The Algonquin Legends of New England, by Charles G. Leland, , at sacred-texts.com
There was once a man and his wife who lived by the sea, far away from other people. They had many children, and they were very poor. One day this couple were in their canoe, far from land. There came up a dense fog; they were quite lost.
They heard a noise as of paddles and voices. It drew nearer. They saw dimly a monstrous canoe filled with giants, who greeted the little folk like friends. "Uch keen, tahmee wejeaok?" "My little brother," said the leader, "where are you going?" "I am lost in the fog," said the poor Indian, very sadly. "Ah, come with us to our camp," said the giant, who seemed to be a good fellow, if there ever was one. "Truly, ye will be well treated, my small friends, for my father is the chief; so be of good cheer!" And they, being much amazed at this gentleness, sat still in awe, while two of the giants, each putting a tip of his paddle under their bark, lifted it up and put it into their own, as if it had been a chip. And truly the giants seemed to be as much pleased with the little folk as a boy would be who had found a flying squirrel. 1
And as they drew near the beach, lo! they beheld three wigwams, high as mountains, in size according to that of the giants. And coming to meet them was the chief, who was taller than the rest.
"Ha!" he cried. "Son, what have you there? Where did you pick up that little brother? Noo, my father, I found him lost in the fog." "Well, bring him home to the lodge, my son!" So the giant took the small canoe in the palm of his hand, the man and his wife sitting therein, and carried them home. Then they were taken into the wigwam, and the canoe was laid carefully in the eaves, but within easy reach, about a hundred and fifty yards from the ground.
Then an abundant meal was set before them, but the benevolent host, mindful of their small size, did not give them more to eat than they would have needed for about ten years to come, and informed them in a subdued whisper, which could hardly have been heard a hundred miles off, that his name was Oscoon. 1
Now it came to pass, a few days after, that a company of these well-grown people went hunting, and when they returned the guests must needs pity them that they had no game in their land which answered to their size; for they came in with strings of such small affairs as two or three dozen caribou hanging in their belts, as a Micmac would carry a string of
squirrels, and swinging one or two moose in their hands like rabbits. Yet, what with these and many deer, bears, and beavers, they made up in the weight of their game what it lacked in size, and of what they had they were generous.
Now the giants became very fond of the small folk, and would not for the world that they should in any way come to harm. And it came to pass that one morning the chief told them that they were to have a grand battle, since they expected in three days to be attacked by a Chenoo. Therefore the Micmac saw that in all things it was even with the giants as with his own people at home, they having their troubles with the wicked, and the chiefs their share in being obliged to keep up their magic and know all that was going on in the world. Yea, for he would be a poor powwow and a necromancer worth nothing who could not foretell such a trifle as the day and hour when an enemy would be on them!
But this time the Sakumow (M.), or sagamore, was forewarned, and bade his little guests stop their ears and bind up their heads, and roll themselves in many folds of dressed skins, lest they should hear the deadly war-scream of the Chenoo. And with all their care they hardly survived it; but the second scream hurt them less; and after the third the chief came to them with a cheerful countenance, and bade them arise and unpack themselves, for the monster was slain, and though his four sons, with two other giants, had been sorely tried, yet they had conquered.
But the sorrows of the good are never at an end, and so it was with these honest giants, who were always being pestered with some kind of scurvy knaves or others; who would not leave them in peace. For anon the chief announced that this time a Kookwes--a burly, beastly villain, not two points better than his cousin the Chenoo--was coming to play at rough murder with them. And, verily, by this time the Micmac began to believe, without bating an ace on it, that all of these tall people were like the wolves, who, meeting with nobody else, bite one another. So they were bound and bundled up as before, and put to bed like dolls. And again they heard the horrible shout, the moderate shout, and the smaller shout, until sooel moonoodooahdigool, which, being interpreted, meaneth that they hardly heard him at all.
Then the warriors, returning, gave proof that they had indeed done something more than kick the wind, for they were covered with blood, and their legs were stuck full of large pines, with here and there an oak or hemlock, for the fight had been in a forest; so that they had been as much troubled as men would be with thistles, nettles, and pine splinters, which is truly often a great trouble. But this was their least trial, for, as they told their chief, the enemy had well-nigh made Jack Drum's entertainment for them, and led them the devil's dance, had not one of them, by good luck, opened his eye for him with a rock which drove it into his brain. And as it was, the chief's youngest son had been so mauled that, coming home, he fell
dead Just before his father's door. Truly this might have been deemed almost an accident in some families; but lo! what a good thing it is to have an enchanter in the house, especially one who knows his business, as did the old chief, who, going out, asked the young man why he was lying there. To which he replying that it was because he was dead, his father bade him rise and walk, which he did straight to the supper table, and ate none the less for it.
Now the old chief, thinking that perhaps his dear little people found life dull and devoid of incident with him, asked them if they were aweary of him. They, with golden truth indeed, answered that they had never been so merry, but that they were anxious as to their children at home. He answered that they were indeed right, and that the next morning they might depart. So their canoe was reached down for them, and packed full of the finest furs and best meat, when they were told to tebah'-dikw', or get in. Then a small dog was put in, and this dog was solemnly charged that he should take the people home, while the people were told to paddle in the direction in which the dog should point. 1 And to the Micmac he said, "Seven years hence you will be reminded of me." And then tokooboosijik (off they went).
The man sat in the stern, his wife in the prow, and the dog in the middle of the canoe. The dog pointed, the Indian paddled, the water was smooth. They soon reached home; the children with joy ran to meet them; the dog as joyfully ran to see the children, wagging his tail with great glee, just as if he had been like any other dog, and not a fairy. For, having made acquaintance, he without delay turned tail and trotted off for home again, running over the ocean surface as if it had been hard ice; which might, indeed, have once astonished the good man and his wife, but they had of late days seen so many wonders that they were past marveling.
Now this Indian, who had in the past been always poor, seemed to have quite recovered from that complaint. When he let down his lines the biggest fish bit; all his sprats were salmon; he prayed for goslings, and got geese; moose were as mice to him now; yea, he had the best in the land, with all the fatness thereof. So seven years passed away, and then, as he slept, there came unto him divers dreams, and in them he went back to the Land of the Giants, and saw all those who had been so kind to him. And yet again he dreamed one night that he was standing by his wigwam near the sea,--and that a great whale swam up to him and began to sing, and that the singing was the sweetest he had ever heard.
Then he remembered that the giant had told him he would think of him in seven years; and it came clearly before him what it all meant, and that he was
erelong to have magical power given to him, and that he should become a Megumoowessoo. This he told his wife, who, not being learned in darksome lore, would fain know more nearly what kind of a being he expected to be, and whether a spirit or a man, good or bad; which was, indeed, not easy to explain, nor is it clearly set down in the chronicles beyond this,--that, whatever it might be, it was all for the best, and that there was a great deal of magic in it.
That day they saw a great shark cruising about in their bay, chasing fish, and this they held for an evil omen. But, soon after, there came trotting towards them over the sea the same small dog who had been their pilot from the Land of the Giants. So he, full of joy, as before, at seeing them and the children, wagged his tail and danced for glee, and then looked earnestly at the man as if for some message. And to him the man said, "It is well. In three years' time I will make you a visit. I will look to the southwest." Then the dog licked the hands and the ears and the eyes of the man, and went home as before over the sea, running on the water.
And when the three years had passed the Indian entered his canoe, and, paddling without fear, found his way to the Land of the Giants. He saw the wigwams standing on the beach; the immense canoes were drawn up on the water's edge; from afar he beheld the old giant coming down to welcome him. But he was alone. And when he had been welcomed, and was in the wigwam, he learned that all the sons were dead.
[paragraph continues] They had died three years before, when the shark, the great sorcerer, had been seen.
They had gone, and the old man had but lingered a little longer. They had made the magic change, they had departed, and he would soon join them in his own kingdom. But ere he went he would leave their great inheritance, their magic, to the man.
Therewith the giant brought out his son's clothes, and bade the Indian put them on. Truly this was as if he had been asked to clothe himself with a great house, since the smallest fold in them would have been to him as a cavern. But he stepped in, and as he did this he rose to great size; he filled out the garments till they fitted; he was a giant, of Giant-Land. With the clothes came the wisdom, the m'téoulin, the manitou power of the greatest and wisest of the olden time. He was indeed Megumoowessoo, and had attained to the Mystery.
This very remarkable and evidently ancient tale is one of that kind which the keepers of tribe chronicles among the pagan Indians do not tell to the world, and which they conceal from white men. It is not a fragment, nor is it unfinished, as some readers may suppose. Its plot is of a much higher nature than a novel, which ends in a marriage. To an Indian, whose ideas of earthly happiness were not in money, houses, and lands, personal power was the one thing to be most desired. As a Passamaquoddy said once to me, "To be rich in those days meant to be a great hunter and
always have plenty of meat for everybody." Hence the desire to be great and strong to be able to entice wild animals, to run like the wind, to be crafty in all things, especially in making war; hence to have prophetic dreams. All of this was to be attained by m'téoulin, or magic. The highest ambition of an Indian was to become a Megumoowessoo, a mystical being, which is explained differently as fairy, faun, sylvan deity, but which means one who enjoys all the highest privileges of humanity allied to the supernatural. This is what the hero of this story gets by favor of the giant.
It may be observed that in this tale the Indian cannot explain to his wife what he nevertheless perfectly understands; that is, the exact nature of a Megumoowessoo. The giant, by speaking of his own kingdom, gives the true key of the whole mystery. He has attained magic power so far as one can exercise it in this life. Like Glooskap he can be, or unlike him prefers to be habitually, a giant. He has battled with the Chenoo and Kookwess; he has, like Hercules, fulfilled his mission; and now he departs for his own realm, that of the Megumoowessoo, as Arthur went to Fairy-Land, as Buddha to the unknown Nirvana,--that is, to something beyond the conception of poet or theosophist.
I suspect that the period of seven years, and again of three years, had been employed by the Indian in preparing himself by penance for m'téoulin. The respect of the Indians for the number seven is so
remarkable, that if it be true that Deus imparibus numeris gaudet, they are in that respect, at least, like deities. Whenever seven or a white bear's skin occurs in these tiles, there always lies hidden a magical mystery.
It is not the least remarkable feature of this tale that it abounds in that quiet small humor which recalls the adventures of Captain Lemuel Gulliver. The Indian, like the Norseman, was such an implicit believer in his own myths, and he had evolved them so entirely from himself without borrowing,--since we may regard him as one in this respect with the Eskimo,--that no human characteristic detracted from the dignity of the Manitou.
There is a strong suggestion in this story that the giants were whales. This and the incident of their inhabiting a mysterious country beyond the sea and the fog would identify them with the enchanted land of the Eskimo, visited by the Angakok in their trances, and by others in kayaks. This country was named Akilinek, "a fabulous land beyond the sea." The whole story of Malaise, the man who traveled to Akilinek, is in every detail extremely like an Indian tale. (Rink, page 169.) It has also a Norse affinity. The land of the giants was supposed by both Icelanders and Indians to be in the North Atlantic. There is a Norse tale of a man changed to a whale which indicates a common origin with the one here given.
It is believed that the m'téoulin can, when speaking, make themselves heard to whom they will, at any
distance. They can confer with one another secretly when miles away, or make themselves known to many. I was informed by an Indian in all faith that an old witch who died in 1876, twelve miles from Pleasant Point, was heard to speak in the latter place when at her last. A very intelligent Passamaquoddy told me that when Osalik (Sarah) Hequin died he himself heard all she said, though sixty-five miles distant. I am certain that he firmly believed this. This woman died a strange death, for she was found standing up, dead, in the snow, with her arms extended and "hands sticking out." It is generally believed that she was killed by other m'téoulin.
There are really very few ideas in modern mesmerism not known to Eskimo or Indian Shamans. Clairvoyance is called by the Passamaquoddies Meelah bi give he.
GLINT-WAH-GNOUR PES SAUSMOK.
N'loan pes-saus, mok glint ont-aven
Glint ont-aven, nosh mor-gun
N'loan sep-scess syne-duc
Mach-ak wah le-de-born harlo kirk
Pes-sauk-wa morgun pa-zazen.
Dout-tu cowall, yu'eke ne-mess comall
Dow-dar bowsee des ge-che-ne-wes skump,
Na-havak dunko to-awk w'che-mon wh'oak
No-saw yu-well Mooen nill
Mask da-ah gawank la me la-tak-a-dea-on p. 379
Di-wa godamr Kadunk-ah dea-on
Glor-ba dea-on glom-de-nee
Glint-wah-gnour pes sausmok.
THE SONG OF THE STARS.
We are the stars which sing,
We sing with our light;
We are the birds of fire,
We fly over the sky.
Our light is a voice;
We make a road for spirits,
For the spirits to pass over.
Among us are three hunters
Who chase a bear;
There never was a time
When they were not hunting.
We look down on the mountains.
This is the Song of the Stars.
"Ahboohe b'lo maryna Piel to-marcess"
We poual gee yuaa
Mar-yuon cordect delo son
Ne morn-en nute magk med-agon
On-e-est Molly duse-al ca-soo-son nen.
368:1 A story like this of giants in a canoe would very naturally originate about the Bay of Fundy, where, in the dense and frequent fogs, all objects assume greatly exaggerated apparent dimensions. One often beholds there, on the shore, "men as trees walking."
369:1 Mr. Rand suggests that this may indicate the dark color of his tribe. Eskimo legends speak of people among them who were black.
372:1 Strange as it may seem, there is not the least exaggeration in this. Lieutenant-Colonel Barclay Kennan told me that when surveying in the far North Pacific he had an Eskimo dog which, in the thickest fog, would scent the land at a great distance, and continually point to it.
Tumbling end over end, goes Piel to mercess,
With feathers on his eyes.
To the maple-sap ridge we are going,
Our lunch a cod-fish skin;
One est Molly's daughter goes with us.