Shingebiss An Allegory Of Self-reliance


There was once a Shingebiss, the name of the fall duck living alone, in

a solitary lodge, on the shores of the deep bay of a lake, in the

coldest winter weather. The ice had formed on the water, and he had but

four logs of wood to keep his fire. Each of these would, however, burn

a month, and as there were but four cold winter months, they were

sufficient to carry him through till spring.

Shingebiss was hardy and fearless, and cared for no one. He would go

out during the coldest day, and seek for places where flags and rushes

grew through the ice, and plucking them up with his bill, would dive

through the openings, in quest of fish. In this way he found plenty of

food, while others were starving, and he went home daily to his lodge,

dragging strings of fish after him, on the ice.

Kabebonicca[53] observed him, and felt a little piqued at his

perseverance and good luck in defiance of the severest blasts of wind

he could send from the northwest. "Why! this is a wonderful man," said

he; "he does not mind the cold, and appears as happy and contented as

if it were the month of June. I will try whether he cannot be

mastered." He poured forth tenfold colder blasts, and drifts of snow,

so that it was next to impossible to live in the open air. Still, the

fire of Shingebiss did not go out: he wore but a single strip of

leather around his body, and he was seen, in the worst weather,

searching the shores for rushes, and carrying home fish.

"I shall go and visit him," said Kabebonicca, one day, as he saw

Shingebiss dragging along a quantity of fish. And, accordingly, that

very night, he went to the door of his lodge. Meantime Shingebiss had

cooked his fish, and finished his meal, and was lying, partly on his

side, before the fire, singing his songs. After Kabebonicca had come to

the door, and stood listening there, he sang as follows:--

Ka Neej Ka Neej

Be In Be In

Bon In Bon In

Oc Ee. Oc Ee.

Ca We-ya! Ca We-ya!

The number of words, in this song, are few and simple, but they are

made up from compounds which carry the whole of their original

meanings, and are rather suggestive of the ideas floating in the mind

than actual expressions of those ideas. Literally, he sings:--

Spirit of the Northwest--you are but my fellow man.

By being broken into syllables, to correspond with a simple chant, and

by the power of intonation and repetition, with a chorus, these words

are expanded into melodious utterance, if we may be allowed the term,

and may be thus rendered:--

Windy god, I know your plan,

You are but my fellow man;

Blow you may your coldest breeze,

Shingebiss you cannot freeze.

Sweep the strongest wind you can,

Shingebiss is still your man;

Heigh! for life--and ho! for bliss,

Who so free as Shingebiss?

The hunter knew that Kabebonicca was at his door, for he felt his cold

and strong breath; but he kept on singing his songs, and affected utter

indifference. At length Kabebonicca entered, and took his seat on the

opposite side of the lodge. But Shingebiss did not regard, or notice

him. He got up, as if nobody were present, and taking his poker, pushed

the log, which made his fire burn brighter, repeating, as he sat down


You are but my fellow man.

Very soon the tears began to flow down Kabebonicca's cheeks, which

increased so fast, that, presently, he said to himself: "I cannot stand

this--I must go out." He did so, and left Shingebiss to his songs; but

resolved to freeze up all the flag orifices, and make the ice thick, so

that he could not get any more fish. Still, Shingebiss, by dint of

great diligence, found means to pull up new roots, and dive under for

fish. At last, Kabebonicca was compelled to give up the contest. "He

must be aided by some Monedo," said he. "I can neither freeze him nor

starve him; he is a very singular being--I will let him alone."

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