Bokwewa Or The Humpback Magician
: The Myth Of Hiawatha
Bokwewa and his brother lived in a secluded part of the country. They
were considered as Manitoes, who had assumed mortal shapes. Bokwewa was
the most gifted in supernatural endowments, although he was deformed in
person. His brother partook more of the nature of the present race of
beings. They lived retired from the world, and undisturbed by its
cares, and passed their time in con
entment and happiness.
Bokwewa, owing to his deformity, was very domestic in his habits,
and gave his attention to household affairs. He instructed his brother
in the manner of pursuing game, and made him acquainted with all the
accomplishments of a sagacious and expert hunter. His brother possessed
a fine form, and an active and robust constitution; and felt a
disposition to show himself off among men. He was restive in his
seclusion, and showed a fondness for visiting remote places.
One day he told his brother that he was going to leave him; that he
wished to visit the habitations of men and procure a wife. Bokwewa
objected to his going; but his brother overruled all that he said, and
he finally departed on his travels. He travelled a long time. At length
he fell in with the footsteps of men. They were moving by encampments,
for he saw several places where they had encamped. It was in the
winter. He came to a place where one of their number had died. They had
placed the corpse on a scaffold. He went to it and took it down. He saw
that it was the corpse of a beautiful young woman. "She shall be my
wife!" he exclaimed.
He took her up, and placing her on his back, returned to his brother.
"Brother," he said, "cannot you restore her to life? Oh, do me that
favor!" Bokwewa said he would try. He performed numerous ceremonies,
and at last succeeded in restoring her to life. They lived very happily
for some time. Bokwewa was extremely kind to his brother, and did
everything to render his life happy. Being deformed and crippled, he
always remained at home, while his brother went out to hunt. And it was
by following his directions, which were those of a skilful hunter, that
he always succeeded in returning with a good store of meat.
One day he had gone out as usual, and Bokwewa was sitting in his lodge,
on the opposite side of his brother's wife, when a tall, fine young man
entered, and immediately took the woman by the hand and drew her to the
door. She resisted and called on Bokwewa, who jumped up to her
assistance. But their joint resistance was unavailing; the man
succeeded in carrying her away. In the scuffle, Bokwewa had his hump
back much bruised on the stones near the door. He crawled into the
lodge and wept very sorely, for he knew that it was a powerful Manito
who had taken the woman.
When his brother returned, he related all to him exactly as it
happened. He would not taste food for several days. Sometimes he would
fall to weeping for a long time, and appeared almost beside himself. At
last he said he would go in search of her. Bokwewa tried to dissuade
him from it, but he insisted.
"Well!" said he, "since you are bent on going, listen to my advice. You
will have to go south. It is a long distance to the residence of your
captive wife, and there are so many charms and temptations in the way,
I am afraid you will be led astray by them, and forget your errand. For
the people whom you will see in that country do nothing but amuse
themselves. They are very idle, gay, and effeminate, and I am fearful
they will lead you astray. Your journey is beset with difficulties. I
will mention one or two things, which you must be on your guard
against. In the course of your journey, you will come to a large
grape-vine lying across your way. You must not even taste its fruit,
for it is poisonous. Step over it. It is a snake. You will next come to
something that looks like bear's fat, transparent and tremulous. Don't
taste it, or you will be overcome by the pleasures of those people. It
is frog's eggs. These are snares laid by the way for you."
He said he would follow the advice, and bid farewell to his brother.
After travelling a long time, he came to the enchanted grape-vine. It
looked so tempting, he forgot his brother's advice and tasted the
fruit. He went on till he came to the frog's eggs. The substance so
much resembled bear's fat that he tasted it. He still went on. At
length he came to a very extensive plain. As he emerged from the forest
the sun was setting, and cast its scarlet and golden shades over all
the plain. The air was perfectly calm, and the whole prospect had the
air of an enchanted land. The most inviting fruits and flowers spread
out before the eye. At a distance he beheld a large village, filled
with people without number, and as he drew near he saw women beating
corn in silver mortars. When they saw him approaching, they cried out,
"Bokwewa's brother has come to see us." Throngs of men and women, gayly
dressed, came out to meet him. He was soon overcome by their flatteries
and pleasures, and he was not long afterward seen beating corn with
their women (the strongest proof of effeminacy), although his wife, for
whom he had mourned so much, was in that Indian metropolis.
Meantime, Bokwewa waited patiently for the return of his brother. At
length, after the lapse of several years, he set out in search of him,
and arrived in safety among the luxuriant people of the South. He met
with the same allurements on the road, and the same flattering
reception that his brother did. But he was above all temptations. The
pleasures he saw had no other effect upon him than to make him regret
the weakness of mind of those who were led away by them. He shed tears
of pity to see that his brother had laid aside the arms of a hunter,
and was seen beating corn with the women.
He ascertained where his brother's wife remained. After deliberating
some time, he went to the river where she usually came to draw water.
He there changed himself into one of those hair-snakes which are
sometimes seen in running water. When she came down, he spoke to her,
saying, "Take me up; I am Bokwewa." She then scooped him out and went
home. In a short time the Manito who had taken her away asked her for
water to drink. The lodge in which they lived was partitioned. He
occupied a secret place, and was never seen by any one but the woman.
She handed him the water containing the hair-snake, which he drank,
with the snake, and soon after was a dead Manito.
Bokwewa then resumed his former shape. He went to his brother, and used
every means to reclaim him. But he would not listen. He was so much
taken up with the pleasures and dissipations into which he had fallen,
that he refused to give them up, although Bokwewa, with tears, tried to
convince him of his foolishness, and to show him that those pleasures
could not endure for a long time. Finding that he was past reclaiming,
Bokwewa left him, and disappeared forever.