MS/Lakes: Manabozho and West

As you may know, Longfellow's poem Hiawatha is based in part on the legends of Manabozho, and the encounter here between Manabozho and the West is an episode you can find in Longfellow's poem: Hiawatha and Mudjekeewis.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Mississippi Valley / Great Lakes unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes, edited by Katharine Berry Judson (1914).


Manabozho and West
Ojibwa

MANABOZHO lived with his grandmother Nokomis, the Earth, on the edge of a wide prairie. The first sound he heard was that of an owl. He quickly climbed down the tree. He ran to Nokomis.

“Noko,” he cried, “I have heard a monido.”

Nokomis said, “What kind of a noise did it make?”

“It said, Ko ho, Ko ho!” said Manabozho.

“Oh, it is only a bird,” said Nokomis.

One day Manabozho thought, “It is very strange I know so little and grandmother is so wise. I wonder if I have any father or mother.” He went back to the wigwam. He was very silent.

“What is the matter?” said Nokomis.

Manabozho asked, “Have I no father or mother?”

Now his mother had died when he was a very little baby, but Nokomis did not want to tell him. At last she said, “West is your father. He has three brothers. They are North, East, and South. They have great power. They travel on mighty wings. Your mother is not alive.”

Manabozho said, “I will visit my father,” but he meant to make war on him because he had learned that his father had not been kind to his mother and he meant to punish him.

Manabozho started on his journey. He traveled very rapidly. He went very far at each step. So at last he met his father, West, on the top of a high mountain. West was glad to see his son. Manabozho pretended to be glad.

They talked much. One day the son asked, “What are you most afraid of on earth?”

“Nothing,” said West.

Manabozho said, “Oh, yes, there must be something.”

At last West said, “There is a black stone on earth. I am afraid of that. If it should strike me, it would injure me.” West said this was a great secret.

One day he asked Manabozho, “What are you most afraid of?”

“Nothing,” was the answer.

“Oh, yes, there must be something you are afraid of,” said West.

The son said, “Ie-ee Ie-ee—it is—it is—” He seemed afraid to mention it.

 West said, “Don’t be afraid!”

Then at last his son said, “It is the root of the apukwa, the bulrush.”




They quarreled because West had not been kind to the mother of Manabozho.

Some days later they quarreled. Manabozho said, “I will get some of the black rock.”

“Oh, no! Do not do so,” cried West.

“Oh, yes!” said his son.

West said at once, “I will get some of the apukwa root.”

“Oh, no!” cried Manabozho, pretending to be afraid. “Do not! Do not!”

“Oh, yes!” said West.

Manabozho at once went out and brought to his father’s wigwam a large piece of black rock. West pulled up and brought in some bulrush roots. Manabozho threw the black rock at West. It broke in pieces. Therefore you may see pieces lying around even to this day. West struck his son with the bulrush root. Thus they fought. But at last Manabozho drove West far over the plains to the Darkening Land. So West came to the edge of the world, where the earth is broken off short. Then he cried, “Stop, my son! I am immortal; therefore I cannot be killed. I will remain here on the edge of the Earth-plain. You must go about doing good. You must kill monsters and serpents and all evil things. All the kingdoms of the earth are divided, but at the last you may sit with my brother North.”

Thus Manabozho became the Northwest wind.



(700 words)



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