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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "The Red Swan"

The Red Swan

In former times he wore a cap of wampum, which was attached to his scalp; but powerful Indians, warriors of a distant chief, came and told him that their chief's daughter was on the brink of the grave, and that she herself requested his wampum-cap, which she was confident would save her life. 'If I can only see it,' she said, 'I will recover.' It was for this cap they had come, and after long solicitation the magician at length consented to part with it, in the hope that it would restore to health the dying maiden, although when he took it off to hand it to the messengers it left the crown of his head bare and bloody. Years have passed since, and it has not healed. The coming of the warriors to procure it for the sick maiden was a cheat, and they are now constantly making sport of the unhappy scalp—dancing it about from village to village—and on every insult it receives the poor old chief to whom it belongs groans with pain. Those who hold it are too powerful for the magician, and many have sacrificed themselves to recover it for him, but without success. The Red Swan has enticed many a young man, as she has you, to enlist them to procure the scalp, and whoever is so fortunate as to succeed, it is understood, will receive the Red Swan as his reward. In the morning you will proceed on your way, and toward evening you will come to this magician's lodge. You will know it by the groans which you will hear far over the prairie as you approach. He will ask you in. You will see no one but himself. He will question you much as to your dreams and the strength of your guardian spirits. If he is satisfied with your answers, he will urge you to attempt the recovery of his scalp. He will show you the course to take, and if you feel inclined, as I see that you do, go forward, my son, with a strong heart; persevere, and I have a presentiment that you will succeed."

Maidwa answered, "I will try."

Betimes in the morning, after having eaten from the magic kettle, which sung a sort of farewell chant on its way from the fire-place to its station in the corner, he set off on his journey.

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