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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "Manabozho, the Mischief-Maker"

Manabozho, the Mischief-Maker

He was scarcely out of sight when Manabozho sent the children to get red willow sticks. Of these he cut off as many pieces, of equal length, as would serve to invite his friends among the beasts and birds to a feast. A red stick was sent to each one, not forgetting the woodpecker and his family.

When they arrived they were astonished to see such an abundance of meat prepared for them at such a time of scarcity. Manabozho understood their glance, and was proud of a chance to make such a display.

"Akewazi," he said to the oldest of the party, "the weather is very cold, and the snow lasts a long time; we can kill nothing now but small squirrels, and they are all black; and I have sent for you to help me eat some of them."

The woodpecker was the first to try a mouthful of the bear's meat, but he had no sooner began to taste it than it changed into a dry powder, and set him coughing. It appeared as bitter as ashes.

The moose was affected in the same way, and it brought on such a dry cough as to shake every bone in his body.

One by one, each in turn joined the company of coughers, except Manabozho and his family, to whom the bear's meat proved very savory.

But the visitors had too high a sense of what was due to decorum and good manners to say any thing. The meat looked very fine, and being keenly set and strongly tempted by its promising look, they thought they would try more of it. The more they ate the faster they coughed, and the louder became the uproar, until Manabozho, exerting the magical gift which he found he retained, changed them all into squirrels; and to this day the squirrel suffers from the same dry cough which was brought on by attempting to sup off of Manabozho's ashen bear's meat.

And ever after this transformation, when Manabozho lacked provisions for his family he would hunt the squirrel, a supply of which never failed him, so that he was always sure to have a number of his friends present, in this shape, at the banquet.

The rock into which he changed the hunter, and so became possessed of the bear, and thus laid the foundations of his good fortune, ever after remained by his lodge-door, and it was called the Game-Bag of Manabozho, the Mischief-Maker.

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