A.M.'s Myth and Folklore Blog

Myth and Folklore ML-3043-996

Category: Week 10

Week 10 Reading: Native American, Blackfoot Stories

Source: Blackfeet Indian Stories via the course UnTextbook.

  • For these reading notes, I chose to focus on the story “The Camp of the Ghosts”
  • A young couple who are deeply in love have a child, but the wife grows ill soon after. Her sickness is prolonged, cannot be cured, and eventually she dies, leaving her husband bereft.
  • Eventually, the husband can take his grief no longer, and, leaving their child in the care of his mother, goes off into the world to find his dead wife and bring her back.
  • He eventually comes to the lodge of an old woman who tells him that, beyond the next hill, there lives another woman who can give him the power he needs to journey to the camp of the ghosts, which lies further still in that direction.
  • The second old woman promises her aid, places her powers in service of the young man’s quest, and instructs him: he must not open his eyes when he reaches the camp of the ghosts.
  • When he arrives, the ghosts of the young man’s relatives are gathered to a feast in his honor, and, taking pity on him, the chief of the ghosts offers a deal: he will stay in the camp for four nights, and at the end of that period he will be sent home with his wife.
  • When the time comes, he leaves, and is told that he must keep his eyes closed for the first four days of the journey, at the end of which his wife will turn back from ghost to person, and he may then look.
  • His father also warns him that he must build a sweat-house before reentering the camp of the living to remove the aura of the ghosts from himself.
  • His dead father also warns him never to raise a hand against his wife, or she will return immediately to the camp of ghosts.
  • They do as instructed, and successfully regain the land of the living.
  • But later, the man moves to threaten his wife, and she disappears, never to be seen again.
Blackfoot Teepees in 1933. (Image from Wikipedia.)

Week 10 Reading: Alaska Native Stories, Part A

Source: The First Woman (an Eskimo story), via the course UnTextbook.

  • At the beginning of time, there are many men but only one woman who lives in the south.
  • Eventually, the men grow lonely, and one of particular initiative goes on a long journey to the south, eventually finding the one woman and marrying her.
  • The son of the chief of the men (the mechanics of such a relationship in a world without women are not explained) is furious that this other man would have a wife before him, and goes down to fight him.
  • They argue over the one woman and the chief’s son grasps the woman by the shoulders and tries to drag her away, but her husband grasps her legs.
  • As they grapple and pull her to-and-fro, they eventually pull her apart at the middle, spiting the first woman into two.
  • This, the story says, explains why the women in the south are good dancers — made from the lower half — and those in the north are clever with their hands — made from the upper half.
Two Eskimo Women. (From the UnTextbook.)