Tales of the North American Indians
The Jealous Father
Once there was an old man named Aioswé who had two wives. When his son by one of these women began to grow up, Aioswé became jealous of him. One day, he went off to hunt and, when he came back, found marks on one of the women (the co-wife with his son’s mother) which proved to him that his son had been on terms of intimacy with her.
One day the old man and the boy went to a rocky island to hunt for eggs. Wishing to get rid of his son, the old man persuaded him to gather eggs farther and farther away from the shore. The young man did not suspect anything until he looked up and saw his father paddling off in the canoe. “Why are you deserting me, father? “he cried. “Because you have played tricks on your stepmother,” answered the old man.
When the boy found that he was really left behind, he sat there crying hour after hour.
At last, Walrus appeared. He came near the island and stuck his head above the water. “What are you crying for, my son?” said Walrus.
“My father has deserted me on this island and I want to get home to the mainland. Will you not help me to get ashore?” the boy replied.
Walrus said that he would do so willingly. “Get on my back,” said Walrus, “and I will take you to the mainland.”
Then Walrus asked Aioswé’s son if the sky was clear. The boy replied that it was, but this was a lie, for he saw many clouds. Aioswé’s son said this because he was afraid that Walrus would desert him if he knew it was cloudy.
Walrus said, “If you think I am not going fast enough, strike on my horns [tusks] and let me know when you think it is shallow enough for you to get ashore, then you can jump off my back and walk to the land.”
As they went along, Walrus said to the boy, “Now my son, you must let me know if you hear it thunder, because as soon as it thunders, I must go right under the water.” The boy promised to let Walrus know.
They had not gone far, when there came a peal of thunder. Walrus said, “My son, I hear thunder.”
“Oh, no, you are mistaken,” said the boy who feared to be drowned, “what you think is thunder is only the noise your body makes going so quickly through the water.” Walrus believed the boy and thought he must have been wrong.
Some time later, there came another peal of thunder and this time, Walrus knew he was not mistaken; he was sure it was thunder. He was very angry and said he would drop Aioswé’s son there, whether the water was shallow or not. He did so, but the lad had duped Walrus with his lies so that he came where the water was very shallow, and the boy escaped, but Walrus was killed by lightning before he could reach water deep enough to dive in. This thunderstorm was sent to destroy Walrus by Aioswé’s father, who conjured for it. Walrus, on the other hand, was the result of conjuring by his mother, who wished to save her son’s life.
When Aioswé’s son reached the shore, he started for home, but he had not gone far before he met an old woman, who had been sent as the result of a wish for his safety by his mother (or was a wish for his safety on his mother’s part, personified).
The old woman instructed the lad how to conduct himself if he ever expected to reach his home and mother again. “Now you have come ashore there is still a lot of trouble for you to go through before you reach home,” said she, and she gave him the stuffed skin of an ermine (weasel in white winter coat). “This will be one of your weapons to use to protect yourself,” were her words as she tendered him this gift, and she told him what dangers he would encounter and what to do in each case.