Tales of the North American Indians
The True Bride
There was a white man who had a wife and daughter. The wife died, and he married another woman, who also bore him a daughter. The step-mother was always angry with her stepdaughter, and accused her of being lazy. One day in the wintertime, when there was much snow on the ground, she told her to go and pick berries. The girl knew that no berries could be found at that season; but she was so hurt by the
nagging of her step-mother, that she said she would go. She put some food in her basket and wandered off, saying to herself, “I will continue wandering around until I die.”
After a time she saw the smoke of a lodge, which she approached and entered. Four young men lived there, who were her relatives, but she did not know it. They gave her food to eat, and asked her why she travelled in the snow. She answered that she had a bad step-mother, who always scolded her, and had sent her out to pick berries in the snow. They gave her a snow-shovel, or scraper of some kind, and told her to go up on the roof of the house and dig away the snow. When she had removed the snow from the roof of the house, she saw that it was covered with earth, in which grew many strawberries of large size. The men passed up her basket, and she soon filled it with the finest strawberries.
When she had come down and was about to leave, the men said, “What shall we do for our sister?” She answered, “If by any means you can help me, I shall be glad. I am very poor, and have only rags to wear.” Now, the youngest brother told her to spit; and when she spat, the spittle became a nugget of gold.
The next brother made shoes for her of very fine material, which fitted her perfectly, and would never wear out. The third brother made a dress for her in the same way. The eldest brother said, “I will make a robe for her which will always look well and new, and will never wear out.” As the brothers in succession made their awards, each article in turn appeared on her person, while her old clothes disappeared. She returned home with the basketful of strawberries, and delivered them to her step-mother, who was much surprised. She noticed that the clothes of the girl were all changed and of very fine material, and that she had the power of spitting gold, which she would gather up and put in a sack. This made her angry.
She said to her own daughter, “You see what your elder sister has brought us. She managed to find some berries. Go and get some too.” She told her secretly to follow the tracks of her sister. She would then be sure of reaching the same place, and learn how she had obtained the strawberries, the fine clothes, and the power of spitting gold. The girl took her basket and departed. When she arrived at the house of the
four brothers, they gave her food to eat, and asked her why she was travelling at that time of year. She answered, “My mother ordered me to go and gather strawberries, although it is winter-time and no berries are to be found. However, my sister found some, and my mother said I could get some at the same place.”
The men directed her as they had her sister; and after removing the snow from the roof, she found strawberries growing profusely underneath. When she had filled her basket and was about to return, the brothers said, “What shall we do for our sister?” The youngest man asked her to spit, but she felt insulted at the request. She was vain and haughty. She thought they were fooling her. They intended to help her, but became disgusted on account of her vanity, and decided to give her nothing good. At last she spat, and the spittle turned into a toe-nail and smelled like toe-nails. The other brothers refused to help her in any way. She returned with the strawberries, and gave them to her mother. The latter noticed that she had no new clothes, and felt disappointed. She asked her to spit, but instead of gold she spat a bad-smelling toe-nail. She told her not to spit again.
One day the chief’s son was passing, and saw the elder girl busy washing clothes. He liked her looks and her dress. His father, whom he told of his admiration for the girl, encouraged him to visit her and make her acquaintance. He said, “You may change your mind when you see her again.” The young man visited the girl and held some conversation with her, during which she coughed and spat on the ground several times. He returned and told his father that the girl he fancied could spit gold nuggets. His father would not believe it, and went to see for himself. During his conversation with her, she spat repeatedly, and picked up the gold nuggets and put them in a sack she carried. He asked her to spit again. He picked up the spittle and satisfied himself that it was really gold. Then he advised his son to marry her, saying, ”
She is a valuable woman, she is worth many.”
Now, it was reported that the chief’s son was to marry the girl who could spit gold. All the white people came to the great wedding. At the end of the wedding feast the bride spat out much gold, so the wedding guests carried away some to their homes. Thus the bride provided them all with presents, and became renowned, and well liked by all.
In due time She-who-spat-Gold became pregnant. When she was about to be delivered, her husband was called away to an important meeting in a distant place, from which he could not return for a month. The chieftainess asked her husband to request his mother to attend her when her time came, as she had no faith in her step-mother, who might use the opportunity to do her harm. Her husband, however, assuaged her misgivings, and insisted that her step-mother, who was an expert midwife, and her half-sister, should assist her.
When she was about to give birth, her step-mother made a hole in the floor, placed the young woman over it, and, when the child was born, she cut the navel-string and let the infant fall through the hole.
Then she put a cat in its place; and when the mother sat up and asked for her child the step-mother put the cat in her arms. The woman said, “It is strange that I should give birth to a cat!” The step-mother said, “Odd people have odd children.” The young woman reared the cat as if it were her own child.
Her husband was disappointed when he returned but said nothing. Again the woman became pregnant, and again her husband was called away about the time of her delivery. She was again attended by her step-mother, who dropped the child through a hole in the floor. This time she gave the woman a snake, telling her that she had given birth to it. She added, “How strange are the children to which you give
birth!” On the return of the husband, the step-mother told him that he ought to kill his wife, because she was giving birth to cats and snakes. She told him that he ought to marry her own daughter, who was a good woman, and would give birth to proper children. The chief and all the people held a meeting, and decided that his wife should be killed. They bound her with iron, took her in a canoe to the middle of the lake, and cast her overboard.
Now, the four brothers knew what was happening, and were there under the water to intercept her, and prevent her from drowning. They untied her, and after telling her that her real children were alive, and that things would come well in the end, they transformed her into a goose, and she swam about on the lake. The chief’s son did not like his new wife, because she was disgusting and smelled nasty.
Now, She-who-spat-Gold had a favorite dog called “Spióola,” which she had not seen since the time of the birth of her first child. He lived or slept underneath the house; and when the step-mother dropped the baby through the hole, he had taken charge of it. He licked off the blood, got some white cloth to make a bed for it and to cover it. He had gone to town and got milk to feed it. Later he gathered other kinds of food and fed it, thus rearing the boy successfully. He had done the same with the younger boy. When the boys were large enough to run about, they came out of their house, and often played near the lake, watching the goose, which frequently approached them, crying. Spióola had to go on trips to gather food, and always warned them not to go too far away during his absence, or let any one see them.
One day, however, the old step-mother noticed them, and tried to capture them; but they disappeared in a small hole under the house, and blocked it with a stone from the inside. She made up her mind to poison them. She scattered some fine food, which the children ate and then died. When Spióola came home, he missed the boys. After a while he took their scent, found them, and carried their bodies into his house.
As he could not resuscitate them, he started off to the Sun to seek help. He ran continually day and night, for Sun lived a long way off. On the way he passed an old horse, who asked him where he was going. He answered, “To the Sun,” but did not stop or look around. The horse shouted, “Ask the Sun why I am growing old!”
At another place he passed an apple-tree, which in like manner addressed him, and called on him to ask Sun what made it dry up and its wood turn dead.
Again he passed a spring of water, which also called on him to ask the Sun why it was drying up. After running many days and nights, he came to the edge of the earth. There he saw a stretch of water, and on the other side the house of the Sun. He jumped into the water and swam across. He was almost exhausted before he reached the opposite shore, and his body was reduced to almost nothing but bones, owing to his arduous journey.
When he arrived at the Sun’s house, an old woman, the mother of the Sun, met him, and asked him why he had come there. She said, “No one comes to see us unless he is in great trouble and requires help and wisdom.” Spióola told her that his two foster-children were dead, and he had come to ask help, so that they might be restored. He told her all that had happened. She fed him, and he immediately began to gain
strength on the good food used by the Sun people.
The old woman advised him what to do. He must watch the Sun when he spat. He would spit twice,–the first time for the elder boy, and the second time for the younger one. Spióola must carefully gather up the spittle, and keep the one apart from the other. The questions he wished to ask in behalf of the people he had passed on the road, she would ask the Sun herself, and Spióola would hear the answers.
The Sun spoke of the dead children, and spat twice on the ground. Spióola gathered up the spittle carefully, and wrapped each separately in thin bark. Sun said the children would become quite well if treated within four days; but after that it would be too late, for their bodies would begin to decompose.
Now, the old woman asked Sun the questions. She said, “A horse wants to know why he is growing old.”
Sun answered, “Because he is lazy. He feeds too much in one place. He is too lazy to search for good nutritious grass, and he is too lazy to go to water regularly. He will stand for days in one place rather than go any distance to get water.” She said, “The apple-tree wants to know why it is drying up.” Sun answered, “Because it is too lazy, and because it has a nail in its trunk. If it removes the nail, and loosens the ground around its roots and spreads them out to gather moisture, and prunes off the dead and useless wood, then it will retain its youth; but it is too lazy to do this.” She said, “The little spring wants to know why it is drying up.” Sun answered, “Because it is too lazy. If it removes all the dead twigs and leaves which choke it up, if it makes a clean channel for itself to run in, and drains the neighboring moist places into itself, it will always run and be healthy.”
Spióola was in despair when he learned that he had to be back in four days to save the lives of the two children. It had taken him more than double that time to reach the abode of the Sun. The old woman consoled him, and told him he could reach home in time by taking another route. She said, “You will start early to-morrow morning, and follow the Sun on his journey. You must travel as fast as you can.
The way he takes is a very straight and short course, and you may reach home in one day.” Spióola started the following morning, and, following the Sun’s tracks, he arrived at home about nightfall. As he passed the small spring, the apple-tree, and the old horse, he informed them without stopping what the Sun had said.
Now, Spióola rubbed the spittle on the mouths of the children, and at once they returned to life. It was the same as if their breath had come back. When they became alive, each boy showed a luminous spot on the forehead; on the forehead of one shone a sun, and on that of the other a bright moon. Both were beautiful to behold.
Spióola told their mother the Goose that he was now going on another journey to see the wise Bird, and she must warn her children of approaching danger. He told the boys, “When you hear the Goose on the lake calling loudly, you must go home at once and hide, for the people may see you and kill you again.”
Spióola ran with all swiftness to the house of the Bird who talked all languages, knew the future, and never told a lie. He dwelt on the top of a pinnacle of clear ice in a snowy region. Spióola rushed at the cliff, and just managed to climb to the top of the ice before his claws had worn off. He told the Bird what he had come for, and asked his help, for every one believed what he said. The Bird answered, “I know your need is great, and I pity you.” Spióola put the Bird under his robe, and slid down the ice. He brought him to the children, and the Bird seemed to be very glad to see them.
The day after the Bird had arrived, the father of the boys heard talking underneath the house, and resolved to investigate its cause. Some of the voices were like those of children. He found the entrance to their abode, but was unable to throw down the stone which blocked it. Spióola removed the stone, and asked him to come in. He said, “The passage is too small. I cannot pass through.” Spióola replied, “If you
try, you will manage it.” He squeezed through, and was surprised to find himself in a large room, well kept and clean, and full of many kinds of food. When he saw the Bird there, he knew something important was going to happen, for he never came excepting when required to settle a serious difficulty which the chief himself and people could not decide properly. When Spióola told all that had happened, the chief’s son became exceedingly sorry that he had killed his first wife, and had believed her step-mother. He told his father what he had learned, and a meeting was called for a certain day to inquire into the truth of the matter. Meanwhile the chief gave orders that the toenail woman, or
She-who-spits-Toe-Nails, should be kept a prisoner in her house with her mother. The doors and windows of the house were all battened and nailed up. Now, Spióola went to the lake, and called the Goose, whom he shook until her goose-skin fell off. She-who-spits-Gold was restored to her natural form. She and her sons, the wise Bird, and Spióola, all attended the meeting when the people were gathered. The Bird told the true story in all its details, and every one believed him. He praised Spióola for his courage in running to the house of the Sun for the breath of the children. The chief ordered the two women to be taken out and hanged publicly. This the people did. The chief’s son took back his wife, and they lived thenceforth in a great house, which was richly ornamented with gold by his wife. He became chief after his father, and his son
became chief after him.