The Swing By The Lake

: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian

There was an old hag of a woman who lived with her daughter-in-law and

her husband, with their son and a little orphan boy. When her

son-in-law came home from hunting, it was his custom to bring his wife

the moose's lip, the kidney of the bear, or some other choice bits of

different animals. These the girl would cook crisp, so that the sound

of their cracking could be heard when she ate them. This kind

attention of the
hunter to his wife aroused the envy of the old woman.

She wished to have the same luxuries, and, in order to obtain them,

she at last resolved to kill the young wife. One day she asked her to

leave her infant son to the care of the orphan boy, and come out and

swing with her. The wife consented, and the mother-in-law took her to

the shore of a lake, where there was a high ridge of rocks overhanging

the water. Upon the top of these rocks the old woman put up a swing,

and, having fastened a piece of leather round her body, she commenced

to swing herself, going over the precipice each time. She continued

this for a short while, and then, stopping, told her daughter-in-law

to take her place. She did so, and, having tied the leather round her,

began to swing backwards and forwards. When she was well going,

sweeping at each turn clear beyond the precipice, the old woman slyly

cut the cords, and let her drop into the lake. She then put on some of

the girl's clothing, entered the lodge in the dusk of the evening, and

went about the work in which her daughter-in-law had been usually

occupied at such a time. She found the child crying, and, since the

mother was not there to give it the breast, it cried on. Then the

orphan boy asked her where the mother was.

"She is still swinging," replied the old woman.

"I will go," said he, "and look for her."

"No," said the old woman, "you must not. What would you go for?"

In the evening, when the husband came in, he gave the coveted morsels

to what he supposed was his wife. He missed the old woman, but asked

nothing about her. Meanwhile the woman ate the morsels, and tried to

quiet the child. The husband, seeing that she kept her face away from

him, was astonished, and asked why the child cried so. His pretended

wife answered that she did not know.

In the meantime the orphan boy went to the shores of the lake, where

he found no one. Then he suspected the old woman, and, having returned

to the lodge, told the hunter, while she was out getting wood, all he

had heard and seen. The man, when he had heard the story, painted his

face black, and placed his spear upside down in the earth, and

requested the Great Spirit to send lightning, thunder, and rain, in

the hope that the body of his wife might arise from the water. He then

began to fast, and told the boy to take the child and play upon the

lake shore.

Meanwhile this is what had happened to the wife. After she had plunged

into the lake, she found herself in the hold of a water-tiger, who

drew her to the bottom. There she found a lodge, and all things in it

as if arranged for her reception, and she became the water-tiger's


Whilst the orphan boy and the child were playing on the shore of the

lake one day, the boy began to throw pebbles into the water, when

suddenly a gull arose from the centre of the lake, and flew towards

the land. When it had arrived there, it took human shape, and the boy

recognised that it was the lost mother. She had a leather belt around

her, and another belt of white metal. She suckled the baby, and,

preparing to return to the water, said to the boy--

"Come here with the child whenever it cries, and I will nurse it."

The boy carried the child home, and told the father what had occurred.

When the child cried again, the man went with the boy to the shore,

and hid himself behind a clump of trees. Soon the gull made its

appearance, with a long shining chain attached to it. The bird came to

the shore, assumed the mother's shape, and began to suckle the child.

The husband stood with his spear in his hand, wondering what he had

best do to regain his wife. When he saw her preparing to return to the

lake he rushed forward, struck the shining chain with his spear, and

broke it. Then he took his wife and child home. As he entered the

lodge the old woman looked up, and, when she saw the wife, she dropped

her head in despair. A rustling was heard in the place; the next

moment the old woman leaped up, flew out of the lodge, and was never

heard of more.