Saturday, 12 May 2012

An inuit tale: The Fog Woman Story

As told by Tlingit Elder, Esther Shea

Long ago, Raven and his two slaves, Gitsanuk and Gitsagag, built a camp at the mouth of a creek. They went fishing for winter food. Raven only caught bullheads. No luck, so he went home. The fog came up on them as they paddled home and got lost.

All of a sudden, a woman appeared on the boat. No one knew how she got there. She asked for Raven's spruce hat, which she held on her left side. All the fog went into the basket.

Raven planned another fishing trip. He left his wife, Fog Woman. He took Gitsagag and left Gitsanuk with Fog Woman.

While Raven was away, Fog Woman and the slave got hungry and commanded Gitsanuk to fill a water basket with water from the stream, and put it down in front of her. She dipped her finger in the water and she commanded the slave to pour the water toward the sea. The slave did as he was told and found a large sockeye.

The slave cooked the fish and ate it. Fog Woman told Gitsanuk to clean the meat from between his teeth so Raven could not know about the salmon they ate.

When Raven came home, Gitsanuk ran down the beach. He was happy. Raven was very smart, he knew people's secrets and saw meat between the slaves teeth and asked, "What's between your teeth?' The slave said, "Oh, nothing. That's the flesh of bullheads." Raven was very angry and Gitsanuk finally told him about the sockeye.

Raven called for his wife and asked her how she got the salmon. She told him the secret. She told him to bring his spruce hat and fill it with water, and he hurried and got the water, and placed it in front of her.

She dipped four fingers in the water and told him to pour the water out. Four sockeyes came out of the basket.

After the meal, Raven asked Fog woman if she could produce more fish. These were the first salmon. She said, "Build a smokehouse." So he did. Fog Woman directed Raven to bring her a basket of water once more. This time she washed her head in the water. Then she told him to pour the water back in the spring. Right away the spring filled up with sockeyes. They cleaned the fish and put them in the smokehouse. They filled the storehouse and there was enough to fill the smokehouse again.

Raven was happy and began to talk carelessly to his wife, and forgetting that she brought the fish. They quarreled and raven struck her. She told him she would leave him and go back to her father's house. She left the house and walked slowly toward the sea, and a sound like the wind came from the smokehouse.

The sound became louder. Raven saw she was really leaving. He ran after her and tried to catch her. His hand slipped through her as through fog and water.

Fog Woman slowly walked toward the sea, and all the salmon followed her.

Raven commanded the slaves to save some of the fish, but they did not have the strength to do so.

Fog Woman disappeared from sight, taking all the salmon with her. Raven said to his slaves, "We still have some salmon in the storehouse for winter." He did not know they were also gone. he had no food, except a few bullheads.

Each spring Fog Woman produced salmon in the basket of fresh spring water. They return each year. At the head of every stream dwells Creek Woman, daughter of Fog Woman.

It is said Creek Woman brings salmon to the streams now.