Tales of the North American Indians
The Princess Who Rejected Her Cousin
There was a custom among our people that the nephew of the chief had to marry the chief’s daughter, because the tribe of the chief wanted the chief’s nephew to be the heir of his uncle and to inherit his place after his death. This custom has gone on, generation after generation, all along until now, and the places of the head men have thus been inherited. So it is with this story.
A very long time ago there was a great village with many people. They had only one chief. There was also his sister. They were the only two chiefs in the large town. The chief also had a beautiful daughter, and the chief’s sister had a fine son. All the people of the village were glad to see the young prince and the young princess growing up, and they expected that these two would soon marry. Therefore the relatives of the prince went and talked with the father of the princess, and they also went to the uncles of the princess and talked to them.
Now, the relatives of the girl accepted, but the girl rejected the proposal and said that she would not marry him; but the young prince loved her very much, and still she refused him The young man loved her still more, and he was always true to her. Moreover, he was very anxious to speak to her, but the young woman rejected him.
Now, the princess wanted to make a fool of her cousin. One day she dressed herself up and went to the end of the village to take some fresh air. The young man saw her pass by his door, and he went after her. Soon he saw her sitting under a large tree, and went up to her, and the girl was very kind to him. She smiled when she saw him coming. Then the young man sat down by her side under the tree as gently as he could. He asked her if she did not want to marry him. The girl said, “If you make a deep cut in your cheek, then you may marry me.” Therefore the handsome young man took his knife and cut down his right cheek. The girls laughed at him, and they went home.
When the cheek of the young man was healed, the princess put on her finest dress, passed the door of her cousin, and the young man saw her pass by. He followed her, and saw her sit at the same place where he had met her before. He went to her; and she stretched out her hands to greet him, put her arms around him, and kissed him once, since her cousin wanted to marry her. Then the young man loved her still more because she had kissed him the first time ever since he had loved her; and when the young man was overflowing with love, she said, “If you love me so much, show your love and make a cut down your left cheek; then I shall know that you really love me.” The young man did not like to do it. However, he wanted to marry her, and so he took his knife and made a cut down his left cheek. They went home, and the young man was always thinking of her.
Soon his wounded cheek was healed. He did not mind his foolish acts. On the following day he saw her passing his door. The young man followed her, and she was sitting under the tree. She smiled at him when he was coming to her, and said, “Do you come to me again, my beloved one?” and he replied, “Yes, I come to marry you.” Then he put his arms around her, and she kissed him again. He asked her, “Do you love me, my dear cousin?” and she replied, “Yes, you know how much I love you,” and the princess asked him, “Do you also love me, cousin?’, and he replied, “Indeed, I love you very much.” Thus said the young man, for he wanted to marry her. Then the princess said to him, “Now, show me your love. Cut off your hair; then you may marry me.” So the young prince took his knife and cut off his beautiful yellow hair. (In those days the young men and the old men wore their hair as long as women’s hair, and it was considered dishonorable to cut a man’s hair as we do it now.)
They went home, and on the following day the young man sent some one to her, saying that he wanted to marry her now. Therefore the messenger went to her and told her what her cousin had said; but the woman replied, “Tell him that I do not want to marry a bad-looking person like him, ugly as he is”; and she gave him the nickname Mountain With Two Rock Slides, as he had a scar down each cheek. She laughed at him and scorned him’ saying, “I do not want to marry a man who cut his hair like a slave.”
The young man’s messengers came back to him and told him what she had said. Therefore the youth was very much ashamed. He remembered that he also was a prince, and he cried because his own cousin had mocked him.
Now, he decided to leave his father’s house and his uncle’s house, for he was ashamed before his fellows of the scars which he had made on his own cheeks by order of his beloved one. He went about, not knowing which way to go. Day by day he went, and he came to a narrow trail. He walked along it, and saw a small hut away off. He went toward it. Before it was evening he reached there; and when he was near, he walked up to it quietly. He stood outside and looked through a small hole. Behold! a woman was sitting there by the side of a fireplace. She said, “Come in, dear prince, if it is you who was rejected by his own cousin!” So the young man went in, and the woman made him sit down on the other side of the fire. She gave him to eat. When he started from home, four young men, his own friends, had accompanied him on his way; but three of them had gone back home, and only one, his dearest friend, followed him all along the way until they came to the little hut.
After the old woman had given them to eat, she said to the young man, “Soon you will arrive at the large house of Chief Pestilence, which is just across the little brook yonder. Leave your companion at this side of the brook, and you yourself go to the large house. When you get there, push open the large door, then say this: ‘I come to be made beautiful in the house of Pestilence!’ Shout this as loud as you can. Then you will see that the house on both sides is full of maimed persons. They will call you to come to their sides; but do not go there, because they will make you like one of them. When they stop calling you, then Chief Pestilence will call you to the rear of the house. Follow his calling. He will make you beautiful.” Thus said the old woman to him. On the following day, after they had had their breakfast, they started. As soon as they crossed the brook, the prince said to his companion, “Stay here, and I will go on alone. Wait until I come back to you!” So the companion staid there.
Now he went on alone. Soon he saw a large house in the distance, and went as quickly as he could. He pushed open the door, ran in, and shouted at the top of his voice, “I came to be made beautiful, Chief Pestilence!” Then all the maimed people on both sides of the house beckoned to him and shouted. Those on one side would say, “Come this way, come this way!” and those on the other side said, “Come, come, come!” The prince remained standing in the doorway. There were many good-looking women among these maimed persons. They shouted and called him; but he stood still, waiting until Chief Pestilence should come forth from his room in the rear of the large house.
Soon the noise of the maimed people ceased. Then the door of the chief’s room was opened, and, behold! Chief Pestilence came forth with his beautiful daughter. He said, “Dear prince, come this way!” Then the young man went to him and sat down on his right side.
Then Chief Pestilence ordered his attendants to bring his bathtub. They brought him a large tub full of hot water. Then the chief took the young man, put him into this tub, and, as soon as he was in the tub, the water began to boil and the water boiled over the tub, boiling of its own accord. When the dross was all off, the chief took the bare bones of the young man, put them on a wide board, joining them together, and after he had done so, he called to his young daughter, who leaped over the bones. Then the young man was alive again. His features were changed, and his body was as white as snow.
Then the chief said, “Bring me a nice comb!” and his attendants brought him a comb of crystal. The chief took it and combed the prince’s hair down to his loins. His hair was red, like tongues of fire. He was the most beautiful of all.
The chief did not want to let him go at once, but kept him in his house for two days. The young man thought he had been there two days, but in reality two years had passed. Then the young man remembered his friend whom he had left by the brook before he entered the house of Chief Pestilence. Now, the prince told the young woman that he loved his friend by the brook; therefore the young woman said, “Let us go to see him!” They went together; and when they came to the place, they found the man’s bare bones heaped up there. Therefore the young prince wept, but the young woman commanded him to take the bare bones to her father’s house. The young man did what the young woman had told him, and took the bare bones to the chief. The chief ordered his attendants to bring his bathtub. They brought it to him, and he put the bare bones into the tub. Then the water began to boil, and the dross of the bare bones boiled over the tub. Thus the young man saw what the Chief Pestilence had done to him.
Then the chief took out the bones and placed them on a wide board and joined them together; and the young woman leaped over them four times, and the young man was alive again.
Next the chief asked for his own comb. They brought it to him, and the chief asked what color of hair he wanted. The man said, “Dark-yellow hair.” He also asked him how long he wanted it; and the man said, “Right down to the knee.” So the chief combed his hair down to his knees; and this man was lighter color than the other. Now they started for home. It was not many days before they arrived at their home. The prince looked like a supernatural being, and his friend too was handsomer than any of the other people. They came and visited them; and all the people talked about these two men who had just come back from the house of Chief Pestilence, who had transformed them and given them great beauty.
The young people coveted their beauty, and they questioned them one day to know how far the house of Chief Pestilence was from their village. Then the prince’s friend told them that it was not very far away.
Now, let us go back to the princess who years ago had refused to marry her own cousin. She was very anxious to see her cousin who had just come home from the house of Chief Pestilence. People were talking about it, that he was more beautiful than any other person in the village; and she heard the people say that he looked like a supernatural being. Therefore the young woman tried hard to see him. One day the chief, the father of the princess, invited his nephew to his house. The prince went with some of the chief’s head men; and as soon as the prince entered his uncle’s house, the young princess looked at him. Oh, how fine he looked! and more beautiful than any of the people. Then she tried to make her rejected cousin turn and look at her, but the young man took no notice of her courting. His hair was like fire, and his face shone like the rays of the sun.
Now, the young woman came down from her room, and walked to and fro behind the guests, laughing and talking, trying to make the beautiful prince look at her; but he took no notice of her. As soon as the feasting was over, he arose and went home, and the young princess felt full of sorrow.
The following day she sent her maid to call the beautiful prince. When the girl came to him and told him what her mistress had said to the prince, he did not answer a word, and the maid went back to her mistress and told her that the prince would not answer her a word. She sent to him again; and when the girl came to him, she told him that her mistress wanted him to come and see her. But he said to the girl, “Go and tell her that she rejected me then, so I will not go to her now.” Then the girl went and told her mistress what the prince had said. The princess sent her girl again. “Go and tell him that I will do whatever he desires me to do.” She went and told him what her mistress had said: “My mistress says that whatever you desire her to do she will do.” Then the prince said to the girl, “Go and tell her that I desire her to cut down her right cheek, and I will come and be her guest.” Therefore the girl went and told her mistress what the prince had said. So the princess took her knife and cut down her right cheek. She said to her maid, “Go and tell him that I will do whatever he wants me to do.” She went and told the prince what her mistress had done.
Again the beautiful prince said, “Just tell her to cut down her other cheek, and then I will come and see her.” So she went and told her mistress, and thereupon the princess cut her left cheek. Again she sent her maid, who went to him and told him. This time he said, “Let her cut her hair, then I will go to her.” She went and told her, and the princess took her knife and shaved off her hair, and she sent her hair to him. The maid took it to the prince; but when the prince saw the hair, he refused to accept it. “Don’t bring it near me! It is too nasty! Take it back to your mistress and tell her that I don’t want to see the ugly scars on her cheeks and her ugly shaved hair. It is too nasty for me.” Then he left, and laughed louder and louder, mocking her; and the girl returned to her mistress very sad.
She came slowly; and her mistress asked her, “My dear, what tidings do you bring?” Then she told her mistress how scornfully he had spoken of the ugly scars on her cheeks, and of her shaving her hair, and that everybody had been laughing at her, and that every one had heard him mocking her. Then the young princess was very much ashamed. She set out with her maid, and walked along crying. She wanted to hang herself, but her maid talked to her and comforted her all the way. They went on and on, trying to go to the house of Chief Pestilence. Her heart took courage, for she hoped to get there and ask Chief Pestilence to make her beautiful. They went on and on, and passed many mountains and rivers and valleys, and reached the edge of a large plain. There they met a man, who asked them which way they intended to go; and the princess told him that they intended to go to the house of Chief Pestilence. She passed by him, and did not look at him, for she was ashamed to let any one look at her.
Soon they saw a large house in the distance. They went toward it; and when they reached the door, they went right in and shouted as they stood in the doorway, “We come to the house of Chief Pestilence to be made beautiful!” Then all the maimed people on both sides of the house called to them, “Come, come, come!” and those on the other side shouted, “This way, this way, this way!” and the princess went to those who called her to come; and the other one went too those who shouted “This way!”
Then the maimed people fell on the princess, broke her backbone, and made her lame. They turned her head to one side, and broke one of her arms; and those on the other side plucked out one of the eyes of her maid, tore up one side of her mouth, and scratched the two women all over their bodies, and then threw them outside. There they lay wounded, and nobody came to help them. The princess was more severely injured than her maid.
When the maid felt a little better, she saw her mistress lying there with wounds all over her body. She went too her, and saw how she was bruised. They were both in great distress, and the princess was groaning. So her maid helped her up and led her home. They spent many days coming down, and finally arrived at their home. Then she lay in bed, and finally died.