bi-ug, or
"You," said he to Paup-Puk-Keewiss, "shall not be again permitted to
live on the earth. I will give you the shape of the war-eagle, and you
will be the chief of all fowls, and your duty shall be to watch over
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