Iosco Or The Prairie Boys' Visit To The Sun And Moon

: The Myth Of Hiawatha


One pleasant morning, five young men and a boy about ten years of age,

called Ioscoda, went out a shooting with their bows and arrows. They

left their lodges with the first appearance of daylight, and having

passed through a long reach of woods, had ascended a lofty eminence

before the sun arose. While standing there in a group, the sun suddenly

burst forth in all its efful
ence. The air was so clear, that it

appeared to be at no great distance. "How very near it is," they all

said. "It cannot be far," said the eldest, "and if you will accompany

me, we will see if we cannot reach it." A loud assent burst from every

lip. Even the boy, Ioscoda, said he would go. They told him he was too

young; but he replied, "If you do not permit me to go with you, I will

mention your design to each of your parents." They then said to him,

"You shall also go with us, so be quiet."

They then fell upon the following arrangement. It was resolved that

each one should obtain from his parents as many pairs of moccasins as

he could, and also new clothing of leather. They fixed on a spot where

they would conceal all their articles, until they were ready to start

on their journey, and which would serve, in the mean time, as a place

of rendezvous, where they might secretly meet and consult. This being

arranged, they returned home.

A long time passed before they could put their plan into execution. But

they kept it a profound secret, even to the boy. They frequently met at

the appointed place, and discussed the subject. At length everything

was in readiness, and they decided on a day to set out. That morning

the boy shed tears for a pair of new leather leggings. "Don't you see,"

said he to his parents, "how my companions are dressed?" This appeal to

their pride and envy prevailed. He obtained the leggings. Artifices

were also resorted to by the others, under the plea of going out on a

special hunt. They said to one another, but in a tone that they might

be overheard, "We will see who will bring in the most game." They went

out in different directions, but soon met at the appointed place, where

they had hid the articles for their journey, with as many arrows as

they had time to make. Each one took something on his back, and they

began their march. They travelled day after day, through a thick

forest, but the sun was always at the same distance. "We must," said

they, "travel toward Waubunong,[93] and we shall get to the object, some

time or other." No one was discouraged, although winter overtook them.

They built a lodge and hunted, till they obtained as much dried meat as

they could carry, and then continued on. This they did several times;

season followed season. More than one winter overtook them. Yet none of

them became discouraged, or expressed dissatisfaction.

One day the travellers came to the banks of a river, whose waters ran

toward Waubunong. They followed it down many days. As they were

walking, one day, they came to rising grounds, from which they saw

something white or clear through the trees. They encamped on this

elevation. Next morning they came, suddenly, in view of an immense body

of water. No land could be seen as far as the eye could reach. One or

two of them lay down on the beach to drink. As soon as they got the

water in their mouths, they spit it out, and exclaimed, with surprise,

"Shewetagon awbo!" [salt water.] It was the sea. While looking on the

water, the sun arose as if from the deep, and went on its steady course

through the heavens, enlivening the scene with his cheering and

animating beams. They stood in fixed admiration, but the object

appeared to be as distant from them as ever. They thought it best to

encamp, and consult whether it were advisable to go on, or return. "We

see," said the leader, "that the sun is still on the opposite side of

this great water, but let us not be disheartened. We can walk around

the shore." To this they all assented.

Next morning they took the northerly shore, to walk around it, but had

only gone a short distance when they came to a large river. They again

encamped, and while sitting before the fire, the question was put,

whether any one of them had ever dreamed of water, or of walking on it.

After a long silence, the eldest said he had. Soon after they lay down

to sleep. When they arose the following morning, the eldest addressed

them: "We have done wrong in coming north. Last night my spirit

appeared to me, and told me to go south, and that but a short distance

beyond the spot we left yesterday, we should come to a river with high

banks. That by looking off its mouth, we should see an island, which

would approach to us. He directed that we should all get on it. He then

told me to cast my eyes toward the water. I did so, and I saw all he

had declared. He then informed me that we must return south, and wait

at the river until the day after tomorrow. I believe all that was

revealed to me in this dream, and that we shall do well to follow it."

The party immediately retraced their footsteps in exact obedience to

these intimations. Toward the evening they came to the borders of the

indicated river. It had high banks, behind which they encamped, and

here they patiently awaited the fulfilment of the dream. The appointed

day arrived. They said, "We will see if that which has been said will

be seen." Midday is the promised time. Early in the morning two had

gone to the shore to keep a look-out. They waited anxiously for the

middle of the day, straining their eyes to see if they could discover

anything. Suddenly they raised a shout. "Ewaddee suh neen! There it is!

There it is!" On rushing to the spot they beheld something like an

island steadily advancing toward the shore. As it approached, they

could discover that something was moving on it in various directions.

They said, "It is a Manito, let us be off into the woods." "No, no,"

cried the eldest, "let us stay and watch." It now became stationary,

and lost much of its imagined height. They could only see three

trees, as they thought, resembling trees in a pinery that had been

burnt. The wind, which had been off the sea, now died away into a

perfect calm. They saw something leaving the fancied island and

approaching the shore, throwing and flapping its wings, like a loon

when he attempts to fly in calm weather. It entered the mouth of the

river. They were on the point of running away, but the eldest dissuaded

them. "Let us hide in this hollow," he said, "and we will see what it

can be." They did so. They soon heard the sounds of chopping, and

quickly after they heard the falling of trees. Suddenly a man came up

to the place of their concealment. He stood still and gazed at them.

They did the same in utter amazement. After looking at them for some

time, the person advanced and extended his hand toward them. The eldest

took it, and they shook hands. He then spoke, but they could not

understand each other. He then cried out for his comrades. They came,

and examined very minutely their dresses. They again tried to converse.

Finding it impossible, the strangers then motioned to the Naubequon,

and to the Naubequon-ais,[94] wishing them to embark. They consulted

with each other for a short time. The eldest then motioned that they

should go on board. They embarked on board the boat, which they found

to be loaded with wood. When they reached the side of the supposed

island, they were surprised to see a great number of people, who all

came to the side and looked at them with open mouths. One spoke out,

above the others, and appeared to be the leader. He motioned them to

get on board. He looked at and examined them, and took them down into

the cabin, and set things before them to eat. He treated them very


When they came on deck again, all the sails were spread, and they were

fast losing sight of land. In the course of the night and the following

day they were sick at the stomach, but soon recovered. When they had

been out at sea ten days, they became sorrowful, as they could not

converse with those who had hats on.[95]

The following night Ioscoda dreamed that his spirit appeared to him. He

told him not to be discouraged, that he would open his ears, so as to

be able to understand the people with hats. I will not permit you to

understand much, said he, only sufficient to reveal your wants, and to

know what is said to you. He repeated this dream to his friends, and

they were satisfied and encouraged by it. When they had been out about

thirty days, the master of the ship told them, and motioned them to

change their dresses of leather, for such as his people wore; for if

they did not, his master would be displeased. It was on this occasion

that the elder first understood a few words of the language. The first

phrase he comprehended was La que notte, and from one word to another

he was soon able to speak it.

One day the men cried out, land! and soon after they heard a noise

resembling thunder, in repeated peals. When they had got over their

fears, they were shown the large guns which made this noise. Soon after

they saw a vessel smaller than their own, sailing out of a bay, in the

direction toward them. She had flags on her masts, and when she came

near she fired a gun. The large vessel also hoisted her flags, and the

boat came alongside. The master told the person who came in it, to tell

his master or king, that he had six strangers on board, such as had

never been seen before, and that they were coming to visit him. It was

some time after the departure of this messenger before the vessel got

up to the town. It was then dark, but they could see people, and

horses, and odawbons[96] ashore. They were landed and placed in a

covered vehicle, and driven off. When they stopped, they were taken

into a large and splendid room. They were here told that the great

chief wished to see them. They were shown into another large room,

filled with men and women. All the room was Shoneancauda.[97] The chief

asked them their business, and the object of their journey. They told

him where they were from, and where they were going, and the nature of

the enterprise which they had undertaken. He tried to dissuade them

from its execution, telling them of the many trials and difficulties

they would have to undergo; that so many days' march from his country

dwelt a bad spirit, or Manito, who foreknew and foretold the existence

and arrival of all who entered into his country. It is impossible, he

said, my children, for you ever to arrive at the object you are in

search of.

Ioscoda replied: "Nosa,"[98] and they could see the chief blush in

being called father, "we have come so far on our way, and we will

continue it; we have resolved firmly that we will do so. We think our

lives are of no value, for we have given them up for this object.

Nosa," he repeated, "do not then prevent us from going on our journey."

The chief then dismissed them with valuable presents, after having

appointed the next day to speak to them again, and provided everything

that they needed or wished for.

Next day they were again summoned to appear before the king. He again

tried to dissuade them. He said he would send them back to their

country in one of his vessels: but all he said had no effect. "Well,"

said he, "if you will go, I will furnish you all that is needed for

your journey." He had everything provided accordingly. He told them,

that three days before they reached the Bad Spirit he had warned them

of, they would hear his Sheshegwun.[99] He cautioned them to be wise,

for he felt that he should never see them all again.

They resumed their journey, and travelled sometimes through villages,

but they soon left them behind and passed over a region of forests and

plains, without inhabitants. They found all the productions of a new

country: trees, animals, birds, were entirely different from those they

were accustomed to, on the other side of the great waters. They

travelled, and travelled, till they wore out all of the clothing that

had been given to them, and had to take to their leather clothing


The three days the chief spoke of meant three years, for it was only at

the end of the third year, that they came within the sight of the

spirit's sheshegwun. The sound appeared to be near, but they continued

walking on, day after day, without apparently getting any nearer to it.

Suddenly they came to a very extensive plain; they could see the blue

ridges of distant mountains rising on the horizon beyond it; they

pushed on, thinking to get over the plain before night, but they were

overtaken by darkness; they were now on a stony part of the plain,

covered by about a foot's depth of water; they were weary and fatigued;

some of them said, let us lie down; no, no, said the others, let us

push on. Soon they stood on firm ground, but it was as much as they

could do to stand, for they were very weary. They, however, made an

effort to encamp, lighted up a fire, and refreshed themselves by

eating. They then commenced conversing about the sound of the spirit's

sheshegwun, which they had heard for several days. Suddenly the

instrument commenced; it sounded as if it was subterraneous, and it

shook the ground: they tied up their bundles and went toward the spot.

They soon came to a large building, which was illuminated. As soon as

they came to the door, they were met by a rather elderly man. "How do

ye do," said he, "my grandsons? Walk in, walk in; I am glad to see you:

I knew when you started: I saw you encamp this evening: sit down, and

tell me the news of the country you left, for I feel interested in it."

They complied with his wishes, and when they had concluded, each one

presented him with a piece of tobacco. He then revealed to them things

that would happen in their journey, and predicted its successful

accomplishment. "I do not say that all of you," said he, "will

successfully go through it. You have passed over three-fourths of your

way, and I will tell you how to proceed after you get to the edge of

the earth. Soon after you leave this place, you will hear a deafening

sound: it is the sky descending on the edge, but it keeps moving up and

down; you will watch, and when it moves up, you will see a vacant space

between it and the earth. You must not be afraid. A chasm of awful

depth is there, which separates the unknown from this earth, and a veil

of darkness conceals it. Fear not. You must leap through; and if you

succeed, you will find yourselves on a beautiful plain, and in a soft

and mild light emitted by the moon." They thanked him for his advice. A

pause ensued.

"I have told you the way," he said; "now tell me again of the country

you have left; for I committed dreadful ravages while I was there: does

not the country show marks of it? and do not the inhabitants tell of me

to their children? I came to this place to mourn over my bad actions,

and am trying, by my present course of life, to relieve my mind of the

load that is on it." They told him that their fathers spoke often of a

celebrated personage called Manabozho, who performed great exploits. "I

am he," said the Spirit. They gazed with astonishment and fear. "Do you

see this pointed house?" said he, pointing to one that resembled a

sugar-loaf; "you can now each speak your wishes, and will be answered

from that house. Speak out, and ask what each wants, and it shall be

granted." One of them, who was vain, asked with presumption, that he

might live forever, and never be in want. He was answered, "Your wish

shall be granted." The second made the same request, and received the

same answer. The third asked to live longer than common people, and to

be always successful in his war excursions, never losing any of his

young men. He was told, "Your wishes are granted." The fourth joined in

the same request, and received the same reply. The fifth made an humble

request, asking to live as long as men generally do, and that he might

be crowned with such success in hunting as to be able to provide for

his parents and relatives. The sixth made the same request, and it was

granted to both, in pleasing tones, from the pointed house.

After hearing these responses they prepared to depart. They were told

by Manabozho, that they had been with him but one day, but they

afterward found that they had remained there upward of a year. When

they were on the point of setting out, Manabozho exclaimed, "Stop! you

two, who asked me for eternal life, will receive the boon you wish

immediately." He spake, and one was turned into a stone called

Shin-gauba-wossin,[100] and the other into a cedar tree. "Now," said he

to the others, "you can go." They left him in fear, saying, "We were

fortunate to escape so, for the king told us he was wicked, and that we

should not probably escape from him." They had not proceeded far, when

they began to hear the sound of the beating sky. It appeared to be near

at hand, but they had a long interval to travel before they came near,

and the sound was then stunning to their senses; for when the sky came

down, its pressure would force gusts of wind from the opening, so

strong that it was with difficulty they could keep their feet, and the

sun passed but a short distance above their heads. They however

approached boldly, but had to wait sometime before they could muster

courage enough to leap through the dark veil that covered the passage.

The sky would come down with violence, but it would rise slowly and

gradually. The two who had made the humble request, stood near the

edge, and with no little exertion succeeded, one after the other, in

leaping through, and gaining a firm foothold. The remaining two were

fearful and undecided: the others spoke to them through the darkness,

saying, "Leap! leap! the sky is on its way down." These two looked up

and saw it descending, but fear paralyzed their efforts; they made but

a feeble attempt, so as to reach the opposite side with their hands;

but the sky at the same time struck on the earth with great violence

and a terrible sound, and forced them into the dreadful black chasm.

The two successful adventurers, of whom Iosco now was chief, found

themselves in a beautiful country, lighted by the moon, which shed

around a mild and pleasant light. They could see the moon approaching

as if it were from behind a hill. They advanced, and an aged woman

spoke to them; she had a white face and pleasing air, and looked rather

old, though she spoke to them very kindly: they knew from her first

appearance that she was the moon: she asked them several questions: she

told them that she knew of their coming, and was happy to see them: she

informed them that they were half way to her brother's, and that from

the earth to her abode was half the distance. "I will, by and by, have

leisure," said she, "and will go and conduct you to my brother, for he

is now absent on his daily course: you will succeed in your object, and

return in safety to your country and friends, with the good wishes, I

am sure, of my brother." While the travellers were with her, they

received every attention. When the proper time arrived, she said to

them, "My brother is now rising from below, and we shall see his light

as he comes over the distant edge: come," said she, "I will lead you

up." They went forward, but in some mysterious way, they hardly knew

how: they rose almost directly up, as if they had ascended steps. They

then came upon an immense plain, declining in the direction of the

sun's approach. When he came near, the moon spake--"I have brought you

these persons, whom we knew were coming;" and with this she

disappeared. The sun motioned with his hand for them to follow him.

They did so, but found it rather difficult, as the way was steep: they

found it particularly so from the edge of the earth till they got

halfway between that point and midday: when they reached this spot, the

sun stopped, and sat down to rest. "What, my children," said he, "has

brought you here? I could not speak to you before: I could not stop at

any place but this, for this is my first resting-place--then at the

centre, which is at midday, and then halfway from that to the western

edge.[101] Tell me," he continued, "the object of your undertaking

this journey and all the circumstances which have happened to you on

the way." They complied, Iosco told him their main object was to see

him. They had lost four of their friends on the way, and they wished to

know whether they could return in safety to the earth, that they might

inform their friends and relatives of all that had befallen them. They

concluded by requesting him to grant their wishes. He replied, "Yes,

you shall certainly return in safety; but your companions were vain and

presumptuous in their demands. They were Gug-ge-baw-diz-ze-wug.[102]

They aspired to what Manitoes only could enjoy. But you two, as I said,

shall get back to your country, and become as happy as the hunter's

life can make you. You shall never be in want of the necessaries of

life, as long as you are permitted to live; and you will have the

satisfaction of relating your journey to your friends, and also of

telling them of me. Follow me, follow me," he said, commencing his

course again. The ascent was now gradual, and they soon came to a level

plain. After travelling some time he again sat down to rest, for we had

arrived at Nau-we-qua.[103] "You see," said he, "it is level at this

place, but a short distance onwards, my way descends gradually to my

last resting-place, from which there is an abrupt descent." He repeated

his assurance that they should be shielded from danger, if they relied

firmly on his power. "Come here quickly," he said, placing something

before them on which they could descend; "keep firm," said he, as they

resumed the descent. They went downward as if they had been let down by


In the mean time the parents of these two young men dreamed that their

sons were returning, and that they should soon see them. They placed

the fullest confidence in their dreams. Early in the morning they left

their lodges for a remote point in the forest, where they expected to

meet them. They were not long at the place before they saw the

adventurers returning, for they had descended not far from that place.

The young men knew they were their fathers. They met, and were happy.

They related all that had befallen them. They did not conceal anything;

and they expressed their gratitude to the different Manitoes who had

preserved them, by feasting and gifts, and particularly to the sun and

moon, who had received them as their children.