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The Swing By The Lake






Source: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian

There was an old hag of a woman who lived with her daughter-in-law and
her husband, with their son and a little orphan boy. When her
son-in-law came home from hunting, it was his custom to bring his wife
the moose's lip, the kidney of the bear, or some other choice bits of
different animals. These the girl would cook crisp, so that the sound
of their cracking could be heard when she ate them. This kind
attention of the hunter to his wife aroused the envy of the old woman.
She wished to have the same luxuries, and, in order to obtain them,
she at last resolved to kill the young wife. One day she asked her to
leave her infant son to the care of the orphan boy, and come out and
swing with her. The wife consented, and the mother-in-law took her to
the shore of a lake, where there was a high ridge of rocks overhanging
the water. Upon the top of these rocks the old woman put up a swing,
and, having fastened a piece of leather round her body, she commenced
to swing herself, going over the precipice each time. She continued
this for a short while, and then, stopping, told her daughter-in-law
to take her place. She did so, and, having tied the leather round her,
began to swing backwards and forwards. When she was well going,
sweeping at each turn clear beyond the precipice, the old woman slyly
cut the cords, and let her drop into the lake. She then put on some of
the girl's clothing, entered the lodge in the dusk of the evening, and
went about the work in which her daughter-in-law had been usually
occupied at such a time. She found the child crying, and, since the
mother was not there to give it the breast, it cried on. Then the
orphan boy asked her where the mother was.

"She is still swinging," replied the old woman.

"I will go," said he, "and look for her."

"No," said the old woman, "you must not. What would you go for?"

In the evening, when the husband came in, he gave the coveted morsels
to what he supposed was his wife. He missed the old woman, but asked
nothing about her. Meanwhile the woman ate the morsels, and tried to
quiet the child. The husband, seeing that she kept her face away from
him, was astonished, and asked why the child cried so. His pretended
wife answered that she did not know.

In the meantime the orphan boy went to the shores of the lake, where
he found no one. Then he suspected the old woman, and, having returned
to the lodge, told the hunter, while she was out getting wood, all he
had heard and seen. The man, when he had heard the story, painted his
face black, and placed his spear upside down in the earth, and
requested the Great Spirit to send lightning, thunder, and rain, in
the hope that the body of his wife might arise from the water. He then
began to fast, and told the boy to take the child and play upon the
lake shore.

Meanwhile this is what had happened to the wife. After she had plunged
into the lake, she found herself in the hold of a water-tiger, who
drew her to the bottom. There she found a lodge, and all things in it
as if arranged for her reception, and she became the water-tiger's
wife.

Whilst the orphan boy and the child were playing on the shore of the
lake one day, the boy began to throw pebbles into the water, when
suddenly a gull arose from the centre of the lake, and flew towards
the land. When it had arrived there, it took human shape, and the boy
recognised that it was the lost mother. She had a leather belt around
her, and another belt of white metal. She suckled the baby, and,
preparing to return to the water, said to the boy--

"Come here with the child whenever it cries, and I will nurse it."

The boy carried the child home, and told the father what had occurred.
When the child cried again, the man went with the boy to the shore,
and hid himself behind a clump of trees. Soon the gull made its
appearance, with a long shining chain attached to it. The bird came to
the shore, assumed the mother's shape, and began to suckle the child.
The husband stood with his spear in his hand, wondering what he had
best do to regain his wife. When he saw her preparing to return to the
lake he rushed forward, struck the shining chain with his spear, and
broke it. Then he took his wife and child home. As he entered the
lodge the old woman looked up, and, when she saw the wife, she dropped
her head in despair. A rustling was heard in the place; the next
moment the old woman leaped up, flew out of the lodge, and was never
heard of more.





Next: The Fire Plume

Previous: Mukumik! Mukumik! Mukumik!



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