MS/Lakes: Manabush and the Great Fish

This is another incident that you can find in Longfellow's Hiawatha, complete with the squirrel: Hiawatha's Fishing.

[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).

Manabush and the Great Fish

AFTER his brother Wolf had died, Manabush looked about him. He found he was no longer alone on earth. There were many other people, the children of Nokomis. They were his aunts and uncles.

The evil manidoes annoyed the people very much. Therefore Manabush wished to destroy them.

Therefore he went to the shores of the lake where they lived. He called to the waters to disappear. Four times he called out. At once the waters vanished. There lay the Anamaqkiu. They lay on the mud in the bottom of the lake. They looked like fishes. The chief lay near the shore. He was very large.

Manabush said to Great Fish, “I shall destroy you because you will not allow my people to come near the shore.” So he went towards Great Fish. But the smaller manidoes caused the waters to return. Thus they all escaped.

Then Manabush went into the woods. He made a canoe of birch bark. He wanted to destroy Great Fish in the water. As he left the shore in his canoe, he began to sing, “Great Fish, come and swallow me.” Only the young fish came near. Manabush said scornfully, “I do not wish you. I want your chief to come and swallow me.” Great Fish was much annoyed. He darted forward and swallowed Manabush and his canoe.

Thus Manabush found himself in the Great Fish. He looked about him. Many of his people were there. Bear and Deer, Porcupine and Raven, Buffalo, Pine-tree Squirrel, and many others.

Manabush said to Buffalo, “My uncle, how did you get here? I never saw you near the water, but always on the prairie.”

Buffalo said, “I came near the lake to get some fresh green grass. Great Fish caught me.” And thus said all the animals. They said, “We came near the lake and Great Fish swallowed us.”

Then Manabush said, “We will now have to go to the shore of Nokomis, my grandmother. You will all have to help me.” At once they all began to dance around inside of Great Fish. Therefore he began to swim quickly towards shore. Manabush began to cut a hole over his head, so they could get out when Great Fish reached the shore of Nokomis, the Earth.

They sang a magic song. They sang, “I see the sky. I see the sky.” Pine Squirrel had a curious voice. He hopped around singing, “Sek-sek-sek-sek!” This was very amusing to the other people.

Great Fish thought, “I ought not to have swallowed that man. I must swim to the shore where Nokomis lives.” So he swam quickly until he reached the beach. Then Manabush cut a larger hole. Thus they all climbed out of Great Fish. The birds helped Manabush. They stood on the sides of Great Fish and picked the flesh from his bones.

(600 words)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for Google accounts; you can also contact me at