The Girl Who Always Cried

: Canadian Fairy Tales

On the bank of a stream far in the West, Owl-man lived long ago in a

little house under the ground. He had very strange habits. He always

kept away from the Great Water and he dwelt for the most part in the

forest. He had very few friends, and he usually went hunting by

himself. He lived on toads and frogs and flies. He would say but

little, and when other people sat around him talking pleasantly, he

was al
ays silent, gazing into space with wide-open eyes, and trying

to look wiser than he really was. Because of this, people thought he

was very queer, and strange stories about him soon spread far and

wide. It was said that he was very cruel, and that he was silent

because he was always brooding over his past wickedness or thinking

about some evil deed he was soon going to do. And when children were

troublesome or disobedient, their mothers always frightened them into

goodness by saying, "The Owl-man from the stream will come and take

you if you do not mend your ways." And although the Owl-man was a

solitary fellow he thus had great influence in all the land.

Not far away lived a man and a woman who had one adopted daughter.

Because she was the only child in the house she was much petted, and

she was never satisfied, and she cried and fretted all the time, and

kept always asking for things she could not get. She disturbed all the

neighbours round about so that they could not sleep because of her

constant wailing and complaining. At last her foster-parents grew

tired of her weeping and they said, "The Owl-man will carry you off if

you do not stop crying." But still she pouted and fretted. And the old

man of the house said, "I wish the Owl-man would come and take her

away." Now the old man was a great magician, and as he wished, so it

came to pass.

That evening it happened that the people were gathered at a feast of

shell-fish on the beach by the bright moonlight, as was their weekly

custom. But the sorrowful girl would not go with the others. She

stayed at home and sulked. As she sat alone in the house, old Owl-man

came along carrying his basket full of toads and frogs. The girl was

still crying when he came in. "I have come for you," he said, "as the

old man wished." And he put her in his basket with the toads and frogs

and carried her off. She yelled and kicked and scratched, but the lid

of the basket was tightly closed and Owl-man laughed to himself and

said, "Now I have a wife at last. I shall be alone no more, and the

people will not now think I am so queer." So he took her to his

underground house by the stream. That night the people noticed that

the girl's cries were no longer heard and they said, "What can have

cured Sour-face; what can have pleased Cry-Baby into silence?" And the

girl's foster-mother wondered where she had gone. But only the old man

knew that it had happened as he had wished, because of his magic

power, and that Owl-man had taken her away.

The girl was not happy in her new home, for she would not be happy in

any place. She still kept up her caterwauling and there was no peace

in the house. Owl-man was a great hunter. Every day he went out

hunting with his big basket on his arm, but he always locked his wife

in the house before he went away. He was always very successful in the

chase, and each night he came back with his basket full of toads and

frogs and field-mice and flies. But his wife would eat none of them

and she threw them in his face when he offered them to her, and said

in a bad temper, "I will not eat your filthy food. It is not fit food

for gentle-folk." And Owl-man said, "Gentle-folk indeed! You should

find a more suitable name; you are not gentle; you are a wild evil

thing, but I am going to tame you." And the girl wept again and sulked

and stamped her feet in her temper.

At last the girl became very hungry, for there was little to eat

except the food that Owl-man brought home for himself. He gathered a

few berries for her, but even these did not satisfy her hunger. So she

thought out a plan of escape. One day when Owl-man was away, she took

some oil she found in the house and rubbed it all over her face and

hair. When Owl-man came home in the evening, he said, "You are very

pretty to-night. What have you done to make yourself look so sleek and

shiny?" And she answered, "I have put on my face and hair gum which I

picked from the trees last night when I went walking with you." And he

said, "I should like to put some on too, for perhaps it would make me

beautiful." The girl told him that if he would go out and gather some

gum she would put it on his face and hair for him. So he went out and

gathered a great store of gum from the trees and brought it back to

her. She melted it on a hot stove until it was balsam again and would

pour easily out. Then she said, "Shut your eyes so that it will not

harm your sight, and I will make your face and hair beautiful and

shining like mine." Owl-man shut his eyes, and the girl soon covered

his face and head with the soft gum. She put it on very thick, and she

said, "Keep your eyes shut until it dries or it may blind you."

Owl-man did as he was told, but when the gum dried he could not open

his eyes, and while he was trying to rub it off, the girl slipped out

the door and ran back to her parents, far away by the Great Water.

Owl-man scraped the gum from his face and head as best he could, and

when he could open his eyes again and could see pretty well, he went

out into the night in search of his wife. And as he went along he

cried, "Oh, oh, oh, where is my wife? Where is my girl? I have lost my

wife. I have lost my girl. Oh, oh, oh." And when the people heard him

calling they thought they would play a trick on him. So they said,

"She is here, she is here." But when he entered their houses, the

woman they showed him was not his wife, and he went away sorrowful.

And the people all laughed at his confusion, and said, "Owl-man is

getting queerer each day. He is far gone in his head." Owl-man went

from house to house, but he could not find his wife. Then he went to

the trees and searched among the branches. He pulled the trees up by

the roots, thinking she might be hiding underneath. And he looked into

the salmon-traps in the rivers, and kicked them to pieces in his

frenzy. But nowhere was his wife to be found.

Then he went to the girl's house, where she was hiding, and he yelled,

"Oh, oh, oh, give me my wife. Give me my girl. I know she is here. Oh,

oh, oh." But the girl's foster-mother would not give her up. Then he

began to tear down the house over their heads, for the old man of the

house was away and there was no one else strong enough to stop Owl-man

in his rage. When the woman saw her house in danger of falling about

her ears, she cried, "Stop; your wife is here." And she brought forth

the girl from her hiding-place. When Owl-man saw her, his rage left

him and he was happy again.

But just then the old man of magic power came home. He had heard the

hub-bub from a distance. When he came in and saw the great holes in

the roof and the side of his house where Owl-man had torn away the

logs, he was very angry and he said to himself, "I will punish both

Owl-man and the girl for this night's work." And he hit upon a plan.

He said to Owl-man, "We must give you a hot bath to melt the gum and

take it from your hair, for it will do you no good, and it will take

all the hair off your head." And Owl-man gladly agreed. So they filled

a great bark tub with water and heated it by placing at the bottom of

it many red-hot stones, after the fashion of Indians in those old

days. But the old man put so many hot stones in the water that it was

soon almost boiling with the heat, and when they put Owl-man into the

tub he was almost scalded to death and he yelled loudly in pain. Then

the old man said, "Now I will take vengeance. You will trouble me no

more. You have broken my house. Henceforth you will be not a man but

an Owl, and you will dwell alone in the forest with few friends, and

you will live always on frogs and toads and field-mice, and people

will hear you at night crying for your wife all over the land, but you

shall never find her." Then with his magic power he changed him to an

Owl and sent him on his way.

He said to the girl, "You have done me much harm too, and you have

brought all this trouble upon me. Henceforth you will be not a girl

but a Fish-Hawk, and you will always cry and fret and scream as you

have done before, and you will never be satisfied." And with his magic

power he changed her into a Fish-Hawk, and sent her out to the ocean.

And there she screams always, and she is a great glutton, for she can

never get enough to eat. And since that time, Owl and Fish-Hawk have

not dwelt together and have not been on friendly terms. They live far

apart, and Owl keeps to the forest and the mountains, while the other

keeps to the sea. Thus was the old man avenged, and thus was the

weeping maiden punished for her tears. And the cries of Owl and

Fish-Hawk are still heard in many places, one calling for his wife,

the other screaming unsatisfied for something she cannot get.