The Woman Who Became A Beaver
Category: TSIMSHIAN TALES
Source: Indian Legends Retold
There was once a man who took his wife with him to hunt raccoons at a
distance from the village. They were very successful. Every night the
man shot several of the animals, and in the daytime they were both
busy skinning them and trying out the fat. One day the young wife
became tired of work and she approached her husband and tried to
attract his attention, saying playfully:
"Look at me, my husband!"
It is true that she was a pretty woman, but the man was bent on
skinning his game just then and took no notice of her. Seeing that he
made no answer, she kept on teasing him to look at her. At last he
"Go away," said he crossly; "you are no better than these raccoons!"
At this the young woman was much hurt and went away without speaking.
Her husband finished his work and then came to his supper, but no meal
had been prepared for him, and no wife was to be seen. He called and
called, but no one answered. After searching for her some time, he
discovered the woman taking a bath in a small pool, which she had
made for herself by piling up sticks and pebbles to dam the stream.
"Come, my wife, it is time to eat," begged the young husband.
"You have said that I am no better than the raccoons," she answered,
"and I am very much ashamed. I prefer to stay where I am."
He went back to their hut, but came again later in the evening and
tried hard to persuade her.
"My wife, you know that I love you," he protested. "I only spoke as I
did because I was thinking of my work and I wanted to get through with
it. I am sorry for what I said, and I did not mean anything by it.
Come, now, you should not stay in the water so long or you will be
sick; and besides, it is time to go to bed."
She would not listen to him, however, and he noticed that the dam had
grown higher, and the pool was much bigger than before.
The woman did not come to bed at all that night, and the deserted
husband could not sleep for thinking of his wife swimming about in the
cold water. He lay awake, listening to the lapping of the little waves
and the slap of her leathern apron as it struck the water when she
Next morning the pool had become a pond, and out in the middle of it
he could still see her swimming about. For the third time he called to
her and pleaded with her to come out, but she would not answer him at
all, so he went home very sorrowful.
Now the young woman had six brothers, and when they heard what had
happened, they all declared that they would go and bring home their
sister. Their brother-in-law guided them to the spot where he had
left her and behold! a large lake filled the valley, and there was a
beaver house under the dam.
The young men saw several young beavers swimming about, and presently
they heard a great beaver tail spank the water. Looking closely, they
recognized the woman, but she was covered from head to foot with soft
brown fur, and her leathern apron had become the flat tail of a
At this they wept much, and with one voice implored her to come home.
"No," said the beaver woman. "My husband has said that I am no better
than the raccoons, and I am too much ashamed to live with mankind any
longer. Do not trouble about me further, for I shall never come back."
"Let us go away and leave her," said the eldest brother, for he did
not know what else to do.
"No," said the youngest. "Let us break the dam; then all the water
will run out, and she will be compelled to come."
They broke the dam and destroyed the beaver house. The woman lay face
downward in the mud at what had been the bottom of the lake. She was
quite dead. In all points she was like a beaver, but when they turned
the body over, grieving much, the face was the face of the offended
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