The Hunter and the Bobcat
(original story by BoSt)
Once there was a great hunter and his family who lived in a remote part of the Northern wilderness, a long distance from any other lodge and it was seldom that they saw any faces other than those of their own household.
He was nevertheless content living in isolation, for he had a fair wife and two healthy, boisterous sons. Each day they were left in the lodge while he went out hunting in quest of the game whose flesh was their primary source of food.
Game was very abundant in those days and his labors in the hunt and chase were often well rewarded. His two sons were still too young to accompany him and so all day long they were free to play make believe and discover things so long as they played within the confines of the lodge.
Observant as they were, they once espied a young man who visited the lodge during their father’s absence, and noted that these visits became more frequent as time went by.
Curiosity winning over, once the elder of the two asked his mother in all innocence:
“Mommy, tell us who this tall young man is that comes here so often during our father’s absence. Does the stranger wished to see father, but misses him? Shall we tell father when he comes back this evening so he can delay his departure time just a little?”
“Donquri, you little fool,” said the mother angrily, “this is grown up business, mind your bow and arrows, and do not be afraid to enter the forest in search of birds and squirrels, with your little brother. It is not manly to be ever about the lodge. Nor will you ever grow up to become a warrior if you tell fibs or all the little things that you see and hear to your father. Say not a word to him about this.”
The boys obeyed, but as they grew older and still noticed the visits of the stranger, their gut feeling being ill at ease, they resolved to speak again to their mother.
They now told her that they meant to make known to their father all that they had witnessed, for they frequently saw this young man passing through the woods, and he did not walk in the path, nor did he carry anything to eat. If he had any message to deliver at their lodge, why did he not give it to their father? For they had observed in other cases, that messages were always addressed to men, and not to women.
When her sons spoke thus to her, the mother was greatly perturbed. Fear took hold in her heart and she in great fury admonished them:
“You are still both young and have no real comprehension of things. Hence, you should not interfere in adult concerns. If you insist with your meddling and cause trouble, I will be forced to be more severe. “She said, “I warn you both, do not speak of this to your father or me ever again!”
In fear they, for a time, held their peace, but still noted that the stranger’s frequent stealthy visits to the lodge persisted, they long at last resolved to brave any consequence and disclose this fact their father. Their loyalty to their father demanded it after all!
Accordingly, one day when they were out in the woods, by then having grown up and learned to follow the chase, they caught up with their father and quickly told him all that they had seen in the past.
They watched with worrying eyes as the anger manifested on their father’s face then grew unnaturally dark. He remained silent and still for a while, and when at length he looked up there was unholy fire flaming in his pupils.
“It is done!” he said. “My children I ask that you tarry here until the hour of the setting sun, and then come to the lodge and you will find me there.”
In two shakes of a hat he was at the lodge. The door flew open and he barged right in resembling a big fierce bear ready to tear all about him into smithereens.
But she was seated lone mending some tears in the children’s coats.
“Where is he?” He bellowed.
“Who?” She cried out in fear.
“You know very well who?” He murderously grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her senseless. “You broke your promise… Now I shall not beholden to my promise. I shall vanquish your kind one and all.” He growled at her.
She knew no amount of pleading will be of any use. He was heartless, a brutal hunter that had no compunction about killing entire species and wiping them from the mountains. On that day he’d cornered her and her younger brother after killing her parents, the two little bobcat pups were shivering with fright.
He was about to deal both a death blow when she had stood in front of her brother to protect him and swore by the Great Spirit of the Mountains, that if spared, she would serve this brute without complaint to the end of her days. The Great Spirit had answered her prayers, and turned her into a human. The hunter in turn had promised never to hunt her kind, so long as she stayed away even from her brother and served only him. Tears streamed from her face remembering that cursed day and all the miserable days after that when she was not free and missed her brother terribly. Her only solace was that her kind was left alone from then on to thrive and hunt in the mountain whereas all other predators faced extinction without mercy from the Hunter. Some species were hunted to extinction. Meanwhile her brother had grown up among other bobcats that adopted him. Missing his sister terribly, he’d eventually tracked her scent and found her for the bond of kinship was very strong.
She was fearful for what the Hunter might do if he ever found out; still she could not help herself, for she loved her brother dearly. He called on her frequently and relayed to her all the news about her kind which somewhat mitigated her homesickness.
She pleaded and pleaded with the hunter for his mercy. But he was bent on revenge and called on the Great Spirit to punish her. The Great Spirit punished her for violating her promise by turning her into a horrid version of a Bobcat. And so from then on she was barred from having any contact with her children as well as being shunned by her own kind. She was forced to live a horrible existence for the duration of her natural life, always lurking in the shadows.
Meanwhile, the two ingrate sons, that had more their father’s temperament than their mother’s, remained sporting away the time till the hour for their return had come.
When they reached the lodge the mother was not there. They dared not to ask their father whither she had gone, and from that day forth her name was never spoken again in the lodge.
In the course of time the two boys grew to be men and, although the mother was nevermore seen neither in the lodge nor on the paths in the forest, nor by the river side, she still lingered near the lodge.
Changed, but the same, with ghastly looks and arms that were withered, she appeared to her sons as they returned from the hunt, in the twilight.
At night she darkly unlatched the lodge-door and glided in, and bent over them as they sought to sleep. Oftenest it was her bare brow, white, and bony, and bodiless, that they saw floating in the air, and making a mock of them in the wild paths of the forest, or in the midnight darkness of the lodge.
Fuelled with false facts, with outraged bias against her, the sons viewed their mother as a terror that hunted their peace and lives. They cursed her existence for according to them she made every spot where they had seen her, hideous to the living eye. The hunter never witnessed such; still he was frustrated and grew somewhat weary of his sons’ complaints. Finally his sons were resolved, together with their father, now stricken in years, to leave the country.
They began a journey toward the South. After traveling many days along the shore of a great lake, they passed around a craggy bluff, and came upon a scene where there was a rough fall of waters, and a river issuing forth from the lake.
In pursuit of them the mother came out of the woods in the form of a giant, grotesque, rabid bobcat. At this moment, one of them looked out and saw a stately crane sitting on a rock in the middle of the rapids. They called out to the bird, “See, grandfather, how we are persecuted? Come and take us across the falls that we may escape her.”
The crane so addressed was of extraordinary size, and had arrived at a great old age, and, as might be expected, he sat, when first described by the two sons, in a state of profound thought, revolving his long experience of life there in the midst of the most violent eddies.
When he heard himself appealed to, the crane stretched forth his neck with great deliberation, and lifting himself slowly by his wings, he flew across to their assistance.
“Be careful,” said the old crane, “that you do not touch the crown of my head. I am bald from age and long service and very tender at that spot. Should you be so unlucky as to lay a hand upon it, I shall not be able to avoid throwing you both in the rapids.”
They paid strict heed to his directions, and were soon safely landed on the other shore of the river. He returned and carried the father in the same way; and then took his place once more where he had been first seen in the very midst of the eddies of the stream.
But the woman, who had by this time reached the shore, cried out, “Come, my grandfather, and carry me over, for I have lost my children, and I am sorely distressed.”
The aged bird, now questioning his earlier judgement, at first obeyed her summons, and flew to her side. He was a suspicious sort and seeing how hideous she looked in her grotesque bobcat form, once more doubted her story. She had to have been an evil spirit in pursuit. She would harm then soon as she crossed the water. And so feeling rather noble he harboured a secret desire to harm this evil spirit and defend them. He carefully repeated the warning, expecting her to disregard it, that she was not to touch the crown of his head. Outwardly he begged her to bear in mind that she should respect his old age, if there was any sense of virtue left in her.
She promised to obey; but they were no sooner fairly embarked in the stream, that instantly the crane cast her into the rapids, and shook his wings as if to free himself of all acquaintance with her.
“Why have you wronged me?” She cried as she sunk in the raging stream. The woman disappeared, was straightway carried by the rapid currents far out into the waters, and in the wide wilderness of shore-less depth, without companion or solace, and was lost forever.
“I’m preventing you from harming any other, you foul creature!” He responded very much pleased with himself for doing the noble thing.
Suddenly however the gust of wind derailed him and unable to find his bearing, he too plummeted into the waters.
“What a fool!” The hunter gritted his teeth for the loss of such a fine meal. They picked themselves off the ground and trudged along to find some other game to satisfy their growing hunger.
The mountain spirit could stand this injustice no longer, and in one breath, turned the hunter and his sons all to field mouse.
They deservedly from then on live in fear and hunted by many.