The Enchanted Moccasins

: The Myth Of Hiawatha


There once lived a little boy, all alone with his sister, in a very

wild uninhabitable country. They saw nothing but beasts, and birds, the

sky above them, and the earth beneath them. But there were no human

beings besides themselves. The boy often retired to think, in lone

places, and the opinion was formed that he had supernatural powers. It

was supposed that he would perform some
extraordinary exploits, and he

was called Onwe Bahmondoong, or he that carries a ball on his back. As

he grew up he was impatient to know whether there were other beings

near them: she replied, that there was, but they lived in a remote

distance. There was a large village of hunters and warriors. Being now

well grown, he determined to seek his fortune, and asked her to make

him several pairs of moccasins to last him on the journey. With this

request she complied. Then taking his bow and arrows, and his war-club,

and a little sack containing his nawappo, or travelling victuals, he

immediately set out on his journey. He travelled on, not knowing

exactly where he went. Hills, plains, trees, rocks, forests, meadows,

spread before him. Sometimes he killed an animal, sometimes a bird. The

deer often started in his path. He saw the fox, the bear, and the

ground-hog. The eagles screamed above him. The ducks chattered in the

ponds and lakes. He lay down and slept when he was tired, he rose up

when he was refreshed. At last he came to a small wigwam, and, on

looking into it, discovered a very old woman sitting alone by the fire.

As soon as she saw the stranger, she invited him in, and thus addressed

him: "My poor grandchild, I suppose you are one of those who seek for

the distant village, from which no person has ever yet returned. Unless

your guardian is more powerful than the guardian of your predecessors,

you too will share a similar fate of theirs. Be careful to provide

yourself with the Ozhebahguhnun--the bones they use in the medicine

dance[104]--without which you cannot succeed." After she had thus

spoken, she gave him the following directions for his journey. "When

you come near to the village which you seek, you will see in the centre

a large lodge, in which the chief of the village, who has two

daughters, resides. Before the door you will see a great tree, which is

smooth and destitute of bark. On this tree, about the height of a man

from the ground, a small lodge is suspended, in which these two

daughters dwell. It is here so many have been destroyed. Be wise, my

grandchild, and abide strictly by my directions." The old woman then

gave him the Ozhebahguhnun, which would cause his success. Placing them

in his bosom, he continued his journey, till at length he arrived at

the sought-for village; and, as he was gazing around him, he saw both

the tree and the lodge which the old woman had mentioned. Immediately

he bent his steps for the tree, and approaching, he endeavored to reach

the suspended lodge. But all his efforts were vain; for as often as he

attempted to reach it, the tree began to tremble, and soon shot up so

that the lodge could hardly be perceived. Foiled as he was in all his

attempts, he thought of his guardian and changed himself into a small

squirrel, that he might more easily accomplish his design. He then

mounted the tree in quest of the lodge. After climbing for some time,

he became fatigued, and panted for breath; but, remembering the

instructions which the old woman had given him, he took from his bosom

one of the bones, and thrust it into the trunk of the tree, on which he

sat. In this way he quickly found relief; and, as often as he became

fatigued, he repeated this; but whenever he came near the lodge and

attempted to touch it, the tree would shoot up as before, and place the

lodge beyond his reach. At length, the bones being exhausted, he began

to despair, for the earth had long since vanished from his sight.

Summoning all resolution, he determined to make another effort to reach

the object of his wishes. On he went; yet, as soon as he came near the

lodge and attempted to touch it, the tree again shook, but it had

reached the arch of heaven, and could go no higher; so now he entered

the lodge, and beheld the two sisters sitting opposite each other. He

asked their names. The one on his left hand called herself

Azhabee,[105] and the one on the right Negahnahbee.[106] Whenever he

addressed the one on his left hand, the tree would tremble as before,

and settle down to its former position. But when he addressed the one

on his right hand, it would again shoot upward as before. When he thus

discovered that, by addressing the one on his left hand, the tree would

descend, he continued to do so until it had resumed its former

position; then seizing his war-club, he thus addressed the sisters:

"You, who have caused the death of so many of my brothers, I will now

put an end to, and thus have revenge for the numbers you have

destroyed." As he said this he raised the club and laid them dead at

his feet. He then descended, and learning that these sisters had a

brother living with their father, who would pursue him for the deed he

had done, he set off at random, not knowing whither he went. Soon

after, the father and mother of the young women visited their residence

and found their remains. They immediately told their son Mudjikewis

that his sisters had been slain. He replied, "The person who has done

this must be the Boy that carries the Ball on his Back. I will pursue

him, and have revenge for the blood of my sisters." "It is well, my

son," replied the father. "The spirit of your life grant you success. I

counsel you to be wary in the pursuit. It is a strong spirit who has

done this injury to us, and he will try to deceive you in every way.

Above all, avoid tasting food till you succeed; for if you break your

fast before you see his blood, your power will be destroyed." So

saying, they parted.

His son instantly set out in search of the murderer, who, finding he

was closely pursued by the brother of the slain, climbed up into one of

the tallest trees and shot forth his magic arrows. Finding that his

pursuer was not turned back by his arrows, he renewed his flight; and

when he found himself hard pressed, and his enemy close behind him, he

transformed himself into the skeleton of a moose that had been killed,

whose flesh had come off from his bones. He then remembered the

moccasins which his sister had given him, which were enchanted. Taking

a pair of them, he placed them near the skeleton. "Go," said he to

them, "to the end of the earth."

The moccasins then left him and their tracks remained. Mudjikewis at

length came to the skeleton of the moose, when he perceived that the

track he had long been pursuing did not end there, so he continued to

follow it up, till he came to the end of the earth, where he found only

a pair of moccasins. Mortified that he had been outwitted by following

a pair of moccasins instead of the object of his revenge, he bitterly

complained, resolving not to give up the pursuit, and to be more wary

and wise in scrutinizing signs. He then called to mind the skeleton he

met on his way, and concluded that it must be the object of his

search. He retraced his steps towards the skeleton, but found, to his

surprise, that it had disappeared, and that the tracks of Onwe

Bahmondoong, or he who carries the Ball, were in another direction.

He now became faint with hunger, and resolved to give up the pursuit;

but when he remembered the blood of his sisters, he determined again to


The other, finding he was closely pursued, now changed himself into a

very old man, with two daughters, who lived in a large lodge in the

centre of a beautiful garden, which was filled with everything that

could delight the eye or was pleasant to the taste. He made himself

appear so very old as to be unable to leave his lodge, and had his

daughters to bring him food and wait on him. The garden also had the

appearance of ancient occupancy, and was highly cultivated.

His pursuer continued on till he was nearly starved and ready to sink.

He exclaimed, "Oh! I will forget the blood of my sisters, for I am

starving;" but again he thought of the blood of his sisters, and again

he resolved to pursue, and be satisfied with nothing but the attainment

of his right to revenge.

He went on till he came to the beautiful garden. He approached the

lodge. As soon as the daughters of the owner perceived him, they ran

and told their father that a stranger approached the lodge. Their

father replied, "Invite him in, my children, invite him in." They

quickly did so; and by the command of their father, they boiled some

corn and prepared other savory food. Mudjikewis had no suspicion of the

deception. He was faint and weary with travel, and felt that he could

endure fasting no longer. Without hesitancy, he partook heartily of the

meal, and in so doing was overcome. All at once he seemed to forget the

blood of his sisters, and even the village of his nativity. He ate so

heartily as to produce drowsiness, and soon fell into a profound sleep.

Onwe Bahmondoong watched his opportunity, and, as soon as he found his

slumbers sound, resumed his youthful form. He then drew the magic ball

from his back, which turned out to be a heavy war-club, with one blow

of which he put an end to his pursuer, and thus vindicated his title as

the Wearer of the Ball.