The White Feather
Source: Thirty Indian Legends
An old man and his grandson once lived together on an island. The
little boy had no father, nor mother, nor brothers, nor sisters. They
had all been killed by six giants, who lived many miles away. The
little boy had never seen any person but his grandfather. They lived
very happily together. The old man loved the boy and was kind to him.
As the little fellow grew tall and strong, the old man taught him how
to hunt, so that by the time he was a young man he was a good hunter.
One day when he was walking in the woods, he heard a voice calling to
him. He turned in surprise, for he had never heard any one but his
grandfather speak. He could see no one, but again he heard the voice.
It was saying, "You will some day be the wearer of the White Feather."
He looked all around him, and then noticed something that he had taken
for a withered tree. It was a man who was made of wood from his breast
down to his feet. He seemed to be very old, and was fastened to the
ground. When he saw the young man was looking at him, he said, "Come
here, I wish to tell you something. There was an old belief in your
tribe that some day a boy would grow up to be a very great warrior. He
was to wear a white feather as a sign of his bravery and great skill.
You are that boy. When you go home, you will find there a white
feather, a pipe, and a tobacco-pouch. Put the white feather in your
hair. Then smoke the pipe, and you will find that the smoke will turn
into pigeons. This is another sign that you will be wise and good."
The old man ceased speaking, and the young grandson returned home to
his lodge. He found the feather and the pipe both lying there. He did
as the old man told him, and when he smoked, blue and white pigeons
flew away from his pipe. His grandfather saw the pigeons fly out of
the lodge door, and he felt very sad. For he knew that his little
grandson was a young man now, and would soon be leaving him. Then he
went in, and they talked together for a long time. He told the young
man all about the six giants who had killed his brothers and sisters,
and White Feather said, "I shall go at once in search of them and kill
them, because they were so cruel to all our tribe."
"No, do not go yet," said the old grandfather. "Wait awhile until you
grow a little more and are stronger."
The young man promised to wait for a few months.
One day he was again hunting in the woods, when he passed near the
wooden man. He heard him speak and say:
"White Feather, listen to me. In a few days you must go in search of
the giants. They live in a high lodge in the centre of this wood.
When you reach there, you must ask them to race with you, one at a
time. Take this vine," handing him at the same time a thin, green
vine. "It is enchanted, so they will not be able to see it. When you
are running, throw it over their heads and they will trip and fall."
White Feather thanked the old man, and took it home and showed it to
A few days later he set out in search of the giants. He had not
journeyed far when he saw their lodge. When they saw him coming, they
called out, "Oh, here comes White Feather. Here is the little man who
is going to do such brave deeds." But when he came closer to them,
they pretended they liked him, and told him how brave he was. They did
that to make him think they were friends, but he did not believe them,
as he knew they were his enemies. He asked them if they would race
him, and they said, "Yes."
"Begin with the smallest of us," said the biggest giant. So they
began. They had to run to a peel-tree and back again to the
starting-point. This point was marked by an iron club, and whoever won
the race was to take up the club and kill the other one with it. When
they had nearly reached the peel-tree, White Feather threw the vine
over the youngest giant's head. He tripped and fell. Then White
Feather ran up and seized the club and killed the giant. The next day
he raced the second youngest, and killed him in the same manner. Each
day he did this, until only the biggest giant was left. Now this giant
was the most dangerous of them all. He knew that, if he ran, White
Feather would kill him, too, so he made up his mind that he would not
race. White Feather said he was going home to see his grandfather
before he ran this last race. As he was passing through the woods, the
wooden man called to him.
"Listen to me," he said. "That tall giant is going to play a trick on
you. When you are on your way back to his lodge, you will meet a most
beautiful maiden. Do not listen to her, but change yourself into an
elk. Remember this and obey me." The young man promised to remember.
He spent the day with his grandfather, then made his way back to the
giant's lodge. He had nearly reached it, when he saw the beautiful
maiden coming towards him. She called to him, but he did not listen.
He changed himself into an elk, and began eating the grass. Then she
told him how mean he was to change himself into an elk, just because
she was coming. He felt very sorry that she should think he was rude,
and he wished he were a man again. At once he became himself, and
began to talk to the maiden. Now she was really the big giant, who had
changed himself into this form. After a while White Feather grew tired
and lay down on the grass to sleep. When he was sound asleep, the
maiden drew forth an axe and broke his back. She then changed him into
a dog and herself back into the giant, who made the dog follow at his
On the way to the giant's lodge, there was an Indian village where two
sisters lived. They had heard of White Feather, and both wished that
he would choose her for his wife. They looked out and saw the giant
coming with the white feather in his hair, for he had taken the feather
and put it in his own hair. They thought he was the brave warrior of
whom they had heard so much. The elder sister had made her lodge look
very gaudy, and had dressed herself in all her beads and quills. The
younger sister had left her tent just as it was, and was dressed
neatly. When the giant came along, he chose the elder sister. She
would have nothing to do with the dog, but the younger sister felt
sorry for it and let it come and live in her lodge.
The giant used to go hunting each day, but he never succeeded in
killing very many animals. The dog used to go out also, and he always
brought back a beaver, a bear, or some other animal for food. This
made the giant and his wife jealous. So they made up their minds that
they would tell the chief that his younger daughter was treating a dog
with too much kindness. When they had gone, the dog made signs to the
maiden for her to sweat him the way the Indians do. She made a lodge
for him just big enough to hold him. Then she heated some stones until
they were very hot. She put these stones in the lodge beside him, and
poured water on them. In a minute the lodge was full of steam. She
closed the door and left him there. After a while he came forth, a
handsome, young man, but he could not speak.
When the giant and his wife told the chief about the dog who was such a
great wonder, he felt sure there was some magic in it. So he gathered
a band of young men, and sent them to bring the daughter and the dog to
his lodge. What was their surprise to find a handsome, young man
instead of the dog. They all went together to the lodge of the chief,
who had gathered together all the other men of the village, the giant
among them. When the young man entered, he made a sign to put the
white feather in his hair. The chief took it from the giant's head,
and put it on the young man's. At once he was able to talk. He then
told them to smoke from his pipe. It went around the circle until it
reached him. When he began to smoke, blue and white pigeons flew from
the pipe. Then everybody knew that he was the great warrior, White
The chief asked him to tell them all about himself. He did so very
truthfully, and when the chief learned how wicked and cruel the giant
had been, he ordered that he should be changed into a dog and let loose
in the village, where the boys were to stone him to death. This order
was carried out. A few days afterwards, White Feather said good-bye to
the good old chief, and he and the kind maiden returned to his
They found him waiting for them in the forest near the wooden man. The
grandfather wept for joy when he heard that the last giant was dead.
And the wooden man said, "Now my work is ended;" and with that he
changed into a gnarled oak-tree with withered branches, which seemed to
talk as the wind whistled through them.
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