The Fate Of The Redheaded Magician

Indian life is a life of vicissitudes the year round. As spring returns, the Indians who have been out during the winter, in the hunting grounds, come back to their villages in great numbers, and, in a short time, they have nothing to eat. Among them, however, there are always several who are willing to glean the neighboring woods for game; these remove from the large villages, and usually go off in separate families to support themselves.

One of these families was composed of a man, his wife, and one son, who is called Odkshedoaph Waucheentonoah, which signifies The Child of Strong Desires. The latter was about fifteen years old.

They arrived, the first day, at a place which they thought suitable to encamp at. The wife fixed the lodge the husband went to hunt. Early in the evening he returned with a deer. He and his wife being tired, he requested his son to go after some water, to the river near by. He replied that it was dark, and he dared not go. No persuasion availing, the father brought it. There was a village in the vicinity of this place, in which was a warrior of another tribe, called the Redhead, who was celebrated for his bravery and his warlike deeds. The young men of the neighboring villages had attempted, in vain, to take his scalp he was too powerful and subtle for their valor or cunning. He lived on an island in the middle of a lake.

The father told the son that, if he was afraid to go to the river for water after dark, he would never kill the Red-Head. The young man was greatly mortified at these observations he would eat nothing, neither would he speak.

The next day he asked his mother to dress the skin of the deer, and make it into moccasins for him while he busied himself in making a bow and four arrows. Without speaking to his father or mother, he departed at sunrise in the morning, and fired one of his arrows, which fell towards the west, which he took for his course. At night he came to the place where his arrow had fallen, and, to his joy, he found it in a deer. On a piece of this he feasted. The next morning he fired another, and at night he found it in another deer. In this manner he fired the four, and was equally fortunate with all; and what was very singular, he carelessly left all of his arrows sticking in the carcasses of the deers he had killed.

During the fifth day he was in great distress having nothing to eat, nor anything to obtain food with. Towards night he threw himself upon the ground in utter des pair, concluding that he might as well perish there, as go farther and meet with the same end. But soon he heard a hollow rumbling noise in the ground beneath him he sprang up, and discovered at a distance a figure like that of a human being, afar off, walking with a stick, in a wide hard path leading from a lake to a cabin, in the middle of a large prairie. To his surprise this cabin was near to him. He approached a little nearer, and concealed himself. He soon discovered that the figure was no other than that terrible witch Wokonkahlohn Zooeyah’pee Kahhaitchee or the Little Old Woman who makes War. Her path to the lake was perfectly solid, from her frequent visits to the water; and the noise our adventurer had heard was occasioned by her striking her walking-stick upon the ground. On the top of this cane were tied by the toes birds of every feather who, whenever the stick struck the earth, fluttered and sang in concert their various songs.

She entered the cabin, and (unperceived by him) laid off her mantle, which was entirely made of the scalps of women. Before folding it she shook it several times, and every time these scalps uttered loud and repeated shouts of laughter, in which the old hag joined. Nothing could have frightened him more than these sounds, which he could in no manner account for. After she had laid by the cloak, she came directly to him; she having known where he was all the while. She told him neither to fear nor despair, for she would be his friend and protector. She took him into her cabin, and gave him a supper. She inquired his motives for visiting her. He gave her his history, and stated his difficulties, and the manner he had been disgraced. She cheered him, and assured him he would be a brave man yet.

His hair being very short, she took a large leaden comb, and after drawing it through several times, his hair became very long. She then proceeded to dress him as a female, furnishing him with the necessary garments, painting his face in a beautiful manner, and presented him with a basin of shining metal. She directed him to put in his girdle a blade of that wide grass, the edge of which is very sharp, and to go in the morning to the bank of the lake, which was no other than that where Red-Head reigned. She advised him that there would be many Indians on the island, who, when he used his basin to drink with, would discover him, and come to him to solicit him to be their wife, and to take him across to the island. This he was to refuse, and say that he had come a great way to be the wife of Redhead; and that if he could not cross with his own canoe for her, he should return to his village. Soon Redhead would come in his own canoe, in which he was to cross to consent to become his wife; and in the evening he must induce him to walk, when he was to take the first convenient opportunity to cut off his head with the blade of grass. She gave him also general advice of the manner he was to conduct himself, to sustain the assumed character of a woman. His fears would scarcely permit him to accede to this plan; but the recollection of his father s words and looks decided him.

Early the next morning he left the cabin of the old woman, and took his way to the bank of the lake. He arrived at a place directly opposite the village of Redhead. It was a beautiful day; the heavens were clear, and the sun shone with great radiance.

He had not sauntered long upon the beach, displaying his basin (which glistened astonishingly) to those on the island, by frequently dipping the water and drinking there from, before many came to see him; and all who saw, admiring his dress and personal charms, became suitors and proposed marriage. All offers were rejected, as the witch had advised. At length the Red-Head, hearing of the speech of this wonderful girl, crossed in his own canoe, which was manned by his own men, and the ribs of which were made of living rattlesnakes, who were to warn him of all treachery and defend him from his enemies. Our adventurer had no sooner stepped into the canoe, than they commenced a terrible hissing and rattling, which nearly frightened him out of his wits. They were pacified and finally quieted by Redhead, whose proposals were accepted. The fancied bride immediately embarked with him, and, after landing upon the island, the marriage took place, and the bride made various valuable presents to Redhead, which had been furnished by the hag.

As they were sitting in the cabin of Redhead, around whom was collected his numerous relations, the mother of Redhead regarded with an attentive eye, for a long time, the face of her new daughter-in-law. From this scrutiny, she was firmly convinced that this singular marriage augured no good to her son. She drew her husband to another part of the lodge, and disclosed to him her suspicions. “This can be no female,” said she. “The figure and manners, the countenance, and, more especially, the expression of the eyes, are, beyond doubt, those of a man.” Her husband immediately rejected her suspicions, and rebuked her severely for the indignity offered her daughter-in-law. He became so angry, that, seizing the first thing which came to hand, which happened to be his pipe-stem, and one of a good size, he beat his wife in a most unmerciful manner.

Upon inquiry, the spectators were informed of the cause of the difficulty; soon after which our adventurer, rising, told Red-Head that, after receiving so gross and outrageous an insult from his relations, he could not think of remaining with him as his wife, but should return at once to his own village and friends. He left the lodge, followed by Redhead, and walked until he came upon the beach of the island, near the place where he first landed. Redhead entreated him to remain. He urged every argument and every motive which he thought could have weight, but they were all rejected. During this conference, they had seated themselves upon the ground, and Red-Head, in great sorrow, had reclined himself upon our adventurer s lap, who used various means to soothe him, and occasionally yielded apparently to his desire to have him remain. Finally, after one of these promises, his feelings having become calm, Redhead fell into a deep sleep. Immediately our adventurer seized his blade of grass, and applying it to the neck of Redhead, drew it across and severed the head from the body. Stripping himself of his dress, he caught the head, and, plunging into the lake, just reached the other shore when he discovered in the darkness of the night the torches of those who were searching for the new-married couple. He listened until they had found the headless body, and heard their piercing shrieks of sorrow, when he took his way to the cabin of his adviser.

When he reached the cabin, how much did the Witch rejoice at his success! She admired his prudence, and told him his bravery could never be questioned again.

Taking the head, she said he need only have brought the scalp; then cutting off a small piece for herself, she informed him he might now return home with the head which would be an evidence of an achievement, that would cause him to be respected among all Indians. “In your way home you will meet with but one difficulty. The God of the Earth, Maunkahkeeshwoccaung, requires an offering from those who perform the most extraordinary achievements. As you walk along in a prairie there will be an earthquake the earth will open and divide the prairie in the middle. Take this partridge and throw it into the opening, and instantly spring over it.” All this happened precisely as she had foretold, and he reached a place near his village in safety where he secreted the head of Redhead. On entering the village he found that his parents had returned to that place, and that they were in great sorrow and distress for the loss of their son. One and another of the young men had presented themselves to the disconsolate parents, and said, “Look up, I am your son.” Having been often deceived in this manner, when their own son presented himself they sat with their heads down and with their eyes nearly blinded with weeping. It was long before they could be prevailed upon to bestow a glance upon him. It was yet longer before they recognised him for their son; but when he recounted his adventures they believed him mad the young men laughed at him. He left the lodge, and returned after a short absence with the Red Head. That well-known head was soon recognised, and our adventurer was immediately placed among the first warriors of the nation, and himself and family were ever after greatly respected and esteemed.

Legends, Religion,

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Archives of aboriginal knowledge. Containing all the original paper laid before Congress respecting the history, antiquities, language, ethnology, pictography, rites, superstitions, and mythology, of the Indian tribes of the United States. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1860.

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