Alaska: Cradle Song

This story is part of the Alaskan Legends unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of Alaska, edited by Katharine Berry Judson (1911).

Cradle Song


THE wind blows over the Yukon,
My husband hunts the deer on the Koyukun Mountains.
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one.

There is no wood for the fire.
The stone axe is broken, my husband carries the other.
Where is the sun-warmth? Hid in the dam of the beaver, waiting the spring-time?
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, wake not!

Look not for ukali, old woman.
Long since the cache was emptied, and the crow does not light on the ridge pole!
Long since my husband departed. Why does he wait in the mountains?
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, softly.

Where is my own?
Does he lie starving on the hillside? Why does he linger?
Comes he not soon I will seek him among the mountains.
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, sleep.

The crow has come, laughing,
His beak is red, his eyes glisten, the false one.
"Thanks for a good meal to Kuskokala the shaman.
On the sharp mountain quietly lies your husband."
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, wake not!

"Twenty deer's tongues tied to the pack on his shoulders;
Not a tongue in his mouth to call to his wife with.
Wolves, foxes, and ravens are tearing and fighting for morsels.
Tough and hard are the sinews; not so the child in your bosom?"
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, wake not!

Over the mountain slowly staggers the hunter.
Two bucks' thighs on his shoulders, with bladders of fat between them.
Twenty deer's tongues in his belt. Go, gather wood, old woman!
Off flew the crow — liar, cheat, and deceiver!
Wake, little sleeper, wake, and call to your father!

He brings you backfat, marrow, and venison fresh from the mountain.
Tired and worn, he has carved a toy of the deer's horn,
While he was sitting and waiting long for the deer on the hillside.
Wake and see the crow, hiding himself from the arrow!
Wake, little one, wake, for here is your father!

(illustration from Judson's book)

(300 words)

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