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

The Cruel Stepmother

Then the man said, "I know now that you are a cruel witch-woman. You will beat my children no more." With his stone-axe he struck her a mighty blow which completely severed her head from her body. Then he ran from the house as fast as he could and went towards his children, who were watching him not far away.

But the man was not yet done with the cruel witch-woman. As he ran from the house her headless body, freed from the spider web, ran after him, while her severed head, with eyes staring and hair flying, followed the children, sometimes bumping along the ground and sometimes rising through the air. The father thought it would be well to go in a different direction from the children, and he went west, while they went east. The children were very frightened when they saw the horrible head behind them, slowly gaining upon them. Then they remembered their father's magic gifts. When the head was close upon them, they threw their sticks on the ground at their backs and at once a dense forest sprang up between them and their pursuer. The children said, "Now we will rest here for a while, for we are nearly out of breath. The wicked head cannot get through that dense forest." And they sat on the grass and rested.

Soon, however, the pursuing head emerged from the thick trees. The children got up and ran as hard as they could, but close behind them came the severed head, rolling its eyes and gnashing its teeth in a great frenzy, and uttering terrible yells. It was very near to them, when the children again remembered their father's gifts. They threw the white stones behind them, and at once a high mountain of white rock rose between them and their enemy. They sat on the ground and rested, and said, "Oh dear, oh dear, what shall we do? We have only one means of safety left, these little bits of moss." The wicked head hurled itself against the mountain, but it could not get through. A big buffalo bull was feeding on the grass near it, and the head called to him to break a road through the mountain.

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