Select the desired text size
Manibozho and the woodpeckers.
Adapted from H. R. Schoolcraft
Press F5 to hear again
Start of Story
MANABOZHO lost the greater part of his magical power through letting
his young wolf grandson fall through the thin ice and drown. No one
knew where his grandmother had gone to. He married the arrow maker's
daughter, and became the father of several children, but he was very
poor and scarcely able to procure a living. His lodge was pitched in a
distant part of the country, where he could get no game, and it was
winter time. One day he said to his wife, "I will go out walking and
see if I can find some lodges."
After walking some time he finally discovered a lodge at a distance.
There were children playing at the door, and when they saw him
approaching they ran in and told their parents Manabozho was coming.
It was the home of the large Red-Headed Woodpecker. He came to the
door and asked Manabozho to enter, and the invitation was promptly
accepted. After some time the Woodpecker, who was a magician, said to
his wife: "Have you nothing to give Manabozho? he must be hungry."
She answered, "No."
"He ought not to go without his supper," said the Woodpecker. "I will
see what I can do."
In the center of the lodge stood a large tamarack tree. Upon this the
Woodpecker flew, and commenced going up, turning his head on each side
of the tree, and every now and then driving in his bill.
At last he
pulled something out of the tree and threw it down, when, behold, a
fine fat raccoon lay on the ground. He drew out six or seven more, and
then came down and told his wife to prepare them.
"Manabozho," he said, "this is the only thing we eat; what else can we
"It is very good," replied Manabozho.
They smoked their pipes and conversed, and after a while Manabozho got
ready to go home, so the Woodpecker said to his wife, "Give him the
Other raccoons to take home for his children."
In the act of leaving the lodge Manabozho on purpose dropped one of his
mittens, which was soon after observed upon the ground. "Run," said
the Woodpecker to his eldest son, "and give it to him; but mind that
you do not give it into his hand; throw it at him, for there is no
knowing what he may do, he acts so curiously."
The boy did as he was directed. "Grandfather," he said, as he came up
to him, "you have left one of your mittens, and here it is."
"Yes," he said, making believe he did not know he had dropped it, "so I
did; but don't throw it, you will get it wet on the snow."
The lad, however, threw it, and was about to return when Manabozho
cried out, "Bakah! Bakah! Stop, stop; is that all you eat? Do you eat
nothing else with your raccoon? Tell me!"
"Yes, that is all, answered the Young Woodpecker; "we have nothing
"Tell your father," continued Manabozho, "to come and visit me, and let
him bring a sack. I will give him what he shall eat with his raccoon
When the young one returned and reported this message to his father the
Old Woodpecker turned up his nose at the invitation. "I wonder," he
said "what he thinks he has got, poor fellow!" He was bound, however,
to answer the offer of hospitality, and he went accordingly, taking
along a cedar-sack, to pay a visit to Manabozho.
Manabozho received the Old Red-Headed Woodpecker with great ceremony.
He had stood at the door awaiting his arrival, and as soon as he came
in sight Manabozho commenced, while he was yet far off, bowing and
opening wide his arms, in token of welcome; all of which the Woodpecker
returned in due form, by ducking his bill and hopping to right and
left, extending his wings to their full length and fluttering them back
to his breast.
When the Woodpecker at last reached the lodge Manabozho made several
remarks upon the weather, the appearance of the country, and especially
spoke of the scarcity of game. "But we," he added-"we always have
enough. Come in, and you shall not go away hungry, my noble birds!"
Manabozho had always prided himself on being able to give as good as he
had received; and to be up with the Woodpecker he had shifted his lodge
so as to inclose a large dry tamarack tree.
"What can I give you?" said he to the Woodpecker; "as we eat so shall
With this he hopped forward and, jumping on the tamarack tree, he
attempted to climb it just as he had seen the Woodpecker do in his own
lodge. He turned his head first on one side and then on the other, as
the Woodpecker does, striving to go up the tree, but as often slipping
down. Every now and then he would strike the tree with his nose, as if
it was a bell, and draw back as if to pull something out of the tree,
but he pulled out no raccoons. He dashed his nose so often against the
trunk that at last the blood began to flow, and he tumbled down
senseless on the ground.
The Woodpecker started up with his drum and rattle to restore him, and
by beating them violently he succeeded in bringing him to.
As soon as he came to his senses, Manabozho began to lay the blame of
his failure upon his wife, saying to his guest: "Nemesho, it is this
woman relation of yours-she is the cause of my not succeeding. She has
made me a worthless fellow. Before I married her I also could get
The Woodpecker said nothing, but flying on the tree he drew out several
fine raccoons. "Here," said he, "this is the way we do" and left him
in disdain, carrying his bill high in the air, and stepping over the
doorsill as if it were not worthy to be touched by his toes.