The Girl Who Rejected Her Cousin
Category: TSIMSHIAN TALES
Source: Indian Legends Retold
In the old days, a chief's daughter was expected to marry the son of
her uncle, and so keep the chieftainship in the family. But there was
once a proud princess who behaved very badly to her cousin when he
came wooing, according to the custom.
"I must be sure that you love me," she said.
"I do love you," he declared.
Upon which she answered, "Then prove your love by making a cut down
your right cheek."
The young man immediately took out his knife and slashed his right
cheek so that the blood streamed over his face.
When the cut had healed, he went again to his cousin and asked for her
hand with some confidence, but she said:
"First you must cut your left cheek also, and then I shall know that
you really love me."
The young man did not like to do it, but he would not give up, and he
slashed his left cheek also.
He waited for the second cut to heal and then went to her with his
scarred face and begged her to marry him at once.
"Yes," said she, "I will marry you, for you have done well," and she
kissed him, so that he became more in love than ever. Finally she told
him sweetly that she was not yet entirely satisfied, and that before
the wedding he must cut off all his hair.
Now short hair is considered a disgrace to a man, and the prince was
most unwilling to cut his off, but at last he yielded and went to her
to ask that the wedding day might be set. But she refused to see him,
merely sending a servant with the message that he must be quite mad
to suppose that she would marry such a hideous object as he had made
The poor young man was very unhappy, and he left his home and wandered
away until he came to a small hut that stood all by itself under a
An old woman opened the door and kindly asked him to come in--"that
is," said she, "if you are the chief's son who was rejected by his
"I am he," declared the youth.
"What can I do for you?" asked the old woman.
He answered that he wanted nothing more than to be as he had been,
before he disfigured himself at the bidding of the cruel young woman.
Accordingly the crone prepared a bath for him, and when he came out
his skin was smooth and fine, without any mark upon it. She combed
his hair with a comb of ivory, and it became long and splendid and
fell over his shoulders like a mantle, so that he was far handsomer
When he went back to the village, all the people admired him as a
being from another world, and his cousin put on her best robes and
walked to and fro, trying to attract his attention, but he did not
even glance at her. Finally she sent her servant with a message,
asking him to come and see her.
When he did not appear, she sent a second time, and inquired very
humbly what she could do to please him. He told the messenger to say
that if she would slash her right cheek with a knife, he would come.
So the princess cut open her right cheek, and when the cut had healed
she sent to her cousin again. This time he made answer that she must
first cut her left cheek also, and she did as he ordered.
When her messenger came to the prince a fourth time, he directed that
her mistress cut off all her beautiful hair, declaring that he would
then be entirely satisfied. Crying bitterly, the poor girl cut it off
and sent it to her lover, but he threw it on the ground with contempt,
saying that nothing would induce him to look upon the face of a woman
who had so disfigured herself.
The wise men say that since this happened, women have not been allowed
to choose their husbands, or to refuse the men who have been selected
for them to marry.
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