Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of Mrs. Andrew Lang > Text of Adventures Of Fire-Drill's Son

A short story by Mrs. Andrew Lang

The Adventures Of Fire-Drill's Son

Title:     The Adventures Of Fire-Drill's Son
Author: Mrs. Andrew Lang [More Titles by Lang]

Here is another story of the Tlingit Indians, and in these stories you will often find the Raven playing the part of friend and helper, just as the Fox does in Japan, and Brer Rabbit in 'Uncle Remus.' The Raven is always kinder than anybody else, besides being cleverer, and those who take his advice can never go wrong.

One day the Raven was flying about, and he saw a girl sitting with her baby in the woods, and he stopped to talk to her.

'That is a fine little boy of yours,' he said, cocking his head on one side.

'Yes, he is,' replied the girl; 'but I wish he was old enough to get food for us. It is so many years to wait.'

'That is easily cured,' said the Raven. 'You have only to bathe him every day in the cold spring at the back of these rocks, and you have no idea how quickly he will grow up.' So the girl bathed him every morning in the pool and let the water from the rock pour over him, and it was surprising how soon he was able to help her in work of all kinds as well as to shoot with his bow and arrows.

* * * * *

'Why are we all alone with grandmother?' he inquired at last, for he was fond of asking questions. 'Did you never have friends like other people, and have those houses over there always stood empty?' Then they told him that once a large tribe had lived at that place, but they had gradually gone away to hunt or to fish and had never come back. Only the woman and the girl and the baby remained behind.

After this the boy was quiet for a time, and for a while he was content to stay at home, only going out in the mornings to bring back a bird from the forest for their dinner. But at length he said to his mother: 'If I could only paddle in the lake, I could catch you fish and water-fowl; but all the canoes here are old and broken.'

'Yes; you must not go out in them. You will get drowned,' answered she, and the boy went sadly to his mat to sleep.

As he slept, his father, whose name was Fire-drill, appeared to him and spoke:

'Take one of those old canoes into the woods and cover it with bushes. It does not matter how worn-out it seems to be; do as I tell you.' Then the boy got up and did as his father bade him, and went home again.

Early next day he ran quickly to the place where the canoe was hidden, but found that the old one full of holes had vanished, and a new one, packed with everything he could need, was in its place. While he was admiring it, his father stood before him, and pulled the root of a burnt tree out of the ground, which he turned into a little dog. It was called Gant or 'Burnt,' and could smell things miles away, and, though it was so small, it was as strong as a bear. After that, Fire-drill gave his son a fresh bow and arrows and a great club.

Then the boy remembered what his grandmother had said, and he carried the canoe and his father's presents to the wigwam.

'I am going away,' he told his mother, 'and may be absent two days or much longer. Take care of this fire-stick, or else if the fire goes out, how will you make it again? Hang it in a safe place high on the ceiling, and if I am killed, it will fall. So you will know. And now farewell.' Thus speaking he climbed into the canoe and pushed off.

* * * * *

As he went he saw from afar another canoe coming to meet him, with a man paddling it.

'That is the man who killed all my mother's friends,' thought he, and he told it to his dog, his club, his bow and his arrows, for they had the gift of magic and could understand his language.

By this time the man had drawn near, and the boy saw that he had only one eye, which was placed in the middle of his face, and that he was more than commonly tall.

'Is it you, my nephew?' asked he, and the boy answered:

'Yes; it is I.'

'Where did you come from?'

'From my uncle's village.'

Then the man read what the boy had in his mind and said:

'It was not I who killed your uncles and your mother's friends; it was the East Wind and the North Wind.'

But the boy did not trust the man's words, and knew that in his heart he wished him evil. And while he was thinking this the big man said to him:

'Let us exchange arrows.'

'Not so,' replied the boy. 'My arrows are better than yours.' And his words were true, for they were all different, and pointed with different things. The point of one was a porcupine quill, and of another bark, but the best of all was called Heart-stopper, because the moment it touched a man's body his heart ceased to beat.

'My arrows are pointed with sea-urchins; behold how they move,' said the man; but again it was not true what he told the boy, for the points were made of weed.

'My arrows are not like that,' answered the boy. 'They are only good for shooting birds;' but though he did not trust the man, he never guessed that his desire was to get Heart-stopper. They talked for some time longer, and at length the boy lost patience and cried out:

'You call yourself my uncle, yet you made away with my mother's friends. Now know that you will never make away with me like that.'

His words angered the one-eyed man, and, quick as lightning, they both held their arrows in their hands; but the boy was the quickest, and with the help of the dog, soon killed his enemy. Then he burned the body, and paddled on still further, never thinking that his mother at home was wondering why he did not come back.

At last he heard a voice calling to him. 'That is another bad man,' said he; but he paddled to the place where the sound came from, and found a cliff rising straight out of the water. In the middle of the cliff was an opening with a circle of red paint round it, and devil-clubs fastened to a ring which was driven into the rock.

'Come in! Come in!' cried the voice, and the boy entered and saw a woman there with a knife in each hand. He guessed who she was, and said to her:

'I have seen your husband;' but she took no heed of his words, and begged him again to enter and she would give him some food before he went on his way.

'I do not like that sort of food,' he answered as soon as he had seen it; and she exclaimed, 'Well! if you want to quarrel let us fight till one of us is killed.'

'Willingly!' replied the boy, and he heard her go to the rock at the entrance and sharpen the knives in her hands. When she had finished she threw one of them at him, but he jumped aside and it stuck in the stool where he had been sitting. Then he seized the knife and threw it at her, and it stuck in her heart and she died. He let her lie where she fell, and lifting his eyes he noticed with dismay that the hole at the end of the cave was quickly growing smaller and smaller. Hastily he snatched up some ermine skins that lay on the ground and tied two or three in his hair, and shrank himself till he managed to get into one of them, and squeezed through the entrance just before it closed entirely. Once out of the cave he shot some deer and brought them down in his canoe to his mother and his grandmother, who had spent their time in grieving over him and wondering if they would ever see him again.

'I am all right,' he said to them when he got home; 'and I have slain the people who put your friends to death.'

* * * * *

But in spite of his words, he did not know yet for certain whether the man and woman he had killed had been the murderers of his uncles also, and that he was determined to find out. So he soon went back into the forest and began hunting again. From afar he saw smoke rising up, and he walked towards it till he came to a house. At the door was Old Mole-woman, and very old she was, but her face looked kind and honest and the boy felt he might have faith in her.

'What is it you want, grandson?' said she, politely, and the boy answered:

'I am seeking for the slayer of my uncles.'

'It is not easy to get at them,' she replied. 'It was the hawks that did it, and first you have to find their nests which are very high up, and next you must wait till the old birds go away, and only the young ones are left.'

Thus spoke Old Mole-woman, and the boy thanked her and set off to find the nests.

It took him a long time, but at length he discovered them; then he hid himself and waited till the parent birds flew off and the young ones were alone. After that, the boy came out of his hiding-place and climbed up the tree and said to the little birds:

'What do you live on?' and the little birds led him to a place that was full of human skulls, and answered, 'That is what we live on.'

'How long will your father and mother be away?' asked the boy.

'Till daybreak; but you will not be able to see them, because they come in clouds. My mother flies over the mountain in a yellow cloud, and my father in a black cloud.'

'Well, I am going now,' said the boy, 'and take care that you do not tell them that I have been here, or I will kill you.'

'Oh, no, no! We will be sure not to tell,' cried the little birds, fluttering their wings in a fright.

Just as it was getting light the boy saw the yellow cloud coming, and by and bye he made out the mother-bird carrying a dead body in her beak. He aimed an arrow at her and she fell dead at the foot of the tree, and the body fell with her. Soon after, he saw the black cloud coming fast, and when it reached the nest the father flew out of it and said to the little ones:

'Where is your mother?'

'Our mother dropped the body she was carrying and fell down after it,' answered they, and as they spoke the boy hit him with an arrow, and he fell to the ground also.

Then the boy cried up to the little birds: 'You must never kill people any more, or live on human flesh. I will go and get food for you until you are strong enough to look after yourselves,' and he went out hunting, and he and his dog killed some pigs and brought them to the little birds. And when the little birds grew to be big birds, they killed the pigs for themselves by letting stones fall on their heads, and never more did they eat anything else. After that the boy went back to Old Mole-woman.

* * * * *

'I have killed the birds,' said he, 'and because you have helped me, I have brought you some food which will last you a long time. Now I must hurry home to my mother and grandmother.'

Very glad they were to see him again, and for some time he stayed with them and collected grease for candles and provisions of all sorts, enough to last for many, many years. When this was done he said to his mother: 'Mother, I am going to leave you for ever, for I was not meant to be with you always, and I have finished that which I set myself to do. If what is hanging overhead should fall, you will know that I am dead. But as long as it remains where it is, do not trouble about me.'

With that he went out.

As he walked along the path, the son of Fire-drill beheld someone in front striding very fast; and the boy chased him till he came first to the Mink people and then to the Marten people. Both of them begged him to stay with them and help them, but he would not, and hurried on after the figure he had seen ahead of him, whose name was Dry-cloud. But when Fire-drill's son came to the Wolf people they begged him so hard to stop that at last he agreed to do so for a while; besides he was very tired, and wanted to rest.

The Wolf Chief thought much of the boy, and they had great talk together. One day a large company of the Wolf tribe was present, and they spoke of the beasts which could run the fastest.

'The swiftest of all is the mountain goat,' said one; 'and it can jump from rock to rock, and none can come up with it. To-morrow,' he added, turning to the boy, 'we are going to hunt them, and if you are there with us you will see if there is any animal that can outrun a mountain goat.'

'I will be there,' answered the boy.

So they started in the morning and hastened to the place, and each tried to be the first to kill one of the goats. But Fire-drill's son's dog got there before any of them, and killed many goats and the rest galloped away out of reach. Then the Wolves went up and carried the dead goats back to their people, and much ashamed they were that the dog had slain them all and they, the noted hunters, had got nothing.

'Men will speak ill of us if they know of this day's work,' said the Wolves, whispering together. 'How can we get the better of this son of Fire-drill?'

Now one, cleverer than the rest, thought of a plan, and he bade the others cut a quantity of the long stringy creepers that grow on the mountains, and make them into hoops. These hoops they were to roll down the sides of the mountains, and jump backwards and forwards through them, when they were at full speed. It was a good game for their purpose, because anyone who touched the side of the hoops would be cut in two, because of the sharp edges.

But the dog guessed this, and said to the boy: 'Friend, do not go near those people who are playing. You know nothing of the game, and those things may kill you.'

'No; I will not play with them, but let us watch them,' answered the boy, and they watched them for some time, till the boy said to the dog:

'You take one of those rings and throw it up in the air as high as you can.' And the dog took it in his mouth, and stood on his hind legs and threw it upwards with all his might, and he threw it so high that it never came down again but stayed up round the moon, where you may still see it any night that there is going to be a change in the weather.

And as soon as he heard this that the dog had done, the Wolf Chief called the rest of the Wolves, and bade them treat the son of Fire-drill as a friend, 'for,' said he, 'he is a wonderful fellow.'

* * * * *

A little while after, Fire-drill's son and the wolf went away together. When they had gone a short distance, the wolf raised his head and looked about him.

'Some strange creature walks about here,' he exclaimed suddenly. 'Take my advice and do not try to follow him or he will have your life.'

And though he did not say so, the boy felt it was Dry-cloud that the wolf meant.

'Don't be afraid for me,' he answered; 'I only play with him. Well I know that it is impossible to kill him, but it is also impossible for him to kill me; but follow him I must, for this my father bade me.'

So they set off after Dry-cloud, and curious to say, the swift-footed wolf was forced to run with all his might, while the boy did not seem to himself to be walking faster than usual. Indeed, so rapid was their pace that if in crossing a stream the wolf got his tail wet, he was too tired to shake it himself, and he cried till the boy shook it for him. In this manner they travelled till they came to a house where an old woman lived, and this was the end of their journey for that time, as Dry-cloud lived near by also and they could watch him in peace. And while they were there Fire-drill's son saw a girl whom he thought he would like for his squaw, and he married her and they had a baby. But when the baby was born the father shook his head and said to his wife:

'This is going to be a very bad boy.'

* * * * *

And the fire-stick is still hanging on his mother's ceiling.

[Tlingit story.]

[The end]
Mrs. Andrew Lang's short story: Adventures Of Fire-Drill's Son