Native American Water Legends: The Boy Who Became Strong

Published on January 19, 2013 by Casey

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The Boy Who Became Strong
The Boy Who Became Strong

Native American Water Legends: The Boy Who Became Strong

This version of the legend comes from Pliny Earle Goddard’s 1917 collection Chipewyan Texts.

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In the beginning a woman was walking along with her boy. They came where a bi-colored ribbon lay on a tree. ” I am going to take it,” the boy said to his mother. ” No, you must not,” she told him, ” it belongs to someone.” When they had walked on a little way the boy asked his mother to go on ahead as he wished privacy for a moment. When she was out of sight he hurried back, took the ribbon, cut off a piece two yards long and tied it around his waist. Because of that ribbon he became very strong so that he was able to tear up even large trees by the roots. His mother who did not know the source of his strength wondered how he could do this.

They went along in this manner until they came where two man- eating giants lived. There was much human flesh hanging in the house. When they went in the boy was not afraid of the giants but looked around at everything in the house. “Feed us,” said one of the giants to the boy. He took up a knife as if he were about to kill him, but the boy was not frightened. He began to handle all the implements and then the giants began to be afraid and let him alone. The mother married one of the giants but the boy lived by himself near by. He stayed there a long time making all sorts of things and the giants were afraid of him because he was so strong.

After a time his mother became sick. When she had been ill some time and it seemed she could not live the boy came to her and said, “Mother what can I do so that you may live? ” The mother replied, ” Way over there are many good berries. If I could eat them I might live.” “Then I will get them for you,” the boy replied. He started out, and when he had gone many miles found some good berries which he thought must be the ones his mother meant. He found one hundred large panthers guarding them. The panthers were all asleep and he stepped along among the sloughs until he came within a mile when one of the panthers woke. ” A boy is stealing our berries,” he called to the others. Then the boy seized one of the panthers and with it as a club killed all the others. Taking the berries, he went back to his mother who recovered after having eaten them. The boy lived outside as he had done before.

After a long time his mother fell sick again. She lost flesh so that it seemed she could not live. The boy came to his mother again and asked her what had happened. “Son, I shall not live,” she replied. “Mother, what can I do that you may live?” he asked her. “Way over there is some water which smells a little. If you could bring me some of that I might live,” she told him. He started after it and found water that smelled a little hanging in the top of a tree near a house which was standing there. The boy began to climb after it, but when he was half way up a mean man came out of the house. ” Boy, you will die. You are stealing my water,” he said. He was carrying a huge iron cane. The boy came down the tree, took the cane from him and struck him on the crown of his head with it, killing him. He then went in the house and looked all around. When he went upstairs he saw a young woman sitting there. “Why do you sit here?” he asked. “A mean man stole me, and I had a child for him long ago,” she replied. ” Well, go to your home wherever it is. I have killed the man who held you a prisoner. Do not be afraid,” he told her. He took some of the water and carried it back to his mother. He gave her some of it and she recovered. The boy lived outside as before.

Again after a long time the boy’s mother was dangerously sick. The boy said, “Mother, what is the one thing I can do so that you may live?” ” My son, it is something difficult,” she said. “I must know what is the source of your strength, on that condition only may I live.” “Then you are planning my death,” replied the boy. ” I took that ribbon which we passed long ago and tied it around me. I am strong by means of that.” He gave the ribbon to his mother saying, “Now do whatever you intend.” When the woman had tied the ribbon around her waist she became strong. ” My son, let us walk over there,” she proposed to her son. She began to pull up trees, even large ones. They came to a very large spruce. ” Climb this one,” she said to the boy. The boy began climbing it with his mother behind him. She pricked his eyes out and left him.

The boy, blind and helpless, started off alone. He soon heard a sledge coming, drawn by dogs. He could hear the bells and knew someone was approaching. When they came up to him, one of the men said, “This is the sort we are looking for. We are taking the unfortunate with us.” They brought him to the settlement and gave him into the care of an old man. This old man, who was cook for the big chief, loved the boy. He lived with him a long time.

This big chief, for whom the old man was cook, sent out invitations to bring about the marriage of his daughters. The men were to gather and the daughters were to make their own selections. On the day the selections were to be made, the old man who was the cook said to the blind young man, “My grandchild, let us go over there where the chief’s daughters are to be married and see the people.” “Grandfather,” the young man replied, ” it is no use for me to go. I cannot see anything and the people will just make fun of me.” “Oh, that does not matter,” said the old man, ” we will go anyway.” The young man finally consented and the old man led him to the house and gave him a seat on the floor just inside the door.

They found the house already full. There were many minor chiefs there. The big chief had three daughters two of whom had already chosen rich men for their husbands. The remaining daughter chose the blind young man. She was the girl he had rescued many years before when his mother had sent him for the water. When he killed the mean man and sent her home, she had made a vow that if she ever saw him again she would marry him. As soon as he came into the house she recognized him. Her father was very angry and said, ” My daughter, because you have chosen to marry a blind man I will not keep you. Go away from me to-day somewhere where I will never see you again.” Then he gave her much money and provided her with a large boat and servants.

They went away in the boat. The young man was not happy although he was married, for he thought she had taken him because he was unfortunate and she pitied him, but his wife loved him to the limit of her ability and kissed him. When it was noon and they were stopping to eat she proposed to her blind husband that while the servants were making tea they should go to a neighboring hill. “No,” the young man said, “you are only planning to take me there to desert me. I will not walk with you.” “Oh, no,” his wife replied, ” I have loved you for a long time because you saved my life. It is only on that account I wish to lead you there.” “Well,” consented the blind man, “Lead me there.” They started up the hill and soon came to a large lake. A large moose was approaching feeling its way along as if searching for something. “A blind moose is coming this way,” said the wife to her husband. “It acts as if it were searching for something.” “Let us watch it,” said the man. When the moose came to the water it waded in, put its head under water and held it there some time. When it raised its head, it looked about. It put its head down again and held it under the water. When it raised its head its eyes were all right again. Then the woman said, “The moose put its head in the water and its eyes became good again. You do that.” ” I will not do it,” replied the man. “It is because you wish me to drown you say that.” “No,” said the woman, “the moose’s eyes are certainly good. You do that too, and the same thing will happen to you.” “Well, I will do it,” he said. The woman lead him to the lake. When he had held his head in the water some time he raised it again, “Well, your eyes seem a little improved,” his wife said. “You look like a small woman,” he told her. “Well, do it again,” she advised him. He put his head in the water again. When he raised his head he said, ” I can certainly see.”

Then they went back to their servants. The young man said, “I will go where my mother is.” He started toward his mother’s house accompanied by the servants but without his wife. When he came near to the place where he used to live he went close and saw that the ribbon was indeed lying there. At night they went into the house. He took the ribbon and tied it on again. The next night when the sun had set he went there again and killed his mother and his two fathers.

Then he went again to his wife and they returned to her father’s house. When they came there his father-in-law saw his eyes were good again. He welcomed him gladly, and urged him to live with him and promised he should have all he possessed. The young man did so and became a great chief.

Source: native-languages

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