Tag Archives: Canada

Thursday’s Tale: The Bear Cubs

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Dancing Brown Bear Cub (photo by Mark Sisson from DailyMail.com)

The book I talked about yesterday featured a seagull in the opening scene, so today I went searching for a seagull story. This tale comes from the Innu people of Canada.

When spring came, the bear woke from hibernation and came out of her den. She went for a walk to the place where most of the snow had melted so that she could eat berries. She left her children behind where they were still asleep. After she had finished eating, she went back to her den and took a nap. While she was sleeping, her children woke up and saw that their mother’s mouth was purple from eating berries.

The cubs decided to follow her footprints and try to find berries too. So they followed their mother’s footprints until they reached a patch of berries and started eating too. After they had eaten enough berries, they both went home. When they had nearly reached their den, they heard their mother making desperate cries.

It was too late. A greedy monster had killed their mother and had eaten her. This monster knew that there were cubs around because he had seen their footprints in the snow. He was very excited because he knew that baby cubs are very tasty and tender to eat. He started to run as he chased after the baby cubs.

The cubs had taken off running when they heard their mother screaming. After running for a long time, they met grandmother porcupine along the trail. They said to her, “Grandma, please let us pass. We are running away from someone who has killed our mother. Will you try to stall him while we run again?”

“Yes, I will,” replied the grandmother porcupine. “You have another grandmother who can kill this monster. You will find her. Just follow this trail,” pointing to the path ahead. And so the cubs ran again.

Shortly thereafter, the monster got to the grandmother porcupine. He said to her, “Please move out of the way grandma. I’m looking for our grandchildren. They have run away from me.”

Grandmother porcupine said, “I will not move out of the way unless you can do what they have done for me.”

The monster replied, “What did they do?”

She said, “They built me a fire and they rubbed their faces on my tail.”

The monster replied, “Oh, that’s easy. I can do that for you.” And so he built her a fire. He was very happy thinking that she would soon let him pass.

After he had finished making a fire, he rubbed his face on her tail. But while he was doing this, grandmother porcupine swung her tail very hard on his face. Quills were lodged all over his eyes and mouth.

“Now I will move out of your way so you can pass,” she said to the monster.

The monster passed, taking his time to pull the porcupine quills out of his face. After he had finished picking the quills out, he was on his way again. He saw the cubs’ prints on the ground.

The cubs were still following the trail that the grandmother porcupine had shown them. They finally reached their other grandma’s house. This grandma was a giant seagull. They said, “Grandma, we are running away from someone who has killed our mother. We are afraid he might try to kill us too.”

The grandma said, “Don’t be afraid. I have killed this kind of monster before.” The cubs were no longer afraid.

She said, “I will take both of you across to where you can stay safely.” She took them across the water in her boat.

The cubs said to their grandmother, “Will you kill this monster, Grandma?”

“I will,” she replied.

When she got back to her boat, she painted it with dirty, smelly fish. When the monster reached the crossing place, he called out to the seagull, “Grandma, please come help me get across!”

The seagull paddled her boat to the monster.

“Did you see our grandchildren? I have been running after them. I was thinking of eating them because they are still very tender.”

The seagull said, “Yes, I have seen them. I took them across. Would you like to go across too?”

“Yes,” said the monster. And he got into the boat. When he got into the boat, he couldn’t stand the smell of it.

The seagull said, “If you can’t stand the smell, hang your head over the side instead.” And so the monster held his head over the water to avoid smelling the stinking boat. While he was doing this, the seagull took a huge knife out from hiding and cut his head off. It fell into the water.

After she had killed the monster, she went back to the bear cubs. “I have already killed the monster who killed your mother,” she said. “You can both stay here, and I will make you toys to play with.”

The bear cubs played with their boat on the river, and they had a lot of fun. They stayed there forever.

Both the porcupine and the seagull are brave and clever. I’m not quite sure what kind of monster it was though.

Seagulls play a variety of roles in the folklore of different Native American tribes. In some cases, seagulls are antagonists criticized for their noisy, aggressive, and greedy behavior, which totally makes sense. In others, they are noted for their endurance and perseverence. In some Northwest Coast tribes, Seagull was said to have powers over storms and weather.

Seagulls are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Seagull Clans include the Ahtna tribe and the Chippewa tribe (whose Gull Clan and its totem are called Gayaashk.) Seagull is used as a clan crest in some Northwest Coast tribes (especially the Nuu-chah-nulth), and can sometimes be found carved on totem poles.

Totem at Stanley Park in Vancouver

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

Thursday’s Tale: Trapper’s Ghost

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sled-dog

I’ve got another wintry story today from AmericanFolklore.net. It’s about a not very nice trapper from Canada.

The trapper who roamed the wilds of Labrador on a sleigh pulled by eight pure white Huskies. He was tall and dressed in layer upon layer of animal skins.

The trapper was a cruel man, and the people in the local towns did not like him, though they tolerated his company when he came to town because of the rich animal skins he brought with him. When he came to a town, the trapper would sell his skins and then drink away his money at the local tavern. He assaulted the local women, picked fights with the townsmen, and tried to sell alcohol to the natives. After a few days of such behavior, the constable would toss the trapper out of town. Then the trapper would resume his roaming and trapping until he came to another town.

No one knows exactly how the trapper met his fate, although it was rumored that he went a little too far in his pursuit of a local innkeeper’s fair wife and was shot to death by her disgruntled husband. Other folks say he lived to an old age and died out on the trail. But it swiftly became clear that death did not end his roaming.

Each winter, the trapper’s ghost roams the wilds of Labrador on a sleigh pulled by eight white Huskies. They say that his spirit was refused entry into heaven and remains forever in Labrador, atoning for the many sins he committed during his lifetime by helping lost travelers find their way home. Many a weary soul has looked up from their frantic circling to see a large sleigh pulled by white dogs coming toward them. If they follow it, they are led to safety.

Once a lost trapper found himself caught in a terrible blizzard, far from the nearest town. As he sought in vain to find a place to shelter from the storm, the phantom trapper appeared with his sleigh. Animal skins flapping in the raging wind and blinding snow, the phantom tenderly lifted the nearly-frozen man, placed him among the rugs on his sleigh, and drove the dying trapper to the nearest town. The phantom carried the man right into the inn, placed him gently on a chair by the door, summoned the innkeeper to care for the man, and then vanished right before the astonished innkeeper’s eyes.

I kind of like that the trapper changed his ways after his death.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

Thursday’s Tale: The Scarecrow’s Thanksgiving

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scarecrow's thanksgiving

Today’s Thanksgiving tale comes from Canada. It’s a perfect story about thankfulness and sharing and friendship.

Long ago, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, Owl perched in his willow tree and looked out at the world. “Hoo hoo,” he called out, and at the sound, all the wild creatures gathered. They respected Owl and always came when he called.

“Now look at this,” Owl said, and he gazed around. The others looked too. And they saw, as if they never had seen before, a field of fat orange pumpkins looking cheery and ripe, and a field of golden corn, and yet another field, this of waving wheat, and bright blue morning glories streaming over stone walls. They saw gardens of peas and beans, squash and cabbage, wild mushrooms and mums. They saw riotous red maple leaves and dazzling yellow poplars and burnt-orange leaves on the oaks.

“And just look at that sky!” Owl said.

“It’s the color of the Caribbean Sea,” said Raccoon.

“You’ve never seen the Caribbean,” Turtle snapped, but Goose honked and said, “He knows, though, that it’s as beautiful as our sky.”

The animals were quiet for a time, thinking about the beautiful things in their world. Then little Snail, whose eyes were closing as they usually were, piped up. “Owl, why did you call us to gather?”

“We’re going to have a feast,” Owl said, “to give thanks for all that we have. We’ll celebrate our world and our friendship.”

The others agreed. “Of course we must give thanks,” Butterfly said, “for our colorful shade. “And for the acorns,” Jay added. “And for the harvest moon,” said Rabbit. “And for the lofty oaks,” Mouse squeaked.

So they set to work. Some dug potatoes and some collected seeds; others picked sweet peas and apples and corn; others plucked squash and zucchini from their long, hearty stems. They shucked and stirred and mixed and mashed, working to make a great feast.

“A feast!” the Ants cried as they marched toward the delicacies stowed away in a clearing. “A feast it is!”

That first day no one rested, not even at night, but by the second day, they grew weary of labor. “We’ll feast the day after tomorrow,” Owl said. “For now, everyone sleep. We need rest.”

That night all the creatures slept, but Owl kept vigil, his round eyes blazing into the dark sky, guarding their treasure. So it was Owl who saw the trouble coming, just as the first flush of dawn brightened the horizon. At first it looked like an enormous black cloud, but Owl could feel the air growing cooler, moving faster, as if the cloud were pushing all the air toward him. And then he heard it, like traveling thunder, growing louder and closer. And then he saw them. The Crows were on the wing, rushing toward the gathered food. Down they swept, one after another, their beaks snapping at peas and beans and squash and cabbages, at apples and peppers and sweet potato pies.

“Yum yum, eat ’em up,” the Crows cried, and that’s exactly what they did. They ate up every single last crumb. Then they swept into the sky and disappeared.

When the animals awoke, they wept at the sight of all their hard work lost.

“Don’t worry,” Owl said. “We’ll start again. But this time we need a scarecrow.”

So once again they gathered food, and this time they also gathered straw and cloth, and they made themselves a scarecrow to stand guard.

“But do you think he’ll do the job?” Frog croaked, eyeing the cheerful scarecrow. He was skeptical by nature.

“He will,” Owl promised them.

The next dawn, while the creatures still were sleeping, the black cloud swept across the sky again. Owl watched as they swooped down, lower and lower, closer and closer. For one moment, Owl closed his eyes. “Oh no,” he thought. “This isn’t going to work at all.”

But when he opened his eyes, his eyes grew even rounder. Scarecrow had come alive. He was dancing now, twirling on his pole, waving his arms and talking. “Crows,” Scarecrow called, and the Crows hovered above him, waiting, worried. “Crows, listen up. We want you to join the feast. Thanksgiving is for everyone, but you have to learn how to share.”

“Scarecrows can’t talk,” the lead Crow said nervously, turning his head this way and that. “Scarecrows are made of straw and stuff.”

“Oh, we can talk when we have something important to say,” Scarecrow said. “And this is important. If you will share, you are welcome to stay and have some sweet potato pie. Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll have to chase you away.”

Naturally the Crows did not know what to think, but they had no reason to distrust Scarecrow’s words. “If we share, we can stay?” they asked.

“Yes. Thanksgiving is a celebration of everything and everyone.”

And so, ever since that first Thanksgiving Day on the banks of the river, the Crows have wondered about Scarecrows, but every year they join their fellow creatures for a joyous feast of celebration.

I hope you’re having a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

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