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How Lox Deceived The Ducks, Cheated The Chief, And Beguiled The Bear

Categories : Passamaquoddy , Passamaquoddy Stories

Somewhere in the forest lived Lox, with a small boy, his brother. When winter came they went far into the woods to hunt. And going on, they reached at last a very large and beautiful lake. It was covered with water-fowl. There were wild geese and brant, black ducks and wood-ducks, and all the smaller kinds down to teal and whistlers.

The small boy was delighted to see so much game. He eagerly asked his brother how he meant to catch them. He answered, "We must first go to work and build a large wigwam. It must be very strong, with a heavy, solid door." This was done; and Lox, being a great magician, thus arranged his plans for taking the wild-fowl. He sent the boy out to a point of land, where he was to cry to the birds and tell them that his brother wished to give them a kingly reception. (Nakamit, to act the king.) He told them their king had come. Then Lox, arraying himself grandly, sat with dignity next the door, with his eyes closed, as if in great state. Then the little boy shouted that they might enter and hear what the great sagamore had to say. They flocked in, and took their seats in the order of their size. The Wild Geese came nearest and sat down, then the Ducks, and so on to the smallest, who sat nearest the door. Last of all came the boy, who entering also sat down by the door, closed it, and held it fast. So the little birds, altumadedajik, sat next to him.

Then they were all told "Spegwedajik!" "Shut your eyes!" and were directed to keep them closed for their very lives, until directed to open them again. Unless they did this first, their eyes would be blinded forever when they beheld their king in all his magnificence. So they sat in silence. Then the sorcerer, stepping softly, took them one by one, grasping each tightly by the wings, and ere the bird knew what he was about it had its head crushed between his teeth. And so without noise or fluttering he killed all the Wild Geese and Brant and Black Ducks. Then the little boy began to pity the poor small wild-fowl. He thought it was a shame to kill so many, having already more than they needed. So stooping down, he whispered to a very little bird to open its eyes. It did so, but very cautiously indeed, for fear of being blinded.

Great was his horror to see what Lox was doing! He screamed, "Kedumeds'lk!" "We are all being killed!" Then they opened their eyes, and flew about in the utmost confusion, screaming loudly in terror. The little boy dropped down as if he had been knocked over in the confusion, so that the door flew wide open, and the birds, rushing over him, began to escape, while Lox in a rage continued to seize them and kill them with his teeth. Then the little boy, to avoid suspicion, grasped the last fugitive by the legs and held him fast. But he was suspected all the same by the wily sorcerer, who caught him up roughly, and would have beaten him cruelly but that he earnestly protested that the birds knocked him down and forced the door open, and that he could by no means help it: which being somewhat slowly believed, he was forgiven, and they began to pluck and dress the game. The giblets were preserved, the fowls sliced and dried and laid by for the winter's store.

Then having plenty of provisions, Lox gave a feast. Among the guests were Marten and Mahtigwess, the Rabbit, who talked together for a long time in the most confidential manner, the Rabbit confiding and the Marten attending to him.

Now while this conversation had been going on, Lox, who was deeply addicted to all kinds of roguery and mischief, had listened to it with interest. And when the two little guests had ceased he asked them where their village was, and who lived in it. Then he was told that all the largest animals had their homes there: the bear, caribou or reindeer, deer, wolf, wild cat, to say nothing of squirrels and mice. And having got them to show him the way, he some time after turned himself into a young woman of great beauty, or at least disguised himself like one, and going to the village married the young chief. And having left little Marten alone in a hollow tree outside the village, the boy, getting hungry, began to howl for food; which the villagers hearing were in a great fright. But the young chief's wife, or the magician Lox, soon explained to them what it meant. "It is," she-he said, "Owoolakumooejit, the Spirit of Famine. He is grim and gaunt; hear how he howls for food! Woe be unto you, should he reach this village! Ah, I remember only too well what happened when he once came among us. Horror! starvation!"

"Can you drive him back?" cried all the villagers.

Yes, 't is in my power. Do but give me the well-tanned hide of a yearling moose and a good supply of moose-tallow, then the noise will cease." And seizing it, and howling furiously the name of his brother after a fashion which no one could understand,--Aa-chowwa'n!--and bidding him begone, he rushed out into the night, until he came to Marten, to whom he gave the food, and, wrapping him up well in the moose-skin, bade him wait a while. And the villagers thought the chief's wife was indeed a very great conjurer.

And then she-he announced that a child would soon be born. And when the day came Badger handed out a bundle, and said that the babe was in it. "Noolmusugakelaimadijul," "They kiss it outside the blanket." But when the chief opened it what he found therein was the dried, withered embryo of a moose-calf. In a great rage he flung it into the fire, and all rushed headlong in a furious pack to catch Badger. They saw him and Marten rushing to the lake. They pursued him, but when he reached the bank the wily sorcerer cast in a stick; it turned into a canoe, and long ere the infuriated villagers could reach them they were on the opposite shore and in the woods.

Now it came to pass one day that as Lox sat on a log a bear came by, who, being a sociable fellow, sat down by him and smoked a pipe. While they were talking a gull flew over, and inadvertently offered to Lox what he considered, or affected to consider, as a great insult. And wiping the insult off, Lox cried to the Gull, "Oh, ungrateful and insolent creature, is this the way you reward me for having made you white!"

Now the Bear would always be white if he could, for the White Bear (wabeyu mooin) is the aristocrat of Beardom. So he eagerly cried, "Ha! did you make the Gull white?"

"Indeed I did," replied Lox. "And this is what I get for it."

Could you, my dear friend,--could you make me white?"

Then Lox saw his way, and replied that he could indeed, but that it would be a long and agonizing process; Mooin might die of it. To be sure the Gull stood it, but could a Bear?

Now the Bear, who had a frame as hard as a rock, felt sure that he could endure anything that a gull could, especially to become a white bear. So, with much ceremony, the Great Enchanter went to work. He built a strong wigwam, three feet high, of stones, and having put the Bear into it he cast in red-hot stones, and poured water on them through a small hole in the roof. Erelong the Bear was in a terrible steam.

"Ah, Doctor Lox," he cried, "this is awfully hot! I fear I am dying!"

"Courage," said Lox; "this is nothing. The Gull had it twice as hot."

"Can't stand it any more, doctor. O-o-o-oh!"

Doctor Lox threw in more hot stones and poured more water on them. The Bear yelled.

"Let me out! O-o-h! let me out! O-o-o-oh!"

So he came bursting through the door. The doctor examined him critically.

Now there is on an old bear a small white or light spot on his upper breast, which he cannot see. And Doctor Lox, looking at this, said,"What a pity! You came out just as you were beginning to turn white. Here is the first spot. Five minutes more and you'd have been a white bear. Ah, you have n't the pluck of a gull; that I can see."

Now the Bear was mortified and disappointed. He had not seen the spot, so he asked Lox if it was really there.

"Wait a minute," said the doctor. He led the Bear to a pool and made him look in. Sure enough, the spot was there. Then he asked if they could not begin again.

"Certainly we can," replied the doctor. "But it will be much hotter and harder and longer this time. Don't try it if you feel afraid, and don't blame me if you die of it."

The Bear went in again, but he never came out alive. The doctor had roast bear meat all that winter, and much bear's oil. He gave some of the oil to his younger brother. The boy took it in a measure. Going along the creek, he saw a Muskrat (Keuchus, Pass.). He said to the Muskrat, "If you can harden this oil for me, I will give you half." The Muskrat made it as hard as ice. The boy said, "If my brother comes and asks you to do this for him, do you keep it all." And, returning, he showed the oil thus hardened to his brother, who, taking a large measure of it, went to the Muskrat and asked him to harden it. The Muskrat indeed took the dish and swam away with it, and never returned.

Then the elder, vexed with the younger, and remembering the ducks in the wigwam, and believing now that he had indeed been cheated, slew him. This confused and strange story is manifestly pieced together out of several others, each of which have incidents in common. A part of it is very ancient. Firstly, the inveigling the ducks into the wigwam is found in the Eskimo tale of Avurungnak. The Eskimo is told by a sorcerer to let the sea-birds into the tent, and not to begin to kill them till the tent is full. He disobeys, and a part of them escape. In Schoolcraft's Hiawatha Legends, Manobozho gets the mysterious oil which ends the foregoing story from a fish. He fattens all the animals in the world with it, and the amount which they consume is the present measure of their fatness. When this ceremony is over, he inveigles all the birds into his power by telling them to shut their eyes. At last a small duck, the diver, suspecting something, opens one eye, and gives the alarm.

The sorcerer's passing himself off for a woman and the trick of the moose abortion occurs in three tales, but it is most completely given in this. To this point the narrative follows the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Chippewa versions. After the tale of the chief is at an end it is entirely Passamaquoddy; but of the latter I have two versions, one from Tomah Josephs and one from Mrs. W. Wallace Brown.

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