Published on January 16, 2013 by Casey
Note that “Mudjikiwis” simply means “eldest son” in Cree, so at different points in the story it refers to the oldest of the ten human brothers or to the oldest Thunderer boy. We’ve put this up on our own website because the version that exists on many other websites is truncated, stopping when the fifth brother opens the door. Here is the complete story as recorded in Stith Thompson’s 1929 collection Tales of the North American Indians.
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Once upon a time the Indians were camping. They had ten lodges. There were ten of them; and the eldest brother, Mudjikiwis, was sitting in the doorway.
It was winter, and all the Indians had their side-bags on; and every day they went off and hunted in the direction which they faced as they sat. Mudjikiwis always took the lead, and the others followed.
Once when he came home to his camp, he saw smoke just as he crossed the last hill. When he approached the lodge, he saw a pile of wood neatly stacked by the door. He himself had always cooked the dinner; and when he saw it ready, he was very glad. “There is surely a girl here!” he thought. “There must be some one who has done this.”
He had many brothers younger than himself. “Maybe some one is trying to marry them, or some girl wants me!”
When he arrived at the lodge, he saw a girl’s pigeon-toed tracks, and he was delighted. “It is a girl!” he cried, and he rushed in to see her, but there was no one there. The fire was just started, the meat cooked and ready, and water had been drawn. Some one had just finished work when he came. There were even ten pairs of moccasins hanging up. “Now, at last, there is some one to sew for us! Surely one of us will get married!” he thought, and he also thought that he would be the fortunate one. He did not touch anything, but left everything as he had found it for his brothers to see.
After a while the brother next to him in age came in. He looked up and saw all the moccasins, and he too was very glad. Then Mudjikiwis said, “I do not know which of us is going to be married. A girl has just left here, but I cannot tell who she is, and there are ten of us. One of us is loved by some one!”
They soon were joined by the third, and then by the fourth brother, and the fire was out by that time. The youngest brother was the most handsome one of the family. “If one of us should marry, Mudjikiwis, we shall have to hunt hard and not let our sister-in-law hunger or be in need,” he said. “I shall be very glad if we have a sister-in-law. Don’t let her chop wood; she cannot attend to all of us. We just want her to cook and mend our clothes.”
At night they were all crying, “He, he, he!” until dark came, because they were so glad. “I cannot attend to all my brothers, and I do not need to do so any more!” cried Mudjikiwis.
The next day nine went off, and left the youngest brother on guard to see the girl. Mudjikiwis came back first, and found that the tenth boy had not been taken. “Oh, well! leave our ninth brother next time, “he said “Then we will try it once more with our eighth brother.”
Three of them then kept house in succession, but the woman did not come. They then left the fifth one, and said, “If no one comes, make dinner for us yourself.” Soon after they had left, some one came along making a noise like a rattle, for she had bells on her leggings.
“Oh, she shall not know me!” said the youth. “I shall be a bit of eagle-down,” and he flew up between the canvas and the poles of the lodge. Presently the girl entered. She had very long hair, and was very pretty. She took the axe and went out to cut wood, and soon brought in four armfuls. Then she made the fire, took down the kettles, and prepared dinner. When she had done so she melted some snow, took another armful of wood, and started another fire.
After she had finished she called to the youth to come down from his hiding- place. “Maybe you think I don’t know you are up there,” she said. So he came down and took a seat with her by the fire.
When Mudjikiwis came home, he saw another big pile of wood. When he came near, he cried, “He, he, he!” to show that he was well pleased. “I could not attend to the needs of my brothers,” he shouted, “I could not cook for them, and I could not provide my relatives with moccasins!” He entered the door and bent down, for Mudjikiwis had on a fisher-skin head-band with an eagle-quill thrust in behind. As he came in, he saw a pretty girl sitting there. When he sat down, he said, “Hai, hai, hai! The girl is sitting like her mother.”
He pulled off his shoes and threw them to his youngest brother, and received a fine pair of moccasins from his sister-in-law. He was delighted, and cried, “Hai, hai, hai!” Soon all the other brothers came back, all nine of them, and each received new moccasins.
Mudjikiwis said, “I have already advised you. Do not let our sister-in-law chop wood or do any hard work. Hunt well, and do not let her be hungry.” Morning came, and Mudjikiwis was already half in love with his sister-in-law. He started out, pretending that he was going to hunt, but he only went over a hill and stopped there. Then he wrapped his blanket around himself. It was winter, and he took some mud from under the snow and rubbed it over his forehead and on his hat-band. He had his ball-headed club with him, which had two eyes that winked constantly. Soon he saw his sister-in-law, who came out to chop wood.
He went to speak to her, but the girl had disappeared. Soon she came back. There was one pile of wood here, and one there. Mudjikiwis stopped at the one to the west. He had his bow, his arrows, and his club with him. He held his club on the left arm, and his bow and arrow on the right arm, folded his arms across his breast, and was smiling at her when she came up. “O my brother-in-law! I don’t want to do that,” she cried.
Then Mudjikiwis was angry because she scorned him. He took an arrow and shot her in the leg, and fled off to hunt. That night he returned late, last of all. As he came close to the lodge, he called out, “Yoha, yoha! what is wrong with you? You have done some kind of mischief. Why is there no wood for our sister-in-law?” He went in. “What is wrong with our sister-in-law, that she is not home?” he demanded. His brother then said, “Why are you so late? You used to be the first one here.”
Mudjikiwis would not speak in reply. The married brother came in last. The young brother was tired of waiting, and asked each, “You did not see your sister-in-law, did you?” The others replied, “Mudjikiwis came very late. He never did so before.”
“I shall track my wife,” said the husband. So he set off in pursuit of her. He tracked her, and found that she had brought one load of wood. Her second trail ended at a little lodge of willows that she had made, and where she was. She cried to him, “Do not come here! Your brother Mudjikiwis has shot me. I told him I did not want to receive him, and then he shot me down. Do not come here. You will see me on the fourth night. If you want to give me food, put it outside the door and go away, and I shall get it.”
Her husband went home, as she commanded. After that the youth would bring her food, after hunting, every night. “It is well. Even though our brother shot my wife, I shall forgive him, if I can only see her after four nights,” he said. The third night he could hardly stay away, he wanted to see her so badly. The fourth day at dawn he went to the lodge; and as he drew near, she cried, “Do not come!” but he went in, anyway, and saw her there. “I told you not to come, but you could not restrain yourself. When your brothers could not attend to themselves, I wished to help them,” she cried. So he went home satisfied, since he had seen her.
They breakfasted, and he started out again with food for her. She had gone out, for he found her tracks, little steps, dabbled with blood. Then he went back home, and said to his brothers, “My brothers, I am going to go after my wife.”
He dressed, and followed her footprints. Sometimes he ran, and at sunset he wanted to camp. So he killed a rabbit; and as he came out of the brush, he saw a lodge. “He, my grandchild!” called a voice, “You are thinking of following your wife. She passed here at dawn. Come in and sit down! Here is where she sat before you.” He entered, and found an old woman, who told him to sit in the same place where his wife had sat.
He gave her the rabbit he had shot, as he was really hungry. “Oh, my grandchild must be very hungry!” she cried, ” so I shall cook for him,” said the old crone. Her kettle was no larger than a thimble. She put in one morsel of meat and one little berry. The youth thought that was a very small allowance, when he was really hungry.
“O my grandchild!” the old woman said aloud in answer to his thoughts, “no one has ever eaten all my kettle holds. You are wrong if you think you won’t get enough of this.”
But he still thought so, and did not believe her. After the food was cooked, she said, “Eat, nosis!” and gave him a spoon. He took out the piece of meat and the berry; but when he had eaten it, the kettle was still full. He did this many times over. When he had finished, he had not eaten it all, yet he had enough. Then the grandmother told him that he had married one of ten sisters.
“They are not real people,” she said, “they are from way up in the skies. They have ten brothers. There are three more of your grandmothers on the road where you are going. Each will tell you to go back, as I advised you; but if you insist, I will give you two bones to help you climb over the mountains.”
Now, this old woman was really a moose, and not a human grandmother at all. “If you get into difficulties, you must cry, ‘Where is my grandmother?’ and use these two front shin-bones of the moose that I gave you.” He slept there, and in the morning she gave him breakfast from the same kettle. When he was through she said, “Do not walk fast. Even if you rest on the way, you will reach your next grandmother in the evening. If you walk as fast as you can, you will get there at night.”
He followed the trail as fast as he could, for he did not believe his grandmother. In the evening he killed a rabbit; and when he came out of the brush, there stood another lonely lodge, as before.
“O my grandchild! there is room in here for you to come in,” cried a voice. “Your wife passed here early yesterday morning.” Yet he had traveled two days. “She came in here!”
The old woman cooked for him in the same way as his other grandmother had done. Again he did not believe in her kettle, for he had already forgotten about his first grandmother. This grandmother was older than the first one whom he had left, and who was the youngest of the four grandmothers he was to meet. They were all sisters. “Why did you not believe my sister when she told you to go slowly? When you go fast, you make the trail longer. Hau, nosis! it is a difficult country where you are going,” she cried. She gave him a squirrel-skin, saying, “Use this, nosis, whenever you are in difficulties. ‘Where is my grandmother?’ you shall say. This is what makes everything easy. You will cry, and you will throw it away. You will not leave me till the morning.”
So very early next day he started off. He went very slowly; and in a few minutes it was night, and he killed another rabbit. When he came out of the brush, he saw another lodge, a little nearer than the others, and less ragged.
The old woman said to him, “Your wife passed here the same morning that she left up there”; and this grandmother made supper for him, as the others had done. This time the food was corn. “Nosis, your last grandmother, who is my sister, will give you good advice. Your wife has had a child already. Go very slowly, and you will reach there at night; it is not far from here. It is a very difficult country where you are going. Maybe you will not be able to get there.”
She gave him a stuffed frog and some glue. “Whenever the mountains are too steep for you to climb, cry, ‘Where is my grandmother?’ put glue on your hands, and climb, and you will stick to the rocks. When you reach your next grandmother, she will advise you well. Your child is a little boy.”
In the morning he had breakfast, and continued on the trail. He went on slowly, and it was soon night, and he killed another rabbit. When he reached the next lodge, nearer than all the rest, his grandmother said, “They have been saying you would be here after your wife; she passed here four days ago at dawn.”
The youth entered the tent, and found that this grandmother was a fine young girl in appearance. She said, “Tomorrow at noon your wife is going to be married, and the young men will all sit in a circle and pass your child around. The man upon whom he urinates will be known as his father, and she will marry him.” The old woman took off her belt, rolled it up nicely, and gave it to him. “This is the last one that you will use,” she said, “When you are in trouble, cry out, ‘Where is my grandmother?’ and throw the belt out, and it will stick up there, so you can climb up to the top. Before noon you will reach a perpendicular precipice like a wall. Your wife is not of our people. She is one of the Thunderers.”
That night the youth camped there. In the morning he had food. “If you manage to climb the mountain somehow,” his grandmother said to him before he started, “you will cross the hill and see a steep slope, and there you will find a nest. There is one egg in it. That is a Thunderer’s nest. As you come down, you will strike the last difficult place. There is a large log across a river. The river is very deep, and the log revolves constantly. There you will find a big camp, headed by your father-in-law, who owns everything there. There is one old woman just on this side. She is one of us sisters; she is the second oldest of us. You will see bones strewn about when you get there. Many young men go there when they are looking for their wives, and their bones you will see lying about. The Thunderer destroys everything. Some have been cut in halves when they tried to get over the cut-knife mountain.”
When the youth came to the mountain, he took first the two bones, and cried, “O grandmother! where are you?” and as he cried, she called from far off, “He, nosis, do not get into trouble!” He drove the bones into the mountain and climbed up hand over hand, driving them in as he climbed. The bones pierced the rock. When he looked back, he saw that he was far up. He continued until the bones began to grow short, and at last he had to stop. Then he took out the squirrel-hide, called upon his grandmother for help, and threw the skin ahead. He went up in the air following it. All at once he stopped, and his nails wore out on the rock as he slipped back. Then he took the glue out of its bundle.
He cried for his grandmother, and heard her answer. She had told him that he would find a hollow at one place, and there he rested on a ledge when his glue gave out. Then he called for his next grandmother, heard her answer, and cast out his belt, unrolling it. Then he climbed up the sharp summit. He felt of the edge, which was very sharp indeed. Then he became apiece of eagle-down. “The eagle-down loved me once. I shall be it, and blow over the ledge,” he cried.
When he got across, he saw the Thunderer’s nest and the two Thunderers and their egg. He found a trail from there on, until he came to the rolling log that lay across the deep river. Then he became down again, and blew across; and though many others had been drowned there, he crossed alive. He went on, and at last saw a small, low lodge with a little stone beside it. His last grandmother had told him to enter, as this was the abode of one of her sisters. So he went in.
“Ha, ha, ha, nosis!” she cried, “They said a long time ago that you were following your wife. She is to be married right now.”–”Yes,” he said. The marriage was to be in a lodge. He went there, peeped in, and a man saw him, who said, “Are you coming in? Our chief says he will pass the child about and he on whose breast it urinates shall marry its mother.”
So he went in. The girl saw him, and told her mother. “Oh, that is the one I married.”
When he arrived there, Mudjikiwis (not the youth’s brother, but another one, a Thunderer) was there too. They took the child, and one man passed it. Mudjikiwis, the Thunderer, held some water in his mouth. He seized the child, crying, “Come here, nosis!” and spat the water over himself; but, when he tried to claim the child, all the others laughed, as they had seen his trick. When the child’s real father took it up, it urinated on him. Then all went out. The chief said, “Do not let my son-in-law walk about, because he is really tired. He shall not walk for ten days.”
His father-in-law would go off all day. Hanging in the lodge the youth saw his brother’s arrow, with which his wife had been shot. The father-in-law would burn sweet-grass for the arrow at the rare intervals when he came back, for he would be off for days at a time. On the fifth night the youth felt rested, and could walk a little. Then he asked his wife, “Why does your father smoke that arrow?” and she answered, “Oh, we never see those things up here. It is from below, and he thinks highly of it; therefore he does so.”
On the sixth night he was able to walk around in the brush; and he came to a spring, where he found, on the surface of the water, a rusty stain with which he: painted his face. He returned, and, as he was entering, his father-in-law cried, “Oh, that is why I want a son-in-law that is a human being! Where did he kill that bear? He is covered with blood. Go and dress it,” he ordered. The youth was frightened, as he had not seen any bear at all. “You people that live below,” his wife said, “call them Giant Panthers. Show your brothers-in-law where it is.” The youth took his brother-in-law to the spring. “Here is where I found the Panther,” he said.
The ten Thunderers came up and struck the spring, and killed something there. After that the youth looked for springs all the time, and it came to pass that he found a number. One day he asked his wife, “Why does your father go away for whole days at a time?” and his wife said, “There is a large lake up here, and he hunts for fish there. He kills one every day, seldom two. He is the only one that can kill them.”
The next morning the youth went to the lake, and found his father-in-law sitting by the shore fishing. The old man had a peculiar spear, which was forked at the end. The youth took it, and put barbs on it, so that the old man was able to catch a number of fish quickly. Then they went home. When they arrived, his father-in-law said, “My son-in-law has taken many of them. I myself can only kill one, and sometimes two.”
So he told all the people to go and get fish and eat them freely. On the following day, the young man, according to his mother-in-law’s wish, took his wife to fish. They took many fish, and carried them home. The father-in-law knew, before they returned, that they had caught many.
The old man had a dream. When he saw how the youth prepared the spear which his daughter had given him, he said, referring to his dream, “My dream was wrong, I thought the youngest of the ten liked me the best. I made the spear in the way I saw it, not as this one has shown me. It is due to my dream that it is wrong. Your nine brothers are having a hard time. Now, my sons, your sisters are going away soon to be married.”
For nine nights the youth saw a dim light at a distance. The father-in-law said to him, ” Do not go there, for a powerful being lives there.” The tenth night, however, the youth disobeyed this injunction. When he reached there, he saw a tall tree, and a huge porcupine that was burrowing at the foot of the tree. The porcupine struck the tree, and tried to kill it by shooting its quills into it. After the porcupine had shot off all its quills, the youth knocked it on the head, took two long quills from the tree, and carried them home.
Even before he got there, his father-in-law knew what had happened. They were delighted, for they said that the porcupine would kill the Thunderers when they tried to attack it. The father-in-law went out, and called to his sons to go and dress the porcupine that the youth had killed. The latter gave the two quills to his wife, though his father-in-law wanted them. The father-in-law said, “My children, this porcupine killed all our friends when they went to war against it. My sons-in-law below are miserable and lonely.”
The eldest of the daughters, who was called Mudjikiskwe’wic, was delighted at the news. “You will marry the oldest one, Mudjikiwis,” she was told. They were all to be married in order, the eldest girl to the eldest brother, the youngest to the youngest one. The old man said, “Mudjikiskwe’wic shall take her brother-in-law with her when she goes down to the earth.” The young women went down. Sh-swsh! went Mudjikiskwe’wic (the girl) with her dress.
They reached the steep place, and the married woman said to her husband that they would fly around. ” If you do not catch me when I fly past, you will be killed here.” The women went off a little ways, and a heavy thunderstorm arose, big black clouds and lightning, yet he saw Mudjikiskwe’wic in it. She was green, and so was the sun; and as they passed she shouted once, then again a little nearer, and again close by.
Then he jumped off and caught her by the back. He closed his eyes as he did so, and did not open them until the Thunderer wife said, “Now let go!” Then he found himself at home. He left the girls behind, and went to the lodge and opened the door a little.
As soon as he was inside, he said, “My brothers, I am here!” They were lying in the ashes around the fire. “The Canada jays always make me angry when they say that,” they retorted, and they threw a handful of ashes towards the door. “My brothers, I am coming!” he said again. “Ah! that is what the Crows say to make us angry,” retorted the rest, and they threw ashes towards the door. “My brothers, I am coming!” he declared. “Ah! that is what the Chickadees say to make us angry,” cried they, and threw ashes once more. Then for the fourth time, he cried, “My brothers, get up!” Then Mudjikiwis cried, “Look up! See who it is! They never say that four times!”
They looked up and their eyes were swollen from weeping on account of their brother. They were covered with ashes. When they opened their eyes, they saw their fifth brother restored. “Arise, wash your faces, and fix camp!” said he. “I have brought sisters-in-law with me.”
Mudjikiwis was glad to hear this, and he and the others began to decorate themselves. They took white earth from crawfish-holes, and painted their faces with it. Mudjikiwis seized his winking war-club, and they made the lodge larger by spreading the poles. Then the fifth brother called the sisters-in-law, and they all came in. The fifth son told Mudjikiskwe’wic that the youngest of the sisters should come in first, she herself last, although it would have been proper for the eldest brother to receive his wife first. “Do not come in till I call you, saying, ‘Now, come! my brothers are tired waiting.’” Mudjikiskwe’wic promised to obey.
Mudjikiwis sat with his head in his hands, and peeped at each girl. He saw them sit by his brothers, until every one but he was furnished with a wife. Then there was a pause. Mudjikiwis began to weep, and he sniffed audibly. At last the fifth brother had pity on him, and called the girl in. She came in with a swishing sound of rustling clothing. Then Mudjikiwis was very glad.
“What shall we feed them on?” said one. “Let me see!” said Mudjikiwis, and he took his winking club and went out, and clubbed a bear right there. “O wife! we shall have a meal of bear-meat!” he cried. Mudjikiskwe’wic replied, “Oh, you are hunting my younger brother!”–”Oh, I did not mean to kill my brother-in-law,” retorted the other.
And they are married today, and live where the sun does not shine.