New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Boy That Was Transformed Into a Horse

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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 boy who was transformed into a horse, and of a magic whip.

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

 004 Sterioscopic

Stereoscopic slide of native group at Gagetown, c. 1875 – N.B. Museum


The Boy That Was Transformed Into a Horse

Now, on a certain time in a certain place there were many people living. One man was very poor and had a large family. A gentleman came one day and offered him a very large sum of money for his little boy. He accepted the offer and sold the child, though he was aware of the evil character of the man who bought him, and knew that it would be the means of his eternal destruction. He had sold him to the devil.

After this he had another son born to him. At the age of eighteen months the child was able to talk, and immediately made inquiries about his elder brother. He said to his mother, “Where is my brother?” Then the mother began to weep, and told him that he had been sold by his father. The child asked, “Where has he been taken?” The mother replied, “An evil spirit has carried him off.” The child said, Měnǐscâk! (“I will go and fetch him back!”)

Shortly after this a man entered the house whom no one could see except the little boy. This man said to the child. “Are you intending to go and bring home your brother?” He replied, “I am.” The man said, “I will give you directions respecting the way, and will assist you when you are ready to go.”

The next morning the child goes out, and the man meets him and says, “Are you ready for your expedition?” The child replies that he is all ready. The man gives him a tiny horsewhip, telling him to conceal it about his person, and let no one know he has it, and at the proper time he will learn to what use lie has to put it. He then points out to him the road that he must take. “Do you see away yonder that road that passes right through a cloud? Go you on to that place, and when you have passed through the cloud you will come to a large house. Go up to that house, and you will meet the owner, and he will inquire of you what you want. Tell him you are looking for work. He will inform you that if you can take care of horses he will give you employment. Tell him you can, and accept the situation. While you are tending the horses, one of them will speak to you, and tell you that he is your brother, and he will inquire what has induced you to come hither. Tell him you have come as his deliverer.”

The boy, having received these instructions, proceeds on his journey. He takes the straight road ahead, reaches the thick cloud, passes through it, and comes out on the further side; here he sees a large fine house and goes up to it. He meets the master of the horse just coming out. Cogoowā! Ālcčn’. (“What are you here after?”) he asks. The child replies, “I am looking for work.” The man savs, All! pětskwah’ (“Very well! come in”). He goes into the house, and engages with the owner to attend the horses.

Installed in his new employment, he daily attends punctually to the duties of the situation, feeding the horses and tending them (ěsŭmăjc). Not many days have passed, before one of the horses addresses him in human speech. “My brother,” he says, “what has brought you here? It is an evil place; I was once myself what you are now, and I was set to tend the horses as you do, until I myself was turned into a horse.” The child answers, “I have come with the design of taking you home. He answers, “You will lever be able to effect your purpose.” He replies, “I will try, however.”

And try he does, and succeeds too. One day he asks permission to take a ride on horseback, and is allowed to do so. He knows which horse to choose for the excursion; he brings him out, mounts his back, and trots and gallops to and fro for a while, displaying his agility in horsemanship. Then he tells his brother, “Tomorrow we will go home.” His brother replies, “We cannot do that, we shall be overtaken and brought back.” The little fellow answers, “They will not be able to overtake us.”

The next morning he again asks and obtains permission to take a ride. First he rides very slowly back and forth; but soon he starts for home, first walking the horse, then starting him into a trot, and finally into a smart gallop. They are now suspected, and parties are sent after them in great haste. If they can pass the cloud, they are safe; but before they reach it the boy looks back, and finds that his pursuers arc rapidly gaining upon him. He now bethinks him of the whip the angel guide had given him, draws it out of his pocket, and applies it vigorously to his horse’s sides. This puts new life into the animal, which, dashing on with double speed, soon begins to distance the pursuers, and arriving at last at the separating cloud, springs into it, passes through it, and is safe.

He there meets the man who assisted him in his work. “You have brought away your brother!” he exclaims. He answers exultingly, “I have.” He then tells him not to go into the village, but to go and pass the night in the woods. With this he takes off his cloak and throws it over his horse. Then the boy takes the horse into the woods, ties him to a tree, and lies down to sleep. The next morning he awakes and sees his brother sitting by, restored to his natural shape; but he is naked: whereupon he leaves him, and goes into the village to beg some clothes for him. These he carries back, and puts upon his brother.

The heavenly messenger now meets them again, and directs them to go home, and carry this cloak, with which the horse had been covered, and put it on their father. Before he dismisses them, he gives them a prayer-book. They have never been taught their prayers. So he opens the book, and calls them to him, and gives them a lesson; they immediately remember the prayers, and can repeat them correctly.

They then go home. They enter their father’s house, but are not recognized. They throw the cloak over their father’s shoulders. He immediately goes out, and is instantly transformed into a horse. An evil spirit leaps upon his back and gallops off with him.

Then the two boys go out and travel on, but are not seen except by a very few, being invisible to all others. They at length enter a house, and go up into an upper room. In the evening they are again visited by the “angel,” who now appears doubly angelic. He says to them, “We will all remain together for the night.” The next morning people call to inquire after them, but they are gone. The doors and windows are all fastened, and the boys’ clothes are left in the room; but no tidings can be obtained of the boys.

[The above story was related to me by Joseph Glode, a Micmac Indian, and I wrote it down from his mouth in Micmac. It has too much Indian coloring to have been learned from the white men. The marvelous feats of a “tiny boy,” as well as the unnatural transformations, are just in harmony with the wildest Indian mode of thought. But the “angel” the “”devil,” and the “prayer-book” attest to a somewhat modern invention; but for all that, the tale is none the less interesting.]

[As in the other cases, I simply relate the story according to the English idiom, not adding to or diminishing from any of the incidents.]


Written by johnwood1946

September 25, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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