Marriage: The True Bride

You read another Nlakapamuk  story earlier in this unit: The Youth Who Joined the Deer. You will see that the first part of this story resembles the European fairy tale of Diamonds and Toads.

[Notes by LKG]

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

The True Bride

There was a white man who had a wife and daughter. The wife died, and he married another woman, who also bore him a daughter. The stepmother was always angry with her stepdaughter, and accused her of being lazy.

One day in the wintertime, when there was much snow on the ground, she told her to go and pick berries. The girl knew that no berries could be found at that season, but she was so hurt by the nagging of her stepmother that she said she would go. She put some food in her basket and wandered off, saying to herself, "I will continue wandering around until I die."

After a time she saw the smoke of a lodge, which she approached and entered. Four young men lived there who were her relatives, but she did not know it. They gave her food to eat and asked her why she travelled in the snow.

She answered that she had a bad stepmother who always scolded her and had sent her out to pick berries in the snow. They gave her a snow-shovel, or scraper of some kind, and told her to go up on the roof of the house and dig away the snow. When she had removed the snow from the roof of the house, she saw that it was covered with earth, in which grew many strawberries of large size. The men passed up her basket, and she soon filled it with the finest strawberries.

When she had come down and was about to leave, the men said, "What shall we do for our sister?"

She answered, "If by any means you can help me, I shall be glad. I am very poor, and have only rags to wear."

Now, the youngest brother told her to spit, and when she spat, the spittle became a nugget of gold.

The next brother made shoes for her of very fine material, which fitted her perfectly and would never wear out.

The third brother made a dress for her in the same way.

The eldest brother said, "I will make a robe for her which will always look well and new, and will never wear out."

As the brothers in succession made their awards, each article in turn appeared on her person, while her old clothes disappeared.

She returned home with the basketful of strawberries and delivered them to her step-mother, who was much surprised. She noticed that the clothes of the girl were all changed and of very fine material, and that she had the power of spitting gold which she would gather up and put in a sack. This made her angry.

She said to her own daughter, "You see what your elder sister has brought us. She managed to find some berries. Go and get some too." She told her secretly to follow the tracks of her sister. She would then be sure of reaching the same place, and learn how she had obtained the strawberries, the fine clothes, and the power of spitting gold.

The girl took her basket and departed. When she arrived at the house of the four brothers, they gave her food to eat and asked her why she was travelling at that time of year.

She answered, "My mother ordered me to go and gather strawberries, although it is winter-time and no berries are to be found. However, my sister found some, and my mother said I could get some at the same place."

The men directed her as they had her sister and, after removing the snow from the roof, she found strawberries growing profusely underneath. When she had filled her basket and was about to return, the brothers said, "What shall we do for our sister?"

The youngest man asked her to spit, but she felt insulted at the request. She was vain and haughty. She thought they were fooling her. They intended to help her but became disgusted on account of her vanity, and decided to give her nothing good. At last she spat, and the spittle turned into a toe-nail and smelled like toe-nails. The other brothers refused to help her in any way.

She returned with the strawberries and gave them to her mother. The latter noticed that she had no new clothes, and felt disappointed. She asked her to spit, but instead of gold she spat a bad-smelling toe-nail. She told her not to spit again.

(700 words)

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