Saturday, June 05, 2010

Aboriginal Awareness Week Contribution

It was Aboriginal Awareness week last week at the Navy base where I work. I contributed this short story to one of the base newspapers. It's based on an old Mik'maq legend, The Land of the Livers. One of the characters in it I named after a co-worker Googoo, who is of Mik'maq descent.


Ages ago, Glooscap and his wife, Googoo, lived by themselves in a wigwam near the sea-coast. They had many children and were poor. On occasion they went hunting by canoe. One day when they were far from home, a thick fog settled in, and they lost their way. They paddled for hours without sight of land, feeling anxious and sad, worried about their children which were left at home all alone.

After some time they discerned a dark shape looming towards them in the fog. Astonishingly, it proved to be a huge canoe, containing eight giant men holding paddles. They hailed Glooscap and Googoo. A man asked: "My younger brother, where are you from?"

Glooscap replied in a sorrowful voice, "We are lost in the fog, and our poor children are left at home alone."

"Come with us to our camp, where you will be treated well. I can guarantee you a kind reception, as my own father is the chief."

Two giant men gently scooped Glooscap and Googoo's canoe from the sea with the blades of their paddles and set it before the chief's son, saying “don't be afraid”.

As they emerged from the fog, three immense wigwams, proportionate to the size of the men and canoes, appeared, built in a row on the shore.

The chief, a burly, elderly, man, came down to meet them. "Halloo!" he said, "who have you there my son? Where did you pick up that little brother?"

"My father," he replied, "I found him lost in the fog."

"All right, bring him home to the lodge."

While Googoo and Glooscap were still seated, two giants picked up the canoe, carried it to the lodge, and placed it under the eaves. The chief spoke kindly to them, and arranged for food to be prepared in their honour. He informed them that his name was Ooscoon (Liver), and that the young man who saved them was his son.

Some days later the chief sent off his men on hunting-expedition. They returned with a string of caribou, otters and beavers fastened round their waists, wound into their belts, as a Micmac would carry a string of rabbits. The hunters carried them with ease.

That night the chief warned his people, “In three days there will be a war”. A Chenoo monster was approaching. The chief ordered his warriors to go out to confront him, and destroy him before he got to the village.

So four men were chosen - two sons of the chief, and two others; despatched on the morning of the third day. Sakumow told Glooscap and Googoo that they must prepare for the intense battle noise. To protect themselves from the war-whoop of the huge Chenoo they must have their ears plugged and roll themselves up in skins. Wax must be melted into their ears and completely cover the sides of their faces. When this is done, they had to then roll themselves up in blankets made of dressed skins, to await the battle. They are told that the Chenoo will whoop three times.

When Glooscap and Googoo hear the terrible shout; even though their ears are closed, they barely survive the first horrible blast. The second cry is fainter and the third they could barely hear at all. When the danger is over, the chief tells them to get up, saying, “The enemy is killed.”

The warriors returned with tales of the hard fought battle but learn from the giant chief that their services will be required again very soon for a huge giant; a cannibal-a-kookwes is on the way to attack them. At the appointed time the warriors went out to face their foe and once again Glooscap and Googoo were directed to plug their ears with melted wax, but this time to double the layers of blankets around their heads to deaden the thundering of the giant cannibal-a-kookwes' loud, terrible, howling. Even with all this the sound almost kills them; but it gets fainter at every repetition, until the third howl, which is hardly heard at all. When it was safe and silent Glooscap and Googoo removed the covers from their heads unplugging their ears.

The giant marching warriors returned from battle, wounded and bloody. Large uprooted trees protruded from some of the warriors' limbs where the huge giant cannibal-a-kookwes’ had used them as spears in the midst of the struggle. The Liver-coloured Giants had not stopped to remove them in the battle field, but held off until they had returned to the village to pull the trees out as any mortal man would remove a thistle or small splinter. They told the old chief the details of the dreadful battle in which they were almost defeated. One of the chief's sons overcome with exhaustion faints, falling dead before he can reach the lodge door. The old chief goes out to him.

"What are you doing there son?" he asks. He commands him to rise.

So his son rises again, and says, "I'm faint and hungry." Once he is fed and rested, he regains his strength.

The old chief asks Glooscap and Googoo if they are ready to leave. They say they can not help feeling anxious about their children at home and want very much to return. "Tomorrow," he says, "I will send you home."

So the next morning Glooscap and Googoo find their canoe, packed full of choice meat and furs waiting at the shore. The old chief directs them to get in, and a small dog is put in charge of the craft. "The dog will be your guide. Whatever direction he looks, you must paddle that way."

With his hand on the dog the old chief says. "Take good care of these people and guide them home."

His final words to Glooscap and Googoo are prophetic. "Seven years from now you will be reminded of me again". Then off they went.

Glooscap took his seat in the stern, and Googoo in the prow. The dog sat in the middle of the canoe using his nose and ears to point in the direction they should go. They glided quickly over the calm sea and soon were in sight of their own home. The children saw them coming and excitedly ran to greet them at the shore. The dog shared their joy, wagging his tail, but he did not stay long. Glooscap was saddened and surprised when the dog left, bounding away across the sea as if it was ice.

Glooscap and Googoo shared the bounty and adventures from the land of the Livers with their children. They lacked nothing and lived in peace.

Seven years later, after a mighty battle with the Chenoo in the Land of the Livers, the giant chief sent for Glooscap and offered him his dead son's garments. They were far too large. Stained with blood from the battle with the Chenoo, the smell of sweat was still heavy on the warrior's clothes. But with a sense of pride Glooscap draped the large bear fur poncho over his shoulders, and as he reached down to fasten the leather belt he saw that he was growing. By the time that he had filled in the clothes, he had reached the height of the tops of the surrounding trees like the other giants in the Land of the Livers.

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