After a time the girl began to hunt porcupines by herself. Every morning before daylight she left her father’s house and at evening returned with four porcupines. Many young men kept watch to find out where she hunted, or to intercept her on the trail and speak to her, but none could ever track her. At times a man would keep watch all night outside her door, only to find in the morning that she had departed unseen in the darkness.
At the end of every month she would start out at midnight, kill twenty porcupines, and bring them to the vicinity of the village. She herself would enter empty-handed, but would direct her parents to the cache. Then her father would send out some young men to bring in the porcupines and distribute the meat to each family in the village. Many months rolled by. Once a month she killed twenty porcupines. On all other days she killed only four.
A young nobleman came from a far-off village and kept watch against the wall of the house to see where the young girl went but he fell asleep soon after midnight and the girl slipped out unnoticed. Another nobleman came from a coast village and kept watch in the same way but he fell asleep just before daylight and the girl passed him unseen. No one was able to unravel the mystery.
Now on the outskirts of the village a poor orphan boy was living with his grandmother. By means of folk-tales she taught him all the ancient lore — to be honest, to observe what was permitted and what prohibited, and to train himself in all necessary pursuits. The boy was an apt pupil and in time became very skillful in killing all the small animals around the village. These he carried home to his grandmother. He even built a small but comfortable house for her. When he began to hunt beaver, he would be gone for two nights and on the third evening would always return with two beavers.
Their house was a little removed from the rest of the village, which they never entered because they were so poor and ill clad. The orphan, however, had heard all about the chief’s daughter and one evening he said to his grandmother, “Grandmother, I am going to waylay that girl and talk to her. I do not wish to marry her, only to help her in her hunting.”
The old woman was alarmed and said, “My grandchild, do not talk like that. Someone may overhear you. They would be much ashamed if they saw a poor orphan like you talking with a girl of her rank.”
“Grandmother, hitherto I have always obeyed you, but this time I cannot listen to your advice. Others have failed to discover where she goes. Now we shall see if I am clever enough to succeed where they have failed.”
The Grandmother threatened to thrash him if he mentioned the matter again, so he said no more. She then cooked some beaver meat. After he had eaten he lay down on the bearskin robe and covered himself with a lynx-skin blanket. As soon as his grandmother went to bed, he pulled the blanket down to his legs and went to sleep again. About midnight the fire went out and the room became so cold that he wakened. He dressed quietly and stole out.
Everyone in the village was asleep as he stealthily climbed on top of the chief’s house and lay on his back on the side of the roof, keeping watch toward the mountains. Just before daylight the house creaked slightly and the girl appeared, carrying her pack-bag and heading toward the foothills. After advancing a few yards, she looked around to see if anyone was watching her, and went on again. Then when she reached the edge of the woods she again looked back to make certain that she was not followed and finally disappeared in the timber.
The boy climbed down from the roof and followed her tracks, keeping her in sight without revealing himself. After crossing the foot-hills and ascending a high mountain he hurried to overtake her, but suddenly the girl stopped and removed her clothing, for she had reached the dens of the porcupines. Here she stooped and, entering a hole between two big stones, she pulled out a big porcupine by its tail and killed it with her club.
Then she entered another hole and dragged out another porcupine.
The boy watched her kill three porcupines, one after the other. But when she stooped down to enter the fourth den he rushed forward and pushed her headlong into the hole. He ran home by another route. His grandmother asked him where he had been, but he told her nothing except that he had been wandering in the woods.
Very late that evening the girl returned home without any porcupines, refused all food, and went to bed immediately. Her parents could not understand what was the matter and when she remained in bed all the next day without speaking, they were more troubled than ever.
But that evening, when her mother carried her some food, she said, “Mother, when I entered the porcupine holes I removed my clothes, for they always hinder me. But someone whose face I did not see discovered me and I was so ashamed that at first I thought I would hang myself up there on the mountainside. But then I remembered all the wealth that you and father had spent on me, all the trouble you had taken on my behalf, and I decided to return home. Now I am ashamed to go outside lest, all unknowing, I should encounter the very man who saw me on the mountain.”
The chief was exceedingly angry when his wife told him what had happened, but he thought to himself, “The girl must marry. We must find out who the man is. I will summon all the men in the village, without exception, and let my daughter choose her own husband. The law has been broken. Someone has seen my daughter unclad, and she must marry the best man that she can find.”
Everyone gathered in the chief’s house — men, women, and children. At the back he laid fine marten robes and skins of various kinds for his daughter to sit upon and when all the people were seated he rose and addressed them as follows:
“My people, for years and years my daughter has hunted for you and supplied you with meat. Now it is time for her to marry. Someone has humiliated her in the woods. Let the offender confess and not be afraid. My daughter shall marry him.”
Then a young nobleman rose up and said, “I am the man.”
The girl answered quickly.
“I do not believe it. I felt the hands of the man who pushed me into the hole, and they were the hands of a very poor person. Let me feel you.”
She felt his hands and body, which were very smooth and slippery.
“It was not you. Return to your seat.”
One after another the men rose up and offered themselves; and one after another they were rejected. At last the watchman at the door said,
“There is only one youth left, the poor orphan who lives with his grandmother.”
The chief sent men to bring him in, and the boy wearing his finest clothes and fully expecting that he would be hanged, entered the house. The watchman at the door asked him, “Did you humiliate the chief’s daughter?”
He made no reply, even when the question was repeated. Then the girl spoke up and said, “I believe it was he. Bring him here and let me feel him.”
She felt his hands and body.
“This is the poor youth that humiliated me,” she said to her father; and a deep silence fell over the room.
At last the chief rose, and said to the people, “Friends, sometimes we possess a thing that we cherish above everything else. Dogs come and spoil it for us, but we would not wish it destroyed. So my daughter has been humiliated by this miserable orphan, but let us not destroy them.”
The young men in the house were very angry and jealous at these words. Nevertheless the chief made the orphan sit beside his daughter, and turning to his sister’s young sons he said, “Take those four moose-skins out of yonder box”.
After they had laid the four moose-skins on the seat of the young couple, the chief said again, “Open those two boxes yonder.”
They opened the boxes, and taking out a pile of moose-skins they placed them in front of the orphan. His kinsmen went out and brought in more moose-skins, which they added to the pile until it was so high that the young couple was concealed behind it. Then the chief said to the chief second in rank, “Utakke, the sky-god, does not wish us to laugh at the poor. A man who falls into the mud washes and becomes clean. So now I am going to wash this poor boy’s body. I am going to give him fine clothing that will “wash” his body so that no one henceforward will speak of him as a poor orphan.”
The people in the house cut up moose-skins and brought in robes of groundhog and other skins, all of which they piled in front of the boy to “wash” him and raise his status. His grandmother then entered, rejoicing at his good fortune in marrying the chief’s daughter and attaining the rank of nobleman.
Yet she was a wise old woman, and as she approached her grandson, she said to him, “Now you understand why I trained you and taught you all I knew. But there is one thing more that I would like to say. Never give your wife cause to be angry. Do all you can to please her and to please her father. Procure for her everything she needs — wood, water or whatever it may be. He has likened you to a dog that has spoiled his most precious possession, for that is what he fears you may show yourself to be, but prove that you are a real man and all will be well.”
Drawing him then to one side she taught him the wolf — how he should sleep alone for a long period and eat the medicinal devil’s club that he might be successful in his hunting. The boy promised to heed her instructions.
On the third day after his marriage he took the chief’s bow and arrows and went hunting. A strange elation came over him, and he seemed to fly over the hilltops as he raced along.
He prayed to the sky-god, Utakke, for help, addressing Him as though he walked by his side. Alone and unaided, he killed six caribou, cached their carcasses and, wrapping their tongues in some brush inside his bag, and returned home after an absence of one night. He reached the house in the evening, left his pack behind the door, and the bow and arrows in a corner, and sat down humbly beside the fire to remove his moccasins, which his wife’s mother then washed and hung up to dry. No one said a word, for they believed that he had been unsuccessful. His mother-in-law brought in from outside some smoked salmon which she placed in a pan in front of him. Next she offered him dried berries mingled with grease, and a horn spoon with which to dip them up. After he had eaten the berries she brought him dried meat. No one went near his bag, and the boy himself was too humble to say anything.
After a long silence the chief asked him, “Did you see any tracks in the woods?”
“I saw caribou tracks far off in the mountains. Later I saw six caribou.”
The chief asked again, “Did they smell you and run away?”
“No, I approached on the lee side and shot them all.”
“Well done,” exclaimed the chief, as his wife opened the pack and produced the six caribou tongues. The bride and her parents rejoiced that the poor orphan boy had shown himself so skillful a hunter.
Next morning before daylight all the chief’s kinsmen took their packstraps and, guided by the boy, went off to bring in the meat. There was a full load for every man, and it was noon of the following day before they could bring all the meat into the village. The chief gave the common people two caribou, which would supply them with meat for three days. Two he presented to his kinsmen, and with the remaining two he gave a big feast to which he summoned all the villagers.
After the people had eaten, one of the lesser chiefs rose up, and addressed the boy, “A few days ago your father-in-law was greatly troubled about you, lest you should prove a worthless fellow. Now you have proved yourself a man, and we are glad. Continue, as you have begun.”
After this the orphan hunted successfully every day. He killed moose, black bears, grizzlies, mountain goats, and game of every kind. His father-in-law’s house always overflowed with meat, though he distributed most of it every day among the people. So for many years the orphan supported the village, and his fame spread far and wide.
Messengers now came from another country, and said to the chief, “We have come to ask the help of your son-in-law, who has been so successful in killing all kinds of monsters. In the mountains near our village dwell four huge grizzlies that are constantly killing our hunters and our women. We will pay you a rich reward if you and your son-in-law will rid us of these monsters.”
The chief spoke to the orphan, now a grown man, and the orphan discussed the matter with his wife, of whom he was very fond. Hitherto he had never allowed her to carry water or wood or any other load but did all the work himself.
His wife loved him because he treated her with such honour, and she said, “I do not like your going alone. Let me go with you.”
But her husband answered, “No, the country will be rough and difficult to traverse. It is heavily wooded, and a branch of a tree might strike you and cause you harm. Stay at home, and I will return as quickly as I can.”
His wife made him six pairs of moccasins and tied them together with a cord. Meanwhile he was repairing his father-in-law’s bow, lining it behind with the finest of gum and backing it with stout leather. To one end he fastened a sharp flint that would serve him as a spear. The arrows too he examined, making sure they were in perfect condition. That night he did not sleep with his wife, but lay on the other side of the fire. When he rose in the morning he said, “I had a bad dream during the night. I dreamed that I was nearly killed.”
Nevertheless, he started out on his journey, accompanied by his father-in-law and some of his fellow-villagers. His wife wept at his departure.
The village that had hired them welcomed them warmly. Early the next morning all the hunters started out across a high hill towards a rugged mountain. At noon they reached the place where the grizzlies dwelt, and a hunter said to the orphan, “See that hole between the trees? That is where the grizzlies live, below the soil. As soon as a man approaches, they scent him and come out in pursuit.”
The hunters stood back and watched the orphan. The evening before, when he had reached their village, he had changed his clothes for a suit of very thin caribou skin without pockets, a suit that fitted his body so closely that no stick or bough could catch in it. Carrying in his hand two large spears with long stone points, he now advanced slowly over the hole in which the grizzlies lay concealed, and standing above the den he shouted “Hai! Hai!”
Out came a monstrous grizzly, half red and half gray in colour, and a fathom and a half around his body. The orphan stabbed it twice behind the shoulder and killed it. A second grizzly came out. He stabbed it also, but the point of his weapon struck its shoulder-bone and broke at the shaft. The third grizzly came out. He shot it with his bow and arrows, then finished off the second grizzly with his one remaining spear.
Now came the fourth grizzly–the largest. His spear pierced its neck but snapped off at the handle. Now both spears were broken, and the animal was too close for him to draw his bow. Each time it grabbed at him, he ran between its legs. It began to weaken, and watching his opportunity he fled up the mountainside. As the monster pursued him, he turned, shot an arrow, and fled on again. Four times he shot his arrows into it. At the fourth shaft it fell dead and rolled down the slope. So he slew them all.
Weary and limp from the heat of the chase he returned to the village and slept. Next day he returned home, rewarded with moose-skins, fur blankets, and clothing of every description, which he gave to his father-in-law. His wife was overjoyed to his return.
His fame now spread farther and farther and other villages sought his help to kill the monsters that preyed on them. So for a long time he traveled about, ridding the world of monsters. Children were born to him, and he began to grow old, while his father-in-law was weighted down with years.
One day two men came from afar off, weeping and saying, “There is a huge lynx that lives inside a mountain near our home. It grows larger every year and has killed all our kinsmen. We pray you to come and rid us of this monster.” For a long time neither the orphan nor the chief spoke.
Then the orphan answered the two men, saying, “I do not wish to go, for I have never had a dream about a monster of that description.”
For two nights the strangers remained in their house, weeping. On the evening of the third day the orphan could withstand their entreaties no longer, and turning to his wife he said, “See that my moccasins and clothes are in order”.
As soon as his wife had mended his moccasins and his clothing he started out on his journey, guided by the two strangers and accompanied by nearly half his followers. They entered the village on the third day, rested there for the night, and feasted. Starting out again the next morning they reached the lair of the lynx at nightfall. There they camped.
At daybreak they climbed the low hill where the monster was lurking in its den. The orphan cautiously approached the entrance while his followers — armed with spears and with bows and arrows — surrounded the cave. He wore a new pair of moccasins on his feet and inside his clothing he carried a bunch of eagle-feathers, gifted by his dreams to make him light of body and swift of foot.
As he stood there gazing at the bones that were strewn about the entrance, the lynx began to come out. Four times he struck it with his spear, twice through the heart and twice through the belly; but the animal had fifteen lives. Five times more he struck it. Blood flowed everywhere. Now it leaped at him. He fled up the mountain, but there the lynx was even more at home than he was. Remembering his feathers, he climbed a balsam tree so swiftly that he seemed to fly. Each time the lynx sprang up at him he shot an arrow into its heart. The huge tree swayed backward and forward at every impact of the monster’s body. Once, when it nearly seized him, he sprang into another tree, then to a third, launching his shafts at every opportunity; and from tree to tree it pursued him, breaking them down one after another with its weight. The blood flowed in streams from its body, but it seemingly only increased its strength.
At last only one arrow remained. The lynx was weakening, but his fellow hunters were a long way off. He called to them for more arrows, and they raced up to join the battle. He shot his last arrow and ran.
Now when his wife had made his moccasins, he had told her to set the stitches very close together, but by accident she had inserted on stitch a little longer than the rest. As he ran the stitch caught in the limb of a tree and he tripped. The lynx leaped on top of him, bit him in two, and then fell dead at his side.
The hunters joined together the two parts of the man’s body, and cutting out the lynx’s teeth and claws they carried home to the chief the corpse and their trophies and laid them on the floor. Blinded by tears, the chief looked at his daughter. She neither spoke nor wept. Without a tear she combed her hair, rubbed her head with oil, and dressed herself in her finest clothes. Then she sat down beside the body of her husband, whom the people intended not to cremate as usual, but to bury in the ground for they loved him and wished that even in death he might retain a semblance of life and possess a grave that they might visit.
Hour after hour she sat there motionless but at last she rose and went outside. A heavy sob rent her body, and the tears gushed from her eyes. Silently she entered the house again. The funeral feast continued late into the night. One after another the villagers praised the dead man and discussed what they should do with his remains. But his wife uttered not a word.
At last the villagers retired to sleep. Then she rose, removed from its box the strong robe of caribou-hide which her father had used for snaring bears, fastened one end of it to the ceiling and the other round her neck, kicked away the box from under her feet, and strangled herself.
Husband and wife were buried side by side.