Sunday, April 28, 2013

Algonquin Indian Tales by Egerton Ryerson Young

Free US/UK Kindle Classic

Algonquin Indian Tales is a 1903 collection edited by Egerton Ryerson Young. (US Edition)  (UK Edition)    They were collected from residents of an island in Ontario. 

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.

This is one dedicated researcher!

The stories are not linked, but the illustrations are.  However, there are no illustrations!  That eccentric formatting does not mean the book is not well edited.

These are not the usual creation myths.  Here is the origin of disease:

Next the fishes and snakes and other reptiles held their council, and they decided that as the human race had now become such enemies to them they would trouble them with 'fearful dreams' of snakes twining about them, and blowing their poisonous breath in their faces, by which they would lose their appetites and die, while others of them would seek opportunity to make the water they drank, or even the air they breathed, unwholesome. The poisonous ones were also directed to use every opportunity to kill with their deadly bites whenever possible.

The tree stepped up to side with the humans:

"First the great trees held their councils, talked over the matter, and decided what they could do in the way of furnishing remedies to cure these diseases that were doing so much injury. The pine and the spruce and the balsam trees said, 'We will give of our gums and balsams.' The slippery elm said it would give of its bark to make the soothing healing drink.

Would the trees have stepped up if they could have seen their future? 

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