The Journey To The Island Of Souls
Source: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian
Once upon a time there lived in the nation of the Chippeways a most
beautiful maiden, the flower of the wilderness, the delight and wonder
of all who saw her. She was called the Rock-rose, and was beloved by a
youthful hunter, whose advances gained her affection. No one was like
the brave Outalissa in her eyes: his deeds were the greatest, his
skill was the most wonderful. It was not permitted them, however, to
become the inhabitants of one lodge. Death came to the flower of the
Chippeways. In the morning of her days she died, and her body was laid
in the dust with the customary rites of burial. All mourned for her,
but Outalissa was a changed man. No more did he find delight in the
chase or on the war-path. He grew sad, shunned the society of his
brethren. He stood motionless as a tree in the hour of calm, as the
wave that is frozen up by the breath of the cold wind.
Joy came no more to him. He told his discontent in the ears of his
people, and spoke of his determination to seek his beloved maiden. She
had but removed, he said, as the birds fly away at the approach of
winter, and it required but due diligence on his part to find her.
Having prepared himself, as a hunter makes ready for a long journey,
he armed himself with his war-spear and bow and arrow, and set out to
the Land of Souls.
Directed by the old tradition of his fathers, he travelled south to
reach that region, leaving behind him the great star. As he moved
onwards, he found a more pleasant region succeeding to that in which
he had lived. Daily, hourly, he remarked the change. The ice grew
thinner, the air warmer, the trees taller. Birds, such as he had never
seen before, sang in the bushes, and fowl of many kinds were pluming
themselves in the warm sun on the shores of the lake. The gay
woodpecker was tapping the hollow beech, the swallow and the martin
were skimming along the level of the green vales. He heard no more the
cracking of branches beneath the weight of icicles and snow, he saw no
more the spirits of departed men dancing wild dances on the skirts of
the northern clouds, and the farther he travelled the milder grew the
skies, the longer was the period of the sun's stay upon the earth, and
the softer, though less brilliant, the light of the moon.
Noting these changes as he went with a joyful heart, for they were
indications of his near approach to the land of joy and delight, he
came at length to a cabin situated on the brow of a steep hill in the
middle of a narrow road. At the door of this cabin stood a man of a
most ancient and venerable appearance. He was bent nearly double with
age. His locks were white as snow. His eyes were sunk very far into
his head, and the flesh was wasted from his bones, till they were like
trees from which the bark has been peeled. He was clothed in a robe of
white goat's skin, and a long staff supported his tottering limbs
whithersoever he walked.
The Chippeway began to tell him who he was, and why he had come
thither, but the aged man stopped him, telling him he knew upon what
errand he was bent.
"A short while before," said he, "there passed the soul of a tender
and lovely maiden, well-known to the son of the Red Elk, on her way to
the beautiful island. She was fatigued with her long journey, and
rested a while in this cabin. She told me the story of your love, and
was persuaded that you would attempt to follow her to the Lake of
The old man, further, told Outalissa that if he made speed he might
hope to overtake the maiden on the way. Before, however, he resumed
his journey he must leave behind him his body, his spear, bow, and
arrows, which the old man promised to keep for him should he return.
The Chippeway left his body and arms behind him, and under the
direction of the old man entered upon the road to the Blissful Island.
He had travelled but a couple of bowshots when it met his view, even
more beautiful than his fathers had painted it.
He stood upon the brow of a hill which sloped gently down to the water
of a lake which stretched as far as eye could see. Upon its banks
were groves of beautiful trees of all kinds, and many canoes were to
be seen gliding over its water. Afar, in the centre of the lake, lay
the beautiful island appointed for the residence of the good. He
walked down to the shore and entered a canoe which stood ready for
him, made of a shining white stone. Seizing the paddle, he pushed off
from the shore and commenced to make his way to the island. As he did
so, he came to a canoe like his own, in which he found her whom he was
in pursuit of. She recognised him, and the two canoes glided side by
side over the water. Then Outalissa knew that he was on the Water of
Judgment, the great water over which every soul must pass to reach the
beautiful island, or in which it must sink to meet the punishment of
the wicked. The two lovers glided on in fear, for the water seemed at
times ready to swallow them, and around them they could see many
canoes, which held those whose lives had been wicked, going down. The
Master of Life had, however, decreed that they should pass in safety,
and they reached the shores of the beautiful island, on which they
landed full of joy.
It is impossible to tell the delights with which they found it filled.
Mild and soft winds, clear and sweet waters, cool and refreshing
shades, perpetual verdure, inexhaustible fertility, met them on all
sides. Gladly would the son of the Red Elk have remained for ever with
his beloved in the happy island, but the words of the Master of Life
came to him in the pauses of the breeze, saying--
"Go back to thy own land, hunter. Your time has not yet come. You
have not yet performed the work I have for you to do, nor can you yet
enjoy those pleasures which belong to them who have performed their
allotted task on earth. Go back, then. In time thou shalt rejoin her,
the love of whom has brought thee hither."
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