Skip Navigation

Northeast Folklore Volume VI - Miscellaneous Malecite Tales

*The Lost Hunters I (Solomon) [1]

There were these two hunters [and] they got lost in the woods. While they were hunting there came a big storm and they got lost, but they came to this deserted maple sugar camp, so they had to stop there for the night. One of them said, “I don’t feel like going in that place. [It] seems to be haunted by something. . . . I don’t feel right going in there.”

[The other one] said, “We’ll have to stop somewhere overnight rather than walk in that storm or freeze to death. We might as well stop here for the night and dry out our clothes, and we’ll start first thing in the morning.”

So anyway they went in and built a fire [and] got themselves warm. They always carried some dried meat with them anywaysome dried deer meat and moose meat for their lunch. And they seen this dead man laying in one of the bunks (bunkswhatever you call them. They made [them] out of fir boughs. The Indians used to make them. They used to use fir boughs for their bedding.) They seen this dead man lying there. [One of them says], “I’m not going to sleep here.”

“I say what harm can a dead man do us? He’ll never [hurt us]. I’m going to stay rather than walk in this storm.”

So one of the hunters there couldn’t sleep. The other one soon fell asleep and was snoring. But [the first one] he almost fell asleep once and he put in some more wood on the fire. And he could hear some noise, kind of a gurgling noise, and he looked behind and seen this dead man sucking the blood out of the other hunter. He’d come to lifemust have been a werewolf. Now this [first] man he uh threw this bone. . . behind his left shoulder to kind of ward off this uh weird creature. So he put on his snowshoes and left as fast as he could travel.

Before he came near this Indian reservation he had to cross some ice. Every once in a while he’d look behind, and for a while he seen this big ball of fire coming after him. Already he was crossing the lake, but this ball of fire was coming so fast that it was almost catching up with him. When he crossed this lake he seen this ball of fire was coming too near him. . . . Well, he started hollering to draw the other Indian’s attention. When they heard him. . . .they seen this ball of fire. So they all took their bows and arrows and fired at this ball of fire. That’s the only way that would make him turn back.

Well, [the hunter] he fell right there in their arms. He was unconscious. They carried him home [and] after they made him come to, why he told them the story about that dead man they seen in the camp. . . . Next morning they all went. . . to that place, and they found this dead man laying on the bunk right where they left him and they found this other one all [with] his jugular vein all broke open [and] the blood drained out of him. Well, they took him and buried him in the Indian burying ground, but this other one they burnt him. . . . They tied him to a pile of wood. . . and burned him. That’s the only way they could kill him so he wouldn’t bother any more people. During the last, when he was burning there they could hear the bones cracking. Pretty soon they could hear a voice screeching way off into the air. That’s the only way they could get rid of him. . . .

Return to Top

* * * * * *

The Lost Hunters II (Black)

Two fellows went hunting and they got lost. They saw an empty cabin in the woods, so they went in for shelter. They could look for their way home tomorrow.

When they went in, they looked around and saw a corpse lying on the bunk. Figuring that the corpse could not do anything to them, they put the corpse in the corner and they took the bunk. They built a fire, had a meal, and then went to bed. During the night one of the fellows woke up hearing strange gurgling sounds. So he got up and looked around, and there was the corpse sucking the blood from his friend’s throat. This guy got so scared that he started running and by chance he found his way home. Right behind him he heard this “WHOOO” sound, and he looked around and this ball of fire following him. Just before the bell of fire caught up with him, he got to his front yard and ran into the house and slammed the door on the ball of fire, and then he passed out.

When he woke up, they asked him what happened and he told them all about it. So they formed a search party to go into the woods and find out about it. They found the cabin (they took a priest along too), and sure enough there was the corpse where they had placed him, and they found the buddy with his throat all chewed up, and the corpse had blood all around his mouth. They took the buddy out, and the priest said to them “Burn the place to the ground.” So they set fire to the place. While it was burning, they heard the screaming, “Help me! Let me out!” The priest said to ignore the cries, and they did. Just as the cabin was about to fall down they heard a final scream and they saw this big ball of fire disappear in the sky and they never saw it again.

Return to Top

* * * * *

*The Man Who Married The Nun (Solomon) [2]

MRS. HEGEMAN: Well now what’s this one about–uh—who married the nun?

MRS. SOLOMON: Well, that’s not a story about the Indians. That was a story about the white settlers. . . . It was in old Québec. You know, them French people used to have a lot of stories too. . . . When they first came to settle the country [there were] all these French priests and sisters and nuns. And they said that if there was a single man wanted to marry one of the nuns they could. They had to have permission, though, from the priest. And one of the men there had lots of cleared land. He built himself a camp in the woods somewhere. He heard about these nuns and he went to see the priest or the bishop. Well, he got permission to marry one of the nuns. Well, this nun didn’t want to leave the convent, but that was the law then. That was the rule: that if there was a man wanted to marry them they had to. . . . I don’t think that happens now. . . .

Anyway, he took this nun in the woods and that’s where they lived. He wouldn’t take her into the settlement to the church or anything. Well, this nun used to pray for him. Now this man wouldn’t let her pray or anything. Burnt all her rosaries and burnt all her prayer books and everything. One day this man took sick. This nun, which was his wife, tried her best to cure him. He had some kind of a fever; it might have been pneumonia, I don’t know. He had this high fever and she couldn’t break the fever. He kept on getting worse and getting worse. So one day she couldn’t help it. She had to go to the settlement to get a priest. She harnessed up the old horse and she went. [She told] the priest how bad off her husband was and the priest . . . went to this man.

When they came back, there came a big stormrain and wind and everything. They could hardly get back to the camp. And when they got there they found out this man was really bad, and when they went in the house he refused the priest. And the priest took out the crucifix and showed it to the sick man. This sick man jumped right out of his bed and landed on the floor on his hands and knees. . . on all fours. He cried and he kicked [? and his eyes were?] just like two balls of fire. He turned [wicked] right there and he. . . turned black and everything. The wind blew the door open and then [in] came something like a big tom cat, great big tom cat. And this man jumped on this cat’s back and the cat jumped right back and went off in the woods, and they never heard from him [any further].

So it was coming daylight and the priest told this woman, “Come on, you’d better pack up and come with me. I can’t leave you here in the woods.” So they burnt the camp down and they went. It took them two or three days to get back to the settlementtrees falling across the road and everything. It’s a wonder they got through that night. . . I don’t know how true it is, but they used to tell that.

Return to Top

* * * * * *

*How The Trappers Broke The Spell (Solomon) [3]

These two hunters they used to go hunting every fall trapping, you know. They weren’t hunters, they were trappers. They had to take their winter supplies, and when they went they had to portage their canoe. . . . quite a few miles until they got to another lake or pond [at a place] which would be a good place for trapping. They might’ve seen a lot of beaver and mink tracks and beaver dams. So they made ready. They made their camp ready and next day they set out their traps.

But they couldn’t catch anything. They seemed to have bad luck right from the start. They couldn’t even kill a deer or a moose or anything for their meat supply, and their food supply was running short. Well, they stayed in there a long time without catching anything. So one day they decided they would talk things over. They said, “We got to go back without anything. We just got enough food supply to last until we get back to the (I suppose they call it a trading post, where they do their trading). How will we get stuff? We haven’t got no fur or anything to trade with.”

“Well, we might have better luck in a different place.” Anyway, they got ready to leave camp the next day.

Just coming dark there came another hunter. And [he said], “Boys, I’m lost in the woods. Can I stay the night with you?”

They said, “Yes, you may stay the night. We ain’t got much to eat, though.”

He says, “I got my own.” He says, “You’ve been having bad luck, haven’t you?”

He says, “Yes, I have. We’re going back without anything, not even one beaver pelt and no mink or anything.”

“Well,” he says, “there’s somebody been giving you bad luck. . . . Somebody’s cast a spell over you. . .” He says, “I’ll tell you what. You go out and cut a tree down, like a fir, and you hew it out in the form of a man, you know, in the form of a person, and hew out the shoulders and the head and everything. And the first thing in the morning you go and plant this [figure] along the shore. Make sure that it’s standing in the water.”

They said, “We’ll do that right now.”

He said, “Are all your traps set?”

They said, “Yes, we’re going to take them up in the morning.”

Well, anyway, they cut down the tree, fir tree, and they put it in the water like this man told them to. Well, that man stayed there overnight with them, and come daylight he told them to go and take a shot at it. . . . They could see the post or tree or whatever it was, and they shot at it. My God, they could hear that ring of the bullet and they could hear somebody crying. . . and this tree dropped in the water and went down the river.

“Now,” he says, “I’m going to leave you boys and go back to my trap line. But you’re going to walk, you’re going to [see all your] traps before you leave.”

The boys went and every trap was full! They caught a lot of minks and beaver and all kinds of fur-bearing animals. So they wasn’t there any more than a week or ten days before they got. . . more than they could carry in their boats. And [also] they had meat for supper. Just as they were getting near the town there was a big moose standing around there, so they shot it, and they had plenty of meat then.

But this man [had] told them, “Now I’m going to tell you. When you get back to the reservation, maybe you’ll hear about a sick man, and they’ll want some of your meat. Don’t you give them any moose meat or deer meat or whatever you’re taking home with you. . . . That’ll make the spell come back on you, but this time you’ll both be sick.”

Well, when they did [get home], they found out that this man [i.e. a man in the village] was very sick. All at once he had a sore shoulder. He said, “If you would come and give me just a little bit of your moose meat maybe that would cure me.”

No, they wouldn’t do it.

He said, “Even just a little taste of the broth.”

No, they wouldn’t give him nothing, not even a drop. So that kind of broke the spell and they had good luck after that. But this man was sick a long time, but that shoulder finally got the best of him and he died. . . .

MRS. HEGEMAN: Is this a true story?

MRS. SOLOMON: That’s supposed to be true.

MRS. BLACK: I don’t know. I never heard that one.

MRS. SOLOMON: Well, I didn’t know if I’d ever told you about it.

Return to Top

* * * * * *

The Man Who Sold His Daughter To The Devil (Black) [4]

There was a man who sold his daughter to the Devil and did not even know what he was doing. He was a poor struggling farmer who could not make ends meet. So one day he went to town to borrow money to buy feed for his stock and food for his family. He was really desperate. No matter where he turned, he could not get anybody to help him.

He started home with a heavy heart and he met this man who looked like he was very rich. Seeing the farmer so downhearted, he asked what was the trouble and the farmer poured out his troubles to the stranger. After he heard the farmer’s situation, he asked him if he would like to make a bargain. The farmer asked him what he wanted. The man said, “If I gave you all the riches you wanted for seven years, would you give me something that is standing outside your kitchen window?” The farmer stopped to think, but thought only of the old apple tree standing there and thought it was a pretty good trade for all the riches he needed for seven years. So he made the bargain with the man. Then he told the Devil he could come back in seven years to pick up what he had bargained for. So they both agreed to meet in the same spot in seven years, and at that time the farmer would bring complete the bargain. During the seven years the farmer would not want anything.

The farmer thought this would be great until he got home and told his wife he had traded the old apple tree with the Devil for all these riches. The wife asked what time it was and the farmer told her. The wife began to cry and told the farmer that at the same time their daughter had been standing under the tree, and without knowing it, he had traded his daughter for seven years of wealth.

For the next seven years everything went fine until it came near the time when the Devil would return. Then the farmer became upset and wondered how he could cheat the Devil out of his share. Finally the day came when the Devil returned to pick up the daughter. The girl cried and cried. The Devil asked, “Are you ready to give me what you promised?” The farmer told him he thought at the time he was trading the apple tree, and he couldn’t give his daughter to him. The Devil was very angry, and he asked the farmer if he had not kept his part of the bargain and if the farmer had not had everything that he wanted. The farmer said, “Yes” but he wanted to keep his daughter. The Devil asked him, “You would do anything to keep your daughter?” The farmer said he most certainly would.

So the Devil said he would give him another chance and would make another bargain with him. This is what the Devil said to the farmer: “You are not to cut your finger nails for the next seven years.” The farmer agreed. The farmer let his finger nails grow and grow. He did not tell his wife of his agreement with the Devil and allowed his finger nails to grow until almost time for the Devil to return.

One night they were invited to a party, and his wife asked him to cut his finger nails, but he would not. He went to sleep and his wife decided to cut his finger nails. Then she woke him and they got ready for the party. When he woke up and saw his fingernails, he stood crying and crying. He told his wife why, and she began to cry and cry.

Then the Devil returned and asked the farmer if he was ready to give up his daughter. He said, “No” and tried to explain that he had not cut the finger nails. The farmer decided he might just as well give up. So he went in the house to call his daughter, and she appeared all cleaned up. The Devil said he would return for her in a week, but she was not to wash her face and hands in that time. So she did not clean up for a week, and the Devil appeared to get her in his carriage.

She was all ready and waiting for him. She got into the carriage, and she was saying good-by to her parents, and she was crying so hard that the tears washed her face. The Devil got so mad that he told her he could not take her. That was because she was too clean to go with him. He drove off and left her standing there with her parents.

Return to Top

* * * * *

A Task The Devil Cannot Perform (Black) [5]

This man had made a pact with the Devil. When the Devil came to collect his due, the man didn’t want to pay off. The Devil told him that if he could create a task that he (the Devil) couldn’t do he would let him go free. The man handed the Devil a paper bag. The Devil asked what he was supposed to do with the paper bag. The man bent over and gave a big fart and said to the Devil, “If you can put all the stink in that paper bag, you can have my soul.” The Devil could not collect all that stink, so the man went free.

* * * * *

The Devil And The Card Players (Black) [6]

There was one place where they played poker and gambled every night. The priest was dead set against gambling. They’d just as soon gamble as go to church. One night these children were playing outside the home where they were gambling. William LaPorte was waiting for his father, who was in there gambling. He went in to get his father, who he wanted to go home before it got dark, but his father told him to go outside and play awhile. They had kerosene lamps in those days, and it was dark enough to light the lamps. The little boy sat outside waiting for his father. Pretty soon he saw someone lying on the grass. He went to take a closer look, thinking it was a dog. When he got there it was a little red devil with a prong on his tail. He had thorns all over him. He also had two horns and was lying with his head in his hands and his eyes were full of fire. He was watching the people gambling with a grin on his face. The boy ran to the house and told his father to get on home because the Devil was watching them gamble. He described what he saw and they went outside, but they could not see anything. He got his father home, and they still did not believe he saw it. Up until the day he died he still swore he saw it, and he was always afraid of the Devil.

Return to top

* * * * *

A Witch Tale (Black) [7]

This woman is a daughter to the man who saw the Devil, William LaPorte. She died about two years ago, in the fall of 1960. She used to say that she could put a hex on people. . . . She had a few milking cows and a couple of pigs. She would let them roam all over the reservation, and they would chew in all the vegetable gardens until one day one of her cows came home because someone had thrown boiling water and scalded the cow’s face. And oh! she got so mad because she thought a lot of her cows. She was a nice old lady, but she had a temper, and she said, “I know what I will do. I’m going to boil some needles and stick them in the red flannel and whoever burned my cow, tomorrow [will] get a burn the same way, with hot water.”

The very next day a little boy upset a pan of boiling water on his arm. He lived on the other side of the reservation. It was Mrs. Black’s little brother. He did not like the cows chewing up all his garden, and that is why he threw the boiling water at the cows. He was about six years old, when he had thrown the boiling water on the cow. He had to have his arm treated for burns.

* * * * *

Jack LaPorte The Great (Black) [8]

Jack LaPorte the Great was honest. (The Medeulin are all honest). Jack would soon go into the woods to hunt and cut lumber for his livelihood. One year in the fall he went into Perth and went to the General Store and asked for credit until spring, when he would get paid for his winter’s work. The grocer would not let him have credit. Jack got disgusted and walked out the back way. Out in the back yard he saw some wood chips, picked some up, and put [them] in his pocket. He went back into the store, took the chips out of his pocket, and paid for the groceries like they were money, and they were money. He took off for the woods with his family and supplies. Come spring he went back to the town [and] sold all his furs. The first thing he did was to go to this grocery store and ask the man how much money he owed him. The grocer said, “Nothing.” Jack asked if he remembered finding any wood chips mixed up with his money. The grocer said yes, and Jack explained that he had fooled the grocer long enough, but he now wanted to pay him. He could have fooled him, but he paid for the supplies, and Jack could always have credit with the grocer after that.

Return to Top

* * * * *

A Forerunner (Black) [9]

[This] happened to Henrietta’s uncle twenty-two years ago. Her uncle and his wife and their three girls lived in a two story house, one room upstairs and one room downstairs. They were very poor people. This happened in the spring of the year when he got home from the woods. There was he and his wife and the baby all sleeping in one bed. The baby was between them. They had two cots upstairs for the two other daughters. They were all sleeping, and suddenly he was awakened by the sound of little feet. He thought it was one of the girls, so he decided to wake up his wife to have her go and see what she wanted. As he opened his eyes he got the shock of his life. Standing before him was a shroud, and also there the skull of death. This thing that he saw had his arms around her aunt and [another] around the baby and was looking over [at] the cot of the second daughter. The uncle asked him, “What are you doing here?” He grabbed for the thing but it was gone by then. He took the baby with him. In July the second daughter died of yellow jaundice.

The Uncle kept thinking about what he seen. Then one night the thing returned and told him he had only two more to go. Soon after that the aunt came down with T.B., and they sent her to the St. John San. She came home just before Christmas and stayed home until after the holidays. Not long after she took sick again and kept on getting worse and in February she died.

The uncle [was] convinced the oldest girl would die even though she was very healthy. He put her in the care of one of his sisters and went to work in the woods. Not long after he went to work in the woods, his wife appeared to him in a dream and told him that he [i.e. the spectre] was going to return for the daughter. Then about a month later the little girl was playing in a rocking chair and she fell over. By the time her aunt reached her she was dying. She died in her aunt’s arms. As the father was coming out of the woods he heard the death toll, and when he arrived home she was dead.

Return to Top

* * * * * *

The Little People (Black) [10]

Giewludmooseeug or Giewludmooseeesug. These are ways of calling the little people that they [the Indians] believe in. We would know them as Leprechauns. They believed that if these little people come and braid the tails and manes of the horses or your apron strings, it is going to bring you bad luck.

This is all she could tell us about these people. In the middle of the night the horses started neighing and getting very restless. Everyone wondered what was the matter with them. In the morning when they went out to the barn to feed the horses, their tails were braided in real fine braids. They could not unbraid them either, because the braids were so fine. This happened to a woman at home on the Malecite Reservation at New Brunswick. Mrs. Black’s mother saw the braids. After they braided the tails, they came back and braided the manes and also the clothes she had hanging on the lines.

Some people have claimed they did see these little people. Mrs. Black says she has never seen one. They are little men about three feet high, long white beard, just like the little dwarfs in Snow White. They also wore clothes like Rip Van Winkle used to wear: red pants, green jackets, and green shoes with the toes all curled up. One girl who said she saw one, said he just stood and looked at her. It scared the dickens out of her, and he just turned and walked down the road.

Return to Top

* * * * *


Footnotes

[1] (I) Told by Mrs. Solomon, Nov. 14, 1962. See NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 182-184. (II) Told by Mrs. Black, Sept. 25, 1962, Loring, ME, NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 15. The story was told to her by her mother.

For other versions, see Harrington, 160; Deming, 62-63; Wallis I, 368-369. The Micmac tale was told of skadegamutc, “ a dread being of various facets,” one of which is the will-o’-the wisp (Wallis I, 368). It is analogous to the Malecite Es-que-de-wit: “fiery one,” a spirit which frequently announces a death (see Smith II, 30; Smith I, 53-54; Wallis II, 39). The story has been well collected among the Iroquois: see E.A. Smith, 87-88: Beauchamp, 47-48; Curtin and Hewitt, 458-460, though here it is a skeleton, not a ball of fire, that chases the hunter. The ghost that appears as a light or a ball of fire is common enough in both Anglo-American and French-Canadian tradition. For a good example of the latter, the feu-follet, see Soeur Marie Ursule, 190-191. Motifs: E251 Vampire; E421.3 Luminous ghosts; E439.1 Revenant forced away by shooting; E446.2 Ghost laid by burning body.

[2] Told by Mrs. Solomon, Nov. 14, 1962. See NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 138, Tape # T228. I know of no exact parallel for this legend. Wallis found the following belief among the Micmac in 1911: “an hour or two before death a man whose life has been evil will swear, curse, and rave, not knowing that he is about to die” (I, 260). I am not familiar with the tradition of marriage being forced on nuns in French Cananda, nor can I find any reference to it. If we assume it is the Devil who comes for the man, the following motifs may be helpful: G303.3.3.1.2 Devil in form of a cat; M219.2.1 Devil appears in great storm, takes away soul of person contracted to him; R11.2.1 Devil carries off wicked people.

[3] Told by Mrs. Solomon, Nov. 14, 1962. See NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 138, Tape # T228. Although they vary considerably in detail, several other Wabanaki versions of this tale have already been published. Penobscot: Speck IV, 261-262, 287-288. Passamaquoddy: Leland, 342-343. Micmac: Wallis I, 141. Most of the details and concepts in this tale are quite as European as they are Indian. Motifs: C784.1 Tabu: lending to witch; G271.4.2 Exorcism by injuring image of witch; G2085 Game animals magically made over-wary. See also Hand, Nos. 5691-5700.

[4] As told by Mrs. Black, Loring, ME, Oct. 11, 1962. NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 17-19. The story was told to her mother. Motifs: C726.1 Tabu: bathing during certain time; C726 Tabu: trimming fingernails; S242 Child unwittingly promised: “what you have at home.”

[5] As told by Mrs. Black, Loring, ME, Oct. 11, 1962. NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 12. See motif G303.16.19.3 One is freed if he can set a task the devil cannot perform. See also Type 1176 Catching a Man’s Broken Wind. This is a European tale.

[6] As told by Mrs. Black, Loring, ME, Sept., 1962. NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 14. The story was told to her by her mother; the event itself is supposed to have happened about 70 years ago. There cannot be less than two dozen versions of the tale of the Devil appearing to the card players in the NFS Archives, most of them coming from Aroostook County. To put it another way, the story is best known in those areas where there is the heaviest French-Canadian impress. This version is somewhat different from the “normal” form in that the Devil does not appear directly to the card players, nor does he join in the game (where he is discovered by his cloven hoof), but it is clearly in the tradition. Motifs G303.6.1.5. Devil appears when cards are played; G303.5.3 The devil is dressed in red; G303.4.1.2.2 Devil with glowing eyes; G303.4.1.6 Devil has horns; G303.4.6 The devil’s tail. See also Christiansen, 24-28 (No. 3015), for further information on the “normal” form.

[7] As told by Mrs. Black, Loring, ME, Sept., 1962. NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 20. Mrs. Black added that she always avoided getting in wrong with this particular woman, because it was pretty generally believed that she could hex people. For a Malecite analogue to the boiling of the needles, see Wallis, Malecite, 32. Motif G269.10 Witch punishes person who incurs her ill will. See also Hand, No. 5577.

[8] As told by Mrs. Black, Loring, ME, Sept.18, 1962. NAFOH Accession # 179, 115. The story was told to her by her mother. For another version of this same story as told by a seventy-year-old Malecite woman from the Tobique reservation, see Wallis II, 32. Almost every collection from Wabanaki groups contains its share of these tales of medeulin, and English and French traditions in northern Maine are full of such stories. In the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, there is a large collection of such tales as told about one George Knox of Blaine, ME, a man who was generally believed to have been “possessed.”

[9] As told by Mrs. Black, Loring, ME, Sept. 24, 1962. NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 38-39. The story was told to her by her mother.

[10] As told by Mrs. Black, Loring, ME, Nov. 5, 1962. NAFOH Accession # 179, pg. 33. For more on little people of various kinds, see Wallis II, 38; Speck VIII, 12-17 passim; Wallis I, 154-156, 303-305, 354-367. The little people in the present tale behave in every way like the French-Canadian lutins; see Soeur Marie Ursule, 199. See also Kirtley, 42, 47. Motifs F366.2.1 Fairies plait manes and tails of horses; F233.10 Gray-bearded fairy; F239.4.2 Fairies are the size of small children; and entries under F236 Dress of Fairies. Shakespeare lists the plaiting of horses’ manes as an activity of the fairies (Romeo and Juliet, I, iv, 89).


Back to Northeast Folklore Volume VI