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Tsimshian Texts by Franz Boas, 1902
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The Porcupine & the Beaver

Told By Moses

The Porcupine and the Beaver were friends.  They loved each other.  The Beaver used to invite the Porcupine to his house all the year round.  The Porcupine went and entered the Beaver's house.  The house of the Beaver was in the middle of a great lake.  The Beaver liked the water very much, but the Porcupine could not go into the water because he could not swim; he was afraid he might perish if his stomach should get full of water.  Therefore the Beaver went to the shore and called the Porcupine.  The Beaver came up twice when going to the place where the Porcupine was sitting on the shore.  Now he came ashore.  He said to the Porcupine, "I will carry you.  Hold on to my neck."  Then the Beaver turned round, but the Porcupine was afraid to be carried across the water.  He said to the Beaver, "I might perish."  But the Beaver said, "You are not going to die," and after a while the Porcupine climbed on the Beaver's back.  The Beaver said, "Now, hold tight to my neck."  The Porcupine did so, and the Beaver started across the lake.  After a little while he dived; then the Porcupine was much troubled.  He broke wind because he did not know how to swim.  The water is the Beaver's home, while the Porcupine's home is between the mountains.  The Beaver came up twice before he reached his house in the middle of the lake.  The Porcupine was very much afraid that he would perish in the water.  Now he entered the Beaver’s house, and ate the food the Beaver gave him.  Sticks were the food at the Beaver’s feast.  Now the Porcupine was really troubled because he had to eat sticks, but he ate them.

Another day the Beaver said to the Porcupine, “My dear, let us play.”  Then he told him how they would play.  He said, “I will carry you on my back, and four times I will come up.”  Then the Porcupine thought, “Now I surely must die,” but he agreed.  The Beaver carried the Porcupine on his back and said, “Hold on to my neck and put your nose close down to my nape.”  Now the Porcupine was really ready to die.  The Beaver dived, but before he did so he struck the water with his tail.  Then a little water splashed into the Porcupine’s face, and he gasped.  The Beaver stayed under water a long time.  The Porcupine was almost dead and his stomach was full of water.  Three times the Beaver came up.  Once more he went down, and when he came up again the Porcupine was almost dead.  Now he returned and put him ashore. 

The Porcupine went back to his tribe.  When he arrived, he invited the people to his house.  When his guests entered, he told them what the Beaver had done on the large lake when he had invited him to come to see him.  He said, “My friend almost killed me.”  Then his people said, “Invite him in and play with him in your turn.”

Then the Porcupine did so.  He invited the Beaver to his house.  When the messenger who had invited the Beaver returned, the Beaver went up the valley in which the Porcupine lived.  When the Beaver entered the Porcupine’s house, the latter struck the fire with his tail, so that it burned.  Then he was going to play with the Beaver.  After he had struck the fire with his tail, his tail was burning.  Then the Beaver made a song, as follows: “The little tail of the Porcupine is burned in the middle, pâ!  The little tail of the little Porcupine is burned in the middle.”  The Porcupine ran about in front of the Beaver, with whom he intended to play.  After he had done so, the Porcupine gave food to his friend the Beaver.  He gave him the bark of a tree and some needles of the spruce.  Then the Beaver was afraid to eat them; but the Porcupine said to his friend the great Beaver, “Eat fast, friend,” and the Beaver did so.  Then he said to the Beaver, “Friend, let us play to-morrow morning.  There is a tree on a grassy slope.  That is my playing ground,” and when they were going to lie down to sleep, the Porcupine sang, “When I walk along the edge (?) (?) (?) my shooting star drops out.”  Then the Porcupine spoke to the sky, and it cleared up, and in the morning the ground was covered with ice. 

Now he gave another feast to the great Beaver; and when he had finished, the Porcupine said, “Now let us play, friend.  My playing ground is yonder.”  It was very cold in the morning.  There was a place where water was running down.  It was slippery because the water was frozen.  The Beaver followed the Porcupine across the place.  Then the Beaver was troubled because his feet were slippery, but the Porcupine had long claws.  Then he returned to see what the great Beaver was doing, and he said to him, “Come, do it, friend,” but the Beaver could not cross the place on account of the ice on the mountain.  Then the Porcupine returned, and took the Beaver by the hand and led him across.  Thus the Beaver got across.  The Porcupine was going to play with him; just once he did so.  Then they walked on, and came to the place where the tree was standing.  The Porcupine said to the Beaver, “Now climb this tree.”  The Beaver was much troubled.  He was afraid.  The Porcupine continued, “Now you shall see how I do it.” 

The Porcupine climbed up, and reached the very top of the tree.  Then he let go, and dropped down.  While he was falling down through space he said (?) (?) and he struck on a rock.  Then he rose.  He was not dead.  He said to the Beaver, “Did you see, friend?  That is not difficult.”  And the Porcupine carried the Beaver up the tree.  He said to him, “Now hold on to my neck;” and the Beaver did so.  He clung to the neck of the Porcupine, who climbed the tree.  When they came near the top, the Porcupine put the Beaver on a branch of the tree.  The Beaver was much afraid because his hands were not able to hold on to the tree.  Only the Porcupine knows how to do that, because his claws are long.

Now the Porcupine said, “Hold on to the tree, friend.  I will go down first.”  The Beaver did so, clinging round the branch with his arms.  Then the Porcupine let go of the tree and fell down.  He said again (?) (?) and he struck the rock, but he was not dead.

Now the great Beaver was much troubled, holding on to the branch.  He was afraid to let go; but the Porcupine ran about at the foot of the tree, and looked up to his friend.  He said, “Oh, friend, that is not difficult.  Look at me.  I am not dead, although I fell down.”  Then the Beaver let go of the branch, and when he fell through space, he cried, “Rock, rock!”  Then he struck the rocks.  He lay on his back, and his belly burst.  He was dead.

Note: Questions marks in parentheses found throughout this story are originally found in the book with no explanation why they are inserted.