American Indian: Shin-ge-bis Fools the North Wind (cont.)

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).


Shin-ge-bis Fools the North Wind (cont.)
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When they were gone, Shin-ge-bis set about his work in his own way. First of all he made sure that he had plenty of dry bark and twigs and pine-needles to make the fire blaze up when he returned to his wigwam in the evening. The snow by this time was pretty deep, but it froze so hard on top that the sun did not melt it, and he could walk on the surface without sinking in at all. As for fish, he well knew how to catch them through the holes he made in the ice, and at night he would go tramping home, trailing a long string of them behind him and singing a song he had made up himself:

Ka-bib-on-okka, ancient man,
Come and scare me if you can.
Big and blustery though you be,
You are mortal just like me!

It was thus that Ka-bib-on-okka found him, plodding along late one afternoon across the snow.

"Whoo, whoo!" cried the North Wind. "What impudent, two-legged creature is this who dares to linger here long after the wild goose and the heron have winged their way to the south? We shall see who is master in the Land of Ice. This very night I will force my way into his wigwam, put his fire out, and scatter the-ashes all around. Whoo, whoo!"

Night came; Shin-ge-bis sat in his wigwam by the blazing fire. And such a fire! Each backlog was so big it would last for a moon. (That was the way the Indians, who had no clocks or watches, counted time; instead of weeks or months, they would say "a moon"—the length of time from one new moon to another.)

Shin-ge-bis had been cooking a fish, a fine, fresh fish caught that very day. Broiled over the coals, it was a tender and savory dish, and Shin-ge-bis smacked his lips and rubbed his hands with pleasure. He had tramped many miles that day, so it was a pleasant thing to sit there by the roaring fire and toast his shins. How foolish, he thought, his comrades had been to leave a place where fish was so plentiful, so early in the winter.

"They think that Ka-bib-on-okka is a kind of magician," he was saying to himself, "and that no one can resist him. It's my own opinion that he's a man, just like myself. It's true that I can't stand the cold as he does, but then, neither can he stand the heat as I do."

This thought amused him so that he began to laugh and sing:

Ka-bib-on-okka, frosty man,
Try to freeze me if you can.
Though you blow until you tire,
I am safe beside my fire!

He was in such a high good humor that he scarcely noticed a sudden uproar that began without. The snow came thick and fast; as it fell, it was caught up again like so much powder and blown against the wigwam, where it lay in huge drifts. But instead of making it colder inside, it was really like a thick blanket that kept the air out.

Ka-bib-on-okka soon discovered his mistake, and it made him furious. Down the smoke-vent he shouted, and his voice was so wild and terrible that it might have frightened an ordinary man. But Shin-ge-bis only laughed. It was so quiet in that great, silent country that he rather enjoyed a little noise.

"Ho, ho!" he shouted back. "How are you, Ka-bib-onokka? If you are not careful you will burst your cheeks."

Then the wigwam shook with the force of the blast, and the curtain of buffalo hide that formed the doorway flapped and rattled, and rattled and flapped.

"Come on in, Ka-bib-on-okka!" called Shin-ge-bis merrily. "Come on in and warm yourself. It must be bitter cold outside."

At these jeering words, Ka-bib-on-okka hurled himself against the curtain, breaking one of the buckskin thongs, and made his way inside. Oh, what an icy breath!—so icy that it filled the hot wigwam like a fog.

Shin-ge-bis pretended not to notice. Still singing, he rose to his feet and threw on another log. It was a fat log of pine, and it burned so hard and gave out so much heat that he had to sit a little distance away. From the corner of his eye he watched Ka-bib-on-okka; and what he saw made him laugh again. The perspiration was pouring from his forehead; the snow and icicles in his flowing hair quickly disappeared. Just as a snowman made by children melts in the warm sun of March, so the fierce old North Wind began to thaw! There could be no doubt of it; Ka-bib-on-okka, the terrible, was melting! His nose and ears became smaller, his body began to shrink. If he remained where he was much longer, the King of the Land of Ice would be nothing better than a puddle.

"Come on up to the fire," said Shin-ge-bis cruelly. "You must be chilled to the bone. Come up closer, and warm your hands and feet."

But the North Wind had fled, even faster than he came, through the doorway.

Once outside, the cold air revived him, and all his anger returned. As he had not been able to freeze Shin-ge-bis, he spent his rage on everything in his path. Under his tread the snow took on a crust; the brittle branches of the trees snapped as he blew and snorted; the prowling fox hurried to his hole, and the wandering coyote sought the first shelter at hand.

Once more he made his way to the wigwam of Shin-ge-bis, and shouted down the flue. "Come out," he called. "Come out, if you dare, and wrestle with me here in the snow. We'll soon see who's master then!"

Shin-ge-bis thought it over. "The fire must have weakened him," he said to himself. "And my own body is warm. I believe I can overpower him. Then he will not annoy me any more, and I can stay here as long as I please."

Out of the wigwam he rushed, and Ka-bib-on-okka came to meet him. Then a great struggle took place. Over and over on the hard snow they rolled, locked in one another's arms.

All night long they wrestled; and the foxes crept out of their holes, sitting at a safe distance in a circle, watching the wrestlers. The effort he put forth kept the blood warm in the body of Shin-ge-bis. He could feel the North Wind growing weaker and weaker; his icy breath was no longer a blast, but only a feeble sigh.

At last, as the sun rose in the east, the wrestlers stood apart, panting. Ka-bib-on-okka was conquered. With a despairing wail, he turned and sped away. Far, far to the North he sped, even to the land of the White Rabbit, and as he went, the laughter of Shin-ge-bis rang out and followed him. Cheerfulness and courage can overcome even the North Wind.



(1100 words)


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