“Caught by a Hairstring”


From Legends of the Micmacs (1894)

By Silas T. Rand


AWAY in the woods there was a large Indian town on the outskirts of which resided two old people who had but two children, and they were daughters; both were very fair and beautiful, but they were shy and coy, and did not allow themselves to be seen by everybody. They rejected all offers of marriage.

The chief of the village had a fine son who was expected to take the office when his father should abdicate or die. This young man knew of the two belles of the village, and sought the hand of one of them in marriage.

He interested his father and some of his friends in the matter, and in due time they repaired to the lodge where the girls resided, to enter upon negotiations. The girls kept themselves out of sight behind a screen. The evening passed pleasantly away. They ate, drank, and engaged in games; in due time the old chief asked of the father the hand of one of his daughters for his son. He replied that he would give an answer the next day.

In the meantime the young women, who had of course heard all that had passed, were questioned as to their wishes in the matter. They decided in the negative; and word to that effect was sent to the old chief, the father himself carrying the message.

Now it happened that there resided in the village a fellow who was ill-looking and stupid, a poor hand at every kind of work. He, hearing of the ill-success of the young chief, said jocosely, ” I could get one of these girls, if I chose.” Forthwith some of his companions proposed to accompany him and suggested that they should go that very evening — go in suddenly upon them, just as they were beginning their evening meal. This plan was carried out, and the girls had no time to jump behind their screen, so that the boys had a fair opportunity to look into their beautiful faces They were invited to eat; they said they had eaten their suppers, but yielded to the importunity of the old people.

After supper they engaged in various games, one of which was called the Mimgwddokadijlk; this was played by hiding in the ashes a small ring which was fished for by the parties, who had hidden their faces when the ring was secreted. First, one would plunge a pointed stick in the ashes, and if he missed it, the other would take the stick and try; the one who found the ring won the game.

Thus the evening passed; but not a word was lisped respecting matrimony, nor did the young women vouchsafe a single word to anyone. When it grew late, the visitors went home, and the young man who had boasted jestingly about his confidence of success was somewhat rallied by his comrades upon his failure.

Time passed, and the same young man went into the woods a hunting with a companion, from whom he was separated during the course of the day. He met an old woman wrinkled and bent down, whose hair was adorned with a great display of sakalobeek (hair-strings) which hung down over her shoulders. binding up her hair and then trailing down to her feet. “Where are you going? she asked the young man. Nowhere in particular.” he replied. ” Where are you from, noogiemce (grandmother)? ” he asked in return. “I have not come far,” she replied; “but look you here, are you anxious to marry one of those beauties?” “Oh bv no means ! ” he replied. ” But I can assist you. and tell you how you can gain her affections and obtain her for your wife, if you say the word,” she continued. He inquired how he was to proceed. “Take this,” said she, handing him one of the hair-strings that hung in profusion over her shoulders, ” roll it up and carry it in your pouch for a while, and then go watch your opportunity and toss it upon her back; but take care that she does not see you, and that no one knows of the matter but yourself” So he took the sagulobe, and did as directed. Selecting a few of his comrades, he called upon the parties, taking care to bolt in suddenly upon them just as they were about to begin their supper. The girls had not time to hide; the parents treated the visitors with great kindness and attention, and soon an opportunity occurred to toss the sagulobe upon the back of one of the girls. Soon after this the young men retired to their homes.

A day or two later, as the young man was walking alone in the woods, he saw coming toward him the girl to whom he had made love by tossing at her the sagulobe. The old woman who had given him the string was a witch, and the string was a magical snare that had caught the heart of the girl, and she had gone out to meet the object of her affections. She first addressed him. Tame alecu? (“Whither are you going?”) “I am going a hunting,” he answered. ” But whence have you come, and what are you doing out here alone? Are you lost? ” ” Oh, no, I am not lost,” she answered. ” You would better return home,” he said, ” and I will go with you and tell your parents that I have found you wandering in the woods, not knowing the way home.” To this proposal she agreed. When they arrived, he said to the parents, ” I found your daughter lost in the woods, and have brought her home to you.”Whereupon the father inquired of the young man if he would like to take her to be his wife. He answered in the affirmative, and without any ceremony save a festival, the matter was settled.

Some time after this the husband inquired of his wife, “Where did you get that pretty sagulobe?” “I found it in my ‘ntuboouk’ (the place where I was accustomed to sit in the wigwam).”

This man now felt disposed to assist the young chief in obtaining the other girl. So he went and inquired if he was still desirous of marrying her. Learning that this was the case, he told him how he could succeed. So they went into the woods together, ana soon met the friendly fairy, who questioned the chief as she had questioned the other, gave him a sagulobe, and told him what to do with it. He proceeded according to directions, visited the ledge, bolting in suddenly at the evening meal; watching his opportunity, he tossed the magic string upon the back of the girl. It dropped down on the boughs, and was picked up in due time and exercised its magical influence over the heart of the finder, leading her to fall desperately in love with the young chief He in the mean time had gone home and kept himself very close for a few days. When he went out a hunting, he met the object of his search, as the other had done, escorted her home, and told her parents that she was lost, though, in answer to his inquiries on that point when they met, she had assured him that she was not lost. Her father inquired if he would like to take her home with him. He replied in the affirmative, and led her away to his father’s lodge. A great festival followed, and the young men prepared for their young chief a large and commodious wigwam. Wechoostijik (the two men whose wives were sisters) were on the best of terms and were much together.

One day the young chief asked his friend if he would like to learn to be a swift runner. He said, ” I would.” “I will tell you how you can do it,” said the other. ” Go, gather some feathers, and let them fly when the wind blows hard, and run after them. You will soon be able to outstrip the wind; and the art once acquired will be permanent. You will be able to run swiftly ever after.” He went and tried it; he found that it was even so. Having thus by the aid of magic and practice acquired the power of fleet running, he made further progress. The young chief showed him how he could become strong, and improve his eyesight and his skill in discovering animals in hunting. ” Dress yourself up in the ugliest-looking clothes you can find, putting them on outside your ordinary dress. Fight the first man you can provoke to attack you. When he seizes you, slip out of your rags and run; then you can escape after that from any man or beast that may get you in his grasp.”

This was done, and he soon met a crazy man, whom he insulted and provoked; as soon as he was attacked, he slipped out from his harlequin dress, which he left in his assailant’s hands, who imagined the wearer to be in it; so he beat it furiously and left it for dead, the other looking on and laughing the while, but at a safe distance.

“Take a handful of moose’s hair,” he said to him, ” clasp it in a roll firmly between your thumb and fingers, then hold them up in the wind and blow the hair away; you will be able to see all the moose that are about you for a long distance around. Take the hair of any other animal and do the same thing with it, the effect will be the same : you will see these animals, wherever they are.” He took his lesson and put it in practice, and the result was as predicted. [In order to be able to see birds where they are not visible to common eyes, he must take their quills and strip off the feathery parts, pick them to pieces, blow them into the air, and look in the direction in which they fly.]

Some time after this, in his rambles he entered a house. The man of the house was away, but the mistress was at home. He inquired where her husband was; she pointed to a field, and told him that he was out there. He looked, but could see nothing except a flock of geese.

He now asked his friend how he could learn to see fishes; he was directed to gather all kinds of fishbones, to burn them, pound them to dust, and blow them up into the wind. This he did; he could now see the fish and call them to him.

He was specially interested in the whales. They are strong and he desired to acquire physical strength. So he burned a piece of bootlipawigau (whalebone), pounded it fine, and then, taking his stand on a rock that juts out into the sea, blew the dust away seaward. He immediately saw an immense number of whales in the distance. Again he blew his whalebone dust towards them, and they moved towards him. The young chief assured him that whales never die unless they are killed, and that with their assistance he could obtain a longevity that should border on immortality. Seven times he repeated the process, and one large, powerful monster came and placed himself alongside the rock on which he stood, and inquired what was wanted. ” I want you to make me strong,” said the man. ” Very well,” the whale answered; “put your hand in my mouth, and you will find what you want.” So he thrust his hand in the monster’s mouth, and feeling around found a golden key. “Take that, and you can accomplish whatever you desire. It will defend you against the attacks of enemies, wild beasts, sickness, or any other calamity.” So he took the key and went home.

Everything prospered in the place. The inhabitants were well supplied with food; the animals multiplied and could be called right up to their dvvellings. They were protected from the attacks of hostile Indians, and so increased and multiplied.

By and by the father-in-law became old and feeble, and the chief told his brother-in-law that the old man was ill, and asked if he could not be made well and young again. But the other objected to this, and thought that they would better let Nature take her course.

After a while the old chief died, and his son succeeded him. He offered to abdicate in favor of his wechoosul (wife’s brother-in-law). The latter declined the offer, but he rendered his friend all due assistance as long as he lived.



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World Mythology, Volume 2: Heroic Mythology Copyright © by Jared Aragona is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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