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Why Blackfoot Never Kill Mice

Why Blackfoot Never Kill Mice

(Indian Why Stories- Author Frank Bird Linderman, 1869-1938)

 

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Muskrat and his grandmother were gathering wood for the camp when they came upon an old buffalo skull.  The plains were dotted with these relics of the chase, for already the hide-hunting white man had played havoc with the great herds of buffalo.

 This skull was in a grove of cottonwood-trees near the river, and as they approached two Mice scampered into it to hide. 

Muskrat, in great glee, secured a stick and was about to turn the skull over and kill the Mice, when his grandmother said: “No, our people never kill Mice.  Your grandfather will tell you why if you ask him.  The Mice-people are our friends and we treat them as such.  Even small people can be good friends –remember that.”

All day long the boy wondered why the Mice-people should not be harmed and at dusk he went to War Eagle’s lodge. When he entered he found the other children already assembled there. As soon as he was seated Muskrat sounded the question:

“Grandfather, why must we never kill the Mice-people?  Grandmother said that you knew.”

“Yes,” replied War Eagle, “I do know and you must now know too.  Therefore I shall tell you all about why the Mice-people must be let alone and allowed to do as they please, for we owe them much; much more than we can ever repay. 

“It happened long, long ago, when there were few men and women in the world.  Old-Man was Chief of all then, and the animal-people and the bird-people were greater than our people, because we had not been on earth long and were not wise.

“There was much quarrelling among the animals and the birds.  You see the Bear wanted to be Chief, under Old-Man, and so did the Beaver. Almost every night they would have a council and quarrel over it. Beside the Bear and Beaver, there were other animals, and also birds, that thought they had the right to be Chief.  They couldn’t agree and the quarrelling grew worse as time went on.  Some said the greatest thief should be chosen.  Others thought the wisest one should be the leader; while some said the swiftest traveller was the one they wanted. So it went on and on until they were most all enemies instead of friends, and you could hear them quarrelling almost every night, until Old-Man came along that way.

“He heard about the trouble.  I forget who told him, but I think it was the Rabbit.  Anyhow he visited the council where the quarrelling was going on and listened to what each one had to say.  It took until almost daylight, too.  He listened to it all–every bit.  When they had finished talking and the quarrelling commenced as usual, he said, ‘Stop!’ and they did stop.

“Then he said to them: ‘I will settle this thing right here and right now, so that there will be no more rows over it, forever.’

“He opened his paint sack and took from it a small, polished bone. This he held up in the firelight, so that they might all see it, and he said:

“‘This will settle the quarrel.  You all see this bone in my right hand, don’t you?’

“‘Yes,’ they replied.

“‘Well, now you watch the bone and my hands, too, for they are quick and cunning.’

“Old-Man began to sing the trickster song and to slip the bone from one hand to the other so rapidly and smoothly that they were all puzzled.

Finally he stopped singing and held out his hands–both shut tight, and both with their backs up.

“‘Which of my hands holds the bone now?’ he asked them.

“Some said it was in the right hand and others claimed that it was the left hand that held it.  Old-Man asked the Bear to name the hand that held the bone, and the Bear did; but when Old-Man opened that hand it was empty–the bone was not there.  Then everybody laughed at the Bear.

 

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Old-Man smiled a little and began to sing and again pass the bone.

“‘Beaver, you are smart; name the hand that holds the bone this time.’

“The Beaver said: ‘It’s in your right hand.  I saw you put it there.’

 

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“Old-Man opened that hand right before the Beaver’s eyes, but the bone wasn’t there, and again everybody laughed–especially the Bear.

“‘Now, you see,’ said Old-Man, ‘that this is not so easy as it looks, but I am going to teach you all to play the game; and when you have all learned it, you must play it until you find out who is the cleverest at the playing.  Whoever that is, he shall be Chief under me, forever.’

“Some were awkward and said they didn’t care much who was Chief, but most all of them learned to play pretty well. 

First the Bear and the Beaver tried it, but the Beaver beat the Bear easily and held the bone for ever so long.  

 

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Finally the Buffalo beat the Beaver and started to play with the Mouse.  Of course the Mouse had small hands and was quicker than the Buffalo–quicker to see the bone.  The Buffalo tried hard for he didn’t want the Mouse to be Chief but it didn’t do him any good; for the Mouse won in the end.

“It was a fair game and the Mouse was Chief under the agreement.  He looked quite small among the rest but he walked right out to the centre of the council and said:

“‘Listen, brothers–what is mine to keep is mine to give away.  I am too small to be your Chief and I know it.  I am not warlike.  I want to live in peace with my wife and family.  I know nothing of war.  I get my living easily.  I don’t like to have enemies.  I am going to give my right to be Chief to the man that Old-Man has made like himself.’

“That settled it.  That made the man Chief forever, and that is why he is greater than the animals and the birds.  That is why we never kill the Mice-people.

 

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“You saw the Mice run into the buffalo skull, of course.  There is where they have lived and brought up their families ever since the night the Mouse beat the Buffalo playing the bone game.  Yes—the Mice-people always make their nests in the heads of the dead Buffalo-people, ever since that night.

“Our people play the same game, even today.  See,” and War Eagle took from his paint sack a small, polished bone.  Then he sang just as Old-Man did so long ago.  He let the children try to guess the hand that held the bone, as the animal-people did that fateful night; but, like the animals, they always guessed wrong.  Laughingly War Eagle said:

“Now go to your beds and come to see me to-morrow night.  Ho!”

 

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The End

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Wyandot (Huron) Legend- Why the Leaves Have Many Colors in Autumn

Wyandot (Huron) Legend- Why the Leaves Have Many Colors in Autumn

(North American Folktale)

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Long time ago in North America (well before the human settlements) in the animal kingdom they talked and worked much like men. Every year after midsummer they held a great council at which all the species were obligatorily present. It so happened that the summer before the council met, in the casual gathering of the animals many had shared their deep curiosity about the vast sky overhead and the subsequent secret desire to go to the land of the sky and see what the country up there was like. None however could find a way to get there. The oldest and the wisest creature on earth back then was the Turtle. He too shared their desire and so he prayed long and hard to the Thunder God to show him the way. The Thunder God was appeased by his due diligence and so granted the Turtle his wish.

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There was great clamor as though the earth had been split asunder, and when the other animals next looked for the Turtle, he was nowhere to be found. They searched everywhere without success. However that evening when they looked upwards, they saw him in the sky, moving about like a big black cloud.

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The turtle liked the sky so well that he decided to live there permanently and later send his descendants, to the earth. He approached the sky people with this request and his wish was once more granted.

“But where do you wish to dwell?” They asked him and his answer was, “I should like to dwell in the Black Cloud, wherein are the ponds and streams and lakes and springs of water, for I always loved being near these places when I was young.” He was permitted to have this wish also and so he resided there happily.

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Then came the time of harvest-moon where all the animals met on earth at the Great Council meeting. He’d always been present at the Council meeting, and so would not dream of missing it. He did arrive in the Black Cloud but went back to the sky after the Council meeting concluded. His good fortune gave rise to certain resentment and envy from the rest who all wished that they could go with him. In time it fostered certain anger and animosity, particularly in the wake of the rumour that a new race of creatures was coming from far over the ocean to inhabit their earthly domain. They discussed their options and expressed view that it would be fortunate indeed if they too could all go and reside in the sky with the old Turtle, live like him, free from fear and care and this impending trouble. The Turtle however had never divulged the secret and they were at a loss as to how to get there.

It so happened that one day the inquisitive Deer, wandering about alone in the forest, as was his custom, came across Rainbow, who typically built a path of many colours to the sky.

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Addressing the Rainbow the Dear asked, “Carry me up to the sky, for I want to see Turtle.”

However the Rainbow appeared reticent and put Deer off, wishing first to ask the Thunder God for his permission. “Come to me in winter, when I stay for a time on the mountain near the lake.” He nevertheless responded amicably, in effort to buy time. “Then I will gladly carry you to the place where Turtle dwells.”

Throughout the long winter months Deer looked up to the sky, his eyes longingly searching for any sign of the Rainbow, but Rainbow did not manifest.

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Meanwhile life was becoming increasingly difficult on the earth, and all the animals existed in anticipated terror of the new race that was soon to invade their land. The Deer kept mostly to himself, timid and impatient. Then finally, one day in the early summer, Rainbow manifested and the elated Deer hastened to greet him. “Why were you false to me?” he irately asked; “I waited and waited for you all winter long on the mountain by the lake, but you failed to keep your promise. I want to go to the sky now and without delay, for I must see Turtle.”

“To my dismay, I cannot take you now. But soon, when there is a Fog over the lake, I shall come back to drive it away. Come to me then, and I shall take you to the sky and to the place where Turtle dwells. This time, I promise, I shall keep my word.” Rainbow apologetically answered.

Shortly after the Rainbow consulted the Thunder God, and received permission to do as Deer wished.

Seeing that the Fog one day rolled in a thick bank across the lake, the anxious Deer hastened to the spot to wait for the Rainbow.

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Sure enough, Rainbow manifested as promised this time and begun driving the Fog away. Rainbow threw his arch of many colours from the lake to the blue hills far away, and the Fog at once disappeared from the place. Then he said to Deer, who stood patiently watching him, “Now I will keep my promise. Follow my many-colored path over the hills and the forests and the streams, and be not afraid, and you will soon reach Turtle’s home in the sky.” Deer joyfully did as he was told, and soon he reached the sky.

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Turtle was pleased to see him, and Deer liked the sky country so well that he too decided to stay there ever more. Subsequently the Dear roamed over the sky, going here, there and everywhere, all the while moving like the wind from place to place.

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Seasons on Earth do change and when the midsummer had passed and the harvest-moon had come and the Great Council again met together, Deer’s first time ever absence came to light. The animals in disbelief at first had waited long for him to appear, for his advice was invaluable and well sought after. After a time when he still failed to show up, they sent the Birds out to find him. Black Hawk and Woodpecker and Blue jay all sought him in the forest, but they could not find any trace of him.

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Then Wolf and Fox scoured the woods far and near, but they too came back empty handed.

At last Turtle arrived at the meeting of the Great Council, as was his custom, coming in his Black Cloud, in which were the ponds and lakes and streams and springs of water. He was at once accosted by the indignant Bear who said, “Deer is absent from the Council meeting. Where is Deer? We cannot meet without him, for we need his advice.”

“Oh that!” The Turtle replied, “Deer has been residing in the sky. Have you not heard? Rainbow made a wonderful pathway for him of many varied colors, and by that he came to the sky. He’s late but there he is now,” and he pointed to a golden cloud scurrying across the sky overhead.

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There was a disgruntled murmur among the gathered crowd. Understanding their displeasure, the Turtle advised that all the animals should all go to the sky to live until they could be sure that the new race of creatures would bring them no harm. Having previously obtained Thunder God’s permission, for he anticipated this requisite, he then showed the animals the secret pathway that Rainbow had made, stretching from the earth in wonderful colours. The animals all agreed at the Great Council to take Turtle’s advice. But they harbored a deep seated anger at the Deer’s selfishness and for leaving them without warning. For it was, a given concept that all the animals should either stay together faithfully, whether it be on the earth or more recently, go all together to reside in the sky.

Bear showed the greatest antagonism and annoyance. Because of his great strength, he had no fear of the new race that was said soon to be coming, and he had always been inclined to look down with scorn on Deer and his annoyingly timid and impatient, faulty traits that were now further crowned with selfishness and disloyalty.

“Deer has forsaken us,” he said irately; “he deserted us in the hour of our grave danger, and that is contrary to our code of honour and forest laws that ensure everyone a stable and peaceful coexistence.” The Bear then turning away grumbled under his breath, “Oh but I will not let him get away with it. I shall punish him and punish him good, for this outrage when the time comes.”

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All the animals had agreed upon a suitable time, at late autumn, for their departure of earth. When the time for departure came, the Rainbow once more made his bright path to provide for the transport to the sky. Bear was the first to go up, one because he was the leader and two, because he needed to test the durability of the bridge of burning colors to ensure the safety of the rest of the animals. When he had almost reached the sky, he met Deer on the other end of the path waiting to welcome the animals to their new home.

His smug, seemingly sincere welcome infuriated the Bear and old wounds rehashed, he growled at the Deer in unrestrained fury: “Stand aside and let me pass…you have the gall to be so smug…welcoming visitors as though to your own home. You have forfeited that right when you left us behind, without warning for the land of the Turtle and when you deserted the Great Council! Why did you not wait until all could come together? Your selfishness bespeaks falsity to our faith and for that you will always be viewed as the traitor that you are! “

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Deer had grown very proud since he had gone to live in the sky, and he was no longer timid as he had once been on earth. The Bear’s haughty manner of address infuriated him to the boiling point. “Who are you to doubt me or my faith?” He barked at the Bear. “None but the Wolf may ask me why I came or question my fidelity. I will kill you for your insolence.” In his fury the Deer’s eyes flashed as if a fire burned in them. He tossed his head to show his long sharp horns. The hair along his back stood up. Next instant he’d arched his neck and lowered his antlered head as he rushed madly at the Bear to slay him by pushing him from the path.

But Bear was not afraid, for he had often tested his strength with Deer upon the earth. He only glanced momentarily at his claws that were deadly, before he let out an impressive growl that shook the sky like rolling thunder. After which he’d charged in deadly retaliation. They came together with a shock. The long battle was fierce, all the while the bridge of burning colours trembled and the heavens shook from the force of the conflict. The animals waiting by the lake at the end of the path looked up and saw the battle above them. They feared for the result, for they wanted neither Bear nor Deer to perish. So they sent Wolf up to the sky to intercede and to put an end to this deadly contest.

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When Wolf reached the combatants, Bear was bleeding profusely, for Deer with his antlers had pierced his neck and side. Deer, too, was bleeding copiously where Bear’s lethal claws had torn a great big gash in his head.

Back then all the animals had to obey the Wolf and Wolf soon put a stop to this horrific battle.

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The gravely injured pair begrudgingly withdrew from the combat zone and ran away, presumably to dress their wounds.

Now as the Bear and the Deer had ran away, the Blood cascaded from them and fell on earth. It fell freely upon the leaves of the trees beneath them, and changed them into varied colours: some became Red, some Yellow; some were Brown, some Scarlet, and some Crimson.

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And from that time on every year when autumn comes in the North Country the forests transform with splendour of soft and glowing beauty for the leaves take on these multitudes of bright and wondrous colors given to them by the blood of Bear and Deer when they fought on the Rainbow path eons ago.

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In case you are wondering, the other animals did also go up to the sky over Rainbow’s flaming path. Seeing how wonderful it was, they all decided to live in the sky and to send their descendants back to earth when the new race of creatures came. To date, they can still at times be seen, like clouds scurrying across the sky, in the shape they had on earth.

Unfortunately the Bear and Deer never resolved their differences. Their animosity, passed onto their decedents, persisted to date, forcing them to dwell apart.

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What’s more the changing of the colors are attributed by the Wyandots, to the continued hostility between ardent foes, deeming it to be the fresh blood from the incurred injuries of the Bear and the Deer cascading down from the sky upon the trees on Earth.

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The End.

The Toad-Woman

THE TOAD-WOMAN

From: The Indian Fairy Book , The Original Legends

Author: Cornelius Mathews

01

Great good luck once happened to a young woman who was living all alone in the woods with nobody near her but her little dog; for, to her surprise, she found fresh meat every morning at her door. She was very curious to know who it was that supplied her, and watching one morning, just as the sun had risen, she saw a handsome young man gliding away into the forest.

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Having seen her, he became her husband, and she had a son by him.

One day, not long after this, he did not return at evening, as usual, from hunting. She waited till late at night, but he came no more.

The next day, she swung her child to sleep in its cradle, and then said to her dog, “Take care of your brother while I am gone, and when he cries, halloo for me.”

The cradle was made of the finest wampum, and all its bandages and ornaments were of the same precious stuff.

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After a short time, the woman heard the cry of the dog, and running home as fast as she could, she found her child gone and the dog too. On looking around, she saw scattered upon the ground pieces of the wampum of her child’s cradle, and she knew that the dog had been faithful, and had striven his best to save her child from being carried off, as he had been, by an old woman, from a distant country, called Mukakee Mindemoea, or the Toad-Woman.

The mother hurried off at full speed in pursuit, and as she flew along, she came, from time to time, to lodges inhabited by old women, they told her at what time the child-thief had passed; they also gave her shoes that she might follow on. There were a number of these old women who seemed as if they were prophetesses, and knew what was to come long beforehand. Each of them would say to her that when she had arrived at the next lodge, she must set the toes of the moccasins they had given her pointing homeward, and that they would return of themselves. The young woman was very careful to send back in this manner all the shoes she borrowed.

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She thus followed in the pursuit, from valley to valley, and stream to stream, for many months and years; when she came at length to the lodge of the last of the friendly old grandmothers, as they were called, who gave her the last instructions how to proceed. She told her that she was near the place where her son was to be found; and she directed her to build a lodge of cedar-boughs, hard by the old Toad-Woman’s lodge, and to make a little bark dish, and to fill it with the juice of the wild grape.

“Then,” she said, “Your first child (meaning the dog) will come and find you out.”

These directions the young woman followed just as they had been given to her, and in a short time she heard her son, now grown up, going out to hunt, with his dog, calling out to him, “Peewaubik—Spirit-Iron—Twee! Twee!”

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The dog soon came into the lodge, and she set before him the dish of grape-juice.

“See, my child,” she said, addressing him, “the pretty drink your mother gives you.”

Spirit-Iron took a long draught, and immediately left the lodge with his eyes wide open; for it was the drink which teaches one to see the truth of things as they are. He rose up when he got into the open air, stood upon his hind legs, and looked about. “I see how it is,” he said; and marching off, erect like a man, he sought out his young master.

Approaching him in great confidence, he bent down and whispered in his ear (having first looked cautiously around to see that no one was listening), “This old woman here in the lodge is no mother of yours. I have found your real mother, and she is worth looking at. When we come back from our day’s sport, I’ll prove it to you.”

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They went out into the woods, and at the close of the afternoon they brought back a great spoil of meat of all kinds. The young man, as soon as he had laid aside his weapons, said to the old Toad-Woman, “Send some of the best of this meat to the stranger who has arrived lately.”

The Toad-Woman answered, “No! Why should I send anything to her, the poor widow?”

The young man could not be refused; and at last the old Toad-Woman consented to take something and throw it down at the door. She called out, “My son gives you this.” But, being bewitched by Mukakee Mindemoea, it was so bitter and distasteful, that the young woman immediately cast it out of the lodge after her.

In the evening the young man paid the stranger a visit at her lodge of cedar-boughs. She then told him that she was his real mother, and that he had been stolen away from her by the old Toad-Woman, who was a child-thief and a witch.

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As the young man appeared to doubt, she added, “Feign sickness when you go home to her lodge; and when the Toad-Woman asks what ails you, say that you wish to see your cradle; for your cradle was of wampum, and your faithful brother the dog, in striving to save you, tore off these pieces which I show you.”

They were real wampum, white and blue, shining and beautiful; and the young man, placing them in his bosom, set off; but as he did not seem quite steady in his belief of the strange woman’s story, the dog Spirit-Iron, taking his arm, kept close by his side, and gave him many words of encouragement as they went along. They entered the lodge together; and the old Toad-Woman saw, from something in the dog’s eye, that trouble was coming.

“Mother,” said the young man, placing his hand to his head, and leaning heavily upon Spirit-Iron, as if a sudden faintness had come upon him, “why am I so different in looks from the rest of your children?”

“Oh,” she answered, “it was a very bright, clear blue sky when you were born; that is the reason.”

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He seemed to be so very ill that the Toad-Woman at length asked what she could do for him. He said nothing could do him good but the sight of his cradle. She ran immediately and brought a cedar cradle; but he said:

“That is not my cradle.”

She went and got another of her own children’s cradles, of which there were four; but he turned his head, and said:

“That is not mine; I am as sick as ever.”

When she had shown the four, and they had been all rejected, she at last produced the real cradle. The young man saw that it was of the same stuff as the wampum which he had in his bosom. He could even see the marks of the teeth of Spirit-Iron left upon the edges, where he had taken hold, striving to hold it back. He had no doubt, now, which was his mother.

To get free of the old Toad-Woman, it was necessary that the young man should kill a fat bear. Directed by Spirit-Iron, who was very wise in such a matter, he secured the fattest in all that country; and, having stripped a tall pine of all its bark and branches, he perched the carcass at the top, with its head to the east and its tail due west. Returning to the lodge, he informed the old Toad-Woman that the fat bear was ready for her, but that she would have to go very far, even to the end of the earth, to get it.

She answered: “It is not so far but that I can get it;” for of all things in the world, a fat bear was the delight of the old Toad-Woman.

She at once set forth; and she was no sooner out of sight than the young man and his dog, Spirit-Iron, blowing a strong breath in the face of the Toad-Woman’s four children (who were all bad spirits, or bear-fiends), extinguished their life. They then set them up by the side of the door, having first thrust a piece of the white bear fat in each of their mouths.

The Toad-Woman spent a long time in finding the bear which she had been sent after, and she made at least five and twenty attempts before she was able to climb to the carcass. She slipped down three times where she went up once. As she drew near her lodge with the great bear on her back, she was astonished to see the four children standing up by the door-posts with the fat in their mouths. She was angry with them, and called out:

“Why do you thus insult the pomatum of your brother?”

She was still angrier when they made no answer to her complaint; but when she found that they were stark dead, and placed in this way to mock her, her fury was very great indeed. She ran after the tracks of the young man and his mother as fast as she could; so fast, indeed, that she was on the very point of overtaking them, when the dog, Spirit-Iron, coming close up to his master, whispered to him—”Snakeberry!”

“Let the snakeberry spring up to detain her!” cried out the young man; and immediately the berries spread like scarlet all over the path, for a long distance; and the old Toad-Woman, who was almost as fond of these berries as she was of fat bears, could not avoid stooping down to pick and eat.

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The old Toad-Woman was very anxious to get forward, but the snake berry-vines kept spreading out on every side; and they still grow and grow, and spread and spread. To this day the wicked old Toad-Woman is busy picking the berries, and she will never be able to get beyond to the other side, to disturb the happiness of the young hunter and his mother, who still live, with their faithful dog, in the shadow of the beautiful wood-side where they were born.

 The End

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