The Chief's Daughter

: The Strange Story Book

Raven's wife had died, and as he felt very lonely he soon determined to

marry a second, but it was not very easy to find a girl to suit him, for

she was obliged to be of noble birth as the other had been. And to add

to the difficulties, a mischief-maker called Tsagwan was also seeking a

wife of the same kind, and wherever Raven went Tsagwan flew after him,

and told untrue stories about Raven, so that fathers refused to give him
their daughters. At last Raven discovered this and went straight to the

chief of the town.

'I know what has happened,' said he. 'And you will suffer for it. If I

had married your daughter, you would have had a great name in the world,

but now your daughter will marry someone whom no one ever heard of, and

if they speak of you among men it will be as The-Chief-with-no-name.'

When he heard this the chief trembled, for he knew it would be shameful.

So Raven left him and continued his journey till he reached the house of

an old man who lived alone.

'Do you know the young daughter of the chief who lives not far from

here?' he asked.

'Yes, I know her.'

'Well, why don't you marry her?'

'Oh, it is quite impossible that I should marry her, so I don't see the

good of trying.'

'Don't be so faint-hearted,' said Raven, 'I will give you a medicine

which will cause her to fall in love with you.'

'But I have no slaves, and she will expect slaves,' said the old man.

'Oh no, she won't,' answered Raven, 'she will take a liking to you and

no one will be able to help it. She will marry you, and her father will

lose half his property.'

And Raven kept his word and his medicine made the old man look young

again, and Raven bestowed feathers on him to put in his hair, and a robe

of marten skin to throw over his shoulders. When he was dressed the man

looked very handsome and was greatly pleased with himself. But his face

fell when Raven said to him:

'Remember you are not going to be like this always; it is only for a day

or two.'

Then the man got into his skin canoe and paddled over to where the girl

lived, and he did not go to ask her father's consent but sought her out

when she was alone, and she fell in love with him although she had

refused to listen to many other men besides Raven, and this was Raven's


'Yes, I will marry you,' she said, 'and I will go with you, even if my

father kills me for it.'

So she married him, and after that her father and mother were told of

it. But the chief, instead of being unkind to his daughter, gave her

rich fur robes; 'for,' said he, 'if she is already married there is no

use in my being angry; and besides, her husband is a handsome fellow and

is plainly of high birth.' And he and the husband talked together of his

daughter's suitors and especially of the man who had been cruel to his

first wife, but the husband did not know that the chief meant Raven.

* * * * *

The new husband was anxious to get back to his own home, as he was

afraid that his fine clothes might drop off him on the way. Therefore he

lost no time in saying, 'My father told me I was to return at once in my

canoe; let us hasten, but do not you, my wife, take any furs with you

except those you want to keep you warm on the journey, for I have more

than enough in my house.' The wife obeyed him, and only took with her a

marten skin and a fox robe.

Now the girl lay in the canoe with her eyes shut, and she lay there for

a long while till she thought that they must be near home. Then she sat

up and looked out, and caught sight of her husband's face, which looked

quite different from when she had seen it before. For now it was full of

wrinkles, and the hair was thin and grey. And at the sight her heart

beat so fast it seemed as if it would jump out of her body, and she

cried very bitterly, because she was frightened and angry.

As soon as the canoe ran upon the beach she sat upon the rocks weeping

while the old man went from house to house throughout the village,

begging them to take her in, as she was a high-born girl and he had no

place that was fit for her. But they would not, and at last his sister,

who was still older than he, came down to the beach and took the girl

back to her house, which was dirty and shabby. The girl went, but she

was very miserable, and every day the people stopped as they were

passing, and mocked at her and her husband.

* * * * *

Curious to say, the chief and his sons had been quite deceived by the

fine clothes of the daughter's husband, and resolved to make him

presents suited to his rank. Therefore one day the people of the village

beheld a procession of canoes paddling over the sea, one filled with

furs, another containing the father and brothers of the girl, and a

third, in which sat the slaves with green feathers in their hair, taken

from the heads of drakes. The old man saw them likewise, and called to

some boys to come and help him clean up the house. But they only

answered, 'Clean up yourself, for you are dirty enough.'

'Well, at least carry up the strangers' goods; they are now landing,'

said he, but the boys replied as they had done before, 'Carry them

yourself.' In the end, it was the strangers who carried them and put

them down where they could; and they noticed that the old man's sister

was crying, and the strangers felt sorry for her.

The old man soon found that he would get no help from anybody, for they

were all angry with him for having married a chief's daughter. If he

asked them to lend him a basket for his guests to eat off, they told him

to use his own; if he begged them to fetch water, they bade him get it

himself, and even when he took a very dirty old basket to fill at the

stream, as he stooped down the water moved a little further away and

then a little further still, as if it also had a spite at him. Indeed,

it did this so often that at last he found himself in the mountains,

where it vanished into a house. Once more he followed it and beheld a

very old woman sitting inside.

'What is the matter?' said she. 'Is there anything I can do for you?'

'You can do a great deal for me if you only will,' answered he. 'I am

very poor and have married a noble wife, whose father and brothers have

come to visit me. I have nothing to give them, and my neighbours will

not help.'

'Is that all?' she said.

'Yes, all! Is it not enough?' But the old woman only smoothed his hair

with her hand, and in a moment it was thick and black as it had been in

his youth, and his rags became handsome garments. Even the very basket

changed into a beautiful new one.

'Go and dip the basket into the spring that is in the corner,' said she,

and when he drew it up it was full of water and of shells.

The man made all the haste he could down the mountain, but nobody

recognised him except his wife, and those who had seen him when he went

to marry her. He refreshed them all with water and gave them handfuls of

the shells, which they prized greatly, in return for the slaves and furs

his father-in-law had presented to him, for it is the custom of that

tribe that, if a man receives a gift from a father-in-law, he shall pay

it back with something of much greater value. And he soon grew so rich

that the people made him chief of the town.

Now that happened which was bound to happen. The people who had mocked

him when he was poor were ready to bow down to him when he was rich,

while he and his wife grew harder and prouder every day. They built

themselves a large house where they gave magnificent feasts, but they

passed most of their time on the roof of the house, watching all that

went on below.


One fine spring evening they were sitting there as usual, when a flock

of swans flew across the sky from the south-east. 'What beautiful birds!

I should like to marry one of them!' exclaimed the wife, as the swans

gradually disappeared in the distance. Of course she did not mean

anything, any more than when she repeated the same words on seeing the

sand-cranes overhead, or the brants which presently came past. But the

brants did not know this, and as soon as they heard her they flew down

and carried her off on their wings. Her husband ran after them but he

never reached them, only now and then she let fall some of the loose

clothes that covered her. By and bye--for they found she was heavier

than they expected--the brants let the woman fall too. Luckily they were

then over the sandy beach so she was not hurt, but she was quite naked

and even her hair had been rubbed off. She got up and walked quickly,

crying as she went, to some trees which had large leaves, and these she

twisted together till she had made a kind of apron. Then she wandered

along the beach not knowing where she was going, and thinking sadly of

her home and her husband, till she came to a house with an old woman

sitting in it. The sight gladdened her heart, and she entered and held

out the head of a red snapper which she had picked up on the shore,

saying, 'Let us cook this red snapper head for dinner.'

'Yes, let us cook it,' answered the old woman, and after they had eaten

it she bade the chief's wife go back to the beach and try to find

something else. This time the girl brought in a fish called a sculpin,

and it was cooked also; but while they were eating it the chief's wife

heard the noise of boys shouting, though she could see no one.

'Take the tray with the food out to that hole,' said the old woman, and

as the chief's wife did so she beheld many hands sticking up out of the

ground. She placed the tray in the hands, and waited as it disappeared.

In a moment it rose to the surface again, with two fine fox skins on it,

which she carried back to the old woman.

'Make yourself some robes out of them,' said she, and the girl did so.

When she was dressed, the old woman spoke to her again, and said:

'Your father and mother live in a salmon creek, a little way along the

beach. It might be well for you to go and pay them a visit.' So the girl

went, and after a time she saw her father out in a canoe spearing

salmon, and her mother was with him. The girl ran quickly down to the

water's edge in order to meet them, but when her father saw her he cried


'Here comes a fox; where are my bow and arrows?' And his daughter heard

him and ran as fast as she could to the woods.

After a while she stopped running, for she knew she was safe, and then

she made her way to the old woman.

'Why are you crying? Did you not see your father?'

'Yes, and he took me for a fox.'

'Why, what else do you think you are?' asked the old woman in surprise.

'But return at once to your father who will want to kill you; and be

sure you let him do it.'

'Very well, I will do your bidding,' answered the girl, though the order

seemed strange to her.

The next day the girl went down to the beach and saw her father fishing

still closer to the shore.

'Why, here is that big fox again,' cried he, and she did not move, but

waited while he fitted an arrow to his bow and shot her in the heart.

Then his wife got out of the canoe and began to skin the fox, and as she

did so she found something on its foreleg which made her start.

'Surely that is my daughter's bracelet,' said she. 'Yet that is not

possible!' And she continued her work. By and by she came to the throat,

and there lay a necklace. 'Surely that is my daughter's necklace,' she

repeated, and then she called to her husband, saying:

'I found our daughter's necklace and bracelet in this skin. Something

that we know not of must have turned her into a fox.' And they both

cried, for they remembered how the fox had run to meet them instead of

going away.

But Indians are learned in things of which other people are ignorant,

and they quickly set to work and laid the fox's body on a mat, and

covered it with bags of eagle's down which every tribe has ready to use,

and over all they placed a mat, weeping as they did so. After that they

fasted and cleaned up their houses, and the girl's relations fasted

likewise and cleaned up their houses. For many days they did this, and

at length, at midnight, the father and mother felt their house shaking

beneath them, and heard a noise coming from the room where the body lay.

Taking a burning stick, the mother hastened to the room, and found her

daughter in her own shape, having become a doctor or shaman. Happy

indeed were they to behold her thus; but, curious to say, the girl's

husband at that moment lost all his wealth and was as poor as ever.

[Tlingit Myths.]