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Native American Stories : The Swan-maidens

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Tales of the North American Indians

The Swan-maidens

A man who was walking, once upon a time, came to a pond, where there were a number of geese. These geese had taken off their garments and had become women, and were now swimming in the pond. The man came up to them without being seen, and seized their feather-garments. He gave them all back but two, whereupon the women put them on and flew away. Finally he gave one of the two remaining ones hers, whereupon she also flew off. The last woman, however, he kept with him, took to his house, and married. Soon she became pregnant and gave birth to two children.
One day, when her husband had gone away, she found some wings, which she took into the house, and hid behind the skin-coverings of the walls. When her husband again went away, she put these on herself and her two children, whereupon they turned to geese and flew away. When the husband returned, they were already far away. However, he decided to follow them, and set out. He walked along the beach, where the tide was low, and kept travelling in this manner a long time. Finally he came to a large pot, where it was hot, and he had (cooked) codfish to eat. He stepped over this, and went on his way once more. Then he came to a large man, who was chopping with an axe, making seals and walruses. He threw the chipped pieces into the water, saying to them, “Be a quajuvaq,” and they would be hooded seals, or “Be an uxssung,” and they would be ground-seals. The man then offered to take him to his wife. He took him into his boat, but told him to keep his eyes closed and they started off. Soon the husband heard voices of people, and was preparing to look, when the large man forbade him. This happened several times until they reached the shore.
Meanwhile the two children had seen their father coming, and had gone indoors to inform their mother. She, however, said that they were mistaken, for they had gone entirely too far for him ever to come. The children then told her to come out and look for herself, but she was so certain that she did not even do this. Soon the children came in again, saying that their father was coming, and again she refused to believe them or to look. Then the man himself entered, and now she quickly feigned to be dead. Her husband took her up, carried her away, and buried her. covering her with stones. Then he went back and sat down. pulling his hood down as a sign of mourning. Meanwhile his wife arose again, and began walking about the tent in which her husband was. Then he took his spear and killed her. Thereupon a great many geese came, which he also killed, but the two boys went away.

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