Thirty Indian Legends
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THE GIANT BEAR
In the far north there was a village where many warlike Indians lived. In one family there were ten brothers, all brave and fearless. In the spring of the year the youngest brother blackened his face and fasted for several days. Then he sent for his nine brothers and said to them:
"I have fasted and dreamed, and my dreams are good. Will you come on a war journey with me?"
"Yes," they all said readily.
"Then tell no one, not even your wives, of our plan." They agreed to meet on a certain night so that no one should see them go. One brother was named Mudjekeewis, and he was very odd. He was the first to promise that he would not tell. The next two days were spent in preparations for the journey. Mudjekeewis told his wife many times to get his moccasins for him.
"And hurry." he said; "do hurry."
"Why do you want them?" she asked. "You have a good pair on."
"Well, if you must know, we are going on a war journey," he answered.
When the night had come which the leader had named, they met at his wigwam and set out on their long journey. The snow lay on the ground, and the night was very dark.
After they had travelled some miles, the leader gathered some snow and made it into a ball. He threw it in the air and said, as it fell, "It was thus I saw the snow fall in my dreams to cover our footmarks, so that no one may follow us."
The snow began to fall heavily and continued for two days. It was so thick that they could scarcely see each other, though they walked very closely together.
The leader cheered his brothers by telling them they would win in their battle. At this Mudjekeewis, who was walking behind, ran forward. He swung his war-club in the air and uttered the war-cry. Then bringing his war-club down, he struck a tree, and it fell as if hit by lightning.
"See, brothers," he said, "this is the way I shall serve our enemy."
"Hush, Mudjekeewis," said the leader. "He whom we are going to fight cannot be treated so lightly."
Then they travelled on for several days, until at last they reached the borders of the White Plain, where the bones of men lay bleaching.
"These are the bones of men who have gone before us. No one has ever returned to tell of their sad fate." Mudjekeewis looked frightened at this and thought, "I wonder who this terrible enemy is."
"Be not afraid, my brothers," said the leader. Mudjekeewis then took courage, again jumped forward, and uttering the war-cry, brought his warclub down on a small rock, and split it into pieces. "See, I am not afraid," he cried. "Thus shall I serve my enemy." But the leader still pressed onward over the plain, until at last a small rise in the ground brought them in sight of the enemy. Some distance away, on the top of the mountain, a giant bear lay sleeping.
"Look, brothers," said the leader. "There is the mighty enemy, for he is a Manitou. But come now, we need not fear, as he is asleep. Around his neck he has the precious wampum, which we must take from him."
They advanced slowly and quietly. The huge animal did not hear them....