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The Sky Boy and the Magic Arrows

Down at the coast was a large village whence every day the boys crossed in a canoe to a sandy beach that they used as a playground. One day while they were playing a big woman sealed all their eyes with some spruce gum she was chewing and shut them inside a large box she carried on her back. Only one boy escaped, the chief's slave, who groped for their canoe after she had gone and rubbed his eyes with some grease they had taken to mix with their food; the grease loosened the gum and restored his sight. He then returned to his master's house and reported what had happened to the other children.

The chief's wife went outside to weep for them. As she wept a tear fell on the ground and began to tremble. Greatly amazed, she gathered it in her hand and placed it under her belt. Presently she felt a child within her, and a few days later gave birth to a son, who was not dark like an ordinary Indian baby but white. It laughed aloud each day as she washed it, and each day, too, it grew like the leaf of a tree so that within a very few months it had become a tall boy able to run about and play alone.

One day the boy asked her, "Mother, why is it there are no boys in this village?" She evaded the question and merely said, "Oh, there have been no boys here for a long time." He asked his father, who gave him the same reply, for they were afraid of losing him. Finally he asked the slave boy, who told him what had happened. He then went to his parents and said, "I want to cross over to the sandy beach where the other boys used to play;" and although they forbade him to go, he crossed over the next day with the slave boy. There they could still see the tracks of the children and of the woman who had carried them away; but since the slave did not know what direction she had taken, the boy ordered him to remain beside the canoe while he searched.

A trail up the hillside led him to a spring of water overhung by some large trees, one of which he climbed to find out who was using the spring. He waited but a short time when there came a tall evil-looking woman carrying a water-bucket woven from spruce roots. As he leaned out to watch her she saw his reflection in the water and clapped her hands, exclaiming, "I am so glad to see you. I am a good woman." He drew back for a moment, and when he leaned forward again she clapped her hands a second time and repeated her words. The boy played with her thus for some time until he himself began to laugh and she discovered him. "Come down," she called. "I shall not harm you. You are a very good-looking boy. Come home with me and when you grow bigger you shall be my husband." The boy came down from the tree, the woman filled her bucket with water and they ascended to her house.

The floor of the house was strewn with children's bones, and hanging from the ceiling were the dried bodies of other children. The woman said to the boy, "How did your mother make your skin so white and beautiful?" He answered, "My parents laid me on a large flat stone and a strong man hammered my head with another stone." "If you will make me beautiful in the same way," she said, "I will take you for my husband." She found two stones, and laying her head on one, ordered the boy to make her beautiful; but when he raised the other stone over her head she sprang up in terror. "I cannot marry you," he exclaimed, "your face is too ugly. If you would only let me make you beautiful I should be glad to take you for my wife." "Oh, I don't want to lose you," she said, and laid her head on the stone again; but again she sprang up frightened when he raised the stone. He threw it down, exclaiming,"You are too ugly. I shall go home." She begged him to try once again. "Close your eyes this time," he said. "Then you won't be frightened." She closed her eyes, and he crushed her head and killed her. The blood flowed out and began to cry aloud; but he crushed all her body and flung her remains into the fire and the water. Thus he punished her.

He now gathered the remains of all the children, laid them in a pile, and called to the sun, saying, "Sun, come here and circle around all these remains." The sun circled around them and restored them all to life. Then the boy led the children down to the canoe and took them back to the village.

After this he stayed quietly for a while with his parents. Then one day he said to his father, "Father, order all the men in the village to make me a great number of arrows." His father sent out the order. Soon more than a hundred men were working busily, and the great house was nearly filled with the arrows they made. When they had made enough the boy said to his father, "You are not my real father, and this woman is not my real mother. He who dwells on High, Yagastaa, is my father. He sent me down to help you because your village was so unhappy, your women always weeping for their lost sons. Now my work is done, and I wish to return to the top of the sky."

His parents wept at his words, for they loved him exceedingly. But he shot an arrow high into the air, shot another, then a third. All day he shot them into the air, and not one came back to earth. By afternoon the people could see some of them high up in the air, each stuck in the end of the preceding one and forming a long chain that disappeared from view in the sky. Still he shot until only one arrow remained. "Over this arrow," he said, "I shall climb to the sky. Do not weep, for all your children are restored to you. You may watch me until I disappear, but then you must go inside your smoke-houses and close all the doors and smoke-holes so that you cannot see outside."

He climbed up over his arrows, and the people watched him until he passed from their view; then they entered their houses and closed every aperture. Presently there was a noise as of heavy rain, followed by a long silence, and when they gained courage to go outside all the arrows had fallen to earth in a pile.

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 Native American heroes
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