|MANABOZHO, THE MISCHIEF-MAKER
Adapted from H. R. Schoolcraft
THERE was never in the whole world a more mischievous busybody
that notorious giant Manabozho. He was everywhere, in season and
of season, running about, and putting his hand in whatever was
To carry on his game he could take almost any shape he pleased.
could be very foolish or very wise, very weak or very strong,
or very poor-just as happened to suit his humor best. Whatever
else could do, he would attempt without a moment's reflection.
a match for any man he met, and there were few manitoes* (*good
spirits or evil spirits) that could get the better of him. By
would be very kind or very cruel, an animal or a bird, a man or
spirit, and yet, in spite of all these gifts, Manabozho was always
getting himself involved in all sorts of troubles. More than once,
the course of his adventures, was this great maker of mischief
to his wits' ends to come off with his life.
To begin at the beginning, Manabozho, while yet a youngster,
with his grandmother near the edge of a great prairie. It was
prairie that he first saw animals and birds of every kind; he
there made first acquaintance with thunder and lightning. He would
by the hour watching the clouds as they rolled by, musing on the
of light and darkness as the day rose and fell.
For a stripling, Manabozho was uncommonly wide-awake. Every sight
beheld in the heavens was a subject of remark, every new animal
an object of deep interest, and every sound was like a new lesson
he was expected to learn. He often trembled at what he heard and
The first sound he heard was that of the owl, at which he was
terrified, and, quickly descending the tree he had climbed, he
alarm to the lodge. "Noko! noko! grandmother!" he cried.
heard a monedo."
She laughed at his fears, and asked him what kind of a noise
He answered. "It makes a noise like this: ko-ko-ko-ho!"
His grandmother told him he was young and foolish; that what
was only a bird which derived its name from the peculiar noise
He returned to the prairie and continued his watch. As he stood
looking at the clouds he thought to himself, "It is singular
that I am
so simple and my grandmother so wise; and that I have neither
nor mother. I have never heard a word about them. I must ask and
He went home and sat down, silent and dejected. Finding that
not attract the notice of his grandmother, he began a loud lamentation,
which he kept increasing, louder and louder, till it shook the
and nearly deafened the old grandmother.
"Manabozho, what is the matter with you?" she said,
"you are making a
great deal of noise."
Manabozho started off again with his doleful hubbub, but succeeded
jerking out between his big sobs, "I haven't got any father
Knowing that he was of a wicked and revengeful nature, his grandmother
dreaded to tell him the story of his parentage, as she knew he
make trouble of it.
Manabozho renewed his cries and managed to throw out for a third
fourth time, his sorrowful lament that he was a poor unfortunate
had no parents or relatives.
At last she said to him, to quiet him, "Yes, you have a
three brothers living. Your mother is dead. She was taken for
by your father, the West, without the consent of her parents.
brothers are the North, East, and South; and being older than
father has given them great power with the winds, according to
names. You are the youngest of his children. I have nursed you
your infancy, for your mother died when you were born."
"I am glad my father is living," said Manabozho, "I
shall set out in
the morning to visit him."
His grandmother would have discouraged him, saying it was a long
distance to the place where his father, Ningabinn, or the West,
This information seemed rather to please than to discourage Manabozho,
for by this time he had grown to such a size and strength that
been compelled to leave the narrow shelter of his grandmother's
and live out of doors. He was so tall that, if he had been so
disposed, he could have snapped off the heads of the birds roosting
the topmost branches of the highest trees, as he stood up, without
being at the trouble to climb. And if he had at any time taken
to one of the same trees for a walking stick, he would have had
to do than to pluck it up with his thumb and finger and strip
leaves and twigs with the palm of his hand.
Bidding good-by to his old grandmother, who pulled a very long
over his departure, Manabozho set out at a great pace, for he
to stride from one side of a prairie to the other at a single
He found his father on a high mountain far in the west. His father
espied his approach at a great distance, and bounded down the
mountainside several miles to give him welcome. Apparently delighted
with each other, they reached in two or three of their giant paces
lodge of the West which stood high up near the clouds.
They spent some days in talking with each other-for these two
persons did nothing on a small scale, and a whole day to deliver
single sentence, such was the immensity of their discourse, was
an ordinary affair.
One evening Manabozho asked his father what he was most afraid
"But is there nothing you dread here-nothing that would
hurt you if you
took too much of it? Come, tell me."
Manabozho was very urgent, so at last his father said: "Yes,
there is a
black stone to be found a couple of hundred miles from here, over
way," pointing as he spoke. "It is the only thing on
earth I am afraid
of, for if it should happen to hit me on any part of my body it
hurt me very much." The West made this important circumstance
Manabozho in the strictest confidence.
"Now you will not tell anyone, Manabozho, that the black
stone is bad
medicine for your father, will you?" he added. "You
are a good son,
and I know you will keep it to yourself. Now tell me, my darling
is there not something that you don't like?"
Manabozho answered promptly-"Nothing."
His father, who was of a steady and persevering nature, put the
question to him seventeen times, and each time Manabozho made
But the West insisted-"There must be something you are afraid
"Well, I will tell you," said Manabozho, "what
He made an effort to speak, but it seemed to be too much for
"Out with it," said the West, fetching Manabozho such
a blow on the
back as shook the mountain with its echo.
"Je-ee, je-ee-it is," said Manabozho, apparently in
great pain. "Yes,
yes! I cannot name it, I tremble so."
The West told him to banish his fears, and to speak up; no one
hurt him. Manabozho began again, and he would have gone over the
make-believe of pain, had not his father, whose strength he knew
more than a match for his own, threatened to pitch him into a
about five miles off. At last he cried out:
"Father, since you will know, it is the root of the bulrush."
could with perfect ease spin a sentence a whole day long, seemed
exhausted by the effort of pronouncing that one word, "bulrush."
Some time after Manabozho observed: "I will get some of
the black rock,
merely to see how it looks."
"Well," said the father, "I will also get a little
of the bulrush root,
to learn how it tastes."
They were both double-dealing with each other, and in their hearts
getting ready for some desperate work. They had no sooner separated
for the evening than Manabozho was striding off the couple of
miles necessary to bring him to the place where the black rock
be procured, while down the other side of the mountain hurried
Ningabinn, the West.
At the break of day they each appeared at the great level on
mountain-top, Manabozho with twenty loads, at least, of the black
stone, on one side, and on the other the West, with a whole meadow
bulrush in his arms.
Manabozho was the first to strike-hurling a great piece of the
rock, which struck the West directly between the eyes, and he
the favor with a blow of bulrush that rung over the shoulders
Manabozho, far and wide, like the long lash of the lightning among
First one and then the other, Manabozho poured in a tempest of
rock, while the West discharged a shower of bulrush. Blow upon
thwack upon thwack-they fought hand to hand until black rock and
bulrush were all gone. Then they betook themselves to hurling
each other, cudgeling with huge oak trees, and defying each other
one mountain top to another; while at times they shot enormous
of granite across at each other's heads, as though they had been
jackstones. The battle, which had commenced on the mountains,
extended far west. The West was forced to give ground. Manabozho
pressing on, drove him across rivers and mountains, ridges and
till at last he got him to the very brink of the world.
"Hold!" cried the West. "My son, you know my power,
and although I
allow I am now fairly out of breath, it is impossible to kill
where you are, and I will also portion you out with as much power
your brothers. The four quarters of the globe are already occupied,
but you can go and do a great deal of good to the people of the
which is beset with serpents, beasts and monsters, who make great
of human life. Go and do good, and if you put forth half the strength
you have to-day, you will acquire a name that will last forever.
you have finished your work I will have a place provided for you.
will then go and sit with your brother, Kabinocca, in the north."
Manabozho gave his father his hand upon this agreement. And parting
from. him, he returned to his own grounds, where he lay for some
sore of his wounds.