Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Native American Myth of the Friendly Skeleton
A little boy living in the woods with his old uncle was warned by him not to go eastward, but to play close to the lodge or walk toward the west. The child felt a natural curiosity to know what lay in the forbidden direction, and one day took advantage of his uncle's absence on a hunting expedition to wander away to the east. At length he came to a large lake, on the shores of which he stopped to rest. Here he was accosted by a man, who asked him his name and where he lived.
"Come," said the stranger, when he had finished questioning the boy, "let us see who can shoot an arrow the highest."
This they did, and the boy's arrow went much higher than that of his companion.
The stranger then suggested a swimming match.
"Let us see," he said, "who can swim farthest under water without taking a breath."
Again the boy beat his rival, who next proposed that they should sail out to an island in the middle of the lake, to see the beautiful birds that were to be found there. The child consented readily, and they
embarked in a curious canoe, which was propelled by three swans harnessed to either side of it. Directly they had taken their seats the man began to sing, and the canoe moved off. In a very short time they had reached the island. Here the little Indian realized that his confidence in his new-found friend was misplaced. The stranger took all his clothes from him, put them in the canoe, and jumped in himself, saying:
"Come, swans, let us go home."
The obedient swans set off at a good pace, and soon left the island far behind. The boy was very angry at having been so badly used, but when it grew dark his resentment changed to fear, and he sat down and cried with cold and misery. Suddenly he heard a husky voice close at hand, and, looking round, he saw a skeleton on the ground.
"I am very sorry for you," said the skeleton in hoarse tones. "I will do what I can to help you. But first you must do something for me. Go and dig by that tree, and you shall find a tobacco-pouch with some tobacco in it, a pipe, and a flint."
The boy did as he was asked, and when he had filled the pipe he lit it and placed it in the mouth of the skeleton. He saw that the latter's body was full of mice, and that the smoke frightened them away.
"There is a man coming to-night with three dogs," said the skeleton. "He is coming to look for you. You must make tracks all over the island, so that they may not find you, and then hide in a hollow tree."
Again the boy obeyed his gaunt instructor, and when he was safely hidden he saw a man come ashore with three dogs. All night they hunted him, but he had made so many tracks that the dogs were confused, and at last the man departed in anger. Next day the trembling boy emerged and went to the skeleton.
"Tonight," said the latter, "the man who brought you here is coming to drink your blood. You must dig a hole in the sand and hide. When he comes out of the canoe you must enter it. Say, 'Come, swans, let us go home,' and if the man calls you do not look back."
[The story ends here. What do you think happened? - Mick]