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Puck Wudj Ininees Or The Vanishing Little Men






Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

AN ODJIBWA MYTH OF FAIRIES.


There was a time when all the inhabitants of the earth had died,
excepting two helpless children, a baby boy and a little girl. When
their parents died, these children were asleep. The little girl, who
was the elder, was the first to wake. She looked around her, but seeing
nobody besides her little brother, who lay asleep, she quietly resumed
her bed. At the end of ten days her brother moved without opening his
eyes. At the end of ten days more he changed his position, lying on the
other side.

The girl soon grew up to woman's estate, but the boy increased in
stature very slowly. It was a long time before he could even creep. When
he was able to walk, his sister made him a little bow and arrows, and
suspended around his neck a small shell, saying, you shall be called
Wa-Dais-Ais-Imid, or He of the Little Shell. Every day he would go out
with his little bow, shooting at the small birds. The first bird he
killed was a tomtit. His sister was highly pleased when he took it to
her. She carefully skinned and stuffed it, and put it away for him. The
next day he killed a red squirrel. His sister preserved this too. The
third day he killed a partridge (Peena), which she stuffed and set up.
After this, he acquired more courage, and would venture some distance
from home. His skill and success as a hunter daily increased, and he
killed the deer, bear, moose, and other large animals inhabiting the
forest. In fine he became a great hunter.

He had now arrived to maturity of years, but remained a perfect infant
in stature. One day, walking about, he came to a small lake. It was in
the winter season. He saw a man on the ice killing beavers. He appeared
to be a giant. Comparing himself to this great man he appeared no
bigger than an insect. He seated himself on the shore, and watched his
movements. When the large man had killed many beavers, he put them on a
hand sled which he had, and pursued his way home. When he saw him
retire, he followed him, and wielding his magic shell, cut off the tail
of one of the beavers, and ran home with his trophy. When the tall
stranger reached his lodge, with his sled load of beavers, he was
surprised to find the tail of one of them gone, for he had not observed
the movements of the little hero of the shell.

The next day Wa-Dis-Ais-Imid, went to the same lake. The man had
already fixed his load of beavers on his odaw'bon, or sled, and
commenced his return. But he nimbly ran forward, and overtaking him,
succeeded, by the same means, in securing another of the beaver's
tails. When the man saw that he had lost another of this most esteemed
part of the animal, he was very angry. I wonder, said he, what dog it
is, that has thus cheated me. Could I meet him, I would make his flesh
quiver at the point of my lance. Next day he pursued his hunting at the
beaver dam near the lake, and was followed again by the little man of
the shell. On this occasion the hunter had used so much expedition,
that he had accomplished his object, and nearly reached his home,
before our tiny hero could overtake him. He nimbly drew his shell and
cut off another beaver's tail. In all these pranks, he availed himself
of his power of invisibility, and thus escaped observation. When the
man saw that the trick had been so often repeated, his anger was
greater than ever. He gave vent to his feelings in words. He looked
carefully around to see whether he could discover any tracks. But he
could find none. His unknown visitor had stepped so lightly as to leave
no track.

Next day he resolved to disappoint him by going to his beaver pond very
early. When Wa-Dais-Ais-Imid reached the place, he found the fresh
traces of his work, but he had already returned. He followed his tracks,
but failed to overtake him. When he came in sight of the lodge the
stranger was in front of it, employed in skinning his beavers. As he
stood looking at him, he thought, I will let him see me. Presently the
man, who proved to be no less a personage than Manabozho, looked up and
saw him. After regarding him with attention, "Who are you, little man,"
said Manabozho. "I have a mind to kill you." The little hero of the
shell replied, "If you were to try to kill me you could not do it."

When he returned home he told his sister that they must separate. "I
must go away," said he, "it is my fate. You too," he added, "must go
away soon. Tell me where you would wish to dwell." She said, "I would
like to go to the place of the breaking of daylight. I have always
loved the east. The earliest glimpses of light are from that quarter,
and it is, to my mind, the most beautiful part of the heavens. After I
get there, my brother, whenever you see the clouds in that direction of
various colors, you may think that your sister is painting her face."

"And I," said he, "my sister, shall live on the mountains and rocks.
There I can see you at the earliest hour, and there the streams of water
are clear, and the air pure. And I shall ever be called Puck Wudj
Ininee, or the little wild man of the mountains."

"But," he resumed, "before we part forever, I must go and try to find
some Manitoes." He left her, and travelled over the surface of the
globe, and then went far down into the earth. He had been treated well
wherever he went. At last he found a giant Manito, who had a large
kettle which was forever boiling. The giant regarded him with a stern
look, and then took him up in his hand, and threw him unceremoniously
into the kettle. But by the protection of his personal spirit, he was
shielded from harm, and with much ado got out of it and escaped. He
returned to his sister, and related his rovings and misadventures. He
finished his story by addressing her thus: "My sister, there is a
Manito, at each of the four corners of the earth.[45] There is also one
above them, far in the sky; and last," continued he, "there is another,
and wicked one, who lives deep down in the earth. We must now separate.
When the winds blow from the four corners of the earth you must then
go. They will carry you to the place you wish. I go to the rocks and
mountains, where my kindred will ever delight to dwell." He then took
his ball stick, and commenced running up a high mountain, whooping as
he went. Presently the winds blew, and, as he predicted, his sister was
borne by them to the eastern sky, where she has ever since been, and
her name is the Morning Star.

Blow, winds, blow! my sister lingers
For her dwelling in the sky,
Where the morn, with rosy fingers,
Shall her cheeks with vermil dye.

There, my earliest views directed,
Shall from her their color take,
And her smiles, through clouds reflected,
Guide me on, by wood or lake.

While I range the highest mountains,
Sport in valleys green and low,
Or beside our Indian fountains
Raise my tiny hip holla.

[45] The opinion that the earth is a square and level plain, and
that the winds blow from its four corners, is a very ancient
eastern opinion.





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