Tales of the North American Indians
Manabozho’s Adventures – C
While Manabozho was once walking along a lake shore, tired and hungry, he observed a long, narrow sandbar, which extended far out into the water, around which were myriads of waterfowl, so Manabozho decided to have a feast. He had with him only his medicine bag; so he entered the brush and hung it upon a tree, now called “Manabozho tree,” and procured a quantity of bark, which he rolled into a bundle and placing it upon his back, returned to the shore, where he pretended to pass slowly by in sight of the birds. Some of the Swans and Ducks, however, recognizing Manabozho and becoming frightened, moved away from the shore.
One of the Swans called out, “Ho! Manabozho, where are you going?” To this Manabozho replied, “I am going to have a song. As you may see, I have all my songs with me.” Manabozho then called out to the birds, “Come to me, my brothers, and let us sing and dance.” The birds assented and returned to the shore, when all retreated a short distance away from the lake to an open space where they might dance. Manabozho removed the bundle of bark from his back and placed it on the ground, got out his singing-sticks, and said to the birds, “Now, all of you dance around me as I drum; sing as loudly as [Page 55] you can, and keep your eyes closed. The first one to open his eyes will forever have them red and sore.”
Manabozho began to beat time upon his bundle of bark, while the birds, with eyes closed, circled around him singing as loudly as they could. Keeping time with one hand, Manabozho suddenly grasped the neck of a Swan, which he broke; but before he had killed the bird it screamed out, whereupon Manabozho said, “That’s right, brothers, sing as loudly as you can.” Soon another Swan fell a victim; then a Goose, and so on until the number of birds was greatly reduced. Then the “Hell-diver,” opening his eyes to see why there was less singing than at first, and beholding Manabozho and the heap of victims, cried out, “Manabozho is killing us! Manabozho is killing us!” and immediately ran to the water, followed by the remainder of the birds.
As the “Hell-diver” was a poor runner, Manabozho soon overtook him, and said, “I won’t kill you, but you shall always have red eyes and be the laughing-stock of all the birds.” With this he gave the bird a kick, sending him far out into the lake and knocking off his tail, so that the “Hell-diver” is red-eyed and tailless to this day.