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The Chenoo, Or The Story Of A Cannibal With An Icy Heart
by [?]

So he lay hidden, and they took his canoe in tow. But when they had crossed the lake and come to the river again, the Chenoo said that he could not travel further by water. He would walk the woods, but sail on streams no more. So they told him where they meant to camp that night. He started over mountains and through woods and up rocks, a far, round-about journey. And the man and his wife went down the river in a spring freshet, headlong with the rapids. [Footnote: One should be familiar with the almost impassable forests of Maine and Canada, even as they are at the present day, to properly appreciate the Chenook’s journey. As for the speed of the canoe, I have myself gone down the Kenawha River (Va.), in a dug-out, at the rate of one hundred miles in a day.] But when they had paddled round the point where they meant to pass the night, they saw smoke rising among the trees, and on landing they found the Chenoo sleeping soundly by the fire which had been built for them.

This he repeated for several days. But as they went south a great change came over him. He was a being of the north. Ice and snow had no effect on him, but he could not endure the soft airs of summer. He grew weaker and weaker; when they had reached their village he had to be carried like a little child. He had grown gentle. His fierce and formidable face was now like that of a man. His wounds had healed; his teeth no longer grinned wildly all the time. The people gathered round him in wonder.

He was dying. This was after the white men had come. They sent for a priest. He found the Chenoo as ignorant of all religion as a wild beast. At first he would repel the father in anger. Then he listened and learned the truth. So the old heathen’s heart changed; he was deeply moved. He asked to be baptized, and as the first tear which he had ever shed in all his life came to his eyes he died. [Footnote: This strange and touching tale was told to Mr. Rand by a Micmac Indian, Louis Brooks, who heard it from his grandfather, Samuel Paul, a chief, who died in 1843, at the age of eighty. He was a living chronicle of ancient traditions. The Chenoo can be directly identified with the so-called Inlander of the Greenland Eskimo. He is a cannibal, a giant, a mysterious being who haunts the horrible and almost unexplored interior. He assumes different forms; in one shape he is supposed to be a man who has become a recluse and a misanthrope. But no such being as a Chenoo could ever have been imagined out of an arctic country. The conception of the heart of hardest ice and the gradual civilization of the savage by kindness; the tact with which this is done, as only a woman could do it; the indication of the old nature, as shown by eating the liver of his conquered foe, and his final conversion, display a genius which is greatly heightened by the simplicity of the narrative.]

As there is actually a tribe of Indians in the Northwest called Chenoo, there can be little doubt as to the derivation of the name. Such a character could have originated, as I have said, only in the icy north; it could never have grown in the milder regions of the west and south. But the Chenoo, the monstrous, ferocious cannibal giant, with an icy heart, is the central figure of the evil supernatural beings of the north. The Schoolcraft traditions and Hiawatha have little to say of Titans whose heads top the clouds, who tear up forests and rend rocks, and change the whole face of Nature in their hideous battles or horrible revels. But such scenes are continually described by the Passamaquoddy and Micmac story-tellers, and they would be natural enough to Greenlanders, familiar with whales, icebergs, frozen wastes, long winter nights, and all the frozen desolation of the north.

There is a mystery connected with the eating of the liver, which is to be explained, like many other Indian mysteries, by having recourse to the Eskimo Shamanism. “In Greenland a man who has been murdered can revenge himself by rushing into him,” that is, entering his soul, “which can only be prevented by eating a piece of his liver.” (Rink, T. and T. of the Eskimo, page 45.) The Chenoo is in all essentials identical with the Kivigtok of Greenland, “a man who has fled mankind, and acquired extraordinary mental and physical powers.” The story which I have here given is probably that of the Eskimo tale of the Blind Man who recovered his sight (Rink, page 99), in which a Kivigtok, after becoming incredibly old, returns to mankind to seek a Shaman priest and repent. In both stories there is a “Chenoo,” and in both there is atonement with mankind and the higher powers.

It may be observed that while the Chenoo is a giant with a heart of ice as hard as stone, the giant Hrungnir, of the Edda, has a heart of stone. The Chenoo agrees with the Jotuns in many respects.