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The Monster Bird
This version of the legend comes from Pliny Earle Goddard's 1917 collection Chipewyan Texts.
In the beginning, two young men secured some geese and tied them to
their canoe so that they might be drawn through the water by them. The
young men lay down in the canoe, saying to the geese, " Take us wherever
your land may be." When they stood up, they found the geese full grown.
As they were without food, they killed them, built a fire, and cooked and
ate them, and when they had finished their meal, continued their journey.
After they had gone a long distance, they again found themselves without
food. Some wolves came to them and fed them with fat and pemmican. "
Do not eat it all," the wolves admonished them, "leave some to eat in the
morning after you have slept." The wolves also gave them arrows but
cautioned them as to their use and said, " If you should shoot grouse, after
a time, and the arrow sticks a short way up in a tree, do not climb up to
get it." The young men resumed their journey. After a time, one of
them shot grouse and his arrow fell rather high on a tree. Not heeding the
warning of the wolves, he said to his companion, " I am going to get it." "
No," said the other, "the wolves told us not to do that." Thinking the
arrow was not very high, he stood on something and reached toward it.
The arrow moved still further out of his reach and the young man involuntarily
ascended toward the sky after it.
The one who had ascended to the sky traveled alone until he came where
a tipi stood. He found an old woman there who blackened his face with a
coal. He heard two girls laughing in the brush behind the house. When
they came in, they said, " Mother, what sort of a bad animal has come here? "
They laughed at him a long time, and then went out again into the brush.
The old woman immediately washed his face and combed his hair. Soon
he heard the girls talking again, saying, "We will go in again and laugh at
that thing which came." As soon as they came in each said, "I would
like to have that man. I will marry him." That night, one lay down on
either side of him. After a time, when the man woke up, he found he was
under the ground and could not move. ln the morning, he heard the
family going away. He heard the two girls laughing as they started; but
the old woman was crying, and saying to herself, " They have done that way
to many nice men who have come to me." Not long after that he heard
some wolves coming to the campsite. "What has happened?" one of them
said, "There is the smell of a live man." One of the wolves, named EbedahoLtihe, was addressed, " There is a man under the ground. We will take
him out. Go and get the partly chewed bone we left behind the old camp."
The man heard someone tapping with a spear on the ground as he ran along.
Soon he heard the same sounds as the wolf returned. They tried to dig
with the rib which he had brought, but it broke. "Get something else,"
he heard him say. He went again and brought the leg bone of a moose
which has the two side bones and dew claws. That did not break and with
it they soon dug the man out. Then he found it was the wolves who had
done all this.
The wolves then gave him two arrows and directions for their use. "
This arrow is female," one of them said, "and this one is male. If when
you hunt, a cow moose runs away into the brush, you must shoot this
female arrow toward the place. But if a bull moose runs into the brush,
shoot in that direction with the male arrow. When you have killed a moose,
take the intestines and tie them back and forth on a tree. Then you must
tell one of the girls that you have left a rope with which she shall carry the
moose. If her rope breaks and she begins to curse we will attend to her
should we hear her saying, 'mean wolf.'"
Then the man went on, following the tracks of the women. When he
came close to them, he began to hunt. Seeing where a cow moose had run
into the brush, he shot the female arrow. Where a bull moose had run in,
he shot the male arrow. He found that each of his arrows had killed a
moose. He then went where the people had camped and said to the two
girls, " Go and get the moose I have killed." To one of the girls whose
name was Weasel-vermin he said, " You need not take a rope with you, for
I have left one for you." He told the other girl called Mice-vermin, to
take a rope. The girls started for the moose, the man following along with
them. When they came near the place where the moose were lying, he said
to Weasel-vermin, "You get the one that is over there." He found that
each of the girls was accustomed to carry an entire moose on her back at
one time. Weasel-vermin found that he meant the intestines when he
told her that he left a rope hanging in the tree for her. When she attempted
to carry the moose whole with it, the rope began to break. She began to
curse and finally said, "mean wolf." Immediately, he heard her running
in a circle and shouting. When he came to the place, he found only some
human hair lying there, and the marks on the snow where the body had
been dragged away. He ran immediately to the other girl and pulled her
clothes off. Mice ran under the snow. He found that she was a mouse
and the other girl a weasel. After that, she became a person and married
the man. The man lived there with his mother-in-law.
He remained there for considerable time. He killed many moose but
did not know what became of the skins of the moose which he killed. His
mother-in-law had dressed just one of them. After a time, she said to him, "
Your relatives are lonesome and I do not like that. There is a hole through
the sky here ahead of us. Let us go there." When they came to the place,
she wrapped the man in the one moose hide she had dressed. He found
that she had made rope of the other hides. With the rope she lowered the
man. "When you feel yourself touching the ground," she told him, "you
must untie the rope and pull it several times." After a time, he thought
he felt the ground under him. He crawled out of the hide, pulled the rope
repeatedly, and it disappeared toward the sky. When he looked about he
was astonished to find that he was not yet on the ground but on the nest
of the flying things which feed upon people. Human bones were lying
about. A young one of the birds was sitting there. He took a liking to the
man and said to him, "I usually eat people but you shall live. Sit here
under my wings." The bird was so large that a person could hide under it.
Soon it spoke to him again, saying, "After a while, it will be dark as if it
were night. It will be my mother coming. When it becomes light again,
my father will come." After a short time it grew dark, and the mother
bird lit there. She said to the young one, " I smell a human odor coming
from you." "Oh, its the human remains lying there which you brought,"
the young one told its mother. "No, it is not. It is the odor of a living
person, which I smell coming from you," the mother replied. When she
had found the man, the young one said, " You shall not do anything to him,
he will live. If you kill him you must kill me too."
After a time it became light again and the father bird arrived. He said
the same things to the young one and received the same replies. On account
of that the man was allowed to live. When they had both gone off again,
the young one said to the man, " I am going to put my wings on you. You
shall fly across." The man found that the nest was on an island and that
there were rapids on either side in the large stream flowing there. The bird
put the wings on the man saying to him, " Fly around here until you are
sure you can fly across." The man flew about the nest a little way until he
felt certain he could fly across the stream. "Do not put my wings right
on the ground, lean them against a tree," the young bird told him. "On
your way home, do not travel at night. Even if you think you have not
far to go, lie down wherever night overtakes you."
Then the man flew across from the nest, took off the wings, and leaned
them against a tree. From there he started toward the place where his
relatives used to live. He came where a heaver had his house and commenced
to dig it out. After a time, it became dark without his knowing it. "
The house is not far away. I will not sleep here since it is so close by,"
he said to himself and started on although it was dark. As he walked along,
he carried his spear with which he had been chiseling for the beaver. Suddenly,
he felt himself being taken up into the air without visible cause. He
found that Hotei,bale, the bird monster, had taken him away. When
he had been carried a long distance, above a high rock he was thrown down
upon it. Catching the top of the rock with the spear, he jumped over it
and saved himself. Again, he was caught and carried away. When he
was thrown again upon a sharp rock, he placed the end of his spear against
it and jumped over it. He found that this rock was covered on both sides
with dried human blood where the people had been killed. He was carried,
still alive, to the young bird. When the young one saw him it said, "This
is my grandchild, that I love. This is the one I said you must not kill.
If you kill it, you must kill me too." For that reason he was not killed. "
You shall remain here," the young one said to him, and he lived there
When he had been there some little time, he began to think how he
might kill them. They slept only in the daytime. He placed a quantity
of hay and small brush on the tree under the nest. When there was much
of it there, the old one said, "Grandson, why are you doing that?" "Oh,
I am playing with it," he replied. After some time he spoke to the old bird, "
Grandfather, let me have your firedrill. I want to play with it." He
addressed HoteLbale, as grandfather. He was given the firedrill. Then
when they were asleep, during the day, he set the brush and hay on fire and
burned the nest with them in it. They lay with their wings all burned.
Taking a club he struck the old birds on the crowns of their heads and
killed them, but he let the young one live, rubbing the burned portions of its
wings away. He said to it, " If you had been the only one, I would not have
done it; but your parents have killed many of my relatives."
After that, there were no such monsters but the young one was still
alive. Someone has recently heard from the west that it has grown again.
A man who has knowledge of something magical does not get killed.
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