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The Stone Canoe






Source: Thirty Indian Legends

Once a beautiful Chippewa maiden died on the day she was to have
married a brave, young warrior. He was very brave, but this sorrow was
almost too great for him to bear. He sat down at the door of his lodge
and would not go hunting with the other Indians.

All that he could think of was the dead maiden, and he wished and
wished that he might go to the Land of Souls, where he knew she now
lived. But he did not know where this land was. All that the old
people could tell him was that it lay to the south. So, after
sorrowing for many days, he made up his mind to try to find it. He put
some food in a bag, gathered up his arrows and bow, and calling his dog
to him, started off. On he went for many days, and everything looked
the same as in the land he had left--forests, hills, and valleys, with
snow lying thick on the ground and matted in the trees. Then gradually
the snow began to vanish, and as he went on he saw trees with leaves
budding on them, and could hear the songs of birds. At the end of a
few more days, he had reached the southern land, where all is warm and
bright. There he saw a narrow path leading through a forest and up a
hill.

He followed this path, and at the top of the hill found a lodge. At
the door of the lodge stood an Indian, dressed in a robe of bearskins.
He was a very old man, but his eyes were bright and soft.

"Come in, my grandson," he said. "I have been expecting you. The
maiden whom you seek passed here a few days ago. You may follow her
and enter the Land of Souls, but you must leave your body behind with
me. My lodge is the gateway into that beautiful land, and you do not
need your body there, nor your arrows, nor your bow. Leave them with
me and I shall keep them safe for you. Look yonder! Do you see that
deep gorge and the beautiful plain beyond? That is the Land of Souls,
and the one you seek is already there."

Suddenly the young man felt himself grow very light, and his feet began
to run as though they were winged. Everything looked the same to him,
only more beautiful, and the little animals did not seem afraid. They
seemed to know that he would not kill them. As he went on swiftly
through the forest, he noticed that the trees did not stop him. He
seemed to pass right through them, and he saw then that they were only
images of trees.

At last he came to a beautiful lake, whose waters were clear and
sparkling. In the centre of this lake was an island, with green grass
and flowers and birds. Then, to his joy, he noticed a canoe tied to
the shore of the lake. It was made of shining, white stone and had
paddles that shone, also. He climbed in and pushed away from the
shore, and, to his surprise, he saw the maiden whom he loved, in a
canoe exactly like his, floating beside him. They kept close together
and began to cross the lake. Its waves seemed to be rising, and at a
distance looked ready to swallow them up. But when the huge waves drew
close, they passed by and left them unharmed, and the maiden and her
lover saw that they were only the shapes of waves. But another thing
frightened them. It was _the clearness of the water_, for as they
looked down, they could see the bodies of people who had been drowned.
And in the water all along, there were men and women of all ages
struggling and sinking in the waves. Only the canoes of the little
children floated on in safety.

At last their canoes reached the shore of the island, and jumping out,
they roamed joyfully over the soft grass. They felt that the very air
was food, and thought only of great things. For there was nothing that
was sad here in this land, no cold winds, no hunger--only brightness
and joy.

As the warrior, wandered by the maiden's side, he heard the voice of
the Master of Life speaking to him. "Go back," he said, "to the land
whence you came. Your work is not completed yet. Go back and be a
good man, and do all the work that I send to you. You must leave the
spirit whom you love, but she shall wait here for you, for she is
accepted, and shall always remain young and happy. When your work is
finished, I shall call you also from the land of hunger and tears, to
come to this beautiful Land of Souls."

So the young man said farewell to the maiden, and getting into the
canoe, he was carried across the lake. In a few minutes, he was at the
lodge of the old man. The Indian smiled when he saw him.

"Enter, my grandson," he said, "and you will find your body within."

The young man obeyed, and when he came forth he felt as when he had
first arrived. But his heart was brave now. The Indian smiled again
at him.

"I see how brave and strong you are," he said, "and my message to you
is: always remain cheerful and brighten every sad life that you see."

The young man promised to obey the message, and, with one long look at
the Land of Souls, he turned and began his journey towards his home.





Next: The White Feather

Previous: The Fairies Cliff



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