Published on January 7, 2013 by Casey
This version of the legend comes from Stith Thompson’s 1929 collection Tales of the North American Indian.
At the time of which my story speaks people were camping just as we are here. In the winter time they used birch bark wigwams. All the animals could then. talk together. Two girls, who were very foolish, talked foolishly and were in no respect like the other girls of their tribe, made their bed out-of-doors, and slept right out under the stars. The very fact that they slept outside during the winter proves how foolish they were.
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One of these girls asked the other, “With what star would you like to sleep, the white one or the red one?” The other girl answered, “I’d like to sleep with the red star.” “Oh, that’s all right,” said the first one, “I would like to sleep with the white star. He’s the younger; the red is the older.” Then the two girls fell asleep. When they awoke, they found themselves in another world, the star world. There were four of them there, the two girls and the two stars who had become men. The white star was very, very old and was gray-headed, while the younger was red-headed. He was the red star. The girls stayed a long time in this star world, and the one who had chosen the white star was very sorry, for he was so old.
There was an old woman up in this world who sat over a hole in the sky, and, whenever she moved, she showed them the hole and said, “That’s where you came from.” They looked down through and saw their people playing down below, and then the girls grew very sorry and very homesick. One evening, near sunset, the old woman moved a little way from the hole.
The younger girl heard the noise of the mitewin down below. When it was almost daylight, the old woman sat over the hole again and the noise of mitewin stopped; it was her spirit that made the noise. She was the guardian of the mitewin.
One morning the old woman told the girls, “If you want to go down where you came from, we will let you down, but get to work and gather roots to make a string-made rope, twisted. The two of you make coils of rope as high as your heads when you are sitting. Two coils will be enough.” The girls worked for days until they had accomplished this. They made plenty of rope and tied it to a big basket. They then got into the basket and the people of the star world lowered them down. They descended right into an Eagle’s nest, but the people above thought the girls were on the ground and stopped lowering them. They were obliged to stay in the nest, because they could do nothing to help themselves.
Said one, “We’ll have to stay here until some one comes to get us.” Bear passed by. The girls cried out, “Bear, come and get us. You are going to get married sometime. Now is your chance!” Bear thought, “They are not very good-looking women.” He pretended to climb up and then said, “I can’t climb up any further.” And he went away, for the girls didn’t suit him. Next came Lynx. The girls cried out again, “Lynx, come up and get us. You will go after women some day!” Lynx answered, “I can’t, for I have no claws,” and he went away. Then an ugly-looking man, Wolverine, passed and the girls spoke to him. “Hey, wolverine, come and get us.” Wolverine started to climb up, for he thought it a very fortunate thing to have these women and was very glad. When he reached them, they placed their hair ribbons in the nest. Then Wolverine agreed to take one girl at a time, so he took the first one down and went back for the next. Then Wolverine went away with his two wives and enjoyed himself greatly, as he was ugly and nobody else would have him. They went far into the woods, and then they sat down and began to talk. “Oh!” cried one of the girls, “I forgot my hair ribbon.” Then Wolverine said, “I will run back for it.” And he started off to get the hair ribbons. Then the girls hid and told the trees, whenever Wolverine should come back and whistle for them, to answer him by whistling. Wolverine soon returned and began to whistle for his wives, and the trees all around him whistled in answer. Wolverine, realizing that he had been tricked, gave up the search and departed very angry.