The Partridge Spirit
autumn, two brothers went on a hunting expedition for their tribe.
They come to the source of the Penobscott river and there they stayed all
winter. They had no woman with them to do all the tasks that make
a hunter thankful.
So most of the daily tasks fell upon the younger brother who said to his
older brother, "I wish there were a woman in our wigwam to mend and cook,
to sew and clean for us."
"Well, our mother and sisters are at home, brother. We must do the
best we can," replied the older brother. By the time spring came
around, their snowshoes were broken and their moccasins
were full of holes.
One day, when the snow was still hard and icy, the younger brother came
home to find that the wigwam was clean and tidy! A fire was burning
and there was hot water already boiling in the pot. He said nothing
to his brother, but the next day, he returned home early in order to spy
on the wigwam. In the light of the dying sun, he saw a beautiful
maiden step through the woods and busy herself about the household tasks.
She was smaller and more delicate than any woman he had ever seen.
He stepped into the wigwam and greeted her, "Thank you, maiden, for the
work you've been doing. It's very hard for hunters to be alone during
the harsh winter."
She replied, "Your brother
is coming. I am frightened of him. Bur I will see you tomarrow
if you come home early." With
that, she slipped away.
The young hunter said nothing to his brother, but the next day he crept
home early and there was the maiden again. Together they played in
the snow like children. Just before the sun went down, the young
hunter begged her, "Please stay with me forever. My heart was never
so happy as now."
The maiden frowned. "Speak to your brother tonight. Tell him
everything. Maybe I will stay and serve you both, for I can make
snowshoes and moccasins, and build canoes." With that, she slipped
When the elder brother came home, he listened eagerly to his young
brother, then said, "It seems that we have been lucky! I would be
very glad to have a woman help us and care for our camp."
The next morning, the maiden came again. Behind her she pulled a
toboggan piled high with hand - sewn garments and finely worked weapons.
She greeted both the brothers, who exclaimed at the beauty of the clothes
and weapons. "I too am a hunter," was all she would say and she set
The rest of the snowbound spring passed quickly. The maiden cared
for the hunters, sewing, mending and making herself useful in ways that
they both quickly took for granted. They also seemed to be particularly
lucky in their hunting. They soon had many furs and were ready to
return to their tribe.
When the snow began to thaw, the brothers returned home by canoe down the
Penobscott river. When they were halfway down the river the maiden
began to look pale and faint. "Stop!" she called out to the hunters.
I can go no further." They sculled to the bank and set her down.
Now although theij didn't know it, the maiden had sent out her soul
back to the wigwam where they had lived all winter. "Leave me here,"
she begged. "Say nothing about me to your father, for he would have
nothing but scorn for me."
The younger brother was heartbroken. "But I want you to stay with
me forever!" He did not realize that the maiden could not come with
him because she wasn't a human being at all, but one of the forest spirits.
"It cannot be," replied the maiden. "You must leave me here."
The two brothers returned to their village. When they unpacked the
canoe and their famity saw the heap of fine furs that theq had brought
back with them, there was great rejoicing. During the celebrations,
the elder brother could not keep quiet about how their luck had changed.
He boasted about the strange maiden who had helped them in the depths of
His father trembled and grew very angry. "All my life I have feared
very thing. My sons, that
was no ordinary woman! You have been in the
presence of a ghost, a forest spirit, a trickster of the snows! She
is a Mikumwess, a witch that can do great harm to human beings."
The elder brother thought to himself, "She may have put a spell upon me.
What a fool I've been, not to see it!"
However, the younger brother thought, "Maybe there's something in what
father says. Maybe she is a forest spirit. But I didn't feel I was
in danger at any time. She was my dearest friend, and I wanted her to be
my wife." But he was young and was more inclined to listen to his
father's fears than to the wisdom of his own heart.
The father made such a fuss about the maiden being a Mikumwess that the
elder brother made a decision. "Come, brother!" he said one day.
"Let's go hunting."
Taking some special arrows that were said to be good against witches, the
elder brother began to track the maiden. The younger brother didn't know
what they were hunting. Suddenly, the elder brother caught sight
of the maiden bathing in the stream and drew his bow. At the same
brother saw her and started to
call and wave to her, but too late! The elder
brother's arrow had already flown.
Where the maiden had been swimming was now a confusion of water and feathers.
Then they both saw her rise in the shape of a partridge into the sky.
The younger brother's heart was very heavy and he walked silently away.
As he was sitting sadly in a birch clearing, a partridge landed at his
feet and changed into the maiden. He threw himself at her feet and
cried, "Forgive me! I didn't know what my brother intended!
I never meant to hunt you, my dearest one!"
"Do not blame yourself," said the maiden. "I know everything.
It was not your father's fault either, for he spoke from fear and ignorance.
The past is forgotten already. I promise you that the best is yet
And together they played in the woods, as once theq had played in the
snows, forgetting their sorrows. When the crows flew home to their
nests, the young hunter said, I must return."
The maiden answered, "When you want to see me, come to the woods and I
will be here. But, remember, do not marry anyone! Your father
has a girl in mind and will speak of marriage soon." And she told
him what his father would say, word for word.
He listened carefully, but was not surprised by her words. He knew
for certain that she was, indeed, a forest spirit, but he was not
They kissed gently under the birch trees. "Remember," she reminded
him, "if you marry, You will surely die!"
When the young man went home that night, his father spoke, just as the
maiden said he would. "My son, I have found a wife for you and the
wedding will be this week."
The young hunter nodded and said, "So be it!"
The young bride was brought from her family's wigwam and the wedding feast
began. For four days everyone danced and ate and told stories.
But on the last day, the young bridegroom began to feel ill. His
family laid him upon a white bearskin, but he grew worse and worse.
They tried all kinds of remedies to heal him.
But the young hunter's soul yearned for the partridge maiden and as he
lay dying, his soul flew out of his body searching for her. At the
found her, his soul finally left
his body, and they ran together through the woods,
never to be parted again.
When his sorrowful famity brought the bride to where the young hunter lay,
they found that he was already dead. But his face was calm and happy,
for he had found his true bride at last.