5.THE QUEER LITTLE ANIMAL

An Indian was once wandering across the prairie. He was tired and hungry and very lonely, too, for he had not seen a human being for many weeks. He lay down on the ground and fell asleep. While he was lying there, he dreamed that a small voice said, “My grandson,” to him. He wakened with a start and again heard the voice. It came from the grass near him, but he could see nothing.

“Pick me up,” said the voice, “and I shall be your friend forever. Put me in your belt and never lay me aside, and you will always have success.”

The Indian looked closely in the grass and saw a tiny creature. It was about the size of a baby mouse, and had no hair on its skin excepting a little bunch on the tip of its tail. He picked it up and sewed it in his belt. Then he travelled on until he came to a village where a tribe of Indians lived. A wide road ran through the centre of the village, but the strange thing was, that the lodges on one side of the road were empty, while those on the other side were filled with Indians. He walked boldly into the village. The people ran out to meet him, crying, “Here is the one of whom we have heard so much. Welcome, Anishinaba.”

The chief’s son was very kind to him and took him to his father’s lodge. The people of this tribe spent most of their time in games and trials of strength. The trial they liked best was called The Freezing Water Trial; that was, they had to lie down in icy, cold water and let it freeze around them. The man who could stay the longest was considered the bravest. The next night they asked Anishinaba to try the test with them. He was quite willing and went with them to the place where the test was to be made. He kept on his belt, and so felt very comfortable, for the little animal made everything easy for him. The water began to freeze and the Indians called out, “How are you feeling?” He did not answer them.

About midnight, he noticed they had stopped talking. He called out, “How are you feeling now? I am very warm.” They did not answer him, so he arose and walked to where they were lying. They were frozen stiff. He went back to the camp and told the other Indians. Everybody declared that he was the bravest warrior, since he had not been frozen. The chief was so pleased with him that he gave him his daughter. The Indians went to fetch the bodies of the frozen men, but were surprised to find them changed into buffaloes. These animals went to live in the other side of the village; and after that, every one Anishinaba killed was changed into some kind of an animal and went into that part of the village to live. Very shortly the empty lodges were filled.

One day Anishinaba lay down on the grass to have a sleep. He had taken off his belt, and it lay in the long grass beside him. When he wakened, he forgot about it. This was the first time he had ever gone without the little animal since he came to the village. That night some Indians who were unfriendly to him, asked him to try the freezing trial again. He consented, for he was not at all afraid. But still he did not think of his belt, and so the freezing water numbed his body and in a short time he was frozen stiff. His enemies then cut his body into many pieces and scattered them over the village. His wife wept bitterly for many days. Then suddenly she remembered his belt, and went in search of it. She found it in the grass where he had slept. As she picked it up, the tiny voice said, “Unpin me.” She opened the little seam where the animal lay and out he came. He began to shake himself, and at each shake grew larger, until at last he was the size of a small dog.

The queer-looking animal ran away then as fast as he could go. All around the village he went, gathering up the pieces of his master’s body. When he had them gathered, he laid them together in their right places. Then he uttered a loud howl, and the pieces joined together. He uttered another, and the body began to breathe. Then he uttered one that reached to the skies, and his master arose and stood before him. The animal then spoke. “You should not have parted with me,” he said. “That was why you lost your life. Now, I shall reveal myself to you.” He began shaking himself like a dog, and at each shake he grew larger, until at last he was immense. Then a long snout grew from his head, and two big, shining teeth from his mouth. His skin was still smooth, without one hair excepting the bunch on the end of his tail.

“I am going to give my gift to you,” said the wild boar. “After this you shall live on the meat of animals, instead of the animals eating you. But you and all mankind must respect me and must not eat my flesh nor that of any of my kind.”