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The Girl-Chenoo

This version of the legend comes from Charles Leland's 1884 collection The Algonquian Legends of New England.

Of the old time. Far up the Saguenay River a branch turns off to the north, running back into the land of ice and snow. Ten families went up this stream one autumn in their canoes, to be gone all winter on a hunt. Among them was a beautiful girl, twenty years of age. A young man in the band wished her to become his wife, but she flatly refused him. Perhaps she did it in such a way as to wound his pride; certainly she roused all that was savage in him, and he gave up all his mind to revenge.

He was skilled in medicine, or in magic, so he went into the woods and gathered an herb which makes people insensible. Then stealing into the lodge when all were asleep, he held it to the girl's face, until she had inhaled the odor and could not be easily awakened. Going out he made a ball of snow, and returning placed it in the hollow of her neck, in front, just below the throat. Then he retired without being discovered. So she could not awake, while the chill went to her heart.

When she awoke she was chilly, shivering, and sick. She refused to eat. This lasted long, and her parents became alarmed. They inquired what ailed her. She was ill-tempered; she said that nothing was the matter. One day, having been sent to the spring for water, she remained absent so long that her mother went to seek her. Approaching unseen, she observed her greedily eating snow. And asking her what it meant, the daughter explained that she felt within a burning sensation, which the snow relieved. More than that, she craved the snow; the taste of it was pleasant to her.

After a few days she began to grow fierce, as though she wished to kill some one. At last she begged her parents to kill her. Hitherto she had loved them very much. Now she told them that unless they killed her she would certainly be their death. Her whole nature was being changed.

"How can we kill you?" her mother asked.

"You must shoot at me," she replied, "with seven arrows. And if you can kill me with seven shots all will be well. But if you cannot, I shall kill you."

Seven men shot at her, as she sat in the wigwam. She was not bound. Every arrow struck her in the breast, but she sat firm and unmoved. Forty-nine times they pierced her; from time to time she looked up with an encouraging smile. When the last arrow struck she fell dead.

Then they burned the body, as she had directed. It was soon reduced to ashes, with the exception of the heart, which was of the hardest ice. This required much time to melt and break. At last all was over.

She had been brought under the power of an evil spirit; she was rapidly being changed into a Chenoo, a wild, fierce, unconquerable being. But she knew it all the while, and it was against her will. So she begged that she might be killed.

The Indians left the place; since that day none have ever returned to it. They feared lest some small part of the body might have remained unconsumed, and that from it another Chenoo would rise, capable of killing all whom she met.

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