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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

The Man Who Was Made a Magician

Long ago, in the days of Glooscap, there lived a boy named Widjek who could never do anything properly. Perhaps this was because people laughed at him. Nobody disliked Widjek, for he was gentle and friendly, but his awkwardness was funny and so they laughed. The more Widjek tried to win their respect, the more funny he seemed, and the more they laughed, the harder it was for poor Widjek to do anything right.

So, even when he became a man, he was as awkward as ever. He would keep dropping things and falling over his own feet. The people called him Widjek the Moonstruck, because they said he must once have slept with the moon's rays on his face and so spoiled his wits; but Widjek himself was sure he was just like other men except that people didn't laugh at them.

One day Widjek asked his grandmother to make an evening visit. To "make an evening visit" means in the Wabanaki to arrange a marriage. Now the grandmother knew it would not be easy to find a bride for Widjek, but she loved him and determined to do her best. She went first to the Chief's wigwam.

"My grandson is tired of living alone," she said timidly. The Chief smiled but shook his head.

Then she went to each lodge in turn, without success, until she came to the last one of all, which belonged to a man named Nokum who had three unmarried daughters.

"Which of you, my daughters," laughed Nokum, "wishes to marry Widjek the Moonstruck?"

The two older girls indignantly refused, but the youngest daughter, Masusi, who was a kindhearted girl, looked troubled.

"The poor fellow must have someone to care for him and keep his lodge," she said. "I will marry him."

Nokum scowled. He did not like this at all, for Masusi was his favorite daughter, and he hoped to marry her to someone better.

"If your grandson will provide all the meat for my lodge for a full year," he told Widjek's grandmother, "I shall accept him as my son-in-law." Nokum was pretty sure, you see, that the young man would fail.

However, Widjek was so happy to hear Masusi would have him as a husband that he set out next day, determined to show he could be a good provider. But it was the same old story. He could find little game, and even when he did, he stalked it so clumsily that his prey was off and away before he came within arrowshot. Poor Widjek hunted until dusk and got nothing.

Tired and discouraged, he started back to camp, wondering how he was to tell Masusi he had failed again.

Suddenly, he heard music. It was such beautiful music he stopped in his tracks, utterly bewitched. Then, in the path in front of him, appeared three small hairy men playing flutes. They were Megumoowesoos, the Little People of the forest, who are great magicians. Though they were only half as tall as himself, Widjek was so surprised to see them, he tumbled head over heels backwards. He had never met any Megumoowesoos before. However, they spoke to him in a friendly way and led him into their cave through a door cut out of the solid rock. There they offered him food and drink, and invited him to stay the night.

It was growing dark now and Widjek was glad to delay his return to camp empty-handed, so he accepted the invitation and enjoyed a good meal and a refreshing sleep. In the morning, when the Little People led him from the cave, he saw a great heap of venison lying on the ground.

"It is yours," said the chief Megumoowesoo. "Take it and if you need more, come back--but tell no one where you have been or who gave you these things."

Thanking them joyfully, Widjek hurried back to camp with the bundle on his back. Now his future was sure! With the help of the friendly Megumoowesoos, he could easily keep Nokum's wigwam supplied with meat for a year.

When Widjek walked triumphantly into the village, the people stared at him strangely and his grandmother came running to him with tears in her eyes.

"Grandson!" she cried. "Why have you been gone so long? It is a whole year since you went away. We thought you dead."

Widjek was amazed, for it seemed to him he had been gone only a night and a day.

"It was the magic of the Megumoowesoos," he exclaimed and, forgetting the Little People's warning, he related all that had happened. The people listened with awe, but when he opened his bundle to show them the venison, they burst out laughing. Inside, there was nothing but a heap of poplar bark.

"It is clear," said Nokum coldly, "that you have deceived us. All year you have been ashamed to come home without meat, and now you think to fool us with this made-up story."

"It is all true!" protested poor Widjek. "I could show you the path I took, and the cave, and the footprints of the Megumoowesoos outside!"

The people laughed scornfully.

"Widjek the Moonstruck!"

But the Chief called for silence.

"Poplar bark," he said, "is the food of beavers. It may be that where he found this bark, we will find good beaver hunting."

Widjek gladly offered to lead the hunters to the spot, and he had no difficulty finding the path. It led straight to the place where he had met the Megumoowesoos. Widjek rushed to the end of the path and stared around in dismay. There was no cave now--no door--only bare rock! More over, there were no tracks, and no sign of poplar bark or beaver.

"This settles it," said Nokum. "You have had the year granted you, and have failed." Then all went back to camp, angry with the moonstruck one for disappointing them.

Poor Widjek lingered in the forest, ashamed to follow them. If only he had kept quiet about the Little People. Now his people would laugh at him more than ever. Perhaps even Masusi!

"Oh, why is it," he groaned, "why is it everything I do turns out badly? Am I indeed moonstruck?"

"Certainly not!" growled a strange voice, and Widjek jumped and looked behind him. There, coming down the path towards him, was the largest bear he had ever seen!

Widjek was no coward, but he had left his weapons some distance away and was helpless. He could never tackle such a creature with his bare hands! So he turned to run--and as usual in his excitement and nervousness, he tripped over his own feet and would have gone sprawling had not the bear stretched out a paw to steady him.

"Fear not, Widjek," said the bear, "for I am he who made your ancestors from the ash tree."

Then Widjek knew he was in the presence of Glooscap.

"O Master," he cried, "I am not worthy of my ancestors. I try and I try to do things right, but I always fail."

"Never mind," said Glooscap, "you will do better in the future, if you will do as I tell you."

"Oh, I will!" cried Widjek eagerly.

Then Glooscap gave him a long curved horn.

"Put this to your ear, and you will hear animals talking a long way off. Follow the sound of their voices and you will always find game."

"They will hear me coming and run away," said Widjek sorrowfully. "They always do."

Then Glooscap gave him also a bag of white feathers and told him to burn them when he was drawing close to game.

"The smoke will be carried on the breeze to them, and they will fall asleep," said Glooscap. "Kill no more than you need for food and these magical powers will never fail you. Hereafter you will be known not as Widjek the Moon struck, but as Widjek the Magician."

And before the young Indian could utter a word of thanks, the great bear had slowly dissolved into space.

This time Widjek kept his own counsel. He was learning wisdom at last.

He went hunting the very next day and quickly found game by listening through the horn. Then he put the animals to sleep with the smoke from the burning feathers. When he returned to camp with a great load of venison-- enough for Nokum's family as well as his own--the people were astonished.

On each succeeding day, he returned with meat enough for both wigwams. Then the people knew he must have some secret power.

"He has become a magician," they whispered to each other, and from that time on, they called him Widjek the Magician.

Now Widjek was a great and honoured member of his tribe, and all the young maidens of the village, including the daughters of the Chief, wished to have him for a husband. The Chief called all the maidens together and told Widjek he could have any one he chose for a wife.

The young man walked slowly down the line of girls, looking carefully at each, and at last he came to Masusi-- Masusi, who had chosen him when he was poor and lonely and despised.

"This is my bride," he said.

And far away on Blomidon, Glooscap nodded and puffed great smoke rings from his pipe. In his wisdom, he had known all the time that under Widjek's foolish appearance lay a brave and gentle heart. Now all the people knew it too, and would never laugh at him again.

And so--kespeadooksit, once again.

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