The Bears, by George Bird Grinnell
Now Old Man was walking along, and far off he saw many wolves; and when he
came closer, he saw there the chief of the wolves, a very old one, and
sitting around him were all his children.
Old Man said, "Pity me, Wolf Chief; make me into a wolf, that I may live
your way and catch deer and everything that runs fast."
"Come near then," said the Wolf Chief, "that I may rub your body with my
hands, so that hair will cover you."
"Hold," said Old Man; "do not cover my body with hair. On my head, arms,
and legs only, put hair."
When the Chief Wolf had done so, he said to Old Man: "You shall have three
companions to help you, one is a very swift runner, another a good runner,
and the last is not very fast. Take them with you now, and others of my
younger children who are learning to hunt, but do not go where the wind
blows; keep in the shelter, or the young ones will freeze to death." Then
they went hunting, and Old Man led them on the high buttes, where it was
At night, they lay down to sleep, and Old Man nearly froze; and he said to
the wolves, "Cover me with your tails." So all the wolves lay down around
him, and covered his body with their tails, and he soon got warm and slept.
Before long he awoke and said angrily, "Take off those tails," and the
wolves moved away; but after a little time he again became cold, and cried
out, "Oh my young brothers, cover me with your tails or I shall freeze."
So they lay down by him again and covered his body with their tails.
When it was daylight, they all rose and hunted. They saw some moose, and,
chasing them, killed three. Now, when they were about to eat, the Chief
Wolf came along with many of his children, and one wolf said, "Let us make
pemmican of those moose"; and every one was glad. Then said the one who
made pemmican, "No one must look, everybody shut his eyes, while I make the
pemmican"; but Old Man looked, and the pemmican-maker threw a round bone
and hit him on the nose, and it hurt. Then Old Man said, "Let me make the
pemmican." So all the wolves shut their eyes, and Old Man took the round
bone and killed the wolf who had hit him. Then the Chief Wolf was angry,
and he said, "Why did you kill your brother?" "I didn't mean to," replied
Old Man. "He looked and I threw the round bone at him, but I only meant to
hurt him a little." Then said the Chief Wolf: "You cannot live with us any
longer. Take one of your companions, and go off by yourselves and hunt." So
Old Man took the swift runner, and they went and lived by themselves a long
time; and they killed all the elk, and deer, and antelope, and moose they
One morning they awoke, and Old Man said: "Oh my young brother, I have had
a bad dream. Hereafter, when you chase anything, if it jumps a stream, you
must not follow it. Even a little spring you must not jump." And the wolf
promised not to jump over water.
Now one day the wolf was chasing a moose, and it ran on to an island. The
stream about it was very small; so the wolf thought: "This is such a little
stream that I must jump it. That moose is very tired, and I don't think it
will leave the island." So he jumped on to the island, and as soon as he
entered the brush, a bear caught him, for the island was the home of the
Chief Bear and his two brothers. Old Man waited a long time for the wolf to
come back, and then went to look for him. He asked all the birds he met if
they had seen him, but they all said they had not.
At last he saw a kingfisher, who was sitting on a limb overhanging the
water. "Why do you sit there, my young brother?" said Old Man. "Because,"
replied the kingfisher, "the Chief Bear and his brothers have killed your
wolf; they have eaten the meat and thrown the fat into the river, and
whenever I see a piece come floating along, I fly down and get it." Then
said Old Man, "Do the Bear Chief and his brothers often come out? and where
do they live?" "They come out every morning to play," said the kingfisher;
"and they live upon that island."
Old Man went up there and saw their tracks on the sand, where they had been
playing, and he turned himself into a rotten tree. By and by the bears came
out, and when they saw the tree, the Chief Bear said: "Look at that rotten
tree. It is Old Man. Go, brothers, and see if it is not." So the two
brothers went over to the tree, and clawed it; and they said, "No, brother,
it is only a tree." Then the Chief Bear went over and clawed and bit the
tree, and although it hurt Old Man, he never moved. Then the Bear Chief was
sure it was only a tree, and he began to play with his brothers. Now while
they were playing, and all were on their backs, Old Man leaned over and
shot an arrow into each one of them; and they cried out loudly and ran back
on the island. Then Old Man changed into himself, and walked down along the
river. Pretty soon he saw a frog jumping along, and every time it jumped it
would say, "Ni'-nah O-kyai'-yu!" And sometimes it would stop and sing:—
"Ni'-nah O-kyai'-yu! Ni'-nah O-kyai'-yu! Chief Bear! Chief Bear!
Nap'-i I-nit'-si-wah Ni'-nah O-kyai'-yu!" Old Man kill him Chief
Bear! "What do you say?" cried Old Man. The frog repeated what he had said.
"Ah!" exclaimed Old Man, "tell me all about it."
"The Chief Bear and his brothers," replied the frog, "were playing on the
sand, when Old Man shot arrows into them. They are not dead, but the arrows
are very near their hearts; if you should shove ever so little on them, the
points would cut their hearts. I am going after medicine now to cure them."
Then Old Man killed the frog and skinned her, and put the hide on himself
and swam back to the island, and hopped up toward the bears, crying at
every step, "Ni'-nah O-kyai'-yu!" just as the frog had done.
"Hurry," cried the Chief Bear.
"Yes," replied Old Man, and he went up and shoved the arrow into his heart.
"I cured him; he is asleep now," he cried, and he went up and shoved the
arrow into the biggest brother's heart. "I cured them; they are asleep
now"; and he went up and shoved the arrow into the other bear's heart. Then
he built a big fire and skinned the bears, and tried out the fat and poured
it into a hollow in the ground; and he called all the animals to come and
roll in it, that they might be fat. And all the animals came and rolled in
it. The bears came first and rolled in it, that is the reason they get so
fat. Last of all came the rabbits, and the grease was almost all gone; but
they filled their paws with it and rubbed it on their backs and between
their hind legs. That is the reason why rabbits have two such large layers
of fat on their backs, and that is what makes them so fat between the hind