Heroes: The Jealous Uncle (end)

This story is part of the Native American Hero Tales unit. Story source: Tales of the North American Indians by Stith Thompson (1929).

The Jealous Uncle (end)

"Nephew, here is something to amuse you," said his uncle. "Get inside of it, so that I may see whether it fits you." It fitted him; so did the lid the box, and the rope the lid. He felt himself borne along, and from the noise of the waves he knew it was to the sea. The box was lowered, and with a shove it was set adrift. It was stormy, the waves beat over the box, and several times he gave himself up as lost.

How long he drifted he had no idea, but at last he heard the waves dashing against the beach, and his heart rejoiced. Louder, and louder did the joyful peal sound. He gathered himself together for the sudden stop which soon came, only to feel himself afloat again the next moment. This experience he went through several times before the box finally stopped and he realized he was on land once more.

As he lay there, many thoughts passed through his mind; where was he? was any one living there? would he be saved? or would the flood tide set him adrift again? what were his people at home doing? These, and many other thoughts passed through his brain, when he was startled by hearing voices which he recognized, a little later, as women's. This is what he heard:

"I saw the box first," said one.

"No, I saw it first," said the other.

"I am sure I saw it before you," said the first speaker again, "and, therefore, it is mine."

"Well, you may have the box, but its contents shall belong to me," replied the other.

They picked up the box and began to carry it, but finding it somewhat heavy and being anxious to know what it contained, they stopped to untie it.

"If there are many things in there, I shall have some of them," said the first speaker, who rued her bargain. The other one said nothing.

Great was their surprise on beholding him. He was in turn surprised to see two such beautiful girls, the large village, the numerous people, and their peculiar appearance, for he was among the Eagle people in Eagle land. The full grown people, like the full grown eagles, had white faces and heads, while those of the young people, like those of young eagles, were dark. Eagle skins were hanging about all over the village, and it amused him to watch some of the people put on their eagle skins and change to eagles and, after flying around, take them off and become human beings again.

The girls, being the daughters of the village chief, led the boy to their father, each claiming him. When he had heard them both, the chief gave the boy to the older girl (the second speaker). With her he lived happily, but his thoughts would very often wander back to his former home, the people there, his parents, and the thought of his uncle's cruelty to them would make his heart ache.

His wife noted these spells of depression and questioned him about them until he told her of his parents and uncle. She, like a good wife, bade him cheer up, and then went to have a talk with her father. He sent for his son-in-law, and advised him to put on his (chief's) eagle skin, soar up high until he could see his village, fly over there, visit his parents, and bring them back with him. He did as he was told, and in a short time found himself in the village. Although he could see all other people, his parents were not in sight.

This was in the evening. During the night he went out to sea, brought back a large whale, and placed it on the beach, knowing that all the villagers would come out for the meat.

The first person to come to the village beach in the morning was Unnatural Uncle and, when he saw the whale, he aroused the village, and a little later all, except the boy's father and mother, were there, cutting and storing up the whale. His parents were not permitted to come near the whale, and when some of the neighbors left some meat at their house, Unnatural Uncle scolded, and forbade it being done again. "I can forgive him the killing of my brothers, the attempts on my life, but I will revenge his treatment of my parents."

With these thoughts in his mind, the eagle left his perch and flew over to the crowd. He circled over its head a little while, and then made a swoop at his uncle.

"Ah, he knows that I am chief, and the whale is mine, and he asks me for a piece of meat." Saying this, he threw a piece of meat at the eagle. The second time the eagle descended it was still nearer the man's head, but he tried to laugh it off and turn it to his glory. The people, however, did not see it that way, and warned him to keep out of the eagle's clutches, for the eagle meant mischief. When the eagle dropped the third time, it was so near his head that he fell on his face. The fourth time the eagle swooped him and flew off with him.

Not far from the shore was a high and steep rock, and on its summit the eagle put down the man, placing himself opposite. When he had taken off the skin and disclosed himself, he said to his trembling uncle: "I could have forgiven you the death of my brothers, the four attempts on my life, but for the cruel treatment of my parents you shall pay. The whale I brought was for my parents and others, and not for you alone, but you took entire possession of it, and would not allow them even to approach it. I will not kill you without giving you a chance for your life. Swim back to the shore, and you shall be spared." As he could not swim, Unnatural Uncle supplicated his nephew to take him back, but the latter, putting on the eagle skin and hardening his eagle heart, clutched him, and from a dizzy height in the air dropped him into the sea.

From the beach the crowd watched the fatal act, understood and appreciated it, and, till it was dark, continued observing, from the distance, the eagle. When all had retired, he pulled off the skin and set out for his father's barrabara. He related to his parents his adventures and invited them to accompany him to his adopted land, to which they gladly consented. Early in the morning he put on again his skin and, taking a parent in each claw, flew with them to Eagle land, and there they are living now.

(1100 words)

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