Kwasind Or The Fearfully Strong Man

Pauwating[40] was a village where the young men amused themselves very

much in ancient times, in sports and ball-playing.

One day, as they were engaged in their sports, one of the strongest and

most active, at the moment he was about to succeed in a trial of

lifting, slipped and fell upon his back. "Ha! ha! ha!" cried the

lookers-on, "you will never rival Kwasind." He was deeply mortified,

and when the sport was over, these words came to his mind. He could not

recollect any man of this name. He thought he would ask the old man,

the story-teller of the village, the next time he came to the lodge.

The opportunity soon occurred.

"My grandfather," said he, "who was Kwasind? I am very anxious to know

what he could do."

"Kwasind," the old man replied, "was a listless idle boy. He would not

play when the other boys played, and his parents could never get him to

do any kind of labor. He was always making excuses. His parents took

notice, however, that he fasted for days together, but they could not

learn what spirit he supplicated, or had chosen as the guardian spirit

to attend him through life. He was so inattentive to his parents'

requests, that he, at last, became a subject of reproach.

"'Ah,' said his mother to him one day, 'is there any young man of your

age, in all the village, who does so little for his parents? You

neither hunt nor fish. You take no interest in anything, whether labor

or amusement, which engages the attention of your equals in years. I

have often set my nets[41] in the coldest days of winter, without any

assistance from you. And I have taken them up again, while you remained

inactive at the lodge fire. Are you not ashamed of such idleness? Go, I

bid you, and wring out that net, which I have just taken from the


"Kwasind saw that there was a determination to make him obey. He did

not, therefore, make any excuses, but went out and took up the net. He

carefully folded it, doubled and redoubled it, forming it into a roll,

and then with an easy twist of his hands wrung it short off, with as

much ease as if every twine had been a thin brittle fibre. Here they at

once saw the secret of his reluctance. He possessed supernatural


"After this, the young men were playing one day on the plain, where

there was lying one of those large, heavy, black pieces of rock, which

Manabozho is said to have cast at his father. Kwasind took it up with

much ease, and threw it into the river. After this, he accompanied his

father on a hunting excursion into a remote forest. They came to a

place where the wind had thrown a great many trees into a narrow pass.

'We must go the other way,' said the old man, 'it is impossible to get

the burdens through this place.' He sat down to rest himself, took out

his smoking apparatus, and gave a short time to reflection. When he had

finished, Kwasind had lifted away the largest pine trees, and pulled

them out of the path.

"Sailing one day in his canoe, Kwasind saw a large furred animal, which

he immediately recognized to be the king of beavers. He plunged into

the water in pursuit of it. His companions were in the greatest

astonishment and alarm, supposing he would perish. He often dove down

and remained a long time under water, pursuing the animal from island

to island; and at last returned with the kingly prize. After this, his

fame spread far and wide, and no hunter would presume to compete with


"He helped Manabozho to clear away the obstructions in the streams, and

to remove the great wind-falls of trees from the valleys, the better to

fit them for the residence of man.

"He performed so many feats of strength and skill, that he excited the

envy of the Puck-wudj In-in-ee-sug, or fairies, who conspired against

his life. 'For,' said they, 'if this man is suffered to go on, in his

career of strength and exploits, we shall presently have no work to

perform. Our agency in the affairs of men must cease. He will undermine

our power, and drive us, at last, into the water, where we must all

perish, or be devoured by the wicked Neebanawbaig.'[42]

"The strength of Kwasind was all concentrated in the crown of his head.

This was, at the same time, the only vulnerable part of his body; and

there was but one species of weapon which could be successfully

employed in making any impression upon it. The fairies carefully hunted

through the woods to find this weapon. It was the burr or seed vessel

of the white pine. They gathered a quantity of this article, and

waylaid Kwasind at a point on the river, where the red rocks jut into

the water, forming rude castles--a point which he was accustomed to

pass in his canoe. They waited a long time, making merry upon these

rocks, for it was a highly romantic spot. At last the wished-for object

appeared; Kwasind came floating calmly down the stream, on the

afternoon of a summer's day, languid with the heat of the weather, and

almost asleep. When his canoe came directly beneath the cliff, the

tallest and stoutest fairy began the attack. Others followed his

example. It was a long time before they could hit the vulnerable part,

but success at length crowned their efforts, and Kwasind sunk, never to

rise more.

"Ever since this victory, the Puck Wudj Ininee have made that point of

rock a favorite resort. The hunters often hear them laugh, and see

their little plumes shake as they pass this scene on light summer


"My son," continued the old man, "take care that you do not imitate the

faults of Kwasind. If he had not so often exerted his strength merely

for the sake of boasting, he would not, perhaps, have made the

fairies feel jealous of him. It is better to use the strength you have,

in a quiet useful way, than to sigh after the possession of a giant's

power. For if you run, or wrestle, or jump, or fire at a mark, only as

well as your equals in years, nobody will envy you. But if you would

needs be a Kwasind, you must expect a Kwasind's fate."

[40] i.e. Place of shallow cataract, named Sault de Ste.

Marie on the arrival of the French. This is the local form of

the word, the substantive proper terminates in Eeg.

[41] Nets are set in winter, in high northern latitudes, through

orifices cut in the ice.

[42] A kind of water spirits.

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