Monday, May 14, 2012

Native American Myths and Legends: The Toad Woman


Great good luck once happened to a young woman who was living all alone in the woods, with nobody near her but her little dog, for, to her surprise, she found fresh meat every morning at her door. She felt very anxious to know who it was that supplied her, and watching one morning, very early, she saw a handsome young man deposit the meat. After his being seen by her, he became her husband, and she had a son by him. One day not long after this, the man did not return at evening, as usual, from hunting. She waited till late at night, but all in vain. Next day she swung her baby to sleep in its tikenágun, or cradle, and then said to her dog: "Take care of your brother whilst I am gone, and when he cries, halloo for me." The cradle was made of the finest wampum, and all its bandages and decorations were of the same costly material. After a short time the woman heard the cry of her faithful dog, and running home as fast as she could, she found her child gone and the dog too. But on looking round, she saw pieces of the wampum of her child's cradle bit off by the dog, who strove to retain the child and prevent his being carried off by an old woman called Mukakee Mindemoea, or the Toad-Woman. The mother followed at full speed, and occasionally came to lodges inhabited by old women, who told her at what time the thief had passed; they also gave her shoes, that she might follow on. There were a number of these old women, who seemed as if they were all prophetesses. Each of them would say to her, that when she arrived in pursuit of her stolen child at the next lodge, she must set the toes of the moccasins they had loaned her pointing homewards, and they would return of themselves. She would get others from her entertainers farther on, who would also give her directions how to proceed to recover her son. She thus followed in the pursuit, from valley to valley, and stream to stream, for months and years; when she came, at length, to the lodge of the last of the friendly old Nocoes, or grandmothers, as they were called, who gave her final instructions how to proceed. She told her she was near the place where her son was, and directed her to build a lodge of shingoob, or cedar boughs, near the old Toad-Woman's lodge, and to make a little bark dish and squeeze her milk into it. "Then," she said, "your first child (meaning the dog) will come and find you out." She did accordingly, and in a short time
 she heard her son, now grown, going out to hunt, with his dog, calling out to him, "Monedo Pewaubik (that is, Steel or Spirit Iron,) Twee, Twee!" She then set ready the dish and filled it with her milk. The dog soon scented it and came into the lodge; she placed it before him. "See my child," said she, addressing him, "the food you used to have from me, your mother." The dog went and told his young master that he had found hisreal mother; and informed him that the old woman, whom he called his mother, was not his mother, that she had stolen him when an infant in his cradle, and that he had himself followed her in hopes of getting him back. The young man and his dog then went on their hunting excursion, and brought back a great quantity of meat of all kinds. He said to his pretended mother, as he laid it down, "Send some to the stranger that has arrived lately." The old hag answered, "No! why should I send to her—the Sheegowish."[6] He insisted; and she at last consented to take something, throwing it in at the door, with the remark, "My son gives you, or feeds you this." But it was of such an offensive nature, that she threw it immediately out after her.
[6]Sheegowiss, a widow, and mowigh, something nasty.
After this the young man paid the stranger a visit, at her lodge of cedar boughs, and partook of her dish of milk. She then told him she was his real mother, and that he had been stolen away from her by the detestable Toad-Woman, who was a witch. He was not quite convinced. She said to him, "Feign yourself sick, when you go home, and when the Toad-Woman asks what ails you, say that you want to see your cradle; for your cradle was of wampum, and your faithful brother, the dog, bit a piece off to try and detain you, which I picked up, as I followed in your track. They were real wampum, white and blue, shining and beautiful." She then showed him the pieces. He went home and did as his real mother bid him. "Mother," said he, "why am I so different in my looks from the rest of your children?" "Oh," said she, "it was a very bright clear blue sky when you were born; that is the reason." When the Toad-Woman saw he was ill, she asked what she could do for him. He said nothing would do him good, but the sight of his cradle. She ran immediately and got a cedar cradle; but he said, "That is not my cradle." She went and got one of her own children's cradles, (for she had four,) but he turned his head and said, "That is not mine." She then produced the real cradle, and he saw it was the same, in substance, with the pieces the other had shown him; and he was convinced, for he could even see the marks of the dog's teeth upon it.
He soon got well, and went out hunting, and killed a fat bear. He and his dog-brother then stripped a tall pine of all its branches, and stuck the carcass on the top, taking the usual sign of his having killed an animal—the tongue. He told the Toad-Woman where he had left it, saying, "It is very far, even to the end of the earth." She answered, "It is not so far but I can get it," so off she set. As soon as she was gone, the young man and his dog killed the Toad-Woman's children, and staked them on each side of the door, with a piece of fat in their mouths, and then went to his real mother and hastened her departure with them. The Toad-Woman spent a long time in finding the bear, and had much ado in climbing the tree to get down the carcass. As she got near home, she saw the children looking out, apparently, with the fat in their mouths, and was angry at them, saying, "Why do you destroy the pomatum of your brother." But her fury was great indeed, when she saw they were killed and impaled. She ran after the fugitives as fast as she could, and was near overtaking them, when the young man said, "We are pressed hard, but let this stay her progress," throwing his fire steel behind him, which caused the Toad-Woman to slip and fall repeatedly. But still she pursued and gained on them, when he threw behind him his flint, which again retarded her, for it made her slip and stumble, so that her knees were bleeding; but she continued to follow on, and was gaining ground, when the young man said, "Let the Oshau shaw go min un (snake berry) spring up to detain her," and immediately these berries spread like scarlet all over the path for a long distance, which she could not avoid stooping down to pick and eat. Still she went on, and was again advancing on them, when the young man at last, said to the dog, "Brother, chew her into mummy, for she plagues us." So the dog, turning round, seized her and tore her to pieces, and they escaped.

Death is frightful, or welcome, according to the theories men have of it. To the Indian, it is a pleasing and welcome event. He believes a future state to be one of rewards, and restitutions, and not of punishments.
The Indian idea of paradise is the idea of the orientals. It consists of sensualities, not spiritualities. He expects the scene to furnish him ease and plenty. Ease and plenty make the Indian's happiness here, and his heaven is but a bright transcript of his earth.
Paganism and idolatry, require more mysteries for their support than Christianity. The Christian has but one God, existing in three hypostases. It would be below the truth to say that the Indian has one hundred thousand gods.
The Hindoos worship their multiform gods of the earth, air and sea. The North American Indian only believes in them. He worships the Great Spirit.
Wild thoughts are often bright thoughts, but like the wild leaps of a mountain torrent, they are evanescent and unequal. We are dazzled by a single figure in an Indian speech, but it is too often like a spark amid a shower of ashes.