Mishosha Or The Magician Of Lake Superior

: The Myth Of Hiawatha

In an early age of the world, when there were fewer inhabitants than

there now are, there lived an Indian, in a remote place, who had a wife

and two children. They seldom saw any one out of the circle of their

own lodge. Animals were abundant in so secluded a situation, and the

man found no difficulty in supplying his family with food.

In this way they lived in peace and happiness, which might have

ed if the hunter had not found cause to suspect his wife. She

secretly cherished an attachment for a young man whom she accidentally

met one day in the woods. She even planned the death of her husband for

his sake, for she knew if she did not kill her husband, her husband,

the moment he detected her crime, would kill her.

The husband, however, eluded her project by his readiness and decision.

He narrowly watched her movements. One day he secretly followed her

footsteps into the forest, and having concealed himself behind a tree,

he soon beheld a tall young man approach and lead away his wife. His

arrows were in his hands, but he did not use them. He thought he would

kill her the moment she returned.

Meantime, he went home and sat down to think. At last he came to the

determination of quitting her forever, thinking that her own conscience

would punish her sufficiently, and relying on her maternal feelings to

take care of the two children, who were boys, he immediately took up

his arms and departed.

When the wife returned she was disappointed in not finding her husband,

for she had now concerted her plan, and intended to have dispatched

him. She waited several days, thinking he might have been led away by

the chase, but finding he did not return, she suspected the true cause.

Leaving her two children in the lodge, she told them she was going a

short distance and would return. She then fled to her paramour and came

back no more.

The children, thus abandoned, soon made way with the food left in the

lodge, and were compelled to quit it in search of more. The eldest boy,

who was of an intrepid temper, was strongly attached to his brother,

frequently carrying him when he became weary, and gathering all the

wild fruit he saw. They wandered deeper and deeper into the forest,

losing all traces of their former habitation, until they were

completely lost in its mazes.

The eldest boy had a knife, with which he made a bow and arrows, and was

thus enabled to kill a few birds for himself and brother. In this manner

they continued to pass on, from one piece of forest to another, not

knowing whither they were going. At length they saw an opening through

the woods, and were shortly afterward delighted to find themselves on

the borders of a large lake. Here the elder brother busied himself in

picking the seed pods of the wild rose, which he reserved as food. In

the mean time, the younger brother amused himself by shooting arrows in

the sand, one of which happened to fall into the lake. Panigwun,[82] the

elder brother, not willing to lose the arrow, waded in the water to

reach it. Just as he was about to grasp the arrow, a canoe passed up to

him with great rapidity. An old man, sitting in the centre, seized the

affrighted youth and placed him in the canoe. In vain the boy addressed

him--"My grandfather (a term of respect for old people), pray take my

little brother also. Alone, I cannot go with you; he will starve if I

leave him." Mishosha (the old man) only laughed at him. Then uttering

the charm, Chemaun Poll, and giving his canoe a slap, it glided through

the water with inconceivable swiftness. In a few moments they reached

the habitation of the magician, standing on an island in the centre of

the lake. Here he lived with his two daughters, who managed the affairs

of his household. Leading the young man up to the lodge, he addressed

his eldest daughter. "Here," said he, "my daughter, I have brought a

young man to be your husband." Husband! thought the young woman; rather

another victim of your bad arts, and your insatiate enmity to the human

race. But she made no reply, seeming thereby to acquiesce in her

father's will.

The young man thought he saw surprise depicted in the eyes of the

daughter, during the scene of this introduction, and determined to

watch events narrowly. In the evening he overheard the two daughters in

conversation. "There," said the eldest daughter, "I told you he would

not be satisfied with his last sacrifice. He has brought another

victim, under the pretence of providing me a husband. Husband, indeed!

the poor youth will be in some horrible predicament before another sun

has set. When shall we be spared the scenes of vice and wickedness

which are daily taking place before our eyes?"

Panigwun took the first opportunity of acquainting the daughters how he

had been carried off, and been compelled to leave his little brother on

the shore. They told him to wait until their father was asleep, then to

get up and take his canoe, and using the charm he had obtained, it

would carry him quickly to his brother. That he could carry him food,

prepare a lodge for him, and be back before daybreak. He did, in every

respect, as he had been directed--the canoe obeyed the charm, and

carried him safely over, and after providing for the subsistence of his

brother, he told him that in a short time he should come for him. Then

returning to the enchanted island, he resumed his place in the lodge,

before the magician awoke. Once, during the night, Mishosha awoke, and

not seeing his destined son-in-law, asked his daughter what had become

of him. She replied that he had merely stepped out, and would be back

soon. This satisfied him. In the morning, finding the young man in the

lodge, his suspicions were completely lulled. "I see, my daughter,"

said he, "you have told the truth."

As soon as the sun arose, Mishosha thus addressed the young man. "Come,

my son, I have a mind to gather gulls' eggs. I know an island where

there are great quantities, and I wish your aid in getting them." The

young man saw no reasonable excuse; and getting into the canoe, the

magician gave it a slap, and uttering a command, they were in an

instant at the island. They found the shores strown with gulls' eggs,

and the island full of birds of this species. "Go, my son," said the

old man, "and gather the eggs, while I remain in the canoe."

But Panigwun had no sooner got ashore, than Mishosha pushed his canoe a

little from the land, and exclaimed--"Listen, ye gulls! you have long

expected an offering from me. I now give you a victim. Fly down and

devour him." Then striking his canoe, he left the young man to his


The birds immediately came in clouds around their victim, darkening the

air with their numbers. But the youth seizing the first that came near

him, and drawing his knife, cut off its head. He immediately skinned

the bird and hung the feathers as a trophy on his breast. "Thus," he

exclaimed, "will I treat every one of you who approaches me. Forbear,

therefore, and listen to my words. It is not for you to eat human

flesh. You have been given by the Great Spirit as food for man. Neither

is it in the power of that old magician to do you any good. Take me on

your backs and carry me to his lodge, and you shall see that I am not

ungrateful." The gulls obeyed; collecting in a cloud for him to rest

upon, and quickly flew to the lodge, where they arrived before the

magician. The daughters were surprised at his return, but Mishosha, on

entering the lodge, conducted himself as if nothing extraordinary had

taken place.

The next day he again addressed the youth: "Come, my son," said he, "I

will take you to an island covered with the most beautiful stones and

pebbles, looking like silver. I wish you to assist me in gathering some

of them. They will make handsome ornaments, and possess great medicinal

virtues." Entering the canoe, the magician made use of his charm, and

they were carried in a few moments to a solitary bay in an island,

where there was a smooth sandy beach. The young man went ashore as

usual, and began to search. "A little further, a little further," cried

the old man. "Upon that rock you will get some fine ones." Then pushing

his canoe from land--"Come, thou great king of fishes," cried the old

man; "you have long expected an offering from me. Come, and eat the

stranger whom I have just put ashore on your island." So saying, he

commanded his canoe to return, and it was soon out of sight.

Immediately a monstrous fish thrust his long snout from the water,

crawling partially on the beach, and opening wide his jaws to receive

his victim. "When!" exclaimed the young man, drawing his knife and

putting himself in a threatening attitude, "when did you ever taste

human flesh? Have a care of yourself. You were given by the Great

Spirit to man, and if you, or any of your tribe eat human flesh you

will fall sick and die. Listen not to the words of that wicked man, but

carry me back to his island, in return for which I will present you a

piece of red cloth." The fish complied, raising his back out of the

water, to allow the young man to get on. Then taking his way through

the lake, he landed his charge safely on the island before the return

of the magician. The daughters were still more surprised to see that he

had escaped the arts of their father the second time. But the old man

on his return maintained his taciturnity and self-composure. He could

not, however, help saying to himself--"What manner of boy is this, who

is ever escaping from my power? But his spirit shall not save him. I

will entrap him to-morrow. Ha, ha, ha!"

Next day the magician addressed the young man as follows: "Come, my

son," said he, "you must go with me to procure some young eagles. I

wish to tame them. I have discovered an island where they are in great

abundance." When they had reached the island, Mishosha led him inland

until they came to the foot of a tall pine, upon which the nests were.

"Now, my son," said he, "climb up this tree and bring down the birds."

The young man obeyed. When he had with great difficulty got near the

nest, "Now," exclaimed the magician, addressing the tree, "stretch

yourself up and be very tall." The tree rose up at the command.

"Listen, ye eagles," continued the old man, "you have long expected a

gift from me. I now present you this boy, who has had the presumption

to molest your young. Stretch forth your claws and seize him." So

saying, he left the young man to his fate, and returned.

But the intrepid youth, drawing his knife, and cutting off the head of

the first eagle that menaced him, raised his voice and exclaimed, "Thus

will I deal with all who come near me. What right have you, ye ravenous

birds, who were made to feed on beasts, to eat human flesh? Is it

because that cowardly old canoe-man has bid you do so? He is an old

woman. He can neither do you good nor harm. See, I have already slain

one of your number. Respect my bravery, and carry me back that I may

show you how I shall treat you."

The eagles, pleased with his spirit, assented, and clustering thick

around him formed a seat with their backs, and flew toward the

enchanted island. As they crossed the water they passed over the

magician, lying half asleep in his canoe.

The return of the young man was hailed with joy by the daughters, who

now plainly saw that he was under the guidance of a strong spirit. But

the ire of the old man was excited, although he kept his temper under

subjection. He taxed his wits for some new mode of ridding himself of

the youth, who had so successfully baffled his skill. He next invited

him to go a hunting.

Taking his canoe, they proceeded to an island and built a lodge to

shelter themselves during the night. In the mean while the magician

caused a deep fall of snow, with a storm of wind and severe cold.

According to custom, the young man pulled off his moccasins and

leggings, and hung them before the fire to dry. After he had gone to

sleep, the magician, watching his opportunity, got up, and taking one

moccasin and one legging, threw them into the fire. He then went to

sleep. In the morning, stretching himself as he arose and uttering an

exclamation of surprise, "My son," said he, "what has become of your

moccasin and legging? I believe this is the moon in which fire

attracts, and I fear they have been drawn in." The young man suspected

the true cause of his loss, and rightly attributed it to a design of

the magician to freeze him to death on the march. But he maintained the

strictest silence, and drawing his conaus over his head, thus communed

with himself: "I have full faith in the Manito who has preserved me

thus far, I do not fear that he will forsake me in this cruel

emergency. Great is his power, and I invoke it now that he may enable

me to prevail over this wicked enemy of mankind."

He then drew on the remaining moccasin and legging, and taking a dead

coal from the fireplace, invoked his spirit to give it efficacy, and

blackened his foot and leg as far as the lost garment usually reached.

He then got up and announced himself ready for the march. In vain

Mishosha led him through snows and over morasses, hoping to see the lad

sink at every moment. But in this he was disappointed, and for the

first time they returned home together.

Taking courage from this success, the young man now determined to try

his own power, having previously consulted with the daughters. They all

agreed that the life the old man led was detestable, and that whoever

would rid the world of him, would entitle himself to the thanks of the

human race.

On the following day the young man thus addressed his hoary captor: "My

grandfather, I have often gone with you on perilous excursions, and

never murmured. I must now request that you will accompany me. I wish to

visit my little brother, and to bring him home with me." They

accordingly went on a visit to the main land, and found the little lad

in the spot where he had been left. After taking him into the canoe, the

young man again addressed the magician: "My grandfather, will you go and

cut me a few of those red willows on the bank, I wish to prepare some

smoking mixture." "Certainly, my son," replied the old man; "what you

wish is not very hard. Ha, ha, ha! do you think me too old to get up

there?" No sooner was Mishosha ashore, than the young man, placing

himself in the proper position struck the canoe with his hand, and

pronouncing the charm, N'chimaun Poll, the canoe immediately flew

through the water on its return to the island. It was evening when the

two brothers arrived, and carried the canoe ashore. But the elder

daughter informed the young man that unless he sat up and watched the

canoe, and kept his hand upon it, such was the power of their father, it

would slip off and return to him. Panigwun watched faithfully till near

the dawn of day, when he could no longer resist the drowsiness which

oppressed him, and he fell into a short doze. In the mean time, the

canoe slipped off and sought its master, who soon returned in high glee.

"Ha, ha, ha! my son," said he; "you thought to play me a trick. It was

very clever. But you see I am too old for you."

A short time after, the youth again addressed the magician. "My

grandfather, I wish to try my skill in hunting. It is said there is

plenty of game on an island not far off, and I have to request that you

will take me there in your canoe." They accordingly went to the island

and spent the day in hunting. Night coming on they put up a temporary

lodge. When the magician had sunk into a profound sleep, the young man

got up, and taking one of Mishosha's leggings and moccasins from the

place where they hung, threw them into the fire, thus retaliating the

artifice before played upon himself. He had discovered that the foot

and leg were the only vulnerable parts of the magician's body. Having

committed these articles to the fire, he besought his Manito that he

would raise a great storm of snow, wind, and hail, and then laid

himself down beside the old man. Consternation was depicted on the

countenance of the latter, when he awoke in the morning and found his

moccasin and legging missing. "I believe, my grandfather," said the

young man, "that this is the moon in which fire attracts, and I fear

your foot and leg garments have been drawn in." Then rising and bidding

the old man follow him, he began the morning's hunt, frequently turning

to see how Mishosha kept up. He saw him faltering at every step, and

almost benumbed with cold, but encouraged him to follow, saying, we

shall soon get through and reach the shore; although he took pains, at

the same time, to lead him in roundabout ways, so as to let the frost

take complete effect. At length the old man reached the brink of the

island where the woods are succeeded by a border of smooth sand. But he

could go no farther; his legs became stiff and refused motion, and he

found himself fixed to the spot. But he still kept stretching out his

arms and swinging his body to and fro. Every moment he found the

numbness creeping higher. He felt his legs growing downward like roots,

the feathers of his head turned to leaves, and in a few seconds he

stood a tall and stiff sycamore, leaning toward the water.

Panigwun leaped into the canoe, and pronouncing the charm, was soon

transported to the island, where he related his victory to the

daughters. They applauded the deed, agreed to put on mortal shapes,

become wives to the two young men, and forever quit the enchanted

island. And passing immediately over to the main land, they lived lives

of happiness and peace.