Hiawatha Or Manabozho

: The Myth Of Hiawatha

The myth of the Indians of a remarkable personage, who is called

Manabozho by the Algonquins, and Hiawatha by the Iroquois, who was the

instructor of the tribes in arts and knowledge, was first related to me

in 1822, by the Chippewas of Lake Superior. He is regarded as the

messenger of the Great Spirit, sent down to them in the character of a

wise man, and a prophet. But he comes clothed with all the attributes

of huma
ity, as well as the power of performing miraculous deeds. He

adapts himself perfectly to their manners, and customs, and ideas. He

is brought up from a child among them. He is made to learn their mode

of life. He takes a wife, builds a lodge, hunts and fishes like the

rest of them, sings his war songs and medicine songs, goes to war, has

his triumphs, has his friends and foes, suffers, wants, hungers, is in

dread or joy--and, in fine, undergoes all the vicissitudes of his

fellows. His miraculous gifts and powers are always adapted to his

situation. When he is swallowed by a great fish, with his canoe, he

escapes by the exertion of these powers, but always, as much as

possible, in accordance with Indian maxims and means. He is provided

with a magic canoe, which goes where it is bid; yet, in his fight with

the great wampum prince, he is counselled by a woodpecker to know where

the vulnerable point of his antagonist lies. He rids the earth of

monsters and giants, and clears away windfalls, and obstructions to the

navigation of streams. But he does not do these feats by miracles; he

employs strong men to help him. When he means to destroy the great

serpents, he changes himself into an old tree, and stands on the beach

till they come out of the water to bask in the sun. Whatever man could

do, in strength or wisdom, he could do. But he never does things above

the comprehension or belief of his people; and whatever else he is, he

is always true to the character of an Indian.

This myth is one of the most general in the Indian country. It is the

prime legend of their mythology. He is talked of in every winter

lodge--for the winter season is the only time devoted to such

narrations. The moment the leaves come out, stories cease in the lodge.

The revival of spring in the botanical world opens, as it were, so many

eyes and ears to listen to the tales of men; and the Indian is far too

shrewd a man, and too firm a believer in the system of invisible

spirits by which he is surrounded, to commit himself by saying a word

which they, with their acute senses on the opening of the spring, can

be offended at.

He leaps over extensive regions of country like an ignis fatuus. He

appears suddenly like an avatar, or saunters over weary wastes a poor

and starving hunter. His voice is at one moment deep and sonorous as a

thunder-clap, and at another clothed with the softness of feminine

supplication. Scarcely any two persons agree in all the minor

circumstances of the story, and scarcely any omit the leading traits.

The several tribes who speak dialects of the mother language from which

the narration is taken, differ, in like manner, from each other in the

particulars of his exploits. His birth and parentage are mysterious.

Story says his grandmother was the daughter of the moon. Having been

married but a short time, her rival attracted her to a grape-vine swing

on the banks of a lake, and by one bold exertion pitched her into its

centre, from which she fell through to the earth. Having a daughter,

the fruit of her lunar marriage, she was very careful in instructing

her, from early infancy, to beware of the west wind, and never, in

stooping, to expose herself to its influence. In some unguarded moment

this precaution was neglected. In an instant, the gale accomplished its

Tarquinic purpose.

Very little is told of his early boyhood. We take him up in the

following legend at a period of advanced youth, when we find him living

with his grandmother. And at this time he possessed, although he had not

yet exercised, all the anomalous and contradictory powers of body and

mind, of manship and divinity, which he afterward evinced. The timidity

and rawness of the boy quickly gave way in the courageous developments

of the man. He soon evinced the sagacity, cunning, perseverance, and

heroic courage which constitute the admiration of the Indians. And he

relied largely upon these in the gratification of an ambitious,

vainglorious, and mischief-loving disposition. In wisdom and energy he

was superior to any one who had ever lived before. Yet he was simple

when circumstances required it, and was ever the object of tricks and

ridicule in others. He could transform himself into any animal he

pleased, being man or manito, as circumstances rendered necessary. He

often conversed with animals, fowls, reptiles, and fishes. He deemed

himself related to them, and invariably addressed them by the term "my

brother;" and one of his greatest resources, when hard pressed, was to

change himself into their shapes.

Manitoes constitute the great power and absorbing topic of Indian lore.

Their agency is at once the groundwork of their mythology and

demonology. They supply the machinery of their poetic inventions, and

the belief in their multitudinous existence exerts a powerful influence

upon the lives and character of individuals. As their manitoes are of

all imaginary kinds, grades, and powers, benign and malicious, it seems

a grand conception among the Indians to create a personage strong

enough in his necromantic and spiritual powers to baffle the most

malicious, beat the stoutest, and overreach the most cunning. In

carrying out this conception in the following myth, they have, however,

rather exhibited an incarnation of the power of Evil than of the genius

of Benevolence.

Manabozho was living with his grandmother near the edge of a wide

prairie. On this prairie he first saw animals and birds of every kind.

He there also saw exhibitions of divine power in the sweeping tempests,

in the thunder and lightning, and the various shades of light and

darkness, which form a never-ending scene of observation. Every new

sight he beheld in the heavens was a subject of remark; every new

animal or bird an object of deep interest; and every sound uttered by

the animal creation a new lesson, which he was expected to learn. He

often trembled at what he heard and saw. To this scene his grandmother

sent him at an early age to watch. The first sound he heard was that of

the owl, at which he was greatly terrified, and, quickly descending the

tree he had climbed, he ran with alarm to the lodge. "Noko! Noko!"[6]

he cried, "I have heard a monedo." She laughed at his fears, and asked

him what kind of a noise it made. He answered, "It makes a noise like

this: Ko-ko-ko-ho." She told him that he was young and foolish; that

what he had heard was only a bird, deriving its name from the noise it


He went back and continued his watch. While there, he thought to

himself, "It is singular that I am so simple, and my grandmother so

wise, and that I have neither father nor mother. I have never heard a

word about them. I must ask and find out." He went home and sat down

silent and dejected. At length his grandmother asked him, "Manabozho,

what is the matter with you?" He answered, "I wish you would tell me

whether I have any parents living, and who my relatives are." Knowing

that he was of a wicked and revengeful disposition, she dreaded telling

him the story of his parentage, but he insisted on her compliance.

"Yes," she said, "you have a father and three brothers living. Your

mother is dead. She was taken without the consent of her parents by

your father the West. Your brothers are the North, East, and South,

and, being older than yourself, your father has given them great power

with the winds, according to their names. You are the youngest of his

children. I have nourished you from your infancy, for your mother died

in giving you birth, owing to the ill treatment of your father. I have

no relations besides you this side of the planet in which I was born,

and from which I was precipitated by female jealousy. Your mother was

my only child, and you are my only hope."

He appeared to be rejoiced to hear that his father was living, for he

had already thought in his heart to try and kill him. He told his

grandmother he should set out in the morning to visit him. She said it

was a long distance to the place where Ningabiun[7] lived. But that had

no effect to stop him, for he had now attained manhood, possessed a

giant's height, and was endowed by nature with a giant's strength and

power. He set out and soon reached the place, for every step he took

covered a large surface of ground. The meeting took place on a high

mountain in the West. His father was very happy to see him. He also

appeared pleased. They spent some days in talking with each other. One

evening Manabozho asked his father what he was most afraid of on earth.

He replied, "Nothing." "But is there not something you dread here? tell

me." At last his father said, yielding, "Yes, there is a black stone

found in such a place. It is the only thing earthly I am afraid of; for

if it should hit me or any part of my body, it would injure me very

much." He said this as a secret, and in return asked his son the same

question. Knowing each other's power, although the son's was limited,

the father feared him on account of his great strength. Manabozho

answered, "Nothing!" intending to avoid the question, or to refer to

some harmless object as the one of which he was afraid. He was asked

again and again, and answered, "Nothing!" But the West said, "There must

be something you are afraid of." "Well! I will tell you," says

Manabozho, "what it is." But, before he would pronounce the word, he

affected great dread. "Ie-ee--Ie-ee--it is--it is," said he, "yeo!

yeo![8] I cannot name it; I am seized with a dread." The West told him

to banish his fears. He commenced again, in a strain of mock

sensitiveness repeating the same words; at last he cried out, "It is the

root of the apukwa."[9] He appeared to be exhausted by the effort of

pronouncing the word, in all this skilfully acting a studied part.

Some time after he observed, "I will get some of the black rock." The

West said, "Far be it from you; do not do so, my son." He still

persisted. "Well," said the father, "I will also get the apukwa root."

Manabozho immediately cried out, "Kago! Kago!"[10] affecting, as

before, to be in great dread of it, but really wishing, by this course,

to urge on the West to procure it, that he might draw him into combat.

He went out and got a large piece of the black rock, and brought it

home. The West also took care to bring the dreaded root.

In the course of conversation he asked his father whether he had been

the cause of his mother's death. The answer was "Yes!" He then took up

the rock and struck him. Blow led to blow, and here commenced an

obstinate and furious combat, which continued several days. Fragments

of the rock, broken off under Manabozho's blows, can be seen in various

places to this day."[11] The root did not prove as mortal a weapon as

his well-acted fears had led his father to expect, although he suffered

severely from the blows. This battle commenced on the mountains. The

West was forced to give ground. Manabozho drove him across rivers, and

over mountains and lakes, and at last he came to the brink of this


"Hold!" cried he, "my son; you know my power, and that it is impossible

to kill me. Desist, and I will also portion you out with as much power

as your brothers. The four quarters of the globe are already occupied;

but you can go and do a great deal of good to the people of this earth,

which is infested with large serpents, beasts, and monsters,[12] who

make great havoc among the inhabitants. Go and do good. You have the

power now to do so, and your fame with the beings of this earth will

last forever. When you have finished your work, I will have a place

provided for you. You will then go and sit with your brother

Kabibboonocca in the north."

Manabozho was pacified. He returned to his lodge, where he was confined

by the wounds he had received. But from his grandmother's skill in

medicines he was soon recovered. She told him that his grandfather,

who had come to the earth in search of her, had been killed by

Megissogwon,[13] who lived on the opposite side of the great lake. "When

he was alive," she continued, "I was never without oil to put on my

head, but now my hair is fast falling off for the want of it." "Well!"

said he, "Noko, get cedar bark and make me a line, whilst I make a

canoe." When all was ready, he went out to the middle of the lake to

fish. He put his line down, saying, "Me-she-nah-ma-gwai (the name of the

kingfish), take hold of my bait." He kept repeating this for some time.

At last the king of the fishes said, "Manabozho troubles me. Here,

Trout, take hold of his line." The trout did so. He then commenced

drawing up his line, which was very heavy, so that his canoe stood

nearly perpendicular; but he kept crying out, "Wha-ee-he! wha-ee-he!"

till he could see the trout. As soon as he saw him, he spoke to him.

"Why did you take hold of my hook? Esa! esa![14] you ugly fish." The

trout, being thus rebuked, let go.

Manabozho put his line again in the water, saying, "King of fishes,

take hold of my line." But the king of the fishes told a monstrous

sunfish to take hold of it; for Manabozho was tiring him with his

incessant calls. He again drew up his line with difficulty, saying as

before, "Wha-ee-he! wha-ee-he!" while his canoe was turning in swift

circles. When he saw the sunfish, he cried, "Esa! esa! you odious fish!

why did you dirty my hook by taking it in your mouth? Let go, I say,

let go." The sunfish did so, and told the king of fishes what Manabozho

said. Just at that moment the bait came near the king, and hearing

Manabozho continually crying out, "Me-she nah-ma-gwai, take hold of my

hook," at last he did so, and allowed himself to be drawn up to the

surface, which he had no sooner reached than, at one mouthful, he took

Manabozho and his canoe down. When he came to himself, he found that he

was in the fish's belly, and also his canoe. He now turned his thoughts

to the way of making his escape. Looking in his canoe, he saw his

war-club, with which he immediately struck the heart of the fish. He

then felt a sudden motion, as if he were moving with great velocity.

The fish observed to the others, "I am sick at stomach for having

swallowed this dirty fellow Manabozho." Just at this moment he received

another severe blow on the heart. Manabozho thought, "If I am thrown up

in the middle of the lake, I shall be drowned; so I must prevent it."

He drew his canoe and placed it across the fish's throat, and just as

he had finished the fish commenced vomiting, but to no effect. In this

he was aided by a squirrel, who had accompanied him unperceived until

that moment. This animal had taken an active part in helping him to

place his canoe across the fish's throat. For this act he named him,

saying, "For the future, boys shall always call you Ajidaumo."[15]

He then renewed his attack upon the fish's heart, and succeeded, by

repeated blows, in killing him, which he first knew by the loss of

motion, and by the sound of the beating of the body against the shore.

He waited a day longer to see what would happen. He heard birds

scratching on the body, and all at once the rays of light broke in. He

could see the heads of gulls, who were looking in by the opening they

had made. "Oh!" cried Manabozho, "my younger brothers, make the opening

larger, so that I can get out." They told each other that their brother

Manabozho was inside of the fish. They immediately set about enlarging

the orifice, and in a short time liberated him. After he got out he

said to the gulls, "For the future you shall be called Kayoshk[16] for

your kindness to me."

The spot where the fish happened to be driven ashore was near his

lodge. He went up and told his grandmother to go and prepare as much

oil as she wanted. All besides, he informed her, he should keep for


Some time after this, he commenced making preparations for a war

excursion against the Pearl Feather, the Manito who lived on the

opposite side of the great lake, who had killed his grandfather. The

abode of this spirit was defended, first, by fiery serpents, who hissed

fire so that no one could pass them; and, in the second place, by a

large mass of gummy matter lying on the water, so soft and adhesive,

that whoever attempted to pass, or whatever came in contact with it,

was sure to stick there.

He continued making bows and arrows without number, but he had no heads

for his arrows. At last Noko told him that an old man who lived at some

distance could make them. He sent her to get some. She soon returned

with her conaus or wrapper full.[17] Still he told her he had not

enough, and sent her again. She returned with as much more. He thought

to himself, "I must find out the way of making these heads." Cunning and

curiosity prompted him to make the discovery. But he deemed it necessary

to deceive his grandmother in so doing. "Noko," said he, "while I take

my drum and rattle, and sing my war songs, go and try to get me some

larger heads for my arrows, for those you brought me are all of the

same size. Go and see whether the old man cannot make some a little

larger." He followed her as she went, keeping at a distance, and saw the

old artificer at work, and so discovered his process. He also beheld the

old man's daughter, and perceived that she was very beautiful. He felt

his breast beat with a new emotion, but said nothing. He took care to

get home before his grandmother, and commenced singing as if he had

never left his lodge. When the old woman came near, she heard his drum

and rattle, without any suspicion that he had followed her. She

delivered him the arrow-heads.

One evening the old woman said, "My son, you ought to fast before you

go to war, as your brothers frequently do, to find out whether you will

be successful or not."[18] He said he had no objection, and immediately

commenced a fast for several days. He would retire every day from the

lodge so far as to be out of reach of his grandmother's voice. It seems

she had indicated this spot, and was very anxious he should fast there,

and not at another place. She had a secret motive, which she carefully

hid from him. Deception always begets suspicion. After a while he

thought to himself, "I must find out why my grandmother is so anxious

for me to fast at this spot." Next evening he went but a short distance.

She cried out, "A little farther off;" but he came nearer to the lodge,

and cried out in a low, counterfeited voice, to make it appear that he

was distant. She then replied, "That is far enough." He had got so near

that he could see all that passed in the lodge. He had not been long in

his place of concealment, when a paramour in the shape of a bear entered

the lodge. He had very long hair. They commenced talking about him, and

appeared to be improperly familiar. At that time people lived to a very

great age, and he perceived, from the marked attentions of this visitor,

that he did not think a grandmother too old to be pleased with such

attentions. He listened to their conversation some time. At last he

determined to play the visitor a trick. He took some fire, and when the

bear had turned his back, touched his long hair. When the animal felt

the flame, he jumped out, but the open air only made it burn the

fiercer, and he was seen running off in a full blaze.

Manabozho ran to his customary place of fasting, and assuming a tone of

simplicity, began to cry out, "Noko! Noko! is it time for me to come

home?" "Yes," she cried. When he came in she told him what had taken

place, at which he appeared to be very much surprised.

After having finished his term of fasting and sung his war-song--from

which the Indians of the present day derive the custom--he embarked in

his canoe, fully prepared for war. In addition to the usual implements,

he had a plentiful supply of oil. He travelled rapidly night and day,

for he had only to will or speak, and the canoe went. At length he

arrived in sight of the fiery serpents. He stopped to view them. He saw

they were some distance apart, and that the flame only which issued

from them reached across the pass. He commenced talking as a friend to

them; but they answered, "We know you, Manabozho, you cannot pass." He

then thought of some expedient to deceive them, and hit upon this. He

pushed his canoe as near as possible. All at once he cried out, with a

loud and terrified voice, "What is that behind you?" The serpents

instantly turned their heads, when, at a single word, he passed them.

"Well!" said he, placidly, after he had got by, "how do you like my

exploit?" He then took up his bow and arrows, and with deliberate aim

shot them, which was easily done, for the serpents were stationary, and

could not move beyond a certain spot. They were of enormous length and

of a bright color.

Having overcome the sentinel serpents, he went on in his magic canoe

till he came to a soft gummy portion of the lake, called Pigiu-wagumee

or Pitchwater. He took the oil and rubbed it on his canoe, and then

pushed into it. The oil softened the surface and enabled him to slip

through it with ease, although it required frequent rubbing, and a

constant reapplication of the oil. Just as his oil failed, he extricated

himself from this impediment, and was the first person who ever

succeeded in overcoming it.

He now came in view of land, on which he debarked in safety, and could

see the lodge of the Shining Manito, situated on a hill. He commenced

preparing for the fight, putting his arrows and clubs in order, and

just at the dawn of day began his attack, yelling and shouting, and

crying with triple voices, "Surround him! surround him! run up! run

up!" making it appear that he had many followers. He advanced crying

out, "It was you that killed my grandfather," and with this shot his

arrows. The combat continued all day. Manabozho's arrows had no effect,

for his antagonist was clothed with pure wampum. He was now reduced to

three arrows, and it was only by extraordinary agility that he could

escape the blows which the Manito kept making at him. At that moment a

large woodpecker (the ma-ma) flew past, and lit on a tree. "Manabozho,"

he cried, "your adversary has a vulnerable point; shoot at the lock of

hair on the crown of his head." He shot his first arrow so as only to

draw blood from that part. The Manito made one or two unsteady steps,

but recovered himself. He began to parley, but, in the act, received a

second arrow, which brought him to his knees. But he again recovered.

In so doing, however, he exposed his head, and gave his adversary a

chance to fire his third arrow, which penetrated deep, and brought him

a lifeless corpse to the ground. Manabozho uttered his saw-saw-quan,

and taking his scalp as a trophy, he called the woodpecker to come and

receive a reward for his information. He took the blood of the Manito

and rubbed it on the woodpecker's[19] head, the feathers of which are

red to this day.

After this victory he returned home, singing songs of triumph and

beating his drum. When his grandmother heard him, she came to the shore

and welcomed him with songs and dancing. Glory fired his mind. He

displayed the trophies he had brought in the most conspicuous manner,

and felt an unconquerable desire for other adventures. He felt himself

urged by the consciousness of his power to new trials of bravery, skill,

and necromantic prowess. He had destroyed the Manito of Wealth, and

killed his guardian serpents, and eluded all his charms. He did not long

remain inactive. His next adventure was upon the water, and proved him

the prince of fishermen. He captured a fish of such monstrous size, that

the fat and oil he obtained from it formed a small lake. He therefore

invited all the animals and fowls to a banquet, and he made the order in

which they partook of this repast the measure of their fatness. As fast

as they arrived, he told them to plunge in. The bear came first, and was

followed by the deer, opossum, and such other animals as are noted for

their peculiar fatness at certain seasons. The moose and bison came

tardily. The partridge looked on till the reservoir was nearly

exhausted. The hare and marten came last, and these animals have,

consequently, no fat. When this ceremony was over, he told the assembled

animals and birds to dance, taking up his drum and crying, "New songs

from the south, come, brothers, dance." He directed them to pass in a

circle around him, and to shut their eyes. They did so. When he saw a

fat fowl pass by him, he adroitly wrung off its head, at the same time

beating his drum and singing with greater vehemence, to drown the noise

of the fluttering, and crying out, in a tone of admiration, "That's the

way, my brothers, that's the way." At last a small duck (the diver),

thinking there was something wrong, opened one eye and saw what he was

doing. Giving a spring, and crying "Ha-ha-a! Manabozho is killing us,"

he made for the water. Manabozho followed him, and, just as the duck was

getting into the water, gave him a kick, which is the cause of his back

being flattened and his legs being straightened out backward, so that

when he gets on land he cannot walk, and his tail feathers are few.

Meantime the other birds flew off, and the animals ran into the woods.

After this Manabozho set out to travel. He wished to outdo all others,

and to see new countries. But after walking over America and

encountering many adventures, he became satisfied as well as fatigued.

He had heard of great feats in hunting, and felt a desire to try his

power in that way. One evening, as he was walking along the shores of a

great lake, weary and hungry, he encountered a great magician in the

form of an old wolf, with six young ones, coming towards him. The wolf,

as soon as he saw him, told his whelps to keep out of the way of

Manabozho, "for I know," continued he, "that it is him that we see

yonder." The young wolves were in the act of running off, when

Manabozho cried out, "My grandchildren, where are you going? Stop, and

I will go with you." He appeared rejoiced to see the old wolf, and

asked him whither he was journeying. Being told that they were looking

out for a place, where they could find most game, to pass the winter,

he said he should like to go with them, and addressed the old wolf in

the following words: "Brother, I have a passion for the chase; are you

willing to change me into a wolf?" He was answered favorably, and his

transformation immediately effected.

Manabozho was fond of novelty. He found himself a wolf corresponding in

size with the others, but he was not quite satisfied with the change,

crying out, "Oh, make me a little larger." They did so. "A little larger

still," he exclaimed. They said, "Let us humor him," and granted his

request. "Well," said he, "that will do." He looked at his tail. "Oh!"

cried he, "do make my tail a little longer and more bushy." They did so.

They then all started off in company, dashing up a ravine. After getting

into the woods some distance, they fell in with the tracks of moose. The

young ones went after them, Manabozho and the old wolf following at

their leisure. "Well," said the wolf, "who do you think is the fastest

of the boys? can you tell by the jumps they take?" "Why," he replied,

"that one that takes such long jumps, he is the fastest, to be sure."

"Ha! ha! you are mistaken," said the old wolf. "He makes a good start,

but he will be the first to tire out; this one, who appears to be

behind, will be the one to kill the game." They then came to the place

where the boys had started in chase. One had dropped his small bundle.

"Take that, Manabozho," said the old wolf. "Esa," he replied, "what will

I do with a dirty dogskin?" The wolf took it up; it was a beautiful

robe. "Oh, I will carry it now," said Manabozho. "Oh no," replied the

wolf, who at the moment exerted his magic power; "it is a robe of

pearls!" And from this moment he omitted no occasion to display his

superiority, both in the hunter's and magician's art, above his

conceited companion. Coming to a place where the moose had lain down,

they saw that the young wolves had made a fresh start after their prey.

"Why," said the wolf, "this moose is poor. I know by the tracks, for I

can always tell whether they are fat or not." They next came to a place

where one of the wolves had bit at the moose, and had broken one of his

teeth on a tree. "Manabozho," said the wolf, "one of your grandchildren

has shot at the game. Take his arrow; there it is." "No," he replied;

"what will I do with a dirty dog's tooth!" The old man took it up, and

behold! it was a beautiful silver arrow. When they overtook the

youngsters, they had killed a very fat moose. Manabozho was very hungry;

but, alas! such is the power of enchantment, he saw nothing but the

bones picked quite clean. He thought to himself, "Just as I expected,

dirty, greedy fellows!" However, he sat down without saying a word. At

length the old wolf spoke to one of the young ones, saying, "Give some

meat to your grandfather." One of them obeyed, and, coming near to

Manabozho, opened his mouth as if he was about to vomit. He jumped up,

saying, "You filthy dog, you have eaten so much that your stomach

refuses to hold it. Get you gone into some other place." The old wolf,

hearing the abuse, went a little to one side to see, and behold, a heap

of fresh ruddy meat, with the fat, lying all ready prepared. He was

followed by Manabozho, who, having the enchantment instantly removed,

put on a smiling face. "Amazement!" said he; "how fine the meat is."

"Yes," replied the wolf; "it is always so with us; we know our work, and

always get the best. It is not a long tail that makes a hunter."

Manabozho bit his lip.

They then commenced fixing their winter quarters, while the youngsters

went out in search of game, and soon brought in a large supply. One day,

during the absence of the young wolves, the old one amused himself in

cracking the large bones of a moose. "Manabozho," said he, "cover your

head with the robe, and do not look at me while I am at these bones, for

a piece may fly in your eye." He did as he was told; but, looking

through a rent that was in the robe, he saw what the other was about.

Just at that moment a piece flew off and hit him on the eye. He cried

out, "Tyau, why do you strike me, you old dog?" The wolf said, "You must

have been looking at me." But deception commonly leads to falsehood.

"No, no," he said, "why should I want to look at you?" "Manabozho," said

the wolf, "you must have been looking, or you would not have got

hurt." "No, no," he replied again, "I was not. I will repay the saucy

wolf this," thought he to himself. So, next day, taking up a bone to

obtain the marrow, he said to the wolf, "Cover your head and don't look

at me, for I fear a piece may fly in your eye." The wolf did so. He then

took the leg-bone of the moose, and looking first to see if the wolf was

well covered, he hit him a blow with all his might. The wolf jumped up,

cried out, and fell prostrate from the effects of the blow. "Why," said

he, "do you strike me so?" "Strike you!" he replied; "no, you must have

been looking at me." "No," answered the wolf, "I say I have not." But he

persisted in the assertion, and the poor magician had to give up.

Manabozho was an expert hunter when he earnestly undertook it. He went

out one day and killed a fat moose. He was very hungry, and sat down to

eat. But immediately he fell into great doubts as to the proper point to

begin. "Well," said he, "I do not know where to commence. At the head?

No! People will laugh, and say 'he ate him backward.'" He went to the

side. "No!" said he, "they will say I ate sideways." He then went to the

hind-quarter. "No!" said he, "they will say I ate him forward. I will

commence here, say what they will." He took a delicate piece from the

rump, and was just ready to put it in his mouth, when a tree close by

made a creaking noise, caused by the rubbing of one large branch against

another. This annoyed him. "Why!" he exclaimed, "I cannot eat when I

hear such a noise. Stop! stop!" said he to the tree. He was putting the

morsel again to his mouth, when the noise was repeated. He put it down,

exclaiming, "I cannot eat with such a noise;" and immediately left

the meat, although very hungry, to go and put a stop to the noise. He

climbed the tree and was pulling at the limb, when his arm was caught

between the two branches so that he could not extricate himself. While

thus held fast, he saw a pack of wolves coming in the direction towards

his meat. "Go that way! go that way!" he cried out; "what would you come

to get here?" The wolves talked among themselves and said, "Manabozho

must have something there, or he would not tell us to go another way."

"I begin to know him," said an old wolf, "and all his tricks. Let us go

forward and see." They came on, and finding the moose, soon made way

with the whole carcass. Manabozho looked on wishfully to see them eat

till they were fully satisfied, and they left him nothing but the bare

bones. The next heavy blast of wind opened the branches and liberated

him. He went home, thinking to himself, "See the effect of meddling with

frivolous things when I had certain good in my possession."

Next day the old wolf addressed him thus: "My brother, I am going to

separate from you, but I will leave behind me one of the young wolves to

be your hunter." He then departed. In the act Manabozho was

disenchanted, and again resumed his mortal shape. He was sorrowful and

dejected, but soon resumed his wonted air of cheerfulness. The young

wolf who was left with him was a good hunter, and never failed to keep

the lodge well supplied with meat. One day he addressed him as follows:

"My grandson, I had a dream last night, and it does not portend good. It

is of the large lake which lies in that direction (pointing). You must

be careful never to cross it, even if the ice should appear good. If you

should come to it at night weary or hungry, you must make the circuit of

it." Spring commenced, and the snow was melting fast before the rays of

the sun, when one evening the wolf came to this lake, weary with the

day's chase. He disliked to go so far to make the circuit of it.

"Hwooh!" he exclaimed, "there can be no great harm in trying the ice, as

it appears to be sound. Nesho[20] is over cautious on this point." But

he had not got half way across when the ice gave way and he fell in, and

was immediately seized by the serpents, who knew it was Manabozho's

grandson, and were thirsting for revenge upon him. Manabozho sat

pensively in his lodge.

Night came on, but no son returned. The second and third night passed,

but he did not appear. He became very desolate and sorrowful. "Ah!"

said he, "he must have disobeyed me, and has lost his life in that lake

I told him of. Well!" said he at last, "I must mourn for him." So he

took coal and blackened his face. But he was much perplexed as to the

right mode. "I wonder," said he, "how I must do it? I will cry 'Oh! my

grandson! Oh! my grandson!'" He burst out a laughing. "No! no! that

won't do. I will try so--'Oh! my heart! Oh! my heart! ha! ha! ha!'.

That won't do either. I will cry, 'Oh my grandson obiquadj!'"[21]

This satisfied him, and he remained in his lodge and fasted, till his

days of mourning were over. "Now," said he, "I will go in search of

him." He set out and travelled some time. At last he came to a great

lake. He then raised the same cries of lamentation for his grandson

which had pleased him. He sat down near a small brook that emptied

itself into the lake, and repeated his cries. Soon a bird called

Ke-ske-mun-i-see[22] came near to him. The bird inquired, "What are

you doing here?" "Nothing," he replied; "but can you tell me whether

any one lives in this lake, and what brings you here yourself?" "Yes!"

responded the bird; "the Prince of Serpents lives here, and I am

watching to see whether the obiquadj of Manabozho's grandson will not

drift ashore, for he was killed by the serpents last spring. But are

you not Manabozho himself?" "No," he answered, with his usual deceit;

"how do you think he could get to this place? But tell me, do the

serpents ever appear? when? and where? Tell me all about their habits."

"Do you see that beautiful white sandy beach?" said the bird. "Yes!" he

answered. "It is there," continued the Kingfisher, "that they bask in

the sun. Before they come out, the lake will appear perfectly calm; not

even a ripple will appear. After midday (na-wi-qua) you will see them."

"Thank you," he replied; "I am Manabozho himself. I have come in search

of the body of my son, and to seek my revenge. Come near me that I may

put a medal round your neck as a reward for your information." The bird

unsuspectingly came near, and received a white medal, which can be seen

to this day.[23] While bestowing the medal, he attempted slyly to wring

the bird's head off, but it escaped him, with only a disturbance of the

crown feathers of its head, which are rumpled backward. He had found

out all he wanted to know, and then desired to conceal the knowledge of

his purposes by killing his informant.

He went to the sandy beach indicated, and transformed himself into an

oak stump. He had not been there long before he saw the lake perfectly

calm. Soon hundreds of monstrous serpents came crawling on the beach.

One of the number was beautifully white. He was the prince. The others

were red and yellow. The prince spoke to those about him as follows: "I

never saw that black stump standing there before. It may be Manabozho.

There is no knowing but he may be somewhere about here. He has the

power of an evil genius, and we should be on our guard against his

wiles." One of the large serpents immediately went and twisted himself

around it to the top, and pressed it very hard. The greatest pressure

happened to be on his throat; he was just ready to cry out when the

serpent let go. Eight of them went in succession and did the like, but

always let go at the moment he was ready to cry out. "It cannot be

him," they said. "He is too great a weak-heart[24] for that." They then

coiled themselves in a circle about their prince. It was a long time

before they fell asleep. When they did so, Manabozho took his bow and

arrows, and cautiously stepping over the serpents till he came to the

prince, drew up his arrow with the full strength of his arm, and shot

him in the left side. He then gave a saw-saw-quan,[25] and ran off at

full speed. The sound uttered by the snakes on seeing their prince

mortally wounded, was horrible. They cried, "Manabozho has killed our

prince; go in chase of him." Meantime he ran over hill and valley, to

gain the interior of the country, with all his strength and speed,

treading a mile at a step. But his pursuers were also spirits, and he

could hear that something was approaching him fast. He made for the

highest mountain, and climbed the highest tree on its summit, when,

dreadful to behold, the whole lower country was seen to be overflowed,

and the water was gaining rapidly on the high lands. He saw it reach to

the foot of the mountain, and at length it came up to the foot of the

tree, but there was no abatement. The flood rose steadily and

perceptibly. He soon felt the lower part of his body to be immersed in

it. He addressed the tree: "Grandfather, stretch yourself." The tree

did so. But the waters still rose. He repeated his request, and was

again obeyed. He asked a third time, and was again obeyed; but the tree

replied, "It is the last time; I cannot get any higher." The waters

continued to rise till they reached up to his chin, at which point they

stood, and soon began to abate. Hope revived in his heart. He then cast

his eyes around the illimitable expanse, and spied a loon. "Dive down,

my brother," he said to him, "and fetch up some earth, so that I can

make a new earth." The bird obeyed, but rose up to the surface a

lifeless form. He then saw a muskrat. "Dive!" said he, "and if you

succeed, you may hereafter live either on land or water, as you please;

or I will give you a chain of beautiful little lakes, surrounded with

rushes, to inhabit." He dove down, but he floated up senseless. He took

the body and breathed in his nostrils, which restored him to life. "Try

again," said he. The muskrat did so. He came up senseless the second

time, but clutched a little earth in one of his paws, from which,

together with the carcass of the dead loon, he created a new earth as

large as the former had been, with all living animals, fowls, and


As he was walking to survey the new earth, he heard some one singing.

He went to the place, and found a female spirit, in the disguise of an

old woman, singing these words, and crying at every pause:--

"Ma nau bo sho, O do zheem un,

Ogeem' au wun, Onis' sa waun,

Hee-Ub bub ub bub (crying).

Dread Manabozho in revenge,

For his grandson lost--

Has killed the chief--the king."

"Noko," said he, "what is the matter?" "Matter!" said she, "where have

you been, not to have heard how Manabozho shot my son, the prince of

serpents, in revenge for the loss of his nephew, and how the earth was

overflowed, and created anew? So I brought my son here, that he might

kill and destroy the inhabitants, as he did on the former earth. But,"

she continued, casting a scrutinizing glance, "N'yau! indego Manabozho!

hub! ub! ub! ub! Oh, I am afraid you are Manabozho!" He burst out into

a laugh to quiet her fears. "Ha! ha! ha! how can that be? Has not the

old earth perished, and all that was in it?" "Impossible! impossible!"

"But, Noko," he continued, "what do you intend doing with all that

cedar cord on your back?" "Why," said she, "I am fixing a snare for

Manabozho, if he should be on this earth; and, in the mean time, I am

looking for herbs to heal my son. I am the only person that can do him

any good. He always gets better when I sing--

"'Manabozho a ne we guawk,

Koan dan mau wah, ne we guawk,

Koan dan mau wah, ne we guawk.'

It is Manabozho's dart,

I try my magic power to withdraw."

Having found out, by conversation with her, all he wished, he put her

to death. He then took off her skin, and assuming this disguise, took

the cedar cord on his back, and limped away singing her songs. He

completely aped the gait and voice of the old woman. He was met by one

who told him to make haste; that the prince was worse. At the lodge,

limping and muttering, he took notice that they had his grandson's hide

to hang over the door. "Oh dogs!" said he; "the evil dogs!" He sat down

near the door, and commenced sobbing like an aged woman. One observed,

"Why don't you attend the sick, and not set there making such a noise?"

He took up the poker and laid it on them, mimicking the voice of the

old woman. "Dogs that you are! why do you laugh at me? You know very

well that I am so sorry that I am nearly out of my head." With that he

approached the prince, singing the songs of the old woman, without

exciting any suspicion. He saw that his arrow had gone in about one

half its length. He pretended to make preparations for extracting it,

but only made ready to finish his victim; and giving the dart a sudden

thrust, he put a period to the prince's life. He performed this act

with the power of a giant, bursting the old woman's skin, and at the

same moment rushing through the door, the serpents following him,

hissing and crying out, "Perfidy! murder! vengeance! it is Manabozho."

He immediately transformed himself into a wolf, and ran over the plain

with all his speed, aided by his father the West Wind. When he got to

the mountains he saw a badger. "Brother," said he, "make a hole quick,

for the serpents are after me." The badger obeyed. They both went in,

and the badger threw all the earth backward, so that it filled up the

way behind.

The serpents came to the badger's wauzh,[26] and decided to watch. "We

will starve him out," said they; so they continued watching. Manabozho

told the badger to make an opening on the other side of the mountain,

from which he could go out and hunt, and bring meat in. Thus they lived

some time. One day the badger came in his way and displeased him. He

immediately put him to death, and threw out his carcass, saying, "I

don't like you to be getting in my way so often."

After living in this confinement for some time alone, he decided to go

out. He immediately did so; and after making the circuit of the

mountain, came to the corpse of the prince, who had been deserted by

the serpents to pursue his destroyer. He went to work and skinned him.

He then drew on his skin, in which there were great virtues, took up

his war-club, and set out for the place where he first went in the

ground. He found the serpents still watching. When they saw the form of

their dead prince advancing towards them, fear and dread took hold of

them. Some fled. Those who remained Manabozho killed. Those who fled

went towards the South.

Having accomplished the victory over the reptiles, Manabozho returned

to his former place of dwelling, and married the arrow-maker's


After Manabozho had killed the Prince of Serpents, he was living in a

state of great want, completely deserted by his powers, as a deity, and

not able to procure the ordinary means of subsistence. He was at this

time living with his wife and children, in a remote part of the

country, where he could get no game. He was miserably poor. It was

winter, and he had not the common Indian comforts.

He said to his wife, one day, "I will go out a walking, and see if I

cannot find some lodges." After walking some time he saw a lodge at a

distance. The children were playing at the door. When they saw him

approaching they ran into the lodge, and told their parents that

Manabozho was coming. It was the residence of the large redheaded

Woodpecker. He came to the lodge door and asked him to enter. He did

so. After some time, the Woodpecker, who was a magician, said to his

wife, "Have you nothing to give Manabozho? he must be hungry." She

answered, "No." In the centre of the lodge stood a large white

tamarack-tree. The Woodpecker flew on to it, and commenced going up,

turning his head on each side of the tree, and every now and then

driving in his bill. At last he drew something out of the tree, and

threw it down, when, behold! a fine, fat raccoon on the ground. He drew

out six or seven more. He then descended, and told his wife to prepare

them. "Manabozho," he said, "this is the only thing we eat. What else

can we give you?" "It is very good," replied Manabozho. They smoked

their pipes and conversed with each other. After eating, the great

spirit-chief got ready to go home. The Woodpecker said to his wife,

"Give him what remains of the raccoons to take home for his children."

In the act of leaving the lodge he dropped intentionally one of his

mittens, which was soon after observed. "Run," said the Woodpecker to

his eldest son, "and give it to him. But don't give it into his hand;

throw it at him, for there is no knowing him, he acts so curiously."

The boy did as he was bid. "Nemesho" (my grandfather), said he, as he

came up to him, "you have left one of your mittens--here it is." "Yes,"

said he, affecting to be ignorant of the circumstance, "it is so. But

don't throw it, you will soil it on the snow." The lad, however, threw

it, and was about to return. "List," said Manabozho, "is that all you

eat--do you eat nothing else with the raccoon?" "No," replied the young

Woodpecker. "Tell your father," he answered, "to come and visit me, and

let him bring a sack. I will give him what he shall eat with his

raccoon meat." When the young one reported this to his father, the old

man turned up his nose at the invitation. "What does the old fellow

think he has got!" exclaimed he.

Some time after the Woodpecker went to pay a visit to Manabozho. He was

received with the usual attention. It had been the boast of Manabozho,

in former days, that he could do what any other being in the creation

could, whether man or animals. He affected to have the sagacity of all

animals, to understand their language, and to be capable of exactly

imitating it. And in his visits to men, it was his custom to return,

exactly, the treatment he had received. He was very ceremonious in

following the very voice and manner of his entertainers. The Woodpecker

had no sooner entered his lodge, therefore, than he commenced playing

the mimic. He had previously directed his wife to change his lodge, so

as to inclose a large dry tamarack-tree. "What can I give you?" said he

to the Woodpecker; "but as we eat, so shall you eat." He then put a long

piece of bone in his nose, in imitation of the bill of this bird, and

jumping on the tamarack-tree, attempted to climb it, doing as he had

seen the Woodpecker do. He turned his head first on one side, then on

the other. He made awkward efforts to ascend, but continually slipped

down. He struck the tree with the bone in his nose, until at last he

drove it so far up his nostrils that the blood began to flow, and he

fell down senseless at the foot of the tree. The Woodpecker started

after his drum and rattle to restore him, and having got them, succeeded

in bringing him to. As soon as he came to his senses, he began to lay

the blame of his failure to his wife, saying to his guest, "Nemesho, it

is this woman relation of yours--she is the cause of my not

succeeding. She has rendered me a worthless fellow. Before I took her I

could also get raccoons." The Woodpecker said nothing, but flying on the

tree, drew out several fine raccoons. "Here," said he, "this is the way

we do," and left him with apparent contempt.

Severe weather continued, and Manabozho still suffered for the want of

food. One day he walked out, and came to a lodge, which was occupied by

the Moose (Moez). The young Mozonsug[27] saw him and told their father

Manabozho was at the door. He told them to invite him in. Being seated,

they entered into conversation. At last the Moose, who was a Meeta,

said, "What shall we give Manabozho to eat? We have nothing." His wife

was seated with her back toward him, making garters. He walked up to

her, and untying the covering of the armlet from her back, cut off a

large piece of flesh from the square of her shoulder.[28] He then put

some medicine on it, which immediately healed the wound. The skin did

not even appear to have been broken, and his wife was so little

affected by it, that she did not so much as leave off her work, till he

told her to prepare the flesh for eating. "Manabozho," said he, "this

is all we eat, and it is all we can give you."

After they had finished eating, Manabozho set out for home, but

intentionally, as before, dropped one of his minjekawun, or mittens.

One of the young Moose took it to him, telling him that his father had

sent him with it. He had been cautioned not to hand it to him, but to

throw it at him. Having done so, contrary to the remonstrance of

Manabozho, he was going back, when the latter cried out, "Bakah!

Bakah![29] Is that[30] the only kind of meat you eat? Tell me." "Yes,"

answered the young man, "that is all; we have nothing else." "Tell your

father," he replied, "to come and visit me, and I will give him what you

shall eat with your meat." The old Moose listened to this message with

indignity. "I wonder what he thinks he has got, poor fellow!"

He was bound, however, to obey the invitation, and went accordingly,

taking along a cedar sack, for he had been told to bring one. Manabozho

received him in the same manner he had himself been received--repeating

the same remarks, and attempted to supply the lack of food in the same

manner. To this end he had requested his wife to busy herself in making

garters. He arose and untied the covering of her back as he had seen

the Moose do. He then cut her back shockingly, paying no attention to

her cries or resistance, until he saw her fall down, from the loss of

blood. "Manabozho," said the Moose, "you are killing your wife." He

immediately ran for his drum and rattle, and restored her to life by

his skill. He had no sooner done this than Manabozho began to lay the

blame of his ill success on his wife. "Why, Nemesho," said he, "this

woman, this relation of yours--she is making me a most worthless

fellow. Formerly, I procured my meat in this way. But now I can

accomplish nothing."

The Moose then cut large pieces of flesh off his own thighs, without the

least injury to himself, and gave them to Manabozho, saying, with a

contemptuous air, "This is the way we do." He then left the lodge.

After these visits Manabozho was sitting pensively in his lodge one

day, with his head down. He heard the wind whistling around it, and

thought, by attentively listening, he could hear the voice of some one

speaking to him. It seemed to say to him: "Great chief, why are you

sorrowful? Am not I your friend--your guardian Spirit?" He immediately

took up his rattle, and without leaving his sitting posture, began to

sing the chant which at the close of every stanza has the chorus of

"Whaw Lay Le Aw." When he had devoted a long time to this chant, he laid

his rattle aside, and determined to fast. For this purpose he went to a

cave, and built a very small fire, near which he laid down, first

telling his wife that neither she nor the children must come near him

till he had finished his fast. At the end of seven days he came back to

the lodge, pale and emaciated. His wife in the mean time had dug through

the snow, and got a small quantity of the root called truffles. These

she boiled and set before him. When he had finished his repast, he took

his large bow and bent it. Then placing a strong arrow to the string, he

drew it back, and sent the arrow, with the strength of a giant, through

the side of his bark lodge. "There," said he to his wife, "go to the

outside, and you will find a large bear, shot through the heart." She

did so, and found one as he had predicted.

He then sent the children out to get red willow sticks. Of these he cut

off as many pieces, of equal length, as would serve to invite his

friends to a feast. A red stick was sent to each one, not forgetting

the Moose and the Woodpecker.

When they arrived, they were astonished to see such a profusion of meat

cooked for them, at such a time of scarcity. Manabozho understood their

glances, and felt a conscious pride in making such a display. "Akewazi,"

said he, to one of the oldest of the party, "the weather is very cold,

and the snow lasts a long time. We can kill nothing now but small

squirrels. And I have sent for you to help me eat some of them." The

Woodpecker was the first to put a mouthful of the bear's meat to his

mouth, but he had no sooner begun to taste it, than it changed into a

dry powder, and set him coughing. It appeared as bitter as ashes. The

Moose felt the same effect, and began to cough. Each one, in turn, was

added to the number of coughers. But they had too much sense of decorum,

and respect for their entertainer, to say anything. The meat looked very

fine. They thought they would try more of it. But the more they ate the

faster they coughed and the louder became the uproar, until Manabozho,

exerting his former power, which he now felt to be renewed, transformed

them all into the Adjidamo, or squirrel, an animal which is still found

to have the habit of barking, or coughing, whenever it sees any one

approach its nest.

* * * * *

The story of this chief of northern myths is dropped in my notes at

this point of his triumph over the strongest of the reptile race. But

his feats and adventures by land and sea do not terminate here. There

is scarcely a prominent lake, mountain, precipice, or stream in the

northern part of America, which is not hallowed in Indian story by his

fabled deeds. Further accounts will be found in several of the

subsequent tales, which are narrated by the Indians in an independent

form, and may be now appropriately left as they were found, as

episodes, detached from the original story. To collect all these and

arrange them in order would be an arduous labor; and, after all, such

an arrangement would lack consistency and keeping, unless much of the

thread necessary to present them in an English dress were supplied by

alteration, and transposition. The portions above narrated present a

beginning and an end, which could hardly be said of the loose and

disjointed fragmentary tales referred to. How long Manabozho lived on

earth is not related. We hear nothing more of his grandmother; every

mouth is filled with his queer adventures, tricks, and sufferings. He

was everywhere present where danger presented itself, power was

required, or mischief was going forward. Nothing was too low or trivial

for him to engage in, nor too high or difficult for him to attempt. He

affected to be influenced by the spirit of a god, and was really

actuated by the malignity of a devil. The period of his labors and

adventures having expired, he withdrew to dwell with his brother in the

North, where he is understood to direct those storms which proceed from

the points west of the pole. He is regarded as the spirit of the

northwest tempests, but receives no worship from the present race of

Indians. It is believed by them that he is again to appear, and to

exercise an important power in the final disposition of the human race.

In this singular tissue of incongruities may be perceived some ideas

probably derived from Asiatic sources. It will be found in the legends

of the visitors to the Sun and Moon, and of the white stone canoe, that

Manabozho was met on the way, and he is represented as expressing a

deep repentance for the bad acts he had committed while on earth. He

is, however, found exercising the vocation of a necromancer; has a

jossakeed's lodge, from which he utters oracles; and finally transforms

on the spot two of the party, who had consulted him, and asked the gift

of immortality, the one into a cedar-tree, and the other into a block

of granite.

Manabozho is regarded by the Indians as a divine benefactor, and is

admired and extolled as the personification of strength and wisdom. Yet

he constantly presents the paradox of being a mere mortal; is driven to

low and common expedients; and never utters a sentiment wiser or better

than the people among whom he appears. The conception of a divinity,

pure, changeless, and just, as well as benevolent, in the distribution

of its providences, has not been reached by any traits exhibited in the

character of this personage. And if such notions had ever been

conceived by the ancestors of the present race of Indians in the East,

they have been obliterated, in the course of their long, dark, and

hopeless pilgrimage in the forests of America. The prevalence of this

legend, among the Indian tribes, is extensive.

The character, the place, which he holds in the Indian mythology are

further denoted in the 5th vol. of my Hist., p. 417, where he is

represented as giving passage to souls on their way through the regions

of space, to the Indian paradise; and also in the legend of the White

Stone Canoe. The general myth, is recognized in the legend of the

Iroquois, under the name of Hiawatha, and Tarenyawazon. See Notes on

the Iroquois, page 270 (1846), and also in the 3d vol. Hist., p. 314.

Mr. Longfellow has given prominence to it, and to its chief episodes, by

selecting and generalizing such traits as appeared best susceptible of

poetic uses.