Basket Woman’s Sister Eats Her Last Meal
Basket Ogress spoke to her little daughter, Tree Roots. “Little Roots, I want you to build a fire and heat those rocks. We are going to have tender roasted children for our supper.”
Basket Ogress put her hug a clam basket on her back and hurried down to the water where the little children were playing. She grabbed them all up and stuffed them into her basket. Little Hunchback kept wriggling himself up over the children. He managed to be at the top of the basket as ogress lumbered upland thinking about her supper.
Little Hunchback saw a tree branch that was hanging sideways.
He grabbed a hold of it and swung himself out of the basket as ogress crawled under with her pack. Then he ran. He went home. When he got there he told how the bad Basket Ogress had stolen the children. The people immediately prepared themselves to go and rescue them. They should kill that ogress.
When Basket ogress arrived at home with her basket full of children, she took them out and seated them around the fire. As she thought about her dinner, she began to sing and dance.
The children will now be roasted,
The children will now be roasted,
The children will now be roasted,
Around the fire she went. It was a great big fire, and her daughter, little Tree Roots, had lots of rocks heating there. ogress was very happy. she was glad because now she had lots of tender little children to eat She became a lightly dizzy as she danced around the fire, and she staggered just a little. oh, but she was so happy as she thought about the dinner she would have in just a little while. It was such a big, hot fire!
The older boys and girls noticed how she had staggered as she danced. They whispered to each other, “She could burn! We could push the dirty thing, because she gets dizzy when she dances and staggers toward the fire. we could push her down and push her neck onto the fire with a forked stick.
“We could all poke her and hold her down on the fire. We could manage to kill her. It would would be a good thing if she died, anyway!”
The children discussed their plan; then one of them ran and brought back a forked stick. They said to little Tree Roots, “Little Tree Roots, go and get a forked stick so that we call get your mother out of the fire if she should get dizzy and fall there.” Little Tree Roots went and returned with the good forked stick that they used when they were out hunting.
Now they watched carefully as Basket Ogress happily danced around her big hot fire. As soon as she staggered just a little, they pushed her toward the fire and poked her neck onto the hot rocks with the forked sticks. She thrashed around for a little while.
Then she died in the fire! They kept her pressed onto the fire. Basket ogress, the monster who liked to eat children, died. She would have eaten them if she had not been killed herself.
It was little Hunchback who ran and told. Then the people came. They made certain that she was truly dead. There was still a little life left in her when the relatives of the children arrived, so they completely killed her. She died!
After Basket Ogress was dead they covered her over with ashes and left her there. Her little daughter, Tree Roots, left. she walked at first, but then she went running away from the place where her mother had died.
The younger sister of Basket ogress, had been hunting far away from home. Now she quietly returned. As she glanced around the area, she noticed that a big fire had died down, but there appeared to be something there covered with ashes.
Then she chuckled to herself and said, “Well, well as usual, the great, powerful one has her game cleverly hidden. This is probably her game that she has roasted and hidden here.” She went closer to investigate what was covered at the fire. she knew it had been roasted. She uncovered part of it. True! It was cooked and falling apart, it was so well done! This younger sister had been out hunting and hadn’t had time to stop and cook herself a good meal. She was so hungry.
Now she ate. She thought that this was some game that her sister had cooked and left covered at the fire.
After she had eaten her fill she began to feel a little sick, and she said, “Oh, my goodness, this tastes like it might have been the dear one I — She realized now that it was her own sister whom she had eaten. She got scared and went away from there.
She walked a long way until she came to some people in a village. She asked them, “Where is your door?
They answered, “It is through the roof that people enter who come here.” They already knew, however, that Basket Ogress, sister would be traveling, and they had built a huge fire beneath the roof. When she came through the hole in the roof, they threw her into the fire, where she died.
Now both monsters were dead, and that is why there are no monsters here on top, the way the world is now. They would still be here if they hadn’t been killed in the fire, the bad Basket ogress and her younger sister.
The younger sister was also bad. This story is about the way it was in the beginning. Those monsters liked to eat children. They killed them. They didn’t eat old people, just the children. The daughter of Basket Ogress, little Tree Roots, lived. Coming generations will now be all right, because the monsters were killed.
That is the end.
HEY-hey-hey-hey! What about that daughter, when she grows up? You kids better WATCH OUT, you see some big ugly old lady with a basket on her back. . .
A Note About Different Tale Versions
There may be as many versions of some oral-history tales as there are tellers, even within one tribe. Certain myths, of general religious importance, once were memorized (taking decades to do, and usually only by a few religious apprentices), and in a few places that may still happen. But all small stories — teaching tales, cautionary tales, entertainment tales — were known as outlines, and might differ in many details not only from teller to teller, but each time the same person told it, depending on the audience, the point to be emphasized, the teller’s mood. In different bands, different tribes, variants of the same story or what seem to be similar stories, or stories that clearly have some similar elements, perhaps borrowed can be found. It is important to understand this difference for the “little stories”. It is very disconcerting to see reference works about Native people, prepared by non-Indians, usually with prestigious professorial prefaces claiming monumental research done, which attribute doings told in the little stories as “beliefs” of an entire tribe or nation. No Northwest Coast adults really believed there was a Basket Ogress who carried off disobedient or otherwise bad children and ate them, for example. This was something like telling very little kids now that if you’re not good, Santa won’t bring you any presents. With all these variants, which have been brought together by one storyteller-elder, who is probably the most knowledgeable expert on all the stories of tribes of the Puget Sound area, you can also see how storytellers can use the same story-structure for different purposes. The children are not always selfish. Little Humpback Boy doesn’t always pettishly call doom upon them all when he doesn’t get the preferred fat part of the salmon. Sometimes he just tries to save himself, sometimes he runs for help. Sometimes the children actively trick Basket Woman into singing and dancing too near the fire, so they can push her in; sometimes she’s just doing a little song-and-dance out of triumphal feelings — and gets careless, so they take advantage of it. Storytellers were and are just as creative as writers are nowadays.
So we must be careful about making universal attributions of belief to “all Native Americans” and even to more limited groups, on the basis of stories. And it is of great importance that the when, where, and who of all stories be preserved. In one way, it is simple justice, the matter of giving credit where credit is due. In another, it can help to prevent misunderstandings. Except for present-day active native storytellers, who may be asked what their intentions are (they may be no more interested in answering this than present day dominant society writers are), knowing the who, where, when is at least helpful in identifying groups of stories by the same tellers.