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The Star Family Or Celestial Sisters






Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

SHAWNEE.


Waupee, or the White Hawk, lived in a remote part of the forest, where
animals and birds were abundant. Every day he returned from the chase
with the reward of his toil, for he was one of the most skilful and
celebrated hunters of his tribe. With a tall, manly form, and the fire
of youth beaming from his eye, there was no forest too gloomy for him
to penetrate, and no track made by the numerous kinds of birds and
beasts which he could not follow.

One day he penetrated beyond any point which he had before visited. He
travelled through an open forest, which enabled him to see a great
distance. At length he beheld a light breaking through the foliage,
which made him sure that he was on the borders of a prairie. It was a
wide plain covered with grass and flowers. After walking some time
without a path, he suddenly came to a ring worn through the sod, as if
it had been made by footsteps following a circle. But what excited his
surprise was, that there was no path leading to or from it. Not the
least trace of footsteps could be found, even in a crushed leaf or
broken twig. He thought he would hide himself, and lie in wait to see
what this circle meant. Presently he heard the faint sounds of music in
the air. He looked up in the direction they came from, and saw a small
object descending from above. At first it looked like a mere speck, but
rapidly increased, and, as it came down, the music became plainer and
sweeter. It assumed the form of a basket, and was filled with twelve
sisters of the most lovely forms and enchanting beauty. As soon as the
basket touched the ground, they leaped out, and began to dance round
the magic ring, striking, as they did so, a shining ball as we strike
the drum. Waupee gazed upon their graceful forms and motions from his
place of concealment. He admired them all, but was most pleased with
the youngest. Unable longer to restrain his admiration, he rushed out
and endeavored to seize her. But the sisters, with the quickness of
birds, the moment they descried the form of a man, leaped back into the
basket and were drawn up into the sky.

Regretting his ill luck and indiscretion, he gazed till he saw them
disappear, and then said, "They are gone, and I shall see them no
more." He returned to his solitary lodge, but found no relief to his
mind. Next day he went back to the prairie, and took his station near
the ring; but in order to deceive the sisters, he assumed the form of
an opossum. He had not waited long, when he saw the wicker car descend,
and heard the same sweet music. They commenced the same sportive dance,
and seemed even more beautiful and graceful than before. He crept
slowly towards the ring, but the instant the sisters saw him they were
startled, and sprang into their car. It rose but a short distance, when
one of the elder sisters spoke. "Perhaps," said she, "it is come to
show us how the game is played by mortals." "Oh no!" the youngest
replied; "quick, let us ascend." And all joining in a chant, they rose
out of sight.

Waupee returned to his own form again, and walked sorrowfully back to
his lodge. But the night seemed a very long one, and he went back
betimes the next day. He reflected upon the sort of plan to follow to
secure success. He found an old stump near by, in which there were a
number of mice. He thought their small form would not create alarm, and
accordingly assumed it. He brought the stump and sat it up near the
ring. The sisters came down and resumed their sport. "But see," cried
the younger sister, "that stump was not there before." She ran
affrighted towards the car. They only smiled, and gathering round the
stump, struck it in jest, when out ran the mice, and Waupee among the
rest. They killed them all but one, which was pursued by the youngest
sister; but just as she had raised her stick to kill it, the form of
Waupee arose, and he clasped his prize in his arms. The other eleven
sprang to their basket and were drawn up to the skies.

He exerted all his skill to please his bride and win her affections. He
wiped the tears from her eyes. He related his adventures in the chase.
He dwelt upon the charms of life on the earth. He was incessant in his
attentions, and picked out the way for her to walk as he led her gently
towards his lodge. He felt his heart glow with joy as she entered it,
and from that moment he was one of the happiest of men. Winter and
summer passed rapidly away, and their happiness was increased by the
addition of a beautiful boy to their lodge. She was a daughter of one
the stars, and as the scenes of earth began to pall her sight, she
sighed to revisit her father. But she was obliged to hide these
feelings from her husband. She remembered the charm that would carry
her up, and took occasion, while Waupee was engaged in the chase, to
construct a wicker basket, which she kept concealed. In the mean time
she collected such rarities from the earth as she thought would please
her father, as well as the most dainty kinds of food. When all was in
readiness, she went out one day, while Waupee was absent, to the
charmed ring, taking her little son with her. As soon as they got into
the car, she commenced her song and the basket rose. As the song was
wafted by the wind, it caught her husband's ear. It was a voice which
he well knew, and he instantly ran to the prairie. But he could not
reach the ring before he saw his wife and child ascend. He lifted up
his voice in loud appeals, but they were unavailing. The basket still
went up. He watched it till it became a small speck, and finally it
vanished in the sky. He then bent his head down to the ground, and was
miserable.

Waupee bewailed his loss through a long winter and a long summer. But
he found no relief. He mourned his wife's loss sorely, but his son's
still more. In the mean time his wife had reached her home in the
stars, and almost forgot, in the blissful employments there, that she
had left a husband on the earth. She was reminded of this by the
presence of her son, who, as he grew up, became anxious to visit the
scene of his birth. His grandfather said to his daughter one day, "Go,
my child, and take your son down to his father, and ask him to come up
and live with us. But tell him to bring along a specimen of each kind
of bird and animal he kills in the chase." She accordingly took the boy
and descended. Waupee, who was ever near the enchanted spot, heard her
voice as she came down the sky. His heart beat with impatience as he
saw her form and that of his son, and they were soon clasped in his
arms.

He heard the message of the Star, and began to hunt with the greatest
activity, that he might collect the present. He spent whole nights, as
well as days, in searching for every curious and beautiful bird or
animal. He only preserved a tail, foot, or wing of each, to identify
the species; and, when all was ready, they went to the circle and were
carried up.

Great joy was manifested on their arrival at the starry plains. The
Star Chief invited all his people to a feast, and, when they had
assembled, he proclaimed aloud, that each one might take of the earthly
gifts such as he liked best. A very strange confusion immediately
arose. Some chose a foot, some a wing, some a tail, and some a claw.
Those who selected tails or claws were changed into animals, and ran
off; the others assumed the form of birds, and flew away. Waupee chose
a white hawk's feather. His wife and son followed his example, when
each one became a white hawk. Pleased with his transformation, and new
vitality, the chief spread out gracefully his white wings, and followed
by his wife and son, descended to the earth, where the species are
still to be found.





Next: Ojeeg Annung Or The Summer-maker

Previous: Shingebiss An Allegory Of Self-reliance



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