johnwood1946

New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Two Weasels

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From the blog at https://johnwood1946.wordpress.com

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 two young women who become lost in the woods, and their adventures involving animal spirits.

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

007 Maliseet birchbark canoes

 Maliseet birchbark canoes, with gear, N.B., c. 1890 – N.B. Museum

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The Two Weasels

There was once a widow who had two grown-up daughters; as they were remarkably fair and white, they went by the name of the Uskoolsk (Weasels). One day their mother sent them out into the woods to dig sěggŭbŭn (ground-nuts), and they lost their way. They wandered about in the woods until night came on; then they prepared a place to lie down and rest till morning. It was a calm, clear night; yet they could not sleep for a long time, but lay revolving in their minds their unhappy condition. The stars were shining brightly above them, and in watching them they finally began to forget their troubles. They noticed that some of them were large and bright, while others were so small that they could hardly see them. They began to wonder what they were —

[“Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky.”]

They imagined them to be the eyes of human beings, and speculated as to what kind of husbands they would make. Said the younger to the elder, “Which would you choose for a husband, the large stars or the small ones, — a man with the big eyes or with the little ones?” She replied, “I like the big stars best; I should prefer a man with the large, bright eyes.” “And I,” said the younger, — “I like the little stars better; I should prefer a man with the small eyes.”

After a while they fell asleep. The younger one awoke, and morning; her foot, touched some one, who immediately called out: “Take care! you have upset my něbijegwŏde.” She too sat up and looked. There sat a small, wrinkled old man with his eyes sunk into his head, and so sore that they were almost closed up; the stars had heard the conversation, and the little wrinkled old man had taken her at her word. She had made a mistake.

Immediately after this the elder sister awoke and moved her foot; when, to her surprise, she also touched some one, who called out: “Take care! you have upset my sckivŏn (red ochre).” She sat up and looked around, when, lo! a tall, well-formed warrior, all arrayed in his plumes and finery, his face and arms painted in the gayest hues, with large, lustrous eyes, sits there looking at her. She had preferred the Large Star, and there he sat. But they told the girls to keep quiet, to lie down and compose themselves till morning, and not even then to stir until they heard the squirrels singing; and not to mind the noise of the adoödoocch (red squirrel), but to wait till they heard the singing of the abalpâkŭměeh (ground squirrel), and then they might get up. So they composed themselves, and remained quiet until they heard the singing of the ground squirrel. Then they opened their eyes and looked about them; when, to their astonishment, they found that they had been meddling with things too high for them, and had got themselves away up in the very top of a large, tall white-pine. There a little bed of moss had been prepared for them, where they were snugly ensconced, but down from which it was impossible for them to come without help. They had been changed into weasels, but retained all the powers and principles of human beings.

So they waited for help. Sundry personages passed by during the day, — all of them animals, brutes, which were at the same time men who had the power of assuming the form of their tutelary deities, their teomŭls, and who possessed at the same time power to perform many other wonderful feats. The first who presented himself at the foot of the tree was a Moose (Team´). They called out to him, ‘Nsiseměn, ăpkwahlǐn nesahlǐu! (“Our elder brother, set us free, take us down! We will go home with you, and be your wives”). He looked up disdainfully at them; the slender forms and fair white skins of the little weasels only awakened disgust and contempt in the bosom of Sir Moose. He told them scornfully that he was already married, — that he had married in the autumn; and he strode on.

Next the Shaggy Bear (Sir Mooǐn) approached; to whom they made the same request, imploring him to climb the tree and relieve them from their perilous situation. They promised that if he would only take them down, they would bestow upon him all they had, as a reward; they would be his wives, and wait on his lordship in that humble capacity, but he said that he had been married in the spring; and he assured them that he had no regard for them whatever. So he growled, and walked on.

Next came a beautiful little animal of the same genus as they, but of a different species; this was a Marten, and they implored his assistance. But, alas! they were just as unsuccessful as before, — each tribe, each race, each species, preferring to mate only with his own kind. The Marten said that he was married in the early spring; and he scampered off, leaving the little weasels still up in the pine-tree. [Here is a little natural history. These animals pair in these different seasons of the year.]

Next came a Kekwajoo (Badger), an animal said to be very mischievous, and fond of play and fun. When the little weasels implored his assistance, he pretended to comply with their requests and to accept their terms; he thought that he could have some fun with them by teasing and tormenting them if he had them in his power; so he ascended the tree and brought down the younger one first. During the descent the older sister, understanding his motives, and having no intention of fulfilling her promise, planned to outgeneral him; she took off her hairstring and tied it into a hundred knots, weaving it among the branches of the tree in the most difficult manner. The Badger, having carried down tile younger sister, came back for the other, and landed her also safe on the ground. Then she requested him very politely to return and fetch her hairstring, which she had forgotten, and to be very careful not to break it. So he returned, as requested; it took him a very lung time to untie all the knots. Meanwhile the two Weasels constructed a hasty tent, — a bridal chamber; they brought in to assist them in the enterprise certain friends of theirs,—a bundle of thorns, a company of hornets in a hornet’s nest, a company of pismires, and an ant-hill; all these they placed at proper stations in the little lodge, and then they ran away for dear life.

After a while the Badger, having untied the sŭggălóbec, comes down and looks for the young ladies. He sees a small wigwam, and hears people laughing and chatting inside. Supposing, of course, that the two girls are there, he rushes in. The place is dark; and the first thing he knows, he has put his nose in among the thorns, — which causes him to yell and beat a hasty retreat Then he hears a voice, apparently that of the younger sister, saying, Nŭmǐscālc (“Towards my sister;” that is, “Go to my sister yonder”). Away he plunges in hot haste, right into the ant-hill, and gets himself well bitten for his pains. But at the same time he hears another voice saying, ´Nkwěchkālc (“Go towards my sister,” — that is, “my sister younger than I”). Away he plunges, in the dark, into the other corner, straight into the hornets’ nest, where he meets the force of their terrible wrath and more terrible stings. He now begins to realize that he has been outgeneralled. He had intended to have a little fun in teasing and tormenting the girls, and lo! the fun has been all on the other side, he is now enraged beyond all bounds; he will pursue and tear the little whoppits to pieces, that he will. He runs out and smells round for their tracks; finding them after awhile, he rushes on after them as fast as he can go. [The badger is a slow-running animal.]

Meanwhile the girls have reached the banks of a wide, rapid river. There is no means of crossing, but a large crane is standing on the edge of the water; they call him uncle, and, as they are in a great hurry running away from an enemy, beg of him to set them over. He replies that, as he never works without pay, they must at least acknowledge the beauty and excellency of his form, and praise the beauty of his robes; he bids them to say pěgcâkópchŭ (he has straight and smooth feathers). “Indeed, indeed,” they answer, “that is true enough; our uncle has straight and beautiful feathers,” “Confess also that I have a beautiful, long, straight neck.” “Oh,” they answer, “indeed our uncle has a marvelously long and straight neck.” “Acknowledge also that my legs are beautifully straight.” “True, indeed,”’ they answer; “our uncle has wonderfully long and straight legs.” The vanity and conceit of the old fellow being now sufficiently gratified, he stretches out his neck and makes it reach quite to the other bank; and across on this potent bridge the two little Weasels scamper.

Scarcely have they reached the opposite bank when, dashing down to the shore, comes the Badger in pursuit. He looks about for a crossing-place, and seeing none, asks the Crane in rather an insolent manner to set him across. But the Crane demands the same tribute of flattery, of smooth, bland words, at least, before he will perform the service. The Badger is in no humor for flattering any one; he feels cross, and so in repeating the sentences dictated by the Crane, he adds a syllable or a word indicating that the facts are just opposite to what the words of the Crane signify: “Yes, yes, indeed, indeed! your legs are straight, and beautifully pointed, too, are they not? Smooth and fine, indeed, are your feathers, and covered with mildew and dust. A wonderfully straight neck you have, — straight as this;” as he says this, he takes up a stick and bends it back and forth, back and forth, crumpling it from end to end.

So the Crane stretches out his neck across the raging water, and the Badger attempts to cross upon it; but when he gets half-way over, his bridge begins to shake greatly, and sway from side to side, and finally takes a sudden cant, and away he plunges into the rapids, and is borne away headlong down with the current. He calls out: “I wish to land at Căjahlǐgŭnŭch!” — where indeed he did land, in other guise than he desired. He was dashed ashore upon the rocks, killed, and left high and dry.

Meanwhile the girls went on. Towards evening they came upon a deserted village, and went into one of the wigwams to pass the night. The elder girl, fearing the effects of magic, cautioned her sister to meddle with nothing; but the younger sister was not so careful, and did not attend to this warning. They saw lying near the wigwam the neck-bone of an animal (which, with the aid of a little imagination, could be made to look somewhat like the face of a person); this bone the younger sister was not careful to treat with respect, but kicked it around, and in other ways treated it with contempt.

They lie down and try to sleep; but they soon hear the chemŭchkegwǐch’ (neck-bone) shouting out, and complaining of the indignities that have been put upon him, and using very indignant and reproachful epithets towards the one who did it. The poor girls begin to tremble. “Didn’t I tell you you would kill us if you didn’t mind” the elder says to her sister. But the other is more frightened still, and begs her sister to conceal her, to let her hide in her roll of hair. As soon as she speaks, however, the magician astride the neck-bone mocks her, repeating her words insultingly. Nothing hurts them, and in the morning all is quiet; they push on their way in search of some Indian village, and go on down the river near the shore.

After a while they see a young man on the opposite side, with a bow and arrow in his hand. They call out to him to help them over, making the usual offer to become his wives if he will comply with their request. He lays his bow across, and they pass over to his side; he then tells them to go on, that he merely helped them out of pity, and that he has housekeepers in abundance. They proceed down the river, and soon see a canoe with two men in it. They ask to be taken in; the men take them in, and go on. These are two sea-birds, — a Kweemoo (Loon) and a Magwis (Scapegrace). As they paddle on, the Loon begins to admire the two strangers, and becomes quite enamoured with their beauty of form and dress. He tells them that he is a native of the Wigem territory, the land of the Oweălkěsk (very beautiful Sea-duck), and that he is one of the tribe. The Magwis cautions them not to believe anything this fellow says, for he is lying and trying to ensnare them. Arriving at the territory of the Oweălkěsk, they land. The strangers are delighted with the appearance of these people, so beautiful in form and features, and so splendidly arrayed and ornamented. These people were no less pleased with the strangers, they were so white and of such a fine form. They were soon selected by two young chiefs, and the weddings were celebrated with great pomp. They feasted, danced, wrestled, and raced on foot and in canoes. Poor Kweemoo was annoyed and chagrined, and tried hard to vent his spite on the people, but failed. During the canoe race he capsized his canoe, and called out for some of the young women to come and pick him up. The Sea-duck told them not to mind him; he will not drown, he will do well enough. So, staying in the water as long as he pleased, and finding that no one came to his assistance, he thought better of it, and concluded not to drown himself that time. The two young ladies, after their marriage, settled in their new homes.

The story does not end here; it goes back to the former home of the two lost Weasels. They had one oochǐgŭnumooŏl (brother younger than themselves); and as the girls did not return the night after they left home, it was concluded that they were lost in the woods; the next day, their brother went in search of them. After a long time he came upon their track; coming to the river, he was ferried over on the neck of the Crane; he went down along the shore until he reached a point of land called Căjahlǐgŭnŭch, where he perceived something unusual on the shore; he knew not whether it was a stone, a beast, or a man. He went up to it, and lo! there was the dead Badger in a state of putrefaction, and full of maggots. He stood gazing at it; and soon it spoke, and inquired what he wanted. He answered that he wanted nothing in particular. “Where are you going?” asked the Badger, springing to his feet in the form of a man, and shaking off all the maggots. The youth told him that he was looking for his lost sisters. “I can tell you where they are,” said he; “come along with me.” He went on a short distance, and pointing to the opposite shore, very far off, he said, “Your sisters are over there.” “But I cannot go there,” said the youth. “Yes, you can,” said the other; “I can take you over in my canoe.” So he went on with him. The Badger asked him to let him look at his bow and arrow; he handed them to the Badger, who broke them. When the youth remonstrated, the Badger promised to make him another. He took him into the canoe, and landed him on that distant point, – a place exactly opposite to that where his sisters really dwelt; and there, having vented his spite upon the innocent youth, he left him. [Here the story leaves them both.]

[The preceding story was related to me by Ben Brooks, of Falmouth, Nova Scotia. He understood English very well for an Indian; I read to him the translation,— or rather, the story as I put it down in English, — and he pronounced it correct. He is confident that the story is of Indian authorship, of which there can be no reasonable doubt. He thinks it has been handed down from ancient times; of this there is internal evidence, — particularly in the polygamy which it presupposes, and the confident belief in magic]

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Written by johnwood1946

November 3, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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