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How Wolverine Was Frozen to Death

This version of the legend comes from W H Mechling's 1914 collection Malecite Tales. Although the author describes these stories as belonging to the Malecite tribe, the man who narrated this particular story was Mi'kmaq. Since these two tribes are kinfolk and neighbors who share very similar cultures, it is likely that the story was told in both tribes.

One day Wolverine visited his older brother Bear, who was very glad to see him, and at once put the pot on the fire to cook him something. After the food was cooked and they had eaten it, Bear said to his younger brother Wolverine, "How would you make a fire if you did not have any flint and steel?" Wolverine acknowledged that he would be helpless without flint and steel. "Now I will teach you," said Bear, "how to make a fire, when you do not have any flint and steel." Having said this, Bear went out and got some maple bark, which he put in a little pile, and then jumped over it. As soon as he jumped over it, it burst into a flame. Then he said to his younger brother, "Now I give you power to make a fire."

Wolverine was very happy and was in a hurry to get away and try his power. As soon as he got out of the house, he started to run. He continued running until he got to a place where he could no longer see Bear. Then he collected some maple bark and made a little pile of it and jumped over it. When it broke into a blaze, he was very much pleased. He took out his flint and steel and threw them away, saying "These are no longer of any use."

Wolverine had no use for the fire he made; he only made it to try his power. So he went on, but he had hardly gotten out of sight of his first fire, when he decided to make a new fire. After that he made fires more frequently until at last he made them every ten steps; but finally his power gave out, for he had used it all up. When he next collected a pile of maple bark and jumped over it, it did not burst into flame. By that time it had grown dark and was very cold, and he was indeed in need of a fire. Then truly he jumped, but no success crowned his efforts. He had thrown away his flint and steel and was very much frightened, for it was very cold. He kept on jumping, but it grew so cold that he froze to death while he was jumping. He lay there until spring, when he thawed out. He was lying there dead, when his younger brother, Raccoon, came along and saw him.

Raccoon went over and tried to wake him up, saying, "Older brother, get up, you are over-sleeping, it is very late." Then the Wolverine rubbed his eyes, got up and said, "Younger brother, I overslept. I would have lain there forever, if you had not come by and awakened me." He would have rotted there, but as it was, he got his strength back and was as strong as ever.

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More stories to read:

 Native American wolverine legends
 Stories about fire
 Stories about carelessness

Learn more about:

 Wabanaki legends
 The Micmac language
 The Maliseet Indians

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