johnwood1946

New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Pŭlěs, Pŭlowěch′, and Beechkwěch: (Pigeon, Partridge, and Nighthawk)

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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 rich in its accurate portrayal of different birds and animals.

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

 012 Sterio Mikmaq woman

 Stereoscopic slide of a Mi’kmaq woman and camp, N.B., ca. 1875 – N.B. Museum

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Pŭlěs, Pŭlowěch′, and Beechkwěch (Pigeon, Partridge, and Nighthawk)

Away in the depths of the forest were three families, — the Pigeons, the Partridges, and the Nighthawks. “Come on,” said they one day to one another, “let us see which will build the finest wigwam.” So the Pigeon went to work and erected a high one, not very tight, but built with wicker-work, and made airy and spacious. The Partridge thought she would make hers more lowly, and so kept very near to the ground, and made her habitation so low and so much like the trees and leaves around that an enemy and even a friend might pass without seeing it. Mrs. Nighthawk took less pains than any of the others, and made no hut at all. In due time they all reared families of children, but Mrs. Partridge had the greatest number. Mrs. Nighthawk’s family were the most poorly off; for when the rain came down, they had no shelter whatever.

The Nighthawk stated in extenuation of her neglect that she did not intend to remain in that locality long, but meant to remove very early in the fall. The Pigeon too observed that she was not so solicitous about her abode as she would be if she did not have to shift her quarters often, in order to find food. But Mrs. Partridge said that she remained always in one locality.

One day while their mother was away from home, the children of the Partridge saw a man coming along; they were dreadfully frightened, and ran screaming in every direction, and hid. The man passed on, and they came out of their hiding-places again.

When their mother came home, they told her how frightened they had been. “My young brothers skulked about under roots and into holes,” said one of the elder girls, “and hid away where they could neither be disturbed nor seen.”

Soon after this they saw the Fox coming along; they were terribly alarmed at the sight, and flew away out of his reach; but he passed on. Going down to the shore, he saw a small keg floating to land, and found, to his joy, that it was full of honey. He ate very greedily of the honey, and then left it but on second thought, returned and voided his urine over the keg, lest some one else should take possession of it. When he arrived home, he told his wife and children what a feast he had found, and promised them that he would go and bring it home. He went again and ate bountifully, but never carried a morsel of it home. He told the family how sweet the food was, and invited them all to go with him to the place and eat of it. So they all went down together to the shore, and feasted on the honey. As they were coming home, they met a man whose name was Fisher, of whom Wokwěs demanded where he was from and whither he was going. “From no place in particular,” he replied; after a few words had passed between them, they agreed to go off together and hunt in company. So the Fox, leaving his family to return home and shift for themselves, went off with the Fisher, and the two came down to the lake. There the Fox told the Fisher that they would have a race round to the opposite end of the lake, one going to the right side of it and the other to the left, so as to meet at the place appointed, and the one who arrived there first should be leader.

So away they ran; and the Fox, having just taken his dinner, made no delay, and, being swift of foot, soon reached the destined place. But the Fisher was hungry, and on his way he saw a Porcupine, which he stopped to kill, skin, and devour. This delayed him, and the Fox became leader of the company.

They agreed to keep together seven years, and to perform the circuit of seven lakes; this would bring them back to the place of starting. So they went on together.

After a while the Fox got tired of his companion. The Fisher was too slow and too lazy for him. They came out to a lake and saw a man, beautifully dressed all in soft black fur, coming to meet them. The Fox asked him what his name was. He said, “My name is Keoonǐk’ (Otter ).” He asked in turn, “Who are you?” “I am a Megŭmoowěsoo,” was the answer; and he proposed to the Otter to join company with him. To this the Otter consented. Meanwhile the Fisher came in from hunting, fetching a load of Porcupines; the Otter came round and began to handle them, when, getting his fingers pricked, he started back and exclaimed, “What is all this?” “Oh, nothing,” said the Fisher, “but my pouch!” Meanwhile the Fox was determined to make a change in the company. He said to the Fisher, “You are so slow and lazy that I am tired of you; so we will give up our engagement and separate.” He then inquired his name, which he had not known before, and learned that it was Ŭpkŭmk (Fisher). This led him to insist on separating. The other was not very unwilling to yield to the proposal, and so took himself away.

Now, then, the Fox told the Otter that he was hungry, and the Otter inquired what kind of food he liked. He told him that he was very fond of eels. “Well,” said the Otter, “I can catch the eels, if you can dress and cook them.” “I can readily do that much,” answered the Fox. So the Otter slipped into the water, and soon returned bringing out a very large eel. This he laid upon the bank, and again returned to the water, and soon came back to the shore with another eel. These Fox soon skinned and cooked, and they took their dinner together.

The Fox admired the dress of the Otter, but was surprised at the size of his tail. He inquired, “What does all this mean?” “Oh!” said the Otter, “that is not my tail; it is my staff.”

The two continued together for some time, but the Fox got tired of his comrade. Their natures and their habits were so unlike that they could not agree. Sometimes the Fox wished to run with all his might, and the Otter could not keep pace with him. Sometimes, on the other hand, the Otter preferred swimming rather than walking, and then the Fox could not go with him.

So one day, as they were going along, they saw a man coming to meet them. The Fox inquired his name. He told him it was Amălchoogwěch’ (Raccoon). The Fox then told the Otter that he might retire, as he did not want his companionship any longer. The Otter slipped into the water and departed, while the Raccoon joined with the Fox. But he soon found the Raccoon even slower and lazier than the Fisher, and getting out of all patience with him, sent him off. He soon after met two other men, who inquired of him what his name was, and he told them that it was Megŭmoowěsoo. He asked one of the strangers what his name was, and was told that it was Amălchoogwěch’ (Raccoon). “Bah!” said he, “I do not want your company. You are of no use. I just dismissed one of your tribe, he was such a worthless creature.” But the other said his name was Moochp ěch’ (Mink). So he invited the latter to join him, and they went on together.

They had not proceeded far before they saw three men coming to meet them. One of them had a large pack on his back, and the Fox asked him who and what he was. He said, “I am a Megŭmoowěsoo.” “And these your companions, who are they?” “One is Mŭlgǐgŭnōp (the Mighty), and the other is Pipsōlk (the Conqueror).” “Well,” said the Fox, “I would like to join your party.” He then turned and said to the Mink, “We can separate now, and you can go about your business, and I about mine. “So the Mink slipped off; but before he went the Megŭmoowěsoo imparted to him the special gift of crying very easily. To the Fox he also imparted the ability to run fast.

The Mink having departed, and the Fox having joined the three others, there were now four of them. The Fox had by this time passed the series of seven lakes, and arrived at the one from which he started. He told his friends that he had been away from home a long time and must soon think of returning. Upon going a short distance they saw a wigwam, and learned that they were in the neighborhood of a village. They entered the wigwam, and after remaining a time, the mistress came home; she proved to be Mistress Partridge, the same that the Fox visited at the commencement of our story. He recognized the old lady, but she did not know him. He asked her if she did not remember a man that passed that way seven years before. She now remembered him, and was very glad to see him and his comrades. They remained there a year.

Mrs. Partridge told them that there were two more towns just above, and they went on to visit them. The first one they reached was Pigeonville, and they told the queen of the place, the old Pigeon, that they had to pay her a visit; as they had remained one year at Partridgeville, so they would like to stay as long there. But she told them that they could not remain there a whole year, for, as they all lived mainly on berries, they would have to remove and go farther south when food got scarce. But she told them that there was another village a little farther on. They went, and in due time arrived at Nighthawkville. But when they proposed remaining a year there, the Nighthawk chief informed them that they could not remain very long there; that on the approach of the autumn they removed to a warmer climate.

Megŭmoowěsoo and Fox now remained together, hut sent the Mighty and the Conqueror back, advising them not to form any matrimonial alliance, as they would only be disappointed; for the women of these parts were apt to get tired of any change in the mode of their living and fly back to their own quarters, and this was particularly the case with the young ladies of Partridgeville.

The two men thought they understood their own business best; so they went to the tent of the old Partridge and saw many beautiful young ladies there, and asked the mother to give each of them one for a companion. She readily consented, but gave the girls the hint to fly back, and not go home with the fellows. The two girls went with the men back to where they left their comrades; but before they reached the place the women were directed to sit down behind a large, old, rotten log and await further orders. The two men went on and joined their comrades. When they came up to Megŭmoowěsoo and the Fox, they were soon told to go and fetch their wives. The Fox thought he would like to see a plump young Partridge. What a splendid dinner it would make! Back went the two fellows to look for the pretty birds; but as they approached the old, rotten log, up flew the Partridges with a whiz, and away back they went to their own village.

[Such is the story, as related to me to-day, Jan, 1871, by Nancy Jeddore. She has also explained; and I see an allegory of natural history in it. For the creation of wigwams: the pigeon builds on trees, but merely crosses a few sticks, and takes no pains to make the nest warm and soft, as do the other birds; the partridge gathers a few leaves, and sits among them, her back looking very much like leaves, — so that a passer-by would hardly notice her as she sits there; the nighthawk lays her eggs on the ground without any nest, and selects a piece of burnt land, because her back most resembles that.

[All the birds except the partridge migrate, — the nighthawk first of all, about the beginning of September or the last part of August; the pigeon goes off when the berries fail.

[So when the Fox passes, all the little flock of Partridges hides and flies up out of the way of the Fox; and so on through the whole. The incompatibility of animals whose habits and tastes are opposite is set forth in the story. The recurrence of the number seven—seven years, seven lakes — is noteworthy.]

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Written by johnwood1946

December 10, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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