Sheem The Forsaken Boy Or Wolf Brother





AN ODJIBWA ALLEGORY OF FRATERNAL AFFECTION.





A solitary lodge stood on the banks of a remote lake. It was near the

hour of sunset. Silence reigned within and without. Not a sound was

heard but the low breathing of the dying inmate and head of this poor

family. His wife and three children surrounded his bed. Two of the

latter were almost grown up: the other was a mere child. All their

simple skill in medicine had been exhausted to no effect. They moved

about the lodge in whispers, and were waiting the departure of the

spirit. As one of the last acts of kindness, the skin door of the lodge

had been thrown back to admit the fresh air. The poor man felt a

momentary return of strength, and, raising himself a little, addressed

his family.



"I leave you in a world of care, in which it has required all my

strength and skill to supply you food, and protect you from the storms

and cold of a severe climate. For you, my partner in life, I have less

sorrow in parting, because I am persuaded you will not remain long

behind me, and will therefore find the period of your sufferings

shortened. But you, my children! my poor and forsaken children, who

have just commenced the career of life, who will protect you from its

evils? Listen to my words! Unkindness, ingratitude, and every

wickedness is in the scene before you. It is for this cause that, years

ago, I withdrew from my kindred and my tribe, to spend my days in this

lonely spot. I have contented myself with the company of your mother

and yourselves during seasons of very frequent scarcity and want, while

your kindred, feasting in a scene where food is plenty, have caused the

forests to echo with the shouts of successful war. I gave up these

things for the enjoyment of peace. I wished to shield you from the bad

examples you would inevitably have followed. I have seen you, thus far,

grow up in innocence. If we have sometimes suffered bodily want, we

have escaped pain of mind.[61] We have been kept from scenes of rioting

and bloodshed.



"My career is now at its close. I will shut my eyes in peace, if you,

my children, will promise me to cherish each other. Let not your mother

suffer during the few days that are left to her; and I charge you, on

no account, to forsake your youngest brother. Of him I give you both my

dying charge to take a tender care." He sank exhausted on his pallet.

The family waited a moment, as if expecting to hear something further;

but, when they came to his side, the spirit had taken its flight.



The mother and daughter gave vent to their feelings in lamentations.

The elder son witnessed the scene in silence. He soon exerted himself

to supply, with the bow and net, his father's place. Time, however,

wore away heavily. Five moons had filled and waned, and the sixth was

near its full, when the mother also died. In her last moments she

pressed the fulfilment of their promise to their father, which the

children readily renewed, because they were yet free from selfish

motives.



The winter passed; and the spring, with its enlivening effects in a

northern hemisphere, cheered the drooping spirits of the bereft little

family. The girl, being the eldest, dictated to her brothers, and

seemed to feel a tender and sisterly affection for the youngest, who

was rather sickly and delicate. The other boy soon showed symptoms of

restlessness and ambition, and addressed the sister as follows: "My

sister, are we always to live as if there were no other human beings in

the world? Must I deprive myself of the pleasure of associating with my

own kind? I have determined this question for myself. I shall seek the

villages of men, and you cannot prevent me."



The sister replied: "I do not say no, my brother, to what you desire.

We are not prohibited the society of our fellow-mortals; but we are

told to cherish each other, and to do nothing independent of each

other. Neither pleasure nor pain ought, therefore, to separate us,

especially from our younger brother, who being but a child, and weakly

withal, is entitled to a double share of our affection. If we follow

our separate gratifications, it will surely make us neglect him, whom

we are bound by vows, both to our father and mother, to support." The

young man received this address in silence. He appeared daily to grow

more restive and moody, and one day, taking his bow and arrows, left

the lodge and never returned.



Affection nerved the sister's arm. She was not so ignorant of the

forest arts as to let her brother want. For a long time she

administered to his necessities, and supplied a mother's cares. At

length, however, she began to be weary of solitude and of her charge.

No one came to be a witness of her assiduity, or to let fall a single

word in her native language. Years, which added to her strength and

capability of directing the affairs of the household, brought with them

the irrepressible desire of society, and made solitude irksome. At this

point, selfishness gained the ascendency of her heart; for, in

meditating a change in her mode of life, she lost sight of her younger

brother, and left him to be provided for by contingencies.



One day, after collecting all the provisions she had been able to save

for emergencies, after bringing a quantity of wood to the door, she

said to her little brother: "My brother, you must not stray from the

lodge. I am going to seek our elder brother. I shall be back soon."

Then, taking her bundle, she set off in search of habitations. She soon

found them, and was so much taken up with the pleasures and amusements

of social life, that the thought of her brother was almost entirely

obliterated. She accepted proposals of marriage; and, after that,

thought still less of her hapless and abandoned relative.



Meantime her elder brother had also married, and lived on the shores of

the same lake whose ample circuit contained the abandoned lodge of his

father and his forsaken brother. The latter was soon brought to the

pinching turn of his fate. As soon as he had eaten all the food left by

his sister, he was obliged to pick berries and dig up roots. These were

finally covered by the snow. Winter came on with all its rigors. He was

obliged to quit the lodge in search of other food. Sometimes he passed

the night in the clefts of old trees or caverns, and ate the refuse

meals of the wolves. The latter, at last, became his only resource; and

he became so fearless of these animals that he would sit close by them

while they devoured their prey. The wolves, on the other hand, became

so familiar with his face and form, that they were undisturbed by his

approach; and, appearing to sympathize with him in his outcast

condition, would always leave something for his repast. In this way he

lived till spring. As soon as the lake was free from ice, he followed

his new-found friends themselves to the shore. It happened, the same

day, that his elder brother was fishing in his canoe, a considerable

distance out in the lake, when he thought he heard the cries of a child

on the shore, and wondered how any could exist on so bleak and barren a

part of the coast. He listened again attentively, and distinctly heard

the cry repeated. He made for shore as quick as possible, and, as he

approached land, discovered and recognized his little brother, and

heard him singing, in a plaintive voice--



Neesia--neesia,

Shyegwuh goosuh!

Ni my een gwun iewh!

Ni my een gwun iewh!

Heo hwooh.



My brother--my brother,

Ah! see, I am turning into a wolf.[62]



At the termination of his song, which was drawn out with a peculiar

cadence, he howled like a wolf. The elder brother was still more

astonished, when, getting nearer shore, he perceived his poor brother

partly transformed into that animal. He immediately leaped on shore,

and strove to catch him in his arms, soothingly saying, "My brother, my

brother, come to me." But the boy eluded his grasp, crying as he fled,

"Neesia, neesia," &c., and howling in the intervals.



The elder brother, conscience stricken, and feeling his brotherly

affection strongly return, with redoubled force exclaimed, in great

anguish, "My brother! my brother! my brother!"



But, the nearer he approached, the more rapidly the transformation went

on; the boy alternately singing and howling, and calling out the name,

first of his brother, and then of his sister, till the change was

completely accomplished, when he exclaimed, "I am a wolf!" and bounded

out of sight.





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