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Main > Canada folktales > Fairy tale "The Cruel Stepmother"

The Cruel Stepmother

Once long ago, when the Blackfeet Indians dwelt on the Canadian prairies, a poor Indian and his two children, a boy and a girl, were living near the bank of a great river. The children's mother had long been dead and they had long been left to the care of their father. Their father did not think it was right that they should grow up without a woman's kindness, and he decided at last to take another wife. So he went far away to a distant village and there he married a queer woman of another tribe. Soon times grew hard in the North Country, and it was very difficult to get food. The family lived for many days on roots and berries, and often they were very hungry because there was no meat. Now it happened that the woman the man had married was a very wicked witch-woman, who was capable of doing many evil deeds. She had no love for her stepchildren, and she treated them very cruelly. She blamed them for the lack of food in the house, and beating them soundly, she said, "You gluttonous brats; you always eat too much. It is little wonder that we cannot keep the house supplied with food." The man saw his wife's cruelty to the children, but although it made him sad, and at times angry, he did not interfere, for he thought the woman should rule her home.

One night in the early spring, as the man slept, his first wife appeared to him in a dream, and said, "Hang a large spider web across the trail in the forest where the animals pass and you will get plenty of food. But be good to my children. Their cruel stepmother is planning to kill them." And she told him where to look for the magical spider web. The next day the man found the large spider web, and he went far away into the forest and hung it from the trees over the trail where the animals passed. That evening when he went back to the web he found many animals entangled in its meshes, for it had magical power. He killed the animals and brought them home, and that night they had a good fat supper of roast deer meat. Day after day the magical spider web gave him great numbers of rabbits and deer, as the vision of his dead wife had told him in the night, and from that time on the family did not want for food.

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