Big figure and the smoked salmon
By James Wallas
Kwakiutl Legends


A family was camped by a river so that they could put up salmon for the winter. The salmon they had caught were hanging in a split cedar smokehouse.

One day before he went to bed with his family in the shelter they had made, the eldest boy went into the smokehouse and noticed some gaps between the fish that were hanging there. "Some of our smoked salmon seems to be missing," he told his father.

"We're the only ones here," his father replied. "Our family is camped all alone. Just forget about it-we'll get some more."

The next morning when the boy built the fire in the smokehouse, he noticed even more of the smoked salmon was missing. "Tonight I am going to hide in the smokehouse and find out who it is that is taking the salmon," he announced. "I will have my bow and arrow with me, but if it is a man that comes I will not use it."

That night they did not bank the fire very high and it soon burned out. The boy hid in a corner of the dark smokehouse and waited. Except for the rush of the wind in the cedar trees and the voice of the river, the camp was quiet.

It was not long before the boy heard a new sound-footsteps. Heavy footsteps were approaching the camp. They came closer and closer and stopped just outside the smokehouse. The boy was frightened but he had his bow and arrow ready.

Slowly the roof of the smokehouse lifted up. The boy pulled his bowstring taut. He dimly saw a huge hairy arm reach in toward the salmon and sent his arrow where the arm was coming from.

There was a terrible cry that woke up the others. "I think I got it! I think it's the woods giant!" shouted the boy to his parents.

"Let's go after him."

"We will wait till morning," said his father. "He will be a lot easier to trail in the daylight and if you wounded him he might be dead by then."

The family rose early the next morning. The boy, his father and younger brother headed out on the trail of the giant. The trail they found it had a few drops of blood on it. It led deep into the forest and ended at a cedar bark house. A pool of fresh. water was nearby with a tree leaning over it.
"You wait here," the father said to his elder son, and your brother and I will skirt around the back of the house.'
While he was waiting, the elder boy climbed up the tree, as it was a good place to see from. Soon a large hairy girl came out of the cedar bark house with a bucket in her hand and walked to the pool of water that the tree leaned over.

When she stooped to scoop up some drinking water, she saw the boy's reflection in the pool. "My, I didn't know how pretty I was," she exclaimed. "I'm different from the rest of my family. Their eyes all sink in their heads and mine don't. They are hairy and I have smooth skin."'

The boy above her moved in the tree, and a branch broke and fell to the water. The girl jerked her head up and saw him. "Oh, it is you that I see in the water," she cried. Then she paused and added, "My father has been terribly sick since he came home last night. Can you come and help him?"

"I'll get my father," the boy answered. "This must be where the person lives who was stealing fish from us," he said when he reached his father and brother. '(I think he is very sick

from my arrow. His daughter wants us to help him."

"Okay," said the father, "let us go in."

They went in the cedar bark house and a big hairy man more than six feet tall lay almost dead with an arrow deep in his chest. His wife and children were standing around him.

The boy who shot the arrow walked up to the big man and tried to pull the arrow out. It would not come out straight, and he had to twist it this way and that way. Finally it pulled free.

"I feel better already," said the giant weakly. "You have helped me, so I will give my daughter to one of you to marry."

"No!" cried the elder boy. "I do not wish to marry your daughter."

"I do not wish to marry your daughter either," exclaimed the younger son.

"Have you another offer then?" asked the father of the two boys.
"Yes, my offer is this. You may use us on your totem pole and face mask. No one else can make our likeness, only you. You can make the mask just like our face."

The father and his sons accepted the giant's offer and went home. They took their arrow with them. No one else had a mask like theirs. It was a frightening mask with the eyes sunk deep in the head.

Copyright: James Wallas, "Big figure and the smoked salmon," Kwakiutl Legends. Blaine: Hancock, 1981, p. 158=161.

Source: Tacoma Public Library Online
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