American Indian: Iagoo, the Story-Teller

You can find out more about Iagoo in Schoolcraft, Longfellow, Hiawatha by Chase S. Osborn and Stellanova Osborn at Hathi Trust. He also appears in Longfellow's Hiawatha.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the American Indian Fairy Tales unit. Story source: American Indian Fairy Tales by W.T. Larned, with illustrations by John Rae (1921).

Iagoo, the Story-Teller

THERE never was anyone so wise and knowing as old Iagoo. There never was an Indian who saw and heard so much. He knew the secrets of the woods and fields, and understood the language of birds and beasts. All his life long he had lived out of doors, wandering far in the forest where the wild deer hide, or skimming the waters of the lake in his birch-bark canoe.

Besides the things he had learned for himself, Iagoo knew much more. He knew the fairy tales and the wonder stories told him by his grandfather, who had heard them from his grandfather, and so on, away back to the time when the world was young and strange, and there was magic in almost everything.

Iagoo was a great favorite with the children. No one knew better where to find the beautiful, colored shells which he strung into necklaces for the little girls. No one could teach them so well just where to look for the grasses which their nimble fingers wove into baskets. For the boys he made bows and arrows—bows from the ash-tree that would bend far back without breaking, and arrows, strong and straight, from the sturdy oak.

But most of all, Iagoo won the children's hearts with his stories. Where did the robin get his red breast? How did fire find its way into the wood, so that an Indian can get it out again by rubbing two sticks together? Why was Coyote, the prairie wolf, so much cleverer than the other animals, and why was he always looking behind him when he ran? It was old Iagoo who could tell you where and why.

Now, winter was the time for storytelling. When the snow lay deep on the ground, the North Wind came howling from his home in the Land of Ice, and the cold moon shone from the frosty sky, it was then that the Indians gathered in the wigwam. It was then that Iagoo sat by the fire of blazing logs, and the little boys and girls gathered around him.

"Whoo, whoo!" wailed the North Wind. The sparks leapt up, and Iagoo laid another log on the fire. "Whoo, whoo!" What a mischievous old fellow was this North Wind! One could almost see him—his flowing hair all hung with icicles. If the wigwam were not so strong he would blow it down, and if the fire were not so bright he would put it out. But the wigwam was made on purpose for just such a time as this, and the forest nearby had logs to last forever. So the North Wind could only gnash his teeth, and say, "Whoo, whoo!"

One little girl, more timid than the rest, would draw nearer and put her hand on the old man's arm. "O, Iagoo," she said, "just listen! Do you think he can hurt us?"

"Have no fear," answered Iagoo. "The North Wind can do no harm to anyone who is brave and cheerful. He blusters and makes a lot of noise, but at heart he is really a big coward, and the fire will soon frighten him away. Suppose I tell you a story about it."

And the story Iagoo told we shall now tell to you, the story of how Shin-ge-bis fooled the North Wind.

(600 words)

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