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Main > Canada folktales > Fairy tale "Ermine and the Hunter"

Ermine and the Hunter

Far away in the Canadian North Country an old man lived with his wife and children. They lived far from other people, but they were never lonely, for they had much work to do. The old man was a great hunter, and in summer he and his wife and children lived on the fish and game he captured in the winter. In the spring-time he gathered sap from the maple trees, from which he made maple syrup and maple sugar with which to sweeten their food. One day in summer he found three small bears eating his stock of sugar. When he came upon them, his sugar was all gone, and he was very cross. With a stout club he killed the little bears and skinned them and dried their meat. But his wife said, "No good can come of it. You should not have killed the three little bears, for they were too young for slaughter."

The next day the old Bear came along, looking for his lost children. When he saw their skins hanging up to dry he knew that they had been killed by the hunter. He was very sad and angry, and he called to the hunter, "You have killed my little motherless cubs, and in return for that wickedness, some night when you are off your guard I will kill your children, and then I will kill you and your wife, and I will devour all your food." The old man shot at him with his arrows, but the arrows did not harm him, for he was Brown Bear of the Stony Heart, and he could not be killed by man. For many nights and days the old man tried to trap him, but he met with no success. And each day he saw his store of food growing smaller, for Bear of the Stony Heart stole it always in the night. And he thought, "We shall all surely starve before the winter comes, and game is plentiful again."

One day in despair he resolved to look about him for some one who would tell him how to kill the Bear. He went to the bank of the river and sat there in thought and smoked long at his pipe. And he called to the God of the River and said, "Oh, River-God, help me to drown Bear when he comes to fish." The river came from the Lime Stone country far back among the rocks, and it was flowing rapidly to the sea.

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