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Osseo Or The Son Of The Evening Star

Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha


There once lived an Indian in the north, who had ten daughters, all of
whom grew up to womanhood. They were noted for their beauty, but
especially Oweenee, the youngest, who was very independent in her way
of thinking. She was a great admirer of romantic places, and paid very
little attention to the numerous young men who came to her father's
lodge for the purpose of seeing her. Her elder sisters were all
solicited in marriage from their parents, and one after another, went
off to dwell in the lodges of their husbands, or mothers-in-law, but
she would listen to no proposals of the kind. At last she married an
old man called OSSEO, who was scarcely able to walk, and was too poor
to have things like others. They jeered and laughed at her, on all
sides, but she seemed to be quite happy, and said to them, "It is my
choice, and you will see in the end, who has acted the wisest." Soon
after, the sisters and their husbands and their parents were all
invited to a feast, and as they walked along the path, they could not
help pitying their young and handsome sister, who had such an
unsuitable mate. Osseo often stopped and gazed upwards, but they could
perceive nothing in the direction he looked, unless it was the faint
glimmering of the evening star. They heard him muttering to himself as
they went along, and one of the elder sisters caught the words,
"Sho-wain-ne-me-shin nosa."[37] "Poor old man," said she, "he is talking
to his father, what a pity it is, that he would not fall and break his
neck, that our sister might have a handsome young husband." Presently
they passed a large hollow log, lying with one end toward the path. The
moment Osseo, who was of the turtle totem, came to it, he stopped
short, uttered a loud and peculiar yell, and then dashing into one end
of the log, he came out at the other, a most beautiful young man, and
springing back to the road, he led off the party with steps as light as
the reindeer.[38] But on turning round to look for his wife, behold, she
had been changed into an old, decrepit woman, who was bent almost
double, and walked with a cane. The husband, however, treated her very
kindly, as she had done him during the time of his enchantment, and
constantly addressed her by the term of ne-ne-moosh-a, or my sweetheart.

When they came to the hunter's lodge with whom they were to feast, they
found the feast ready prepared, and as soon as their entertainer had
finished his harangue (in which he told them his feasting was in honor
of the Evening or Woman's Star), they began to partake of the portion
dealt out, according to age and character, to each one. The food was
very delicious, and they were all happy but Osseo, who looked at his
wife and then gazed upward, as if he was looking into the substance of
the sky. Sounds were soon heard, as if from far-off voices in the air,
and they became plainer and plainer, till he could clearly distinguish
some of the words.

"My son--my son," said the voice, "I have seen your afflictions and
pity your wants. I come to call you away from a scene that is stained
with blood and tears. The earth is full of sorrows. Giants and
sorcerers, the enemies of mankind, walk abroad in it, and are scattered
throughout its length. Every night they are lifting their voices to the
Power of Evil, and every day they make themselves busy in casting evil
in the hunter's path. You have long been their victim, but shall be
their victim no more. The spell you were under is broken. Your evil
genius is overcome. I have cast him down by my superior strength, and
it is this strength I now exert for your happiness. Ascend, my
son--ascend into the skies, and partake of the feast I have prepared
for you in the stars, and bring with you those you love.

"The food set before you is enchanted and blessed. Fear not to partake
of it. It is endowed with magic power to give immortality to mortals,
and to change men to spirits. Your bowls and kettles shall be no longer
wood and earth. The one shall become silver, and the other wampum. They
shall shine like fire, and glisten like the most beautiful scarlet.
Every female shall also change her state and looks, and no longer be
doomed to laborious tasks. She shall put on the beauty of the
starlight, and become a shining bird of the air, clothed with shining
feathers. She shall dance and not work--she shall sing and not cry."

"My beams," continued the voice, "shine faintly on your lodge, but they
have a power to transform it into the lightness of the skies, and
decorate it with the colors of the clouds. Come, Osseo, my son, and
dwell no longer on earth. Think strongly on my words, and look
steadfastly at my beams. My power is now at its height. Doubt
not--delay not. It is the voice of the Spirit of the stars that calls
you away to happiness and celestial rest."

The words were intelligible to Osseo, but his companions thought them
some far-off sounds of music, or birds singing in the woods. Very soon
the lodge began to shake and tremble, and they felt it rising into the
air. It was too late to run out, for they were already as high as the
tops of the trees. Osseo looked around him as the lodge passed through
the topmost boughs, and behold! their wooden dishes were changed into
shells of a scarlet color, the poles of the lodge to glittering wires of
silver, and the bark that covered them into the gorgeous wings of
insects. A moment more, and his brothers and sisters, and their parents
and friends, were transformed into birds of various plumage. Some were
jays, some partridges and pigeons, and others gay singing birds, who
hopped about displaying their glittering feathers, and singing their
song. But Oweenee still kept her earthly garb, and exhibited all the
indications of extreme age. He again cast his eyes in the direction of
the clouds, and uttered that peculiar yell, which had given him the
victory at the hollow log. In a moment the youth and beauty of his wife
returned; her dingy garments assumed the shining appearance of green
silk, and her cane was changed into a silver feather. The lodge again
shook and trembled, for they were now passing through the uppermost
clouds, and they immediately after found themselves in the Evening Star,
the residence of Osseo's father.

"My son," said the old man, "hang that cage of birds, which you have
brought along in your hand, at the door, and I will inform you why you
and your wife have been sent for." Osseo obeyed the directions, and
then took his seat in the lodge. "Pity was shown to you," resumed the
king of the star, "on account of the contempt of your wife's sister,
who laughed at her ill fortune, and ridiculed you while you were under
the power of that wicked spirit, whom you overcame at the log. That
spirit lives in the next lodge, being a small star you see on the left
of mine, and he has always felt envious of my family, because we had
greater power than he had, and especially on account of our having had
the care committed to us of the female world. He failed in several
attempts to destroy your brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, but
succeeded at last in transforming yourself and your wife into decrepit
old persons. You must be careful and not let the light of his beams
fall on you, while you are here, for therein is the power of his
enchantment; a ray of light is the bow and arrows he uses."

Osseo lived happy and contented in the parental lodge, and in due time
his wife presented him with a son, who grew up rapidly, and was the
image of his father. He was very quick and ready in learning everything
that was done in his grandfather's dominions, but he wished also to
learn the art of hunting, for he had heard that this was a favorite
pursuit below. To gratify him, his father made him a bow and arrows,
and he then let the birds out of the cage that he might practise in
shooting. He soon became expert, and the very first day brought down a
bird, but when he went to pick it up, to his amazement, it was a
beautiful young woman with the arrow sticking in her breast. It was one
of his younger aunts. The moment her blood fell upon the surface of
that pure and spotless planet, the charm was dissolved. The boy
immediately found himself sinking, but was partly upheld, by something
like wings, till he passed through the lower clouds, and he then
suddenly dropped upon a high, romantic island in a large lake. He was
pleased on looking up, to see all his aunts and uncles following him in
the form of birds, and he soon discovered the silver lodge, with his
father and mother, descending with its waving barks looking like so
many insects' gilded wings. It rested on the highest cliffs of the
island, and here they fixed their residence. They all resumed their
natural shapes, but were diminished to the size of fairies; as a
mark of homage to the King of the Evening Star, they never failed, on
every pleasant evening, during the summer season, to join hands, and
dance upon the top of the rocks. These rocks were quickly observed by
the Indians to be covered, in moonlight evenings, with a larger sort of
Puk Wudj Ininees, or little men, and were called Mish-in-e-mok-in-ok-ong,
or turtle spirits, and the island is named from them to this day.[39]
Their shining lodge can be seen in the summer evenings when the moon
shines strongly on the pinnacles of the rocks, and the fishermen, who
go near those high cliffs at night, have even heard the voices of the
happy little dancers.

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