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The Thunder Bird Tootooch Legends, by W.L. Webber, [1936], at

p. 24

Kutze-ce-te-ut, the Wood Worm

Kutze-ce-te-ut, THE WOOD WORM

The Wood Worm legend is a very important incident to the tribes affiliated with the Haidas of the Queen Charlotte Islands and the Mainland of British Columbia.

A daughter of a Chief had entered her maha-pil-pil (period of puberty) and was kept hidden behind a screen, not being allowed to come in contact with any other member of the tribe other than her own family for fear that she would make them lose their luck. Nor was she allowed to go near the river for fear that she would gaze on the salmon and that they would turn back, thus bringing hardship upon the tribe through their not being able to secure the fish for food. It was also believed that a girl at this stage of womanhood possessed great magical power.

One day, while putting wood on the fire, a stick kulakula (wood worm) fell from the bark. She picked it up carefully and wrapped it in a blanket. She took the worm to her sleeping place and offered it some food but it would not eat. Then she offered it her breast. From then on it grew very rapidly. She fondled her worm as if it was her own child, keeping it secreted behind the food boxes. Her mother, noticing her continual absences, came upon her fondling the worm which had grown as big as a man.

The Chief was called to look and was greatly amazed as he had never seen such a thing before. He held a consultation with the daughter's uncle. Her uncle invited her to his house for a special dish of food, much to her liking, and while she was eating he stole away to look at the wood worm. That evening the people were called together and they were told of the monster. They were told that the food and grease boxes were emptied at such a rate that soon the tribe would be on the verge of starvation and that it might give them some fatal disease. The following day the girl was again asked to her uncle's house and when she was away the men of the village took their long sharp fish spears and killed the object of their fear. When the girl returned to her apartment she found the elf dead. She cried bitterly, accusing the people of slaying her child. She then sang songs about Kutze-ce-te-ut until she died of grief.

In commemoration of this event the descendants of this girl's family display the figure of Kutze-ce-te-ut as the crest of their ancestors. A totem pole with a carving of a Wood Worm is difficult to secure. It is more often found engraved on the native silver work.

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