Tales of the North American Indians
The Jealous Father (cont)
Then the son of Aioswé started for his home once more. As he journeyed through the forest he came upon a solitary wigwam inhabited by two old blind hags who were the result of an adverse conjuration by his father. Both of these old women had sharp bones like daggers protruding from the lower arm at the elbow. They were very savage and used to kill everybody they met.
When Aioswé’s son approached the tent, although the witches could not see him, they knew from their magic powers that he was near. They asked him to come in and sit down, but he was suspicious, for he did not like the looks of their elbows.
He thought of a plan by which he might dupe the old women into killing each other. Instead of going himself and sitting between them he got a large parchment and, fixing it to the end of a pole, he poked it in between them. The old women heard it rattle and thought it was the boy himself coming to sit between them. Then they both turned their backs to the skin and began to hit away at it with their elbows. Every time they stabbed the skin, they cried out, “I am hitting the son of Aioswé! I’ve hit him! I’ve hit him!” At last, they got so near each other that they began to hit one another, calling out all the time, “I am hitting the son of Aioswé!” They finally stabbed each other to death, and the son of Aioswé escaped this danger also.
When the young man had vanquished the two old women, he proceeded on his journey. He had not gone very far when he came to a row of dried human bones hung across the path so that no one could pass by without making them rattle. Not far away, there was a tent full of people and big dogs. Whenever they heard anyone disturb the bones, they would set upon him and kill him.
The old woman who had advised Aioswé’s son told him that when he came to this place, he could escape by digging a tunnel in the path under the bones. When he arrived at the spot, he began to follow her advice and burrow under. He was careless and, when he was very nearly done and completely out of sight, he managed to rattle the bones. At once, the dogs heard and they cried out, “That must be Aioswé’s son.” All the people ran out at once, but since Aioswé’s son was under ground in the tunnel, they could not see him, so after they had searched for a while they returned. The dogs said, “We are sure this is the son of Aioswé,” and they continued to search.
At length, they found the mouth of the hole Aioswé’s son had dug. The dogs came to the edge and began to bark till all the people ran out again with their weapons. Then Aioswé’s son took the stuffed ermine skin and poked its head up. All the people saw it and thought it was really ermine. Then they were angry and killed the dogs for lying.
Aioswé’s son escaped again and this time he got home. When he drew near his father’s wigwam, he could hear his mother crying, and as he approached still closer he saw her. She looked up and saw him coming. She cried out to her husband and co-wife, “My son has come home again.”
The old man did not believe it. “It is not possible,” he cried. But his wife insisted on it.
Then the old man came out and, when he saw it was really his son, he was very much frightened for his own safety. He called out to his other wife, “Bring some caribou skins and spread them out for my son to walk on.”
But the boy kicked them away. “I have come a long way,” said he, “with only my bare feet to walk on.”
That night, the boy sang a song about the burning of the world and the old man sang against him but he was not strong enough. “I am going to set the world on fire,” said the boy to his father, “I shall make all the lakes and rivers boil.”
He took up an arrow and said, “I am going to shoot this arrow into the woods; see if I don’t set them on fire.” He shot his arrow into the bush and a great blaze sprang up and all the woods began to burn.
“The forest is now on fire,” said the old man, “but the water is not yet burning.”
“I’ll show you how I can make the water boil also,” said his son. He shot another arrow into the water, and it immediately began to boil.
Then the old man who wished to escape said to his son, “How shall we escape?”
The old man had been a great bear hunter and had a large quantity of bear’s grease preserved in a bark basket. “Go into your fat basket,” said his son; “you will be perfectly safe there.”
Then he drew a circle on the ground and placed his mother there. The ground enclosed by the circle was not even scorched, but the wicked old man who had believed he would be safe in the grease baskets was burned to death.
Aioswé’s son said to his mother, “Let us become birds. What will you be?”
“I’ll be a robin,” said she.
“I’ll be a whisky jack (Canada jay),” he replied. They flew off together.