New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Adventures of Kâktoogwâsees; a Tale of Ancient Times

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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 the Adventures of Kâktoogwâsees as he navigates magical creatures on an odyssey in search of a bride.

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

 009 Collecting folksongs

 Collecting folksongs with Chief John Agustine and Mary Sanipas at Red Bank, N.B. 1953 – New Brunswick Museum


The Adventures of Kâktoogwâsees; a Tale of Ancient Times

There once lived far back in the woods an old couple who had but one son. They lived by themselves, quite remote from any other Indians. Their only boy had grown up without ever having seen anybody but his parents; he was under the impression that they were the only human beings in the world. The father’s name was Kâktoogwâk (Thunder); and the son, as is usual with Indians, took his father’s name, with the termination that signifies “young,” or more properly, “little.” The boy’s name was Kâktoogwâsees (Little Thunder). They all lived together, and the boy grew up to manhood. After a while he noticed that his mother’s eyesight was failing, and he asked her in surprise, “What is the matter?” She told him that she was growing old, and could no longer attend to the affairs of the family, as formerly, and that he must go and find some one who had good eyesight to keep the house; she directed him respecting the preparation to be made and the journey to be taken. She assisted him in preparing a wedding suit, keloolkŭl ak weltěgŭl (pretty and well made); then, when he inquired which way he was to go, she bade him go toward the setting sun.

The next morning she ties up his fine clothes in a bundle, and tells him not to put them on until he reaches the village where he is to get his wife. The boy takes the bundle and starts. He travels on day after day, until he has nearly reached the place where the sun sets; there he hears in the distance, up a long valley, the rattling of the altestâkŭn omkwŏn, or wŏltěs takun (Indian dice) he soon reaches the wigwam where the play is going on, and where he finds the chief, named Keekwahjoo (Badger), just in the excitement of concluding the game. The chief invites him up to an honorable seat and treats him kindly; he remains there for the night. He lets them know where he is going, and what his errand is. So the next morning, after breakfast, the chief says to his comrades, “Dātoot (Friends), cannot some of you accompany our young brother on his expedition?” They reply that he is himself at leisure, and advise him to go. Then the chief informs Little Thunder that he will accompany him on his journey, and that they will have great sport during the expedition. So they two go on together.

They soon reach a large point of land, where stands a man with one foot doubled up and tied to his thigh. The Badger, who is now master of ceremonies throughout the tale, inquires of the man why his leg is tied. He informs him that he has to tie his leg to keep from running away; that should he have both feet free, he would not be able to keep himself from running so fast that he would be away off round the world in no time. The chief says to him, “I and my friend here are going to attend a great celebration. Will you join us? You will make an important addition to our party.” He replies that he is at leisure and will go. The three now go on together until they come to another měskeek kwěsawa (a great point of land), where they see another remarkable personage, — one whose breath is so strong that he has to stop up his nostrils to keep from raising such a hurricane as would sweep away everything. [Rand sees the man with the bound up foot, and the one with the strong breath as metaphors for passions in need of restraint.]

He is requested to give them an illustration of his blowing powers, — to unstop the nostrils for a moment. He does so, and in an instant raises such a wind that the poor Badger is hurled heels over head. He clings with all his might to a rock to keep from being blown away, while he calls out to the mighty man to close his nostrils and stay the wind. So the mighty man closes his nostrils, and the storm is over.

The chief then invites him also to join the party, and he accepts the invitation. They travel on together; and their next remarkable adventure is the discovery of a wood-chopper of such mighty prowess that he cuts down lofty pines, and trims them out from end to end for fencing-poles. He too is requested to join the wedding-party. He has but one objection to going. He has a large family to support, and should he leave them any length of time, they might suffer. Keekwahjoo proposes to obviate this difficulty by engaging in a hunting excursion on a small and novel scale before they go any farther, in order to supply the wants of this family. So they remain all night at his wigwam, and arrange their plans for the morrow. The next morning they start on their hunting expedition, and go, not into the forest, but to the neighboring town, where the white men live. They go into a store. The Badger chief directs them to engage the merchant very closely in conversation, and while his back is turned, the mighty Pine-chopper is to take up one of the barrels of money and make off with it. This is done. Then they all go out, and are far away before they are discovered; but as soon as it is discovered, the party is pursued by a company of soldiers. They look round and see that the pursuers are gaining upon them and pointing their guns at them. Keekwahjoo directs the man of mighty breath to let loose the winds; and in an instant a storm is raised, clouds of dust and darkness are whirled about, the whole party is dispersed, and the fellow who had taken the money is driven deep down into the ground, barrel and all. The soldiers come up; but the robber is nowhere to be found, and no sign can be discovered of the money. After diligent search the soldiers go back, and the party hunt round for their missing friend. They find him after a while buried in the ground, and dig him out; the sand and the fright together have swollen his eyes almost to bursting.

They now go on to the lodge of the Pine-chopper, where they passed the previous night; and the proceeds of their novel hunting expedition furnish such a supply for the family that the master of the house joins the party.

There are now five persons in the company; and when night comes on, they encamp. Gooowâget (Pine-chopper) is directed to gather wood and kindle a fire, while the others go out in quest of game for their supper. He does as directed. They soon return, having killed several rabbits, and find that their friend, always accustomed to do things on a large scale, has built a tremendous fire. He is informed that he has altogether overdone the matter, and that the next time he is only to build a small fire. So they remain all night, sogoobahsooltijǐk (they roast meat, stuck on sticks, before the fire); they eat their supper, and lie down and sleep.

The next morning the party are again astir, and push on until it is time to halt for the night. Pine-chopper is once more left to prepare the camp, and the rest take an excursion to the woods to find something to eat. He is told to make a shelter of boughs, standing them up in a circle, so as to break off the wind, while they are away. They soon kill a caribou, and bring in the meat all ready to roast; they find that their friend has cut down huge trees, erected a mighty wigwam, and kindled a very small fire. The chief informs him that he has now overdone the matter in another direction, and that in the future he should not build any kind of a shelter, but merely kindle a fire. So again they roast their favorite food in their favorite way, stuck on sticks before the fire, eat their supper, and go to bed.

The next night they arrive at the lodge of the celebrated Glooscap, where they are kindly received and entertained. The Badger chief kědooktŭmat (wishes to smoke), and Glooscap hands him a pipe so small that he can hardly see it; but he smokes away with it, and finds that it answers the purpose admirably. The host next dispatches his waiting-boy, little Marten, for a supply of water, and the kettle is hung over the fire. The old woman brings out a small beaver bone, and scrapes it into a wooden dish. After she has done so, she puts the scrapings into the kettle, and kindles the fire. The Badger chief says to himself, “We shall make but a sorry supper out of that.” But he should have known better, and he is punished somewhat for his want of confidence in the hospitality and superhuman power of his host, and his ability to make much out of little. The kettle soon begins to boil, the little scrapings thicken up into large pieces of meat, fat and lean, and he finds the food so palatable and so abundant that he eats enormously, and makes himself sick before he can stop. This puts him and others to a great inconvenience during the night, and calls forth a gentle reproof the next morning from the host.

The next morning, after breakfast, Glooscap sends the boy to examine their fishing-nets. He finds that a small whale has been caught. He comes up and makes the announcement. Glooscap now directs Keekwahjoo, the Badger chief, to go down to the sea and give himself a thorough washing. When this is done, he brings out goodly raiment, and gives it to him, — a coat, a shirt, leggins, drawers, and beautifully adorned moccasins. He tells him to put them on; he does so, and is forthwith endowed with remarkable power, as well as with fine clothing. Glooscap now directs him to go down with the boy to the shore, tar the canoe, and stop all the leaks. So down the two go to the shore, and Badger looks round for the canoe; he sees no canoe, there is nothing there but a singular-looking rock. On capsizing the rock, he finds that it is in reality a canoe, and they proceed to examine the leaks and to put on the tar. When they return to the lodge, the Badger requests Glooscap to assist him against the dangers and difficulties of the way, for he is sensible that they are great. Glooscap replies that this is true, and that he will give him directions and advice. He proceeds to do this.

“First,” he says, “you will reach a large point of land, Where you will encounter a huge skunk [a necromancer who has assumed the form of a skunk] who will attempt to kill you. When you come in sight of him, do not attempt to fight him, but take this cheegŭmâkŭn [a sort of tambourine, made of thick bark and beaten with a stick] and with it sing as well as you can. If this sets him to dancing, you can pass safely by; he will not in that case do you any injury. You will next come upon a lot of beavers [magicians in the form of beavers]; one, which will be very savage, will attack you. You are to make use of the same weapon, —charm him with your singing and your music. If he comes up out of the water to listen, you are all right. In that case he will do you no injury.”

Having imparted this information and given these directions, the party boosijǐk (set sail). They go on a long distance; and just as they are rounding a point of land they see the huge skunk standing ready to give them the benefit of his powers when they come within range. Keekwahjoo takes up the cheegŭmâkŭn, and begins to beat upon it and to sing; when lo! the skunk changes his position and begins to dance with all his might. So they pass by in safety.

Soon they reach another bend, and round another point. Here they see a beaver’s tail protruding above the water. They approach cautiously, and the music again strikes up. Immediately the beaver raises his head out of the water, and listens to the enchanting strains; and the party pass by in safety.

On and on they go, until they come in sight of a large village, where they land and take the path that leads direct to the chief’s lodge. They enter; and the chief, previously apprised of the object of their visit, or divining it, gives his consent in the usual way, by addressing Kâktoogwâsees (Little Thunder) as his son-in-law, and inviting him up to the place of honor, the back part of the wigwam. This chief’s name is Keukw (Earthquake), and arrangements are immediately made for celebrating the wedding. Preparations are set on foot for a feast to be held the next day. But Little Thunder dances the mystic dance, called ′nskowŏkŭn, by way of introduction, that evening, and raises such a storm that old Earthquake is alarmed for his own personal safety; for it thunders and lightens, and rains and blows. “Hold! Hold!” cries the terrified chief; “enough of such boisterous introduction” So they eat their suppers, and retire to rest.

Early the next morning there is a gathering around the old chief’s lodge. The wigwam is completely filled with the subordinate chiefs and their men. Before the door they clear away a spot, level it down, and make it smooth for the dancers. But before they have begun the games, a rival makes his appearance, who has no idea of allowing the daughter of the chief to be taken away by a stranger. He has assumed the form of the terrible Chepichcalm (huge dragon); he comes right into the wigwam to seize and carry off the girl. The Badger chief rises and says to him, “What are you after?” Receiving no reply, he seizes a tomahawk, and with one blow severs his head from his body, while all look calmly on. Then he chops him up into pieces, and tosses him out of the wigwam. Shortly after this the food is brought in, and they all eat. The old chief Earthquake says, “Let the young man rise and play before us.” First, they engage in a foot-race. Two men are brought out, each having one of his legs tied up; they are set free, and each one has a glass filled with water put into his hand. They are to see which will run the faster and the steadier, thus playing a double game; and the race-course is the circuit of the globe. Off they start at the word; Badger’s comrade comes in first, and his glass is still full to the brim. After a little, his competitor arrives, and his glass is only half full. So victory declares for Little Thunder’s party.

Next the chief gives the word, and a game of wrestling begins. Two Pine-choppers engage, and take their stand on the edge of a precipice. But Glooscap’s power imparted to Badger comes in play this time also. His comrade gains the victory; and the other is tossed over the cliff and killed.

The sports now close; and it is time. Little Thunder takes his bride, and the wedding-party starts for home. But their troubles are not at an end. The braves and conjurors of the land in the far West, though foiled and compelled to lose the prize, are by no means reconciled to it; they would like much to cut off the whole party before they arrive home, and especially before they leave that particular region. One of them conjures up a storm, and sends it after them to strike them as soon as they reach the open sea. They see the commotion astern, and prepare to meet it Magic is pitted against magic, wind is sent against wind. The hurricane comes direct from the village they have left. The nostrils of the Wind-Blower are unstopped, and “with distended cheeks and lungs inflate,” he opposes the pursuing tempest. The two storms meet and struggle for victory on the open sea. The contest is soon decided. The magic of the disappointed necromancer fails; his blowing is blown back upon himself, and the sea is smooth for the receding canoe.

When they arrive at the Beaver’s Point, they find the same old fellow there again in his wrath and power to oppose their progress; but he cannot resist the magical tambourine and Keekwahjoo’s enchanting song. His anger is turned to laughter, despite himself. He puts down the formidable tail that was to strike and capsize the canoe, puts up his head, and manifests his joy.

They pass Skunk Point in the same way. The baffled foe has returned again to the charge, has prepared his odoriferous volley, and stands ready. But another tattoo beaten on the magical chcegŭmâkŭn, and another enchanting song, causes him to halt, wheel about, and begin to dance in an ecstasy of joy. During the operation the canoe with its precious freight passes swiftly by.

That evening they arrive at Glooscap’s Castle. Glooscap meets them, congratulates them on their success, and proposes that they shall hold a second day’s wedding at his house. To this they all agree, and preparation is made accordingly. He sends out to invite the neighbors; among others, wiggŭlladŭu-moochǐk (a troop of fairies) is called to the feast. These are the comrades of little Marten. He is told to wash himself, change his clothes, and go and invite his friends and comrades to the feast. This he does, and soon brings in a troop of these little people of both sexes, all dressed up and ornamented in the most exquisite manner, their clothes all covered with little variegated wampum shells. Next, the old lady, Glooscap’s housekeeper, is requested to exercise her culinary skill, and to provide a supper for the party. This is soon done, to the best of her ability; and the whole company feast together. After the eating comes the dancing, which is kept up until daylight; they take breakfast, however, before the company breaks up. Glooscap himself, though always represented as somewhat staid and dignified, has engaged in the sports, and dances with the fairies. The fairies go home, and the wedding-party leave the canoe where they borrowed it, and go on toward home by land. They repass the same places which they passed on their journey, and stay all night again where they stayed before. At length they arrive at Pine-chopper’s wigwam, where they pass the night, and leave that companion. Next they reach another stage; their companions drop off, one after another, till at length Little Thunder and his bride, the daughter of the Earthquake, reach their home, unaccompanied by any one. The old people are well, and glad to see their son again; they are pleased with his success and with his choice.


Written by johnwood1946

November 17, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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