Pacific NW: The Story of Ashish

This story features two characters you saw previously - the gods Kemush and Silver-Fox - along with a new hero of the story: Ashish. As you will see, Kemush gets angry at Ashish and decides to impersonate him, so pay attention to the clues at the beginning of the story which reveal each character's identity and how Kemush is the worst of the three at all the things they try, so he is not able to do a good job of impersonating Ashish even if he does manage to get Ashish out of the way for a while!

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Pacific Northwest unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest, especially of Washington and Oregon, by Katharine Berry Judson (1910).

The Story of Ashish

ASHISH, they say, having many people with him, gambled.

While on their way gambling, they built fires. Purple-blue was the fire of Ashish; the fire of Silver-Fox was yellow only; the fire of Kemush was smoke only.

Then they shot at the target. Ashish hit it straight; Silver-Fox slightly missed the mark; Kemush hit this side of the mark. All the others struck far this side of the mark.

After doing so they began gambling again. They bet on many things. Then Ashish won over them. About noon all the men had lost all they had. Then they went to their lodges.

Now Ashish had five wives. Mud Hen was one wife of Ashish; Long-tail Squirrel was one wife; Sandhill Crane was one wife; Mallard was one wife; Chaffinch was one wife.

Then Kemush plotted secretly. After daybreak he plotted against Ashish. Then Kemush began to weep, pretending to remember the inherited place where his father had killed eagles. Now declared Kemush to Ashish, "Far away is the killing place of the young eagles. I kill them not, being afraid."

Then they set out together, Kemush and Ashish.

Now Kemush coveted Little Squirrel, the wife of Ashish.

Then they saw eagles. Kemush pointed out the pine for Ashish to climb up. Then the eagles flew on the pine. Ashish climbed up, but as he climbed the tree grew. Far up, the pine now touched the sky. Ashish having climbed to the top, saw only the young ones of a lark, although it was the eyrie of an eagle. Thus Ashish wept, sitting in the eyrie.

Then Kemush went away. He dressed himself to appear like Ashish. He came back to the lodge from the pine tree.

Now the wives of Ashish became suspicious. "This one is Kemush" — thus said the wives of Ashish.

Next morning they all went with those who were in the habit of gambling with Ashish. They built a fire while gambling. And from the fire of Kemush smoke only curled up. Then they suspected, and said, "This is not Ashish. This is Kemush" — thus said those afar off, "Ashish did not come. The fire of Ashish is not burning there." Thus said the followers in the distance.

Those in the distance also said, "You will find out this man after he has shot at the mark. Ashish always hits straight." Then they shot. Kemush struck far this side of the mark. Silver-Fox missed a little. Then they commenced gambling, and they won over Kemush. All day long they won many stakes. Then they went back to the lodges. Then they quit gambling for they missed Ashish.

Now Ashish's wives wept constantly and left their lodges to dig roots. Four wives put pitch on their heads. Only Mallard mourned not for Ashish. Then Ashish heard the weeping cries of Sandhill Crane, and Ashish wept hearing them. Now Ashish was far away, close to the sky. He was nothing but bones.

Then two butterflies flew up close to the sky and saw Ashish. Then they flew back, having seen him. They returned home and said to their father, "A good man will soon perish. Far off, close to the sky, we saw that man, nothing but bones. He will soon die." Thus they said to their father.

The father ordered them early next morning to fly up with a basket strung around them. So the butterflies carried up there food, carrying water also. They raised up Ashish in that eyrie.

Then inquired those butterflies, "What are you doing up here?"

Then Ashish said, "Kemush sent me after the eagles. And I climbed the small pine and it grew up under me. The pine grew up during my climbing. Then I saw eagles. Of the lark saw I only the young." So Ashish said, giving explanations to them.

Then the butterflies spread a wildcat's skin in the willow basket. They placed Ashish in it, after giving him food, giving him water also. Then they took him in the basket down to the ground. Thus he returned. Then he lay sick a long time; then he recovered.

(700 words)

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