The Shadow Wife
: ALASKAN STORIES
: Indian Legends Retold
A certain young man lost his wife when they had been married only a
few days, and he was very sorrowful. All night he lay awake thinking
about her. The next night and the next it was the same. In the morning
they took away her body to bury it, and he put on his best clothes and
All day he walked and all night; he could not stop; daylight found him
still walking. He heard voices a long way off
and he followed them.
At last he saw light through the thick trees and came out of the woods
upon the shore of a quiet lake. All this time he had been walking upon
the death road, the road of spirits, but he did not know it.
On the other side of the lake he saw people and called to them, but to
his surprise no one seemed to hear him. After he had grown hoarse
with shouting, he whispered to himself: "Why is it, I wonder, that no
one hears me? It is not so far over there!"
Immediately they heard him, and one said: "It is a person come up from
Dreamland. Let us go and bring him across!"
They came in a canoe and carried him across the lake, and when he
reached the other side, the very first person he saw was his wife! Her
eyes were red, and he saw that she had been crying for him. What joy
to see her again! He was so happy that he could hardly bear it. The
people offered him food, but his wife warned him not to eat, for if he
did so, she said, he could never return to earth.
As it was, they went back together in the canoe, which is called
"Ghost's Canoe", and started hand-in-hand down the long trail that
led to his father's house. They walked for a day and a night, and when
they arrived, he left her standing outside and went to speak to his
"Father," said the young man, "I have brought my wife home!"
"Why don't you bring her in?" asked his father.
So they arranged robes to make a soft seat, and he went out to fetch
her and came in again, but the people saw him alone. There was
something like a shadow that came after. Wherever the young man went,
this shadow could be seen to follow him. The shadow wife never spoke,
at least not in the day time, but at night her voice could be heard
plainly. The people in the house complained that it kept them awake.
It seemed as if the two were talking and playing together all the
There was a former lover of the girl who grew very jealous when her
husband by his love brought her back from Ghost Land, and one night he
hid himself behind their bed and suddenly raised the curtain. As he
did so, there was heard a rattling of dry bones and then silence. In
the morning the young husband lay dead, and the spirits of both went
back to Ghost Land.