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Tshakapesh and the Elephant Monster [archive]

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Tshakapesh and the Elephant Monster

By Joseph Rich, Davis Inlet. Translated by Matthew Rich

An Innu man went out to get snowshoe frames and his wife went along with him. They left their daughter at home.

And the elephant [mammoth, monster] heard someone cutting trees. He went out to search and he saw the man and the woman making snowshoe frames. Then the elephant killed them and ate them. He ate the man first. When he started to eat the woman, he saw inside her and thought that she was crippled. He took out her womb and threw it into a snowbank. He did not know that there was a baby inside. The baby was called Tshakapesh.

The little girl wondered why her parents did not come home. Then she knew that they had been killed by the elephant. She wondered what had happened to the baby that her mother was going to have. The girl started looking for the baby and she saw the place where her mother and father had been killed. Then she saw the womb in the snowbank. She dug it out and she saw the baby. The baby was still living.

She took him home and she put him in a bucket and covered him and the baby grew up very fast. She made a little bow for the baby but the baby broke it and Tshakapesh said to his sister, "I am going to make myself a real bow."

"You are too small," said his sister.

"No, I am going to try," Tshakapesh said.

And his sister said, "Yes."

Tshakapesh took the axe and went out. He cut down a big birch tree and he used the whole tree for his bow. He cut small trees for arrows and then he carried them home. When he finished his bow and arrows, Tshakapesh said, "Now I can go hunting for squirrels."

Then he remembered seeing a crooked knife in the house. He wondered how his sister had gotten the crooked knife, and he started to wonder where they had been born. When he asked his sister where she had gotten the knife, his sister told him that his father and mother had been killed by the elephant.

"But the elephant did not eat you," she said. "So I went out and looked for you and saved your life."

And Tshakapesh said, "Sister, shut up. You're making me frightened."

His sister said, "Don't go near that place."

"Okay, " said Tshakapesh. "I will not go over there."

Then Tshakapesh went over there, to the place where his father and mother had been killed. He saw the tracks of the elephant and Tshakapesh sang, "I want to meet the elephant."

The elephant heard Tshakapesh singing and he said to the black bear, "Go out and get him and break him up." Tshakapesh was lying down in the elephant tracks when he saw the bear coming.

"Are you the elephant?" he said.

The bear said, "No."

"Go home," Tshakapesh said. "I don't want you. I want the elephant."

And Tshakapesh sang again, "I want to meet the elephant."

So the elephant told the polar bear to go out and break him up.

When Tshakapesh saw the polar bear, he asked, "Are you the elephant?"

"No, I am not the elephant. My name is polar bear."

"Go home," said Tshakapesh, "I don't want you."

Tshakapesh sang again. This time he sang louder.

The elephant told the grizzly bear to go out there and break him up. Tshakapesh saw the ugly grizzly bear coming toward him but he was not afraid.

"Are you the elephant?" he asked.

"No," said the grizzly.

"Go home," said Tshakapesh. "I don't want you."

When the grizzly bear reached home, the elephant asked, "How big is he?"

"He is not big," the grizzly bear said. "He is lying down in your footprint."

"If he wants to see the elephant," the elephant said, "I shall see him."

The elephant got up and took a step and shook the earth. Tshakapesh knew, when the earth shook, that the elephant was coming, but he still sang. When he saw the elephant he stopped singing and he wished that the elephant would not bite him and he wished that the elephant would throw him to the place where he had buried his bow and arrows. The elephant picked up Tshakapesh and threw him. He picked him up again and this time he threw him right to the place where he had buried his bow and arrows.

Tshakapesh picked up his bow and arrows and started to talk to the elephant. As he was talking to the elephant he began to grow. He asked the elephant how tough he was.

"See that big tree over there?" said the elephant. "That's how tough the elephant is," he said. Tshakapesh shot an arrow at the big tree. When it hit the tree, it knocked it down and broke it into pieces. The elephant pointed to a big rock. "That's how tough the elephant is," he said. Tshakapesh shot the rock with his bow and arrow and broke it into pieces.

When the elephant saw this, he began to be frightened. He tried to run away from Tshakapesh. Tshakapesh shot the elephant in the hip. Then he hit him in the other hip and the elephant went down.

"You got me," the elephant said. "After I die, cut my flesh in small pieces and throw the pieces all over the place. Take home only my ears and my head."

And Tshakapesh killed the elephant.

He cut up the flesh into small pieces and threw them all over the place and they turned into all kinds of birds and animals.

Then he said, "I am going to keep his ears for mattresses."

When he cut open the belly of the elephant, he saw hair inside. It was from his father and mother. Tshakapesh blew on the hair and it was still alive.

"I can bring my father and mother to life," he thought, "but if human beings never died, the earth would be overcrowded. I am not going to bring my father and mother to life."

Then he went home.


Additional Reading

  Native American monster legends
  Innu language
  Innu pictures
  Subarctic peoples
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