The Maid In The Box
: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian
There once lived a woman called Monedo Kway (female spirit or
prophetess) on the sand mountains, called The Sleeping Bear of Lake
Michigan, who had a daughter as beautiful as she was modest and
discreet. Everybody spoke of her beauty, and she was so handsome that
her mother feared she would be carried off, so to prevent it she put
her in a box, which she pushed into the middle of the lake. The box
was tied by a long st
ing to a stake on shore, and every morning the
mother pulled the box to land, and, taking her daughter out of it,
combed her hair, gave her food, and then putting her again in the box,
set her afloat on the lake.
One day it chanced that a handsome young man came to the spot at the
moment the girl was being thus attended to by her mother. He was
struck with her beauty, and immediately went home and told his love to
his uncle, who was a great chief and a powerful magician.
"My nephew," replied the old man, "go to the mother's lodge and sit
down in a modest manner without saying a word. You need not ask her a
question, for whatever you think she will understand, and what she
thinks in answer you will understand."
The young man did as he was bid. He entered the woman's lodge and sat
with his head bent down in a thoughtful manner, without uttering a
word. He then thought--
"I wish she would give me her daughter." Very soon he understood the
mother's thoughts in reply.
"Give you my daughter!" thought she. "You! no, indeed! my daughter
shall never marry you!"
The young man went away and reported the result to his uncle.
"Woman without good sense!" exclaimed the old man. "Who is she keeping
her daughter for? Does she think she will marry the Mudjikewis (a term
indicating the heir or successor to the first in power)? Proud heart!
We will try her magic skill, and see whether she can withstand our
He forthwith set himself to work, and in a short time the pride and
haughtiness of the mother was made known to all the spirits on that
part of the lake, and they met together and resolved to exert their
power to humble her. To do this they determined to raise a great storm
on the lake. The water began to roar and toss, and the tempest became
so severe that the string holding the box broke, and it floated off
through the straits down Lake Huron, and struck against the sandy
shores at its outlet. The place where it struck was near the lodge of
a decayed old magician called Ishkwon Daimeka, or the keeper of the
gate of the lakes. He opened the box and let out the beautiful
daughter, whom he took into his lodge and made his wife.
When her mother found that her daughter had been carried off by the
storm, she raised loud cries and lamented exceedingly. This she
continued to do for a long time, and would not be comforted. At last
the spirits began to pity her, and determined to raise another storm
to bring the daughter back. This was even a greater storm than the
first. The water of the lake washed away the ground, and swept on to
the lodge of Ishkwon Daimeka, whose wife, when she saw the flood
approaching, leaped into the box, and the waves, carrying her off,
landed her at the very spot where was her mother's lodge.
Monedo Kway was overjoyed, but when she opened the box she found her
daughter, indeed, but her beauty had almost all departed. However, she
loved her still, because she was her daughter, and now thought of the
young man who had come to seek her in marriage. She sent a formal
message to him, but he had heard of all that had occurred, and his
love for the girl had died away.
"I marry your daughter!" replied he. "Your daughter! no, indeed! I
shall never marry her!"
The storm that brought the girl back was so strong that it tore away a
large part of the shore of the lake and swept off Ishkwon Daimeka's
lodge, the fragments of which, lodging in the straits, formed those
beautiful islands which are scattered in the St. Clair and Detroit
rivers. As to Ishkwon Daimeka himself, he was drowned, and his bones
lie buried under the islands. As he was carried away by the waves on a
fragment of his lodge, the old man was heard lamenting his fate in a