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Story Of The Three Strong Men
by [?]

But it is most remarkable of all, that, while the poems of the Edda have nothing but a very few incidents in common with the traditions of the western tribes, they are inspired throughout with a strange and mysterious sentiment or manner wonderfully like that of the Wabanaki. As regards literal resemblance the following coincidences may here be noted.

In a widely spread Norse tale a very small goblin sustains a long and obstinate contest with an immense white bear.

The Norsemen invoked the Eagle Giant of the Winds, as Scott has shown in his song of the Reimkennar. The same being is invoked in this legend.

The whelp, as an omen of evil, is mentioned in the Edda. In this tale he causes forgetfulness. A potion of oblivion is also mentioned in the Norse poem in close connection with the omen of the dog.

If we accept the termination of this tale as given in the Micmac poem it amounts to this: A certain woman causes the whelp to lick the hero’s hand. This causes forgetfulness. The hero marries her, and thereby loses his first wife. In the Edda, Brynhild, who has morally the first claim to Sigurd, says of Crymhild, “She presented to Sigurd the pernicious drink, so that he no more remembers me.” In the saga of Thorstein, Viking’s son the hero, is made by the witch Dis to utterly forget his bride Hunoor.

The Kalmuk tale of How the Schimm-Khan was Slain contains striking analogies to this of the Three Strong Men. [Footnote: Sagas from He Far East, London, 1873.] In it the hero associates with three men, who take turns to cook. Their food is devoured, as in this tale, every day by a little old witch who is very strong. He overcomes her by craft. His companions, instead of drawing him up by the rope, as agreed on, leave him to perish, in order to possess themselves of a treasure. There can be no doubt as to the Hindoo origin of this and many more plots found among the red Indians. But a careful study of the Norse story convinces me that the tale did not come to the Wabanaki through any other than a Norse source.

Since writing out the foregoing poem, with the comment, I have received from Louis Mitchell the Penobscot version of it. It is about twice as long as the Micmac story, and differs from it very materially. In it the hero conquers the goblin by getting possession of his red cap. In the Norse tales the same incident occurs in different forms. He then fights with a copper demon; also with one of silver and another of gold. Each devil, while he is sharpening his sword, exclaims, “Hurry! hurry! I am hungry!” The last of the three, the Kche mitche-hant, or great devil, has three heads, which replace themselves when cut off; but the hero summons a lion (pee’tahlo) and an eagle, who devour each a head, when the demon, to save the last, surrenders. There are old “aboriginal” incidents in this Passamaquoddy tale, but the European elements predominate to such an extent as to call for the following remark from the Indian writer:–

“This story is ended. When Indians in it, as they do in many others, speak of kings and queens or ships and ivory, I think they got it all from Europe. But perhaps when the Indians came here from Asia they brought these stories with them. Thus they very often mention ivory, calling it white bone. They also mention cities. But these things are not new, for they were handed down from one generation to another.”

I have to add that, while the story agrees with an universally spread Aryan fairy tale, it is very remarkable that it should add to these, several strictly Eddaic details, such as the white bear.