The Legend of Eut-le-ten

Explanation of "The Legend of Eut-le-ten"

As stated in the introduction, the details for this story were given by the late Indian missionary, Mr. M. Swartout, who received them direct from the Indians of Dodger's Cove, Barkley sound, in the year 1897.

The reader will recognize in this legend the Indian equivalent for Hansel and Gretel, Jack the Giant Killer, Jack and the Bean stalk, and other stories of childhood days.

It is not likely that the exploits of Eut-le-ten were considered by the older Indians to be the product of imagination, and most probably they believed that some time in the distant past, a supernatural being called Eut-le-ten was born and lived and performed extraordinary feats and taught them wonderful things.

This is an Ohyaht Indian story. The chief village of the Ohyahts was at a bay called Keeh-him between Bamfield and Cape Beale, Barkley Sound.

The Witch E-ish-so-oolth

Long, long ago, in the gloom of deep and silent woods there lived a witch or evil chehah. The Indians called her E-ish-so-oolth. So tall was she that, stalking through the forest, her head would brush the lower branches of the giant fir.

She dwelt in a huge lodge, the walls of which were built of cedar logs as thick as men are high. This evil chehah was the dread of young and old alike, for all believed that boys and girls and even men and women, who left their homes, not to return again, were taken to her lodge, there to be devoured at leisure. Therefore mothers often said, when children misbehaved, "Be good or I will call E-ish-so-oolth."

One day some Keeh-hin village children paddled from their home and landed on a nearby shore. Then something happened causing one to cry, and all the others scolding, threatened to call E-ish-so-oolth. The threat had no effect and the child cried on, till one in teasing spirit called loudly, "E-ish-so-oolth! E-ish-so-oolth! Oh come E-ish-so-oolth!"

Then forth from the woods a figure stalked, a tall gaunt form of terrible aspect. She leaned upon a gnarled and knotty stick and scanning the beach with cruel eyes she cried, "Who called me by my name E-ish-so-oolth?"

The children screamed and tried to run away; the chehah laughed one awful fiendish laugh, then caught them one by one with her lean hands. With the sticky gum of Douglas fir, she sealed their little jet black eyes so that they could not see which way led left or right, and threw them in the basket on her back, starting for home along the lonely forest trail.

As I have said, E-ish-so-oolth was tall, and many times bent her head to pass beneath low and spreading branches, and so it happened when stooping under a tree which brushed the basket top, four little hands gripped tightly hold of a kindly branch and held on fast.

When E-ish-so-oolth had gone on further not missing the two children, they clambered down, and partly freed their eyes from the vile pitch, running for home as fast as they could go. To their mothers they told the story, and how their playmates of that very morning, were now perchance within the witch's lodge, and no help to save them from a bloody fate. Then all the mothers of the kidnapped girls chanted the weird and doleful death lament. Four days and nights the dismal song was heard, beyond the blue wood smoke of Indian fires. Weeks of mourning passed, and all but one were comforted, but she sat all alone, and every morning she squatted on the sea grass at the shore, chanting that drear and mournful song.

Next: The Birth of Eut-le-ten

contact us - copyright & disclaimer - search - privacy statement