A Passamaquoddy Story of Leux

A story of the old time. In winter, while traveling, Leux met a number of wolves, which were going in the same direction that he was. At nightfall the old wolf built a fire and gave Leux supper. He gave him skins to cover himself while he slept, but Leux said that the fire was so warm that he did not need or wish a covering. At midnight Leux awoke and was almost frozen with cold. The next morning Leux was obliged to part with the wolves. 1

The old wolf said, “How far are you going?” Leux answered, “Three days’ journey.” The wolf said then, “I will do for you the very best thing I can. I will give you three fires, one for each night.” The wolf told him to gather some dry wood, put it in a pile, jump over it, and it would burn. 2

Leux parted from the wolf, and as soon as he was out of sight he thought he would try to make a fire as directed by the wolf, remarking that he did not think it would burn. So he gathered some dry wood, made a little pile, and jumped over it, as he had been directed. The wood was ignited, as the wolf had predicted, much to the surprise of Leux. Leux then put out the fire. After walking a short distance he kindled another in the same way. This he put out as before, and at noon tried again, kindling the fire as before and putting it out immediately after. Now when night came Leux made a camp and collected a pile of good dry wood and jumped over it, as he had done previously, and as he had been directed by the wolf. But this time the wood did not burn. He repeatedly jumped over the wood, but in vain. The wood gave off a cloud of smoke, but no blaze appeared. That night it was bitter cold,-so cold that Leux was nearly frozen to death. 3

One day two young girls (in Leland’s account the two girls are weasels) were walking along, and k’Cheebellock came to them and carried them to his home in another world high up in the sky. The girls became homesick in the strange place, and every day they longed more and more to get back to the earth. Every day they cried for their homes. At last k’Cheebellock offered to carry them back to the earth, and took them up to transport them to their native land. But k’Cheebellock’s wings were so large that he could not get to the ground on account of the high trees. So he left them in the top of a very high hemlock in the midst of the forest. 4

The girls could not get down out of the tree. As time passed on, after a long time they saw a young man walking in the woods. They cried out to him to come and take them down. The first time they called, the young man did not look up. Now this man was Leux: they called again, and he replied that he was very busy building a road trail, and he said he could not take them down he was so occupied. After a long time the girls saw Leux pass by again, and they begged him to take them down from the tree. This time Leux replied that he would take them down if one of them would consent to become his wife. To this they agreed.

Now these girls had their hair tied with long shreds of eelskins. They took off these strings, which bound their hair behind, and securely tied them in hard knots on the top branches of the tree upon which they were. Leux climbed the tree and brought the girls down safe and sound. He then demanded one of them for his wife. 5

But the girls said, “First, it is necessary for you to untie and bring down our hair bands for us.” Leux climbed the tree to get the eelskin hair bands, but they had tied them so securely that it took him a long time to loosen the knots. When he came down the girls had built a large and beautiful wigwam. They then made Leux blind 6 how, the narrator did not know.

Then the maidens call out to him, and now one and now the other invites him to come to her. As he follows their voices one of them leads him to fall into the water, and the other makes him stumble on porcupine quills. Exhausted, Leux then goes to sleep, wearied out with his exertions, but when he awoke the maidens had vanished.

The story of the Indian maids who were loved by k’Cheebellock, the spirit of the air, is told in another way by Leland, although that part of the story which pertains to Leux and the hair bands is the same in both accounts. In Leland’s account we have a beautiful legend, Micmac and Passamaquoddy, in which two maids, called the weasels, are loved by the stars, not by k’Cheebellock. It is interesting also to note that the hair bands in this variant of the story were of eelskin, a fact which is not brought in Leland’s account. k’Cheebellock is a superhuman deity of the Passamaquoddies, and is represented as a being without body, but with heart, head, wings, and long legs. He is stronger than the wind, and is the genius of the air. k’Cheebellock has sometimes been confounded with Kewok, but Kewok is the cannibal deity, or a cannibal giant. He is said to have a heart of ice, and to afflict the Indians in many ways. It is he who tears the bark from the wigwam, and who frightens men and women. Kewok is the being in whom a Norse divinity has been recognized by one or two well-known scholars.

In olden times the hair of women was tied with hair strings which were securely bound to a flat plate on the outside. This plate was formerly of shell, or later of metal. To this hair string was ascribed certain magic powers, especially in love affairs, and the possession of it was a potent spell.Citations:

  1. It would seem, from Leland’s account, that the wolf admired Leux greatly because he cared so little for the cold or their care.[]
  2. It was possible that the wolf gave him some charm or medicine with which to accomplish this.[]
  3. The above story is told substantially as here given by Leland, but with many additions. The source from which Leland obtained his account is not given. The account which I give is from Noel Josephs. In Leland’s account Leux froze to death.[]
  4. Notice, also, that the thunder-birds were not able to approach the trees, and the Indian who was turned into a thunder-bird was warned not to approach the forest, for he moved so rapidly that he would get caught in the crotch of a tree.[]
  5. It would be more in accord with the Indian words to say “have one of them” instead of “have one of them for a wife.”[]
  6. The wigwam may have been so dark that he could not see anything, or perhaps he was blinded by his admiration for the girls.[]

Fewkes, J. Walter. Contribution to Passamaquoddy Folklore: Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition. Reprinted From The Journal Of American Folk-Lore, October-December, 1890.

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