New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Magical Food, Belt and Flute

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From the blog at

This is another in a series of occasional Mi’kmaq stories from Legends of the Micmacs by Silas T. Rand, Wellesey Philological Publications, New York, 1894. This edition presents a story of a magical food pellet, belt and flute.

Rand appears to be correct that this story was influenced by stories told by white people. It is reminiscent of ‘Jack and the bean stalk’, but without the beans and the giant.

There is a short introduction to these Mi’kmaq stories in the first blog posting entitled Robbery and Murder Revenged.

 003 Moli Elizabet Francis

Moli Elizabet Francis, Mrs. John Alexander, Noel Francis, MAKAW

and others at Tobique, c. 1904 – N.B. Museum


The Magical Food, Belt, and Flute

[The following story has a tinge of modernism about it. The actors are civilized, not savage (sic.); and it may be some ancient fairy tale, first learned from the whites, and remodeled by design or accident into the Indian style of the marvelous. The hero’s name given by the Indian from whose mouth I wrote the story down as he related it in Micmac, was Jack, which seems to confirm the suspicion that the tale itself is not of Indian origin. The discovery of such a tale in the regions of romance would of course settle the question. I here give the story as I heard it, translating it from the Micmac which lies before me.]

There was once a king who owned a large farm in the neighborhood of the town where he resided; the farm was cultivated by a man who paid rent for it to the king. This man had but one child, a son, who was considered only about half witted; he was very stupid, and was continually doing silly things.

After a while his father died; but as he had left a large store of money, the rent was easily met for a year or two. Finally, a pay-day approached when there was no cash. The mother consulted with her son as to what was to be done. “The king will call in a day or two for his money, and we have none for him. What can we do?” He replies, Loöŏooh’ (“I don’t know”). She concludes to select one of the finest cows, and send the boy off to market to sell it. He agrees to the proposal, and starts with the cow to market.

As he drives his animal along, he passes a house standing near the road; there is a man on the steps who has come out to hail him. He inquires, “Where are you going with that cow?” “I am driving her to market,” Jack answers. “Come in and rest yourself,” says the man, pleasantly. Jack accepts the invitation, goes in, and sits down. “I want you to make me a present of that cow,” says the man. “Can’t do it,” replies Jack; “but I will be glad to sell her to you, for we are in need of the money.” The man replies that he will not buy the cow, but that he wants Jack to make him a present of her. This the boy refuses to do. The man asks if he will have something to eat. He answers in the affirmative, and on a tiny dish is set before him a very small piece of food. The boy looks at the food, and ventures to taste it. He finds it very palatable, and eats away, but does not diminish the amount. After a while the distension of his stomach indicates that he has eaten sufficiently; but his appetite is as keen as ever, and the morsel that lies on the tiny plate is not in the least diminished. He endeavors to stop eating, but finds that he cannot do so. He has to keep on eating, whether he will or not. So he calls out to the man, “Take away your food.” The man coolly answers, “Give Me your cow, and I will.” The boy answers indignantly, “I’ll do no such thing; take your dish away.” “Then eat on,” quietly answers the man; and eat on he does, until he begins to think that his whole abdominal region will burst if he continues much longer. He gives over the contest, cries for quarter, and yields up the cow. In return he receives the little dish with the food, undiminished in quantity or quality, remaining in it. He then returns home with the magical food in his pocket.

Arriving at his home, he is questioned as to the success of his mission. He relates his adventures and says, “I have been robbed of the cow.” His mother calls him a thousand fools, upbraids him outrageously, and seizes the fire-shovel in order to knock him down. He dodges her, however, and taking a particle of the magical food on the tip of his finger, adroitly touches her mouth with it as he jumps by her. She stops instantly, charmed with the exquisite taste, and inquires, “What is this that tastes so delicious?” Thereupon he hands the dish over to her; and she falls to eating greedily, while he quietly looks on. But soon sensations and difficulties similar to those which he had himself experienced lead her to call out to him to remove the plate. “Will you beat me then?” he coolly asks. “I will,” exclaims the mother, now more than ever enraged, finding herself thus caught in a trap. “Then you may eat away,” says the boy. The indignant old lady eats on, until she can really stand the strain no longer, when she yields, and promises to lay aside the “rod of correction;” then he releases her by removing the tiny platter and its contents.

The next morning the old lady sends Jack off to market with another cow. Passing the same house, he is again accosted by the man, who is waiting on the door-step to meet him; in the same manner as on the former occasion, the man makes the modest request that Jack will give him the cow. Jack, however, has learned some wisdom by his late adventure, and has no idea of repeating the experiment. Jǐgŭlahse winsit (“Be off with you, you evil spirit”), he exclaims. “You robbed me yesterday; you’re not going to do it again today;” and he hurries on. The man takes off his belt, and throws it down in the middle of the road. Instantly the belt leaps up around both Jack and his cow, binds the animal’s legs fast to her body, and lashes the boy to her side. There they lie, unable to stir. Apkwahle! (“Untie me”’) shouts the struggling boy. “Give me your cow and I will,” the man answers. “I won’t do it,” says Jack. “Then lie there!” is the answer. But the belt, like a huge boa-constrictor, begins to contract, and to press upon Jack and his cow, so that they can scarcely draw their breath. At length the poor fellow gives up the cow, is unfastened, receives the magic belt in return, and goes home. He informs his mother that the same man has again robbed him. The old woman is now more angry than ever. .She calls him hard names, threatens to beat and even to kill him, and searches for a suitable weapon; then Jack unclasps his belt, casts it upon the floor, and instantly the poor woman is bound hand and foot, and calls lustily to be released. Jack looks on and says, Mătacd ikstŭh? (“Will you beat me, then ?”) “Yes, I will,” she screams; “untie me, you dog! “Jack pulls the magic cord a little tighter round her, and the violence of her wrath abates; she begins to gasp, and promises if he will let her go she will not beat him. Thereupon he unties her, and she keeps her word.

The difficulty still remains; the rent is not yet paid, and the mother determines to make one more attempt to sell a cow. Away goes the boy again towards the town, driving the third animal, when the same man again encounters him with the same proposal. “Give me your cow.” “Give you my cow, indeed !” exclaims the boy in wrath. “I’ll give a stone and hurl it at your head.” He is about to suit the action to the word, when the man pulls out a tiny flute and begins to play on it. Jack’s muscles instantly contract in different directions; the stone drops from his hand, and, literally charmed with the music, he begins to dance. The cow joins in the jig; and both dance away with all their might, unable to stop. “Hold! hold!” he exclaims at length; “stop your music! Let me get my breath! “Give me your cow, and I will,” answers the man. “I won’t do it,” Jack replies. “Then dance away!” is the answer; and the poor fellow dances until he is ready to drop from very weariness. He then yields, gives up the cow, receives the magic flute, and returns to his mother to report his ill success for the third time. This time the old woman’s rage knows no bounds. She will kill him outright. But while she is in the act of Springing upon him with some deadly weapon, he commences operations on his magical flute. The old lady is enchanted with the music, drops her weapon, and begins to dance, but retains her wrath, and long persists in her determination to deal summary vengeance upon the boy. Again and again she orders him to cease, playing; but in answer to his interrogatory, Mătacdukstŭh? (“Will you beat me then?”) she answers, “Indeed I will.” Soon she becomes so weary that she can scarcely keep on her feet, but sways to and fro, almost sinking. Finally she falls and strikes her head with great force. She yields, and promises to let him alone, and he withdraws the enchantment of his music.

There was another effect produced by the magic flute when the man who met Jack commenced playing; no sooner had the boy and cow begun to dance, than they were joined by a great swarm of hornets. These hornets hovered over them, and danced in concert in the air; they followed the flute; whenever it played they came, but they were invisible to all eyes, except those of the musician, and his commands and wishes they implicitly obeyed.

The difficulty of paying the rent remains. The mother is still in trouble about it; but the boy quiets her fears, and undertakes to manage the affair. “To-day,” she says, “ the king will be here. What can we do?” He says to her, “I’ll pay him; give yourself no uneasiness.” He then takes a lot of earthen dishes and smashes them up fine, packs the pieces into a bag, and fills it so full that he can scarcely tie it up, then seals the strings with upkoo-gum (wax, tar, or other adhesive substance).

Presently a carriage containing the king himself and two servants drives up to the door. They have come to collect the rent. They enter the house, and the terrified old woman runs and hides. The boy, however, meets them at the door, and politely conducts them to a seat. They sit down and wait, and he immediately fetches them what seems to be a well-filled money-bag, and sets it down on the table, making it rattle and chink like a bag of money, as he sets it down.

He then produces his little magic platter and food, and gravely informs the king that his father, before he died, had given him instructions to set that before his Majesty as a portion of exquisitely delicious food. The king takes the bait and falls into the trap; he first tastes a morsel, then falls to eating, and the two servants join him. Meanwhile the boy seems to be very busy getting ready to count out the cash, bustling round, going into another room where he remains a good while, then coming out and lifting up the bag, and, as if having forgotten something, going back into some other apartment of the house.

Meanwhile the king and his servants become gorged with the food; but they can neither refrain from eating, nor push away from the enchanted platter. They call to the boy to come and remove his dish; but he is altogether too busy to hear or to notice them. Meanwhile their troubles increase. Their stomachs become distended beyond endurance, and they are glad to purchase a respite by giving up rent, house, stock, farm, and all. On these conditions the dish and food are removed, and the king and his retinue return to the palace, leaving the good people in quiet possession of everything.

After they have retired, the old woman, who has been watching the maneuvers from her hiding-place, comes out, and this time praises her boy for his adroitness. He makes over all the property to her, and starts off to seek his fortune and a wife, taking with him the enchanted dish, belt, and flute.

So he travels on, and finally arrives at a town where a king resides who has one beautiful daughter. She has many suitors, for the king has promised her hand to the first one who will make her laugh three times in succession. Now, it happens that our hero is very ill-shaped, ugly-looking, and awkward, and can, by a little affectation, make himself appear much more so than he really is. He strolls about the city, hears the current gossip, and learns about the domestic arrangements of the palace. So one day he strolls into the king’s palace among the other suitors and visitors, and looks round at everything, and soon attracts the attention of the servants, who inquire what his business is there. At first he makes no reply. But he knows that, according to rule, unless he answers the third challenge, he will be summarily ejected. So he answers the second time. “Is it true, as I have heard, that the princess will marry the first man who can make her laugh three times in succession?” He is told that it is true, and he says he wishes to make the trial. So he is allowed to remain in the palace.

Being admitted into the apartment where the young lady is in waiting, surrounded by her suitors, who are to be umpires in the trial, he first brings out his magical dish with the enchanted food, and requests her to examine and taste it. She does this cautiously, following the bent of curiosity, and finds the taste so agreeable that she continues to eat, and offers it to the others, who also eat. To their astonishment the quantity of food does not diminish in the platter, nor does the taste become any less exquisite, although their distended stomachs protest against any further infliction. Finally the protestations of the gastric regions overcome the clamors of the palate, and they attempt to stop eating and to push away the plate. But they can do neither the one nor the other, and so call upon the youth to take away his food. He will do so, but upon one condition: The princess must laugh. She hesitates; she had only thought of laughing from pleasure, not from pain. She refuses to comply but he is inexorable; she may do what she pleases, — laugh, or continue to eat. Finally she can hold out no longer, and she laughs, saying to herself, “He’ll not make me laugh a second time.” As soon as he releases them from the enchantment of the food, they fly furiously at him to expel him from the palace. But they “reckon without their host.” Quick as lightning he unclasps The magic belt, tosses it on the floor, and instantly they are all bound together in a bundle, wound round from head to foot, and lie in a helpless heap before him. “Untie us,” shouts the tortured and terrified princess. Oosŏgāwāyān (“Laugh, then”), he coolly answers. But no, she will not laugh. But he knows how to bring; her to terms. He has but to will it, and the obedient belt will tighten its embrace. When she and her guardians can endure the pressure no longer, she gives forth a forced and feeble laugh. Then they are all released. No sooner done, than the men draw their weapons and rush furiously at him. Before they reach the spot where he stands, however, he has the magic flute to his lips; their steps are arrested, and princess, suitors, umpires, guards, and all are wheeling in the mazy dance. They are charmed, not figuratively but literally, with the music of the tiny magic flute.

At length they grow tired of the exercise, and vainly endeavor to stop; but they cannot do it. “Stop your playing!” they shout. “I will,” he answers, “when the princess laughs.” But she determines that she will not laugh this time, come what may. But the stakes are for a princess and a kingdom, and he will not yield. She dances till she can no longer stand. She falls upon the floor, striking it heavily with her head. She then yields to her fate, performs her part nobly, and gives forth, tokoo wěskāwāke (“a hearty laugh”). The music then ceases, the umpires are left to decide the case, and the young man walks away and leaves them.

The news of the affair reaches the ears of the king, and he commands that the young man shall be introduced into his presence. This is done; and the king is disgusted with the looks and manners of the young man, and declares the contract null and void. But the matter must be hushed up, and not allowed to get abroad. The “victor” is to be privately dispatched, and another more suitable match substituted in his place. By the king’s direction the stranger is seized, conveyed to the menagerie, and thrown in with the beasts. This is a large apartment surrounded by high walls. The ferocious animals rush upon him; but the magic belt is tossed down, and they are all tied up in a heap, their legs being bound fast to their bodies, while he sits quietly down awaiting the issue of events in one corner of the yard.

Meanwhile word is circulated that one of the suitors at the royal palace has won the princess’s hand, and the wedding is to be celebrated that very evening. “All goes merrily as a marriage-bell,” until the hour arrives for the bridegroom to be introduced into the bridal chamber. There the whole affair is quashed. Hosts of invisible foes are there who have entered at the key-hole, and are waiting to vindicate the innocent, defend his rights, and punish the intruder. The victorious Jack has taken his flute and called the troops of hornets to his aid; he bids them enter the key-hole and wait until his rival has unrobed, and then ply him with their tiny weapons about his lower extremities. This they do; and the poor fellow, unable to see the hornets, but fully able to feel their stinging, begins to jump and scream like a madman. The terrified princess rushes out of the room, and screams for help. The domestics run to her assistance, and she declares that the bridegroom is a maniac. They, hearing his screams and witnessing his contortions of countenance, and unable to learn the cause, come to the same conclusion, and hurry away from the palace. Another bridegroom is substituted, who shares the same fate. The king at length concludes that he is outgeneraled; that the young man who has won the hand of his daughter still lives; that he must be a remarkable personage, possessed of miraculous powers. He sends to the menagerie for him. The animals are all tied up; but a thick mist fills the place, and they cannot see the young man. They attempt to release the beasts, but find this impossible. They bring the report to the king. “Ay,” said he, “it is just as I said; he is a necromancer, a remarkable man. Go again, seek him carefully, and if you can find him bring him in.” This time they find him. They recognize him; but he is now transformed into a most lovely person. All admire his portly bearing and his polished manners. The \wedding is consummated with great pomp. He builds a splendid palace, and, when the old king dies, is crowned in his place.

And now a long and prosperous reign. [This last sentence is added as a finishing touch by the translator.]


Written by johnwood1946

September 11, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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