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Story of the Man who Became a Tie-Snake

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Among Mr. Hewitt’s papers was a version of this story of which I Have published five more. It was written down at Washington D. C., June, 24, 1883, perhaps by Porter or Perryman but more likely it was one of the tales collected by Jeremiah Curtin to which Hewitt refers in his report to the Chief of the Bureau. It runs as follows

Two Indians, one of whom was named Kowe, went upon a hunting expedition and were singularly unsuccessful. Before they killed anything their supplies of food became exhausted and they had nothing to eat. One evening, as they were walking along through the forests, feeling very hungry and dejected, Kowe noticing nearby the hollow stump of a tree which had been broken off near the ground, approached it and found that it contained water. Upon closer examination he found a few small fishes swimming about in this which he captured in order to use them as food.

When night came on and they could not well proceed farther, the hunters halted and established a camp or resting place for the night. Dressing the fish and preparing them for the evening meal, Kowe invited his companion to join him in eating them. The latter, however, declined, saying that, as the fish had been caught in a very unnatural place, he feared that they had become in some way unfit for human food, and would have a bad effect on anyone eating their. He advised Kowe himself not to eat them but the latter was very hungry and was not deterred by his friend’s fears.

At the time they retired to rest no ill consequences showed themselves, but late in the night Kowe was heard to groan and make sounds as if he were in great misery, so that his friend was awakened. On inquiring the trouble, Kowe replied: “You cautioned me last evening against eating those fishes, but I did not heed you and ate them, and that, I apprehend, is the cause of my present calamity. I am now spontaneously and steadily taking on a hideous form, an end which I can neither avert nor control, and it is distressingly painful. I wish you to get up and look at me, but I hope you will not be afraid of me, for no matter what my form proves to be, I shall never forget our friendship or harm you.”

Upon this the friend got up and, lifting the covering from his unfortunate friend, found that he was gradually being metamorphosed into a snake, a large portion being already coiled up in the bed. He replaced the covering and bore his grief in silence. When morning came and it was light Kowe had turned into a fully developed snake of hideous appearance. He was, however, able to converse with his friend in human language and he solicited him to follow him back to a lake or pond of water which they had passed the day before. On their way there the snake requested his friend to return home and inform his wife and all of his relations of the occurrence, and to tell them that he desired they should all come out to the pond to see him for the last time. He further directed that he should bring back a saoga or rattle to rattle on the bank so that he would know that his wife and relatives had come to see him, whereupon he would appear to them.

Having given these directions to his friend, he disappeared in the depths of the lake which they had now reached. The friend immediately returned home and reported what had happened to him, delivering also his message to his wife and relatives.

As soon as possible the relatives and many others went to the pond to view the strange sight, the news of which was uppermost in everyone’s mind. On reaching the pond the friend began to shake his rattle and sing, calling “Kowe! Kowe!” as he had been instructed to do. Thereupon the waters of the pond began to roll and bubble and show considerable commotion, and presently an enormous snake appeared. Coming up to the shore where stood a great crowd of spectators, it laid its head on the lap of the woman who had been its wife during the days of its humanity. Its head was now surmounted by a pair of horns. It happened that the woman was provided with a sharp instrument and with this she cut. the horns off as mementos of him who could no more be her companion.

These horns were found to have value to anyone who had a portion of one, giving him luck and success in the hunt. It is said that a song or chant something like the following must be sung before going out with the horn to hunt

He coiled himself up
He loosed himself out of his coil
He straightened himself out
He went in a zigzag way
He glittered toward the sun
He disappeared in the water
The water bubbled.

On account of the virtues attributed to it, this snake’s horn at once became a charm greatly desired by every hunter, and in course of time it was broken up into very minute pieces in order that its virtues might reach and benefit as many men as possible. I (i. e., the recorder of the story) have been informed by a friend who has a minute fragment of this so-called horn that, it is a little red particle which will float if placed in water.


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