The Ten Princes
Category: TSIMSHIAN TALES
Source: Indian Legends Retold
The ten sons of a chief went hunting, and all took their wives with
them except the youngest brother, who was unmarried. They all camped
together at night, and in the morning the eldest prince went out in
search of game.
The first thing he saw was a fat porcupine coming toward him, which he
easily caught. He wrung its neck, and hung it on the branch of a
tree, and went on.
Near the top of a hill, he met a handsome white she-bear and shot her
dead. He kept on to the very top, and looking down, perceived a
strange town at the foot, which made him very curious. He walked up
boldly to the first hut, in which a pretty young woman sat alone. She
beckoned to him through the window, but he had scarcely entered when
some one called out from the next dwelling:
"You have a visitor. Send him here: the chief wishes to see him."
At the chief's door, several young men met the stranger with much
kindness and greatly admired his weapons, which they begged to be
allowed to examine. As soon as he went in, the chief greeted him with
all hospitality. He ordered that the softest robes be brought for his
seat and caused him to be served with the choicest food. While he ate,
his weapons were returned to him and laid at his side. When night
came, the chief said, "Bring the best blanket for our guest; he will
remain with us to-night"; and it was done.
In the morning a cry arose, "The bears are coming!"
"Let my best hunters go out against them," ordered the chief. Now the
young prince was an expert hunter and had a mind to display his skill,
so he hastened to attack the foremost bear. He drew out his best
arrow, but to his astonishment the arrow broke. Hurriedly he seized
his spear, and the spear broke. In a moment the grizzly bear was upon
him and bore him to the ground.
As soon as he was dead, the young men dragged his body into the
chief's hut, where the chief caused it to be cut in pieces and hung
up to dry.
Now when this young man did not come back to camp on that day or the
next, his wife grew anxious, and the next in age offered to go in
search of him. He set out in the same direction, and half-way up the
hill he met a fat porcupine, which he clubbed and hung in a tree as
his brother had done. A little further on, he saw a white she-bear and
killed her, after which he went toward the village which he observed
in the distance.
The pretty young woman invited him to come in, and the young men
welcomed him cordially and took away his weapons, which they returned
to him as he sat feasting in the house of the chief. In short,
everything happened to him exactly as it had happened to his brother;
and in the morning, when his arrows broke off short, he was at the
mercy of the bear, and his body was cut up and hung beside that of the
Next day, the third youth went to look for the other two, and so on,
until all were gone except the youngest. The nine widows mourned
continually, and they begged the last brother not to follow the
others, for if he should, they felt sure that he too would be lost and
they would all be left without a protector. However, he insisted upon
going, assuring them that not only would he come back safe and sound,
but would bring back their husbands also.
He took the same path up the hill, and when he saw the fat porcupine
coming to meet him, it occurred to him that he had better let her pass
unharmed, and he did so. A little later, he met the white she-bear and
shot her; but when he came to her he could not help laying his hand
gently on her side and exclaiming aloud, "How beautiful she is!"
Instantly the bear became a handsome young woman, who smiled upon him,
and warned him of the dangers that he would meet in the Bears' town at
the foot of the hill.
"These people are really Bears," said she, "and I am one of them sent
to deceive you. But you have no wife, and I like you very much. Do not
let the young men take your weapons even for a minute, or they will
change them to dry sticks as they did those of your nine brothers, who
killed me without remorse."
Finally she gave him two small pups and told him to hide them in his
robe, and if ever he was in trouble to set them one by one on the
ground, saying, "Red, grow up quick and help me!" "Spot, grow up quick
and help me!" and it should be so. Then she kissed and embraced him,
and he went on down the hill to the village.
In the first hut he came to he found his sweetheart again, and she
greeted him lovingly. When the chief sent for him, she delayed parting
with him as long as she could, but was at last forced to let him go,
with many charges as to the best way to outwit her kinsmen.
Accordingly he kept fast hold of his weapons, when the young men
crowded admiringly about him, and even lay awake all night lest they
should take them from him while he slept.
In the morning, when the Bears came on as before, and the chief called
for men to go out and meet them, the young prince drew his bow and
shot the foremost through the heart. More followed, and he killed them
one after another until his arrows were all gone. Then he fought with
his spear until he was tired out, and still the Bears came on.
Finally he remembered the pups that his sweetheart had given him, and
he placed the first one on the ground, saying, "Grow up quick, Red,
and help me!"
Instantly the pup became an immense dog which rushed at the Bears and
drove them back.
Then he put down the second pup, saying, "Grow up quick, Spot, and
help me!" and another savage dog attacked and put to rout the last of
Then the young man returned to the Bear chief's wigwam for his nine
brothers. He took down the pieces of their bodies and laid them side
by side, and they all came to life and followed the hero and his Bear
wife back to their own camp, where they were welcomed with great
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