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Badger and the Koondao

Badger was up to his tricks again.

He had met a stranger in the forest and invited him to camp with him overnight. As they sat by the fire, they smoked their pipes and told stories until it grew very late, so late that Badger could hardly keep from yawning. However, it was a matter of pride with him not to fall asleep. Besides, being such a deceiver himself, he was always suspicious of other people. He would feel safer when the unknown Indian was asleep. He thought of a trick.

"My friend," said he, "can you tell me what my backlog is?" meaning the log against which he was leaning.

"Hickory?" inquired the stranger.

"No, not hickory."


"No, not maple."

"White oak?"

"No, not white oak."

And so it went on, the stranger mentioning moose wood, ash, pine, cedar, birch, and all the wood he could think of, while Badger kept on saying no it was not this, or that. Their voices rose and fell with such monotonous regularity that the man grew sleepier and sleepier, until at last he slumped down fast asleep. Annoyed at the man for being so long about it, Badger thought of another trick to play. He spread sticky clay over the sleeper's eyes and then quickly departed.

When the man awoke, he thought he was blind, and was in a terrible state until he discovered the clay and rubbed it off.

"If ever I meet with that fellow again," he vowed bitterly, "I'll crush him to bits!"

Now this man, as it happened, was a boooin, and such wizards are very unpleasant fellows. It would be well for Badger if he never crossed Koondao's path again. Koondao, which means "stone," was the wizard's name, and he could become a huge stone at will.

Meanwhile, Badger had returned to his own lodge and told Little Brother to prepare for a journey.

"We are going to see what is new in the world," he said, and as Little Brother was always willing to do what Badger said, away they both went.

They had not gone far when they met a very tall and handsome Indian, wearing a shining belt and a necklace of purple stones. Badger recognized the amethyst beads and knew at once it was Glooscap the Great Chief. He felt somewhat nervous, but when Badger is frightened he is always more impudent than ever.

"Kwah-ee, Master," he saluted the Chief jauntily.

"Badger," said Glooscap sternly, "some day, with those tricks of yours, you will go too far. If your mischief should be the death of you, what would become of Little Brother?"

"That's just what's been worrying me," said the trouble maker merrily. "And so, my Chief, I think you should give me a teomul to keep me from harm!" A teomul, you know, is Indian for "magic charm."

Glooscap was about to rebuke Badger for his impudence, but then he thought to himself that perhaps a reward might have more effect on the troublemaker than punishment. It was at least worth a trial.

"Very well," he agreed, touching his magic belt. "I give you a charmed backbone."

"Hurray!" cried Badger.

"But you may use its magic only once," warned the Great Chief. "Be sure you use it wisely." Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, Glooscap was gone.

"Hurray for my backbone," laughed Badger. "And now, Little Brother, let us find some fun."

"I'm hungry," said Little Brother.

"Very well. I'll take care of that."

And away they went through the forest. Presently, they met two young boys. Now these boys, though Badger did not know it, were of the Culloo tribe, the Culloos being magicians who could, when they wished, turn themselves into enormous birds. Badger greeted the boys and asked where they lived. The boys pointed across the river, and Badger began to admire their bows and arrows.

"Let me feel how stiff they are," he said, and when he had them in his hand, he bent them so sharply they broke in pieces. "Dear me," said Badger in mock dismay, "what a pity. However, down the river a way, there is a large grove of birch which makes the very best bows. Listen!" and he cocked his head as if he could hear sounds. "There are some of your friends now, cutting down the trees. Hurry, so you may get your share."

The boys could hear nothing but the wind in the trees and the birds singing, but they were anxious to have new bows, so they hurried off down the river, going farther and farther from home. Badger laughed and told Little Brother to hide himself under a spruce tree.

"I am going to pay a visit to their lodge and get some dinner," he said. He reached into his blanket and pulled out a fine shirt, a feathered headdress, and a string of shell beads. When he put them on, he looked as grand as a Chief, and when he presented himself at the lodge of the Culloo woman, she bowed deeply.

"What can I do for you, O Chief ?" asked she.

"Call your two boys," said Badger imperiously, "for I have something of importance to say to them."

The mother thought this must mean some good fortune, so she hurried away into the trees, calling out to her sons to come home. As soon as her back was turned, Badger lifted the meat off the fire and made off with it--and he and Little Brother shared a fine meal.

Soon afterward, the mother returned with her boys and found her dinner gone. It was clear that a trick had been played on them.

"It is that same rascal who broke our bows and led us on a wild goose hunt down the river," said the boys. "Come, let us go after him and teach him a lesson!" And, turning themselves into birds, they flew off.

Badger saw them coming and told Little Brother to hide.

"I shall lead them a merry chase," cried he, and was off like the wind, so fast the young Culloos could not overtake him--except one, who came close enough to snatch at the beads around his neck and break them. As the beads streamed away in the wind, Badger laughed.

"Thank you! Those beads were heavy. Now I can run much faster!"

The young Culloos called for help from their uncle, Kakakooch the Crow. Kakakooch flew after Badger and just managed to seize his headdress.

"Oh, how good you are," the merry Badger laughed.

"You have done me a great favour. My head was growing very hot. Now I can run faster than ever."

Then Kakakooch called on Uncle Kitpou the Eagle, begging him to catch Badger and punish him. Uncle Kitpou could fly faster than the others, but even so he only managed to snatch off Badger's shirt.

"Oh, thank you, thank you," cried Badger, as he ran on. "I was just wishing to be rid of that heavy shirt."

It looked as though Badger would escape them all.

Then, suddenly, down out of the sky came the Culloo boys' father, the giant Culloo himself, the biggest and strongest bird in the whole sky. He caught Badger up in his claws, body and bones, carried him to a high cloud, and let go! Badger fell heels over head, and from such a height he fell all night, from dusk to dawn, and the Culloo followed him down.

"Hurrah for a race!" cried Badger. "Swish, swish!" And he flapped his arms like the Culloo, imitating the sound of his wings. However, when at last he neared the ground, even Badger grew worried. That ground looked very hard. Just at the last moment, he remembered to cry out, "Oh spare my backbone!" and the next instant he struck the earth and was dashed to pieces. The Culloo flew away, satisfied.

Poor Badger. There he lay, in a hundred pieces, except for his backbone which remained whole.

On the following day, along came Little Brother, crying bitterly, "Oh, my brother, why have you deserted me?"

At the sound of Little Brother's voice, Badger's backbone suddenly stood up all by itself and Badger's voice cried out:

"Ho, my leg come hither!" and the leg came and attached itself to the backbone. "Ho, my arm come hither!" cried the voice, and so it went on, Badger crying upon all the parts of his body until all the scattered bone and muscle and sinew and skin came together, and he was his old self again.

Little Brother clapped his hands with joy.

"That's a good trick," said Badger. "Too bad I can't do it again. Never mind, Little Brother, we can have plenty of fun without it."

So the two went on through the forest until they came to a hill and saw a huge stone. This, as it happened, was Koondao the boooin in his stone shape, but Badger had no idea of it.

"Let's have a race," cried Badger, and levering the stone from the earth, he sent it rolling down the hill.

Badger and his brother ran after it at top speed, shouting, "We can run faster than you!" They chased it to the bottom of the hill and raced past in triumph.

"We won, we won!" cried Little Brother, and sat down to recover his breath.

Badger was about to do the same when he heard a strange noise and looked around. There was the great stone coming straight at them.

"Run for your life, Little Brother!" cried Badger.

The stone thundered after them, up hills and down valleys, smashing rocks and trees in its path, gaining on the two Micmacs inch by inch. At the last moment, Badger thrust Little Brother to one side and allowed Koondao to strike him instead. The stone rolled over Badger, grinding him to powder, all of him this time, even his backbone. Then at last Koondao came to a halt, satisfied.

When all was still, Little Brother came and looked at the scattered bits of his brother and began to cry.

"The teomul will not work again," he sobbed. "I have lost my brother forever." But suddenly a voice thundered behind him.

"Koondao, you miserable stone, how dare you harm my people!" And there stood Glooscap, enlarged to an appalling size, so tall that his head touched the sky. In his fury the Great Chief set a light to the rock, and it burst into fire and burned down to black flakes. Then, returning to his normal size, Glooscap touched the flakes with his foot and they turned into flies.

"Little Brother," said the Great Chief sadly, "Badger was warned, but he would not listen. If he had not used up his charm to escape the Culloos, it would have protected him from Koondao."

Then, seeing the misery on Little Brother's face, he added, "However, Badger gave his life to save yours, so perhaps there is hope for him yet. I think we will give him one more chance." And, touching his magic belt, the Great Chief shouted:

"Ho, Badger's leg come hither" and "Ho, Badger's arm come hither," and so on, until Badger stood before them, his old self again, but somewhat thoughtful.

"That bit of fun was nearly my end," he remarked. "I hope I remember to be more careful in the future."

The Great Chief smiled and called down one of the black flies from the tree around which they were buzzing. Suddenly, Badger jumped, then he howled as the black fly bit him again.

"That will remind you!" said Glooscap, roaring with laughter. "Each spring the black flies will come to the forest to tell you that an act which causes pain to others will in the end cause pain to yourself."

And it is so to this day. The savage black flies still swarm through the eastern woodlands of Maine and the Maritime Provinces, reminding us of the Great Chief's words, as they reminded Badger long ago.

Once more, kespeadooksit--the story ends.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.