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Algonquin Indian Tales   By: (1840-1909)

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ALGONQUIN INDIAN TALES

COLLECTED BY EGERTON R. YOUNG

AUTHOR OF "BY CANOE AND DOG TRAIN," "THE APOSTLE OF THE NORTH," "THREE BOYS IN THE WILD NORTH LAND," ETC.

[Illustration: The rabbit tells Nanahboozhoo of his troubles.]

1903

CHIEF BIG CANOE'S LETTER

GEORGINA ISLAND, LAKE SIMCOE. REV. EGERTON R. YOUNG.

DEAR FRIEND: Your book of stories gathered from among my tribe has very much pleased me. The reading of them brings up the days of long time ago when I was a boy and heard our old people tell these tales in the wigwams and at the camp fire.

I am very glad that you are in this way saving them from being forgotten, and I am sure that many people will be glad to read them.

With best wishes, KECHE CHEMON (Charles Big Canoe), Chief of the Ojibways.

INTRODUCTORY NOTE

In all ages, from the remotest antiquity, the story teller has flourished. Evidences of his existence are to be found among the most ancient monuments and writings in the Orient. In Egypt, Nineveh, Babylon, and other ancient lands he flourished, and in the homes of the noblest he was ever an honored guest.

The oldest collection of folklore stories or myths now in existence is of East Indian origin and is preserved in the Sanskrit. The collection is called Hitopadesa , and the author was Veshnoo Sarma. Of this collection, Sir William Jones, the great Orientalist, wrote, "The fables of Veshnoo are the most beautiful, if not the most ancient, collection of apologues in the world." As far back as the sixth century translations were made from them.

The same love for myths and legends obtains to day in those Oriental lands. There, where the ancient and historic so stubbornly resist any change in Persia, India, China, and indeed all over that venerable East the man who can recite the ancient apologues or legends of the past can always secure an audience and command the closest attention.

While the general impression is that the recital of these old myths and legends among Oriental nations was for the mere pastime of the crowds, it is well to bear in mind that many of them were used as a means to convey great truths or to reprove error. Hence the recital of them was not confined to a merely inquisitive audience that desired to be amused. We have a good example of this in the case of the recital by Jotham, as recorded in the book of Judges, of the legend of the gathering of the trees for the purpose of having one of them anointed king over the rest. Of this legend Dr. Adam Clarke, the commentator, says, "This is the oldest and, without exception, the best fable or apologue in the world."

The despotic nature of the governments of those Oriental nations caused the people often to use the fable or myth as an indirect way to reprove or censure when it would not have been safe to have used a direct form of speech. The result was that it attained a higher degree of perfection there than among any other people. An excellent example is Nathan's reproof of David by the recital of the fable of the poor man's ewe lamb.

The red Indians of America have justly been famous for their myths and legends. We have never heard of a tribe that did not have a store of them. Even the hardy Eskimo in his igloo of ice is surprisingly rich in folklore stories. A present of a knife or some other trifle that he desires will cause him to talk by the hour to his guest, whether he be the daring trader or adventurous explorer, on the traditions that have come down to him. The interchange of visits between the northern Indians and the Eskimos has resulted in the discovery that quite a number of the myths recited in Indian wigwams are in a measure, if not wholly, of Eskimo origin. On the other hand, the Eskimo has not failed to utilize and incorporate into his own rich store some that are undoubtedly of Indian origin.

For thirty years or more we have been gathering up these myths and legends. Sometimes a brief sentence or two of one would be heard in some wigwam just enough to excite curiosity then years would elapse ere the whole story could be secured... Continue reading book >>




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