Moose River Hospitality and Heritage Association

Papalekisiu (Smallboys, Moose Factory, 1932)

An old man, named Papalekisiu [Ptarmigan?], was jealous of his son-in-law and was always trying to find a way to make away with him. One day the son-in-law asked, “Where can we go to find eggs?” The old man said, “There is an island far out on the lake where there are lots of eggs.” So the young man said, “All right, let’s go to it and get some eggs.” So off they went to the island and started walking about looking for eggs.  Later, the old man said, “You should go far off. That is where the eggs are always thick.” After the son-in-law had gone far away the old man jumped in the canoe and left him on the island. He thought that the young man would starve to death there. The old man paddled toward his house and soon was far away from the island. The son-in-law started to wonder how he would get home. At last he saw a snake with horns swimming close to the island so he asked the snake, “Will you take me across (the lake)?” He sat on the snake’s back and twisted the snake’s horns with his hands in the direction he wanted to go. At last he saw a storm coming up and there was thunder and lightning. The snake was frightened because of the thunder and lightning. The young man was afraid the snake would dive before they got to land. He had a cicigwan with him which he rattled so the snake could not hear the thunder. At last the snake got ashore and the man was all right.  The son-in-law’s tent was a good piece away from where the snake put him ashore. He knew that someone always stayed around this lake waiting to kill people. The murderer had a dog along with him. The murderer had line stretched between his tent and the place where the snake had landed the man. Lots of moose shoulder blades were hanging on the line. If anyone touched the line the murderer knew because the shoulder blades would make a noise. The man came to the line and went under, but not far enough because the blades started to make a noise. The murderer’s dog came running down and started to bark. The man saw a stump lying on the ground so he ran and hid behind it. He had a mink skin with him and he began to wave it when the dog was barking at him. The murderer came running down thinking he was just about to make a hunt. He saw the mink skin waving over the stump but he could not see the man. He said, “Oh, it seems it is only a little animal,” and he went back to his tent. So the young man made for his own tent. When he got to the tent Papalekisin was not there yet, but when the old man returned to the tent his son-in-law was waiting. The old man thought that the son-in-law was a manitu because he had reached the tent after having been left on the island. So old Papalekisin did not manage to kill the young man that time. Sometime later the son-in-law asked, “Where can we find eagle eggs?” The old man said, “I know where an eagle’s nest is. You go up the rock before me and go to the eagle’s nest.” The son-in-law replied, “No, you go first.” When the old man had gone pretty high up he fell down, but the young man kept going up. At last he reached the eagle’s nest. He looked at the nest and said, “Oh my! There are an awful lot of human bones here.” When he looked down he was so far up he could not see the earth and he thought he was done for. He asked the male eagle, “What is your name?” The eagle said, “My name is Kakaluwet (‘to hide anything – the hidden’).” Then he asked the female eagle, “What is your name?” and she answered, “Kayacacepit (‘shifting back’).” The young man said to the female eagle, “Let me see you shift back.” She shifted back and the man looked down and saw what he took to be the earth way down below. So he told the female eagle, “Shift back again.” When he looked down the second time he saw the earth coming closer. So again he said, “Shift back again.” When he looked down this time the earth was very close so he went right down and was on the ground once more. When he returned to his tent, again the old man was not there yet. Awhile later the old man came and looked at his son-in-law and said, “Spirit, my son-in-law.” This was the second time Papalekisin had tried to make away with the young man. Another time the son-in-law asked, “Where is a good place for jumping? So we can see who can jump the best.” The old man said, “I know a good place for jumping.” So he took his son-in-law to a rock which had a very wide and very deep crack in it. Papalekisiu said, “You take the first jump across.” The young man started running for his jump when the old man said, “Look out, Look out, my son-in-law,” but he made the jump easily. The son-in-law said, “You jump now!” As the old man made a run to prepare for the jump, the younger one was singing, “Look out, Look out, my father-in-law!” Papalekisiu said, “Do not speak.” He took his jump, but he did not reach the other side and fell to the ground. His head was entirely smashed and was lying all about on the bottom. The son-in-law went down and gathered up the old man’s head, putting it together as best as he could. When he went back to the tent he left the old man lying there dead. This was the third time the old man had failed to kill his son-in-law. After a long time Papalekisiu turned up again. He said to the young man, “I nearly slept forever after my big jump!” When the son-in-law had been gathering the old man’s head he put the bones back together, but he had forgotten to put the brains in. So that is why the bird Papalekisiu has no brain. Later, the old man and his son-in-law were camped far off in the bush during the winter. They always hung their leggings when they went to bed. The old man said, “This is where we will be hanging our leggings, just over the fire.” The young man knew the old man was up to some trick again. After the old man had fallen asleep the young man shifted the leggings. He put his where the old man’s had been and moved the old man’s leggings to where his had been. Then he went to bed. The old man thought the son-in-law was sleeping soundly so he knocked what he thought were the son-in-law’s leggings in the fire with a stick. He did not say anything until he was pretty sure they were badly burned. Then he said, “My son-in-law, your leggings are all burned up!” The son-in-law answered, “No, there are mine hanging up there.” He took down the leggings and showed Papalekisiu that they were his all right. The old man said, “One of us will have to go ahead and bring the news to our tent that one pair of leggings has been burned. Give me the leggings. I will go to the tent.” The son-in-law did not answer but put on his own leggings. The old man was left there and later started home. As he was walking home he made a noise, “Pup, pup, pup,” because of the cold. He made a pair of leggings from brush because he was cold. That is why the Papalekisiu has hairy legs now. [END]   RF COMMENTS:  Characters: Old man [a ptarmigan?] and his son-in-law: Three magical; one human trick [Magical] 1) Look for eggs – son-in-law abandoned, brought home by “snake” with horns 2) Look for eagle eggs – climb high; old man falls but son-in-law taken down by female eagle [she shifts 3 times] 3) Go to deep crevice to jump – old man falls; son-in-law pieces his head together but forgets to put in brains [Human] 4) Leggings switched and burned – old man uses brush for leggings & that is why this kind of bird has hairy legs RF COMMENTS Son-in-Law , Harvey Smallboy, JMC This seems to be a continuation of Ayacic and Skinner’s son-in-law. All three have hero left on distant island (a favorite theme according to Fisher). Ayacic & Harvey’s son-in-law get back on a horned serpent & overcome obstacle to get hom. Skinner’s magical is in beginning when older & younger brother escape from Windigo who killed parents. No horned serpent & brothers meet no obstacles. Harvey has hero initiate tests. Both have leap across chasm but different interpretation of old man’s broken head. Harvey has them climb to Eagle’s nest – not in Skinner. Both have burned leggings but with different outcomes for father-in-law – Harvey’s is “that is why bird has hairy legs”; in Skinner he turns self into tree to be used by future generations for firewood.  However, the beginning and end are missing. At beginning does not have reason F-in-law wants to abandon son-in-law.  At end doesn’t have the burning of the world and turning into birds. Smallboys’ version of son-in-law  JMC 32: Give burned leggings and brief account of leap over chasm – say father-in-law has flat head like owl. Harvey says hero pieces head together but forgets brain [does flat head of owl mean no room for brains?]