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Story Of The Three Strong Men
by [?]

Then she arose, and, walking to the wood, sat down beside a stream and sang a song:–

“There are many men in the world,
But only one is dear to me.
He is good and brave and strong.
He swore to love none but me;
He has forgotten me.
It was a bad spirit that changed him,
But I will love none but him.”

And as she sat and sang, the sagamore her husband, paddling by in his canoe, heard the sweet song intoned in magic style, [Footnote: Not only the words, but the peculiar intonations of them, were essential to produce the proper effect of a magic song. An intelligent white man has left it on record that it required two years to learn one of these incantations of only a few lines.] and all at once recalled what had been lost,–the two strong giants, the cavern and the elf, the seven-headed monster and the fight, the sisters and the evil-minded men, and the black dog who leaped to lick his hand: it flashed upon him like some early dream brought out by sorcery. He saw her sit beside the stream, and still he heard her song, soft as a magic flute. He went to her, and in a minute he was won again.

And then she said, “This world is ever false. I know another, let us go to it.” So then again she sang a magic spell, and as she sang they saw the great Culloo, the giant bird, broad as a thunder cloud, winging his way towards them. Then he came; they stepped upon him, and he soared away. But to this earth they never came again.

This very singular legend was obtained for me by Mrs. W. Wallace Brown. It is from the Micmac, and is in the original from beginning to end a song, or poem. For this reason I have given it a plain metrical form, neither prose nor poetry, such being quite the character of the original. But I, have not introduced anything not in the original.

This story consists of a very old Indian legend mingled with a European fairy tale drawn through a French-Canadian source. The incident of the Elf who eats the food of three men is to be found in another tale. In one version, the bride, finding that her husband, though utterly deprived by magic of his memory, has married again, sails away on the great bird, leaving him forever. I have naturally rejected this senseless termination in favor of one found in another form.

The calling on the Lightning to build a wigwam is probably a mistake. It is more likely that it was summoned to destroy the chiefs wigwam, but the narrator, confused with the subject of the hero’s strength, changed the original. The invocations of Lightning, and subsequently of the Storm Bird are probably entirely Indian, though there are Norse invocations to Hroesvelgar, or the Eagle of the Northwest, as we read in Scott’s Pirate.

The black whelp or small black dog is in this tale ominous of evil. It causes oblivion. In the Edda to dream of the same thing is the most evil of all Atli’s bad dreams (vide the second lay of Gudrun, 41):–

“Seemed to me from my hand
Whelps I let slip.
Lacking cause of joy;”

and in the very same song (24) be takes a potion which causes oblivion. But there is even a third point in the Atlamal in Groenlenzku, which resembles one in the Indian tale. It is where the half enchantress Kostbera warns Hogni against leaving her:

“From home thou art going:
Give ear to counsel;
Few are fully prudent;
Go another time.”

In the Norse lay we are told that to dream of a white bear indicates a storm, but here it means a strange and terrible event. Long before I met with this, I observed that the introduction, or mention, of a white bear-skin in these Indian stories invariably intimates some strange magical change.