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The Red Indian Fairy Book by  Frances Jenkins Olcott


 

 

THE CHESTNUT KETTLE

(Iroquois)

[152] THIS is a tale of old times. Once there lived two brothers, orphans, who loved each other very much. Their lodge was in a wide wilderness, and the game was plentiful. Each day the elder brother hunted and brought back Buffalo meat and venison, while the younger brother, who was but a lad, stayed at home and gathered wood, built the fire, and cooked the supper.

It happened one evening that the elder brother returned to the lodge and brought plenty of game, which he gave the lad to cook. When the meal was ready, the elder said, "Do you eat your supper; I will smoke before I eat." So the lad ate his supper and went to sleep.

The next morning when the lad woke he found that his brother was gone to hunt. And he saw that all the meat, which had been left in the pot the night before, was still there. He wondered much at this, but when his brother returned bring- [153] ing game, the lad said not a word, and again cooked the supper. His brother smoked and ate nothing, and the lad went to sleep as before.

And so it happened for many nights; and the elder brother each day grew stronger, and more handsome. At last the lad said to himself: "He must eat something! To-night I will watch and see what he does."

So when the night was come, the lad watched from his bed. After a while the elder brother arose from smoking, and, opening a trap-door in the floor, began to make strange motions. Then he drew forth a small kettle from beneath the trap. He scraped the bottom of it, poured in water, and taking a whip, struck the kettle, saying, "Now, my kettle, grow larger."

Instantly the kettle began to get bigger, and gave out a sound like violent boiling. After a little time he set it to cool, and began to eat greedily from it. "Ah!" thought the lad, "to-morrow I'll find out what it is he eats." And then he went to sleep.

At daylight the elder brother set off to hunt, and the lad awoke. He arose, and hastening, [154] opened the trap door and drew forth the small kettle. In it lay half a chestnut. With a knife he scraped the nut into small bits, and, pouring in water, made a porridge. Then he took the whip, and commenced beating the kettle as his brother had done, saying, "Now, my kettle, grow larger."

Immediately the kettle began to get bigger, and it kept on growing bigger, and the porridge in it increased, giving out a boiling sound. To the lad's surprise the kettle kept on growing, nor could he stop it. At last it was so big that it filled the room, and he was forced to climb on the roof of the lodge, and beat the porridge from the outside.

While he was doing this his brother returned from hunting. When he saw what the lad was about he gave a groan, and cried: "Woe is me! The Magic-Chestnut is gone! Alas! I must die!"

Then he took the whip from the lad, and struck the kettle, saying, "Now, my kettle, grow smaller." And it grew smaller again, and he placed it beneath the trap-door. After which he lay down, sighing sorrowfully. "Alas! I must die!"

When morning came, the elder brother could not get up, he was so weak, nor could he eat any- [155] thing. Day after day he grew weaker, and each morning the lad would say: "Oh, my Brother! Surely you need not die! Just tell me where the Magic Chestnuts grow, and let me fetch you some!" But his brother never answered.

At last one day, when the lad was weeping, the elder brother said: "Far, far away is a deep and wide river, which can be crossed only by Fairy power. On the other side of the river is a lodge, and near the lodge is a Chestnut Tree, from which many nuts fall to the ground. Night and day a white Heron stands beneath the tree, looking around on all sides. If any one attempts to gather the nuts, the Heron cries out, and twelve Witch-Women rush from the lodge and kill the nut-gatherer. So you see there is no chance for you to fetch the nuts to me, and I must die!"

But the lad answered, "I will go and try for your sake."

Then he made a tiny Birchbark canoe, about three inches long, and put it in his pouch, after which he set out on his journey. Day and night he walked, until at last he came to the deep and wide river. He took the canoe from his pouch, [156] and pulling it at both ends, drew it out until it was large and shapely. Then he placed it on the river, and entering the boat, paddled swiftly across the water.

He reached the other bank in safety, and making the canoe small again, put it in his pouch. Next he sang a magic song, and a Mole came creeping from the ground. The little animal gave him some seed that the Heron loved, and bade him be of good cheer, and go toward the Witch-Women's lodge.

He went courageously on, and scattered the seeds before the white Heron. And while the bird was greedily devouring them, the lad gathered a handful of nuts from the ground, and fled toward the river.

Meanwhile, the Heron had eaten all the seeds, and cried out. Then the twelve Witch-Women came rushing from their lodge. They carried long lines to which were fastened iron hooks. Howling with rage, they ran after the lad to the river.

But he reached there first, and taking the canoe from his pouch, made it big. Then jumping in, he paddled swiftly away from the shore. The Witch- [157] Women threw a line, and the hook caught the side of the canoe, but the lad cut the line with his hatchet, and paddled faster away. Line after line they threw, but he cut them with his hatchet, till all the lines were spoiled. Then, howling with disappointment, the Witch-Women returned to their lodge.

As for the lad, he reached the other shore in safety, and hastened home, fearing lest his brother should die before he could return. He came to the lodge, and, entering it, found his brother just breathing his last.

Quickly the lad drew forth the kettle, and placing the Chestnuts in it, made some magic porridge. This he gave to his brother, who straightway opened his eyes, and arose well and strong.

After which the lad told him all his adventures, and the elder said: "You have done much for me! And from now on we shall both be well and happy."


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