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The Enchanted Moccasins






Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

ODJIBWA.


There once lived a little boy, all alone with his sister, in a very
wild uninhabitable country. They saw nothing but beasts, and birds, the
sky above them, and the earth beneath them. But there were no human
beings besides themselves. The boy often retired to think, in lone
places, and the opinion was formed that he had supernatural powers. It
was supposed that he would perform some extraordinary exploits, and he
was called Onwe Bahmondoong, or he that carries a ball on his back. As
he grew up he was impatient to know whether there were other beings
near them: she replied, that there was, but they lived in a remote
distance. There was a large village of hunters and warriors. Being now
well grown, he determined to seek his fortune, and asked her to make
him several pairs of moccasins to last him on the journey. With this
request she complied. Then taking his bow and arrows, and his war-club,
and a little sack containing his nawappo, or travelling victuals, he
immediately set out on his journey. He travelled on, not knowing
exactly where he went. Hills, plains, trees, rocks, forests, meadows,
spread before him. Sometimes he killed an animal, sometimes a bird. The
deer often started in his path. He saw the fox, the bear, and the
ground-hog. The eagles screamed above him. The ducks chattered in the
ponds and lakes. He lay down and slept when he was tired, he rose up
when he was refreshed. At last he came to a small wigwam, and, on
looking into it, discovered a very old woman sitting alone by the fire.
As soon as she saw the stranger, she invited him in, and thus addressed
him: "My poor grandchild, I suppose you are one of those who seek for
the distant village, from which no person has ever yet returned. Unless
your guardian is more powerful than the guardian of your predecessors,
you too will share a similar fate of theirs. Be careful to provide
yourself with the Ozhebahguhnun--the bones they use in the medicine
dance[104]--without which you cannot succeed." After she had thus
spoken, she gave him the following directions for his journey. "When
you come near to the village which you seek, you will see in the centre
a large lodge, in which the chief of the village, who has two
daughters, resides. Before the door you will see a great tree, which is
smooth and destitute of bark. On this tree, about the height of a man
from the ground, a small lodge is suspended, in which these two
daughters dwell. It is here so many have been destroyed. Be wise, my
grandchild, and abide strictly by my directions." The old woman then
gave him the Ozhebahguhnun, which would cause his success. Placing them
in his bosom, he continued his journey, till at length he arrived at
the sought-for village; and, as he was gazing around him, he saw both
the tree and the lodge which the old woman had mentioned. Immediately
he bent his steps for the tree, and approaching, he endeavored to reach
the suspended lodge. But all his efforts were vain; for as often as he
attempted to reach it, the tree began to tremble, and soon shot up so
that the lodge could hardly be perceived. Foiled as he was in all his
attempts, he thought of his guardian and changed himself into a small
squirrel, that he might more easily accomplish his design. He then
mounted the tree in quest of the lodge. After climbing for some time,
he became fatigued, and panted for breath; but, remembering the
instructions which the old woman had given him, he took from his bosom
one of the bones, and thrust it into the trunk of the tree, on which he
sat. In this way he quickly found relief; and, as often as he became
fatigued, he repeated this; but whenever he came near the lodge and
attempted to touch it, the tree would shoot up as before, and place the
lodge beyond his reach. At length, the bones being exhausted, he began
to despair, for the earth had long since vanished from his sight.
Summoning all resolution, he determined to make another effort to reach
the object of his wishes. On he went; yet, as soon as he came near the
lodge and attempted to touch it, the tree again shook, but it had
reached the arch of heaven, and could go no higher; so now he entered
the lodge, and beheld the two sisters sitting opposite each other. He
asked their names. The one on his left hand called herself
Azhabee,[105] and the one on the right Negahnahbee.[106] Whenever he
addressed the one on his left hand, the tree would tremble as before,
and settle down to its former position. But when he addressed the one
on his right hand, it would again shoot upward as before. When he thus
discovered that, by addressing the one on his left hand, the tree would
descend, he continued to do so until it had resumed its former
position; then seizing his war-club, he thus addressed the sisters:
"You, who have caused the death of so many of my brothers, I will now
put an end to, and thus have revenge for the numbers you have
destroyed." As he said this he raised the club and laid them dead at
his feet. He then descended, and learning that these sisters had a
brother living with their father, who would pursue him for the deed he
had done, he set off at random, not knowing whither he went. Soon
after, the father and mother of the young women visited their residence
and found their remains. They immediately told their son Mudjikewis
that his sisters had been slain. He replied, "The person who has done
this must be the Boy that carries the Ball on his Back. I will pursue
him, and have revenge for the blood of my sisters." "It is well, my
son," replied the father. "The spirit of your life grant you success. I
counsel you to be wary in the pursuit. It is a strong spirit who has
done this injury to us, and he will try to deceive you in every way.
Above all, avoid tasting food till you succeed; for if you break your
fast before you see his blood, your power will be destroyed." So
saying, they parted.

His son instantly set out in search of the murderer, who, finding he
was closely pursued by the brother of the slain, climbed up into one of
the tallest trees and shot forth his magic arrows. Finding that his
pursuer was not turned back by his arrows, he renewed his flight; and
when he found himself hard pressed, and his enemy close behind him, he
transformed himself into the skeleton of a moose that had been killed,
whose flesh had come off from his bones. He then remembered the
moccasins which his sister had given him, which were enchanted. Taking
a pair of them, he placed them near the skeleton. "Go," said he to
them, "to the end of the earth."

The moccasins then left him and their tracks remained. Mudjikewis at
length came to the skeleton of the moose, when he perceived that the
track he had long been pursuing did not end there, so he continued to
follow it up, till he came to the end of the earth, where he found only
a pair of moccasins. Mortified that he had been outwitted by following
a pair of moccasins instead of the object of his revenge, he bitterly
complained, resolving not to give up the pursuit, and to be more wary
and wise in scrutinizing signs. He then called to mind the skeleton he
met on his way, and concluded that it must be the object of his
search. He retraced his steps towards the skeleton, but found, to his
surprise, that it had disappeared, and that the tracks of Onwe
Bahmondoong, or he who carries the Ball, were in another direction.
He now became faint with hunger, and resolved to give up the pursuit;
but when he remembered the blood of his sisters, he determined again to
pursue.

The other, finding he was closely pursued, now changed himself into a
very old man, with two daughters, who lived in a large lodge in the
centre of a beautiful garden, which was filled with everything that
could delight the eye or was pleasant to the taste. He made himself
appear so very old as to be unable to leave his lodge, and had his
daughters to bring him food and wait on him. The garden also had the
appearance of ancient occupancy, and was highly cultivated.

His pursuer continued on till he was nearly starved and ready to sink.
He exclaimed, "Oh! I will forget the blood of my sisters, for I am
starving;" but again he thought of the blood of his sisters, and again
he resolved to pursue, and be satisfied with nothing but the attainment
of his right to revenge.

He went on till he came to the beautiful garden. He approached the
lodge. As soon as the daughters of the owner perceived him, they ran
and told their father that a stranger approached the lodge. Their
father replied, "Invite him in, my children, invite him in." They
quickly did so; and by the command of their father, they boiled some
corn and prepared other savory food. Mudjikewis had no suspicion of the
deception. He was faint and weary with travel, and felt that he could
endure fasting no longer. Without hesitancy, he partook heartily of the
meal, and in so doing was overcome. All at once he seemed to forget the
blood of his sisters, and even the village of his nativity. He ate so
heartily as to produce drowsiness, and soon fell into a profound sleep.
Onwe Bahmondoong watched his opportunity, and, as soon as he found his
slumbers sound, resumed his youthful form. He then drew the magic ball
from his back, which turned out to be a heavy war-club, with one blow
of which he put an end to his pursuer, and thus vindicated his title as
the Wearer of the Ball.





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