BNA: The Adventures of Nanebojo

This story is part of the British North America unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of British North America by Katharine Berry Judson (1917).

The Adventures of Nanebojo
Ojibwa

NANEBOJO and his grandmother journeyed about for a long time. At last they came again to Lake St. Clair. In the lake were many geese. Nanebojo thought, "How am I going to get some of those ducks?" He thought for a long while. Then he remembered.

Nanebojo took a birch-bark pail and began to drum on it and to sing. He sang, "I am bringing new songs, I am bringing new songs."

When the geese heard that, they drew near to him. At once he said to his grandmother, "Go farther on and build a lodge where we may live." And at once she did so.

Then he went down to the water where the geese were floating around. He pulled out his sack, got into it, and dived into the water. The ducks and geese were quite surprised to see what a good diver he was. They came closer and closer.

Nanebojo said, "I can dive better than you can."

The geese said, "Oh, no!"

Then they all began diving, and Nanebojo did beat them. So he spent a long time diving and floating about in the water.

Suddenly he dived, came up softly among the geese, caught the feet of many, and tied them together with a string of basswood bark. At once the geese started to fly. They rose very slowly at first because Nanebojo was pulling back, but at last they rose high in the air, carrying with them Nanebojo, who held on to the basswood string.

Higher and higher they rose, until the earth was far beneath them. Then the string broke, and Nanebojo fell to the earth. He fell into a tall hollow tree. Nanebojo spent a long while in that hollow tree.

At last he heard the sound of chopping wood. Then he called for help, and the Indian women let him out of the tree. At once he went in search of his grandmother. Grandmother asked, "Why didn't you get the geese?"

"You know you never eat goose, even when you do get it," answered Nanebojo.

Nanebojo killed a deer. He at once skinned and dressed it, and then he lighted a fire and roasted it. When he sat down to eat, the branch of a tree near by began to screech. Two branches were rubbing together. Nanebojo did not like that. He said to the tree, "Don't bother me just now when I want to eat, I am hungry!"

But every time he took a bite the branch began to screech. Nanebojo climbed into the tree, broke off a branch, and just then caught his hand between two branches as they rubbed together. He could not free himself.

Just then a pack of wolves came running along the river. Nanebojo heard them at a distance. He called to them, "Run right along. Don't look this way."

The wolves said among themselves, "He must have something to eat over there, else he wouldn't tell us to run straight ahead."

So they went right under his tree. They ate that entire deer. When they had finished, Nanebojo said, "Now go straight ahead and don't look at that tree near-by."

In the tree he had hung the deer's head for his grandmother. So the wolves looked at the tree and at once ate the head. Then they went on. At once the tree released Nanebojo's arm, and he climbed down. He could only pick the bare bones of the deer. He went to the head. He turned it round and round. It was entirely bare.

He went on and joined his grandmother.

One day when Nanebojo went for a drink, he saw some whitefish in the river. He said to them, "Can't I go along with you?"

"Oh, no," said the whitefish. "You wouldn't last long if you did."

"Why not?" asked Nanebojo.

"Because the Indians are always looking for us. You would be the first one caught," they answered.

"I am very timid," said Nanebojo. "If I go with you, I shall never be caught."

So he turned himself into a whitefish.

Soon after some Indians came along fishing. Nanebojo said, "Now I am going over there to tease them. You all stay here and I will go over there alone. Just before they try to spear me, I will dive to the bottom of the river and rise again a long way off."

So Nanebojo began teasing the Indians. He kept it up for some time until one of the Indians speared him. The Indian kept his spear in the water until he got to the shore, and then dragged Nanebojo out. The other whitefish remarked, "That is just what he said — that after he dived he would not come up for a long time, and then at some distance."

The Indians took Nanebojo home with them. He was a very large fish. After a while he began to jump about a little, so the Indians were afraid. They did not cook him at once. Just about dawn the next morning, Nanebojo came to life again and remembered he was a fish and that the Indians had speared him. So he got up and found everyone sleeping.

"If they wanted to eat me, they should have done so while they had a chance," he said as he walked away. He was going back to his grandmother.


(900 words)







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