How Dog Came to Be, An Ojibwe oral story


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Ojibwe Oral Story

One day two fishermen were paddling home along the shore when a violent wind came up and blew them far out to sea. At last they reached the opposite shore.

There they found the footprints of some enormous creature. The two men were terrified.

They carried their canoe into the forest, turned it upside down, and hid under it. While they lay there shivering with fear and wondering what to do, they heard a crash and felt the earth tremble.

Peering out from their canoe, they saw a huge arrow embedded in the soil not far from them. At the same moment they felt the earth quiver once more.

Then they heard a deep voice saying, “Neekaunssidog (brothers), don’t be afraid. I am Giant. I will not harm you.”

Still very frightened, the fishermen crawled out from the canoe. There before their eyes was Giant, with a caribou hanging from his belt. The two men guessed he had been hunting. 

Because Giant seemed harmless and kind, the two fishermen agreed to go home with him. Giant picked them up, put them in his medicine bundle, and carried them off.

When they arrived at his home, Giant took the men out of his pouch and put them in a quill box-warning them to be very quiet. Soon they heard someone come into the lodge.

“There are people here,” the newcomer growled.

“Windigo, there is no one here,” Giant replied.

“Yes, yes, their are people here,” Windigo insisted.

“There is no one here, ” Giant repeated. “If you don’t keep quiet, I’ll have to throw you out.”

“We’ve told you not to bring people to our land. I’m going to search,” Windigo said.

“Windigo,” growled Giant, “this is my home. I can bring anyone I choose here, but there is no one.”

“I don’t believe you and I’m going to search,” Windigo answered.

“Windigo, if you don’t leave right away, I’ll set my guard on you,” Giant threatened.

Windigo paid no attention to Giant and went right on searching. Through the chinks in the quill box, the two fishermen could see Windigo searching everywhere. He was even bigger and taller than Giant.

Then they saw Giant lift a wooden bowl that was lying upside down at his feet. From the bowl came a strange four-legged creature. The fishermen had never before seen anything like him.

Giant pointed to Windigo and commanded his pet, “Get him!” The little animal growled and breathed in deeply. With each breath he grew larger, until he was huge. The dog, for that is what the creature was, growled and bared his fangs. Windigo ran out of the lodge, with the dog at his heels.

Giant and the two fishermen could hear groaning and growling and the sounds of struggling and fierce fighting. Then there was silence. At last the dog came back into the lodge-still panting hard. Earlier the dog had grown huge by breathing in. Now he began to grow smaller as he breathed out.

Before long he was the size of an ordinary dog. The two fishermen were astonished. Sensing their fear, Giant spoke to them. “My brothers,” he said, “don’t worry.” Windigo is gone. I won’t hurt you. I just wanted to see what you were like.

You may go home now. Since you have come a long way and have a long way to go back, my dog will keep you company on the journey and protect you.” Then Giant said to his pet, “Go with these men. Take them home. Watch over them.”

The dog seemed to understand and wagged his tail. Once again he breathed in deeply so that he would grow bigger. When the dog was very large, Giant placed the two fishermen on his back and bade them farewell.

The dog set across the great sea. He was so tall that the water scarcely reached his back. It did not take him long to cross the sea. On the opposite shore the dog began to breathe out in gasps. As he did so, he shrank little by little until he was no bigger than a fox. Then he ran off into the forest, much to the disappointment of the fishermen.

When then men reached home, there was the dog happily wagging his tail, barking, and jumping up to lick their hands. And that is the way it has been between man and dog ever since. The dog is happy to be with his master, sad to see him leave, glad to see him to return.