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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 with him.

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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More stories to read:

 Native American sky legends
 Mythological giant birds

Learn more about:

 Dene mythology
 The Dene language
 Chipewyan people



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