One day, just as he was approaching a steep hill, he
heard a peculiar booming sound.
‘What can that be?’ he asked himself. ‘I must climb the
hill and find out.’
When he reached the top, he saw a little lake in the
valley below, and there, sunning themselves on the shore, were two Serpents.
The booming noise came from the pounding of their gained hearts.
Quietly but swiftly, Nanabush drew his bow and shot an
arrow at each Serpent. Though he hit them both, they were still very much
alive, for they slithered into the water in the twinkling of an eye and
Then a strange thing happened. The water in the little
lake began to rise. It rose steadily, soon flooding the whole valley.
‘Oho!’ exclaimed Nanabush. ‘The Serpents know I am
hunting them. They are going to try and drown me.’
He climbed the tallest pine tree on the hill, but the
water by this time had covered the hill, was lapping at his heels. He
climbed as quickly as he could, and before long was at the top of the tree.
The water kept on rising and soon reached the level of his chin, but then,
strangely, the water began to go down again. It went down as quickly as it
had risen, and when it had receded to its old level Nanabush climbed down
out of the pine tree.
‘They nearly drowned me.’ said Nanabush, catching his
breath. ‘I shall have to be careful, or next time those evil Serpents will
certainly kill me.’
He then chopped down a number of trees and made a giant
raft, which he left on the top of the hill. Wondering what he should do
next, he wandered away through the woods again. He walked for nearly an hour
when he suddenly stopped. He thought he could hear a woman crying. He crept
on cautiously, and came to a clearing where an old woman was sitting on a
log, and, just as he had imagined, she was crying.
‘Why are you crying old woman?’
‘Ah, a sad thing has happened. That wicked man, Nanabush,
has wounded my brothers with his arrows.’
Nanabush knew at once that the old woman was a Serpent
Woman in disguise. He also realized that she did not know who he was.
Smiling to himself, he exclaimed,’That Nanabush must be a
rascal! But tell me, what are you going to do?’
‘I am gathering herbs to heal their wounds,’ she replied.
‘I am also gathering basswood bark. We shall twist the bark into a long
string and stretch it around the base of the hill. We shall watch the string
and if it vibrates, we shall know Nanabush tripped over it. He is hiding
somewhere on the hill.’
‘Where do the Serpent people live?’ he asked next.
‘All you have to do is follow the path to the lake.’
replied the old woman , pointing the way. ‘When you get to the lake, walk
right into it. A short distance in, you will find a door. The Serpent People
Without saying another word, Nanabush slew the wicked old
Serpent Woman and dressed himself in her clothes. He followed the path to
the lake and found the door. He opened it and found himself inside a huge
lodge - the home of the Serpent People.
Walking along quickly, he soon came upon the two Serpents
whom he had wounded, with his arrows still in their bodies. The Serpents
were guarded by a group of fierce animals, and Nanabush discovered that one
of the Serpents he had wounded was the Chief of all the Serpents. However,
the fierce animals throughout Nanabush was the old woman, and let him pass.
In another corner, he saw the body of his brother, who
had indeed been drowned by the Serpents. In a flash of anger, Nanabush
leaped forward and pushed the arrows deeper into the bodies of the two
Serpents, killing the instantly.
‘Now I have avenged my brother’s death!’ he shouted. And
, before the fierce guardian animals had time to realize what had happened,
Nanabush slipped out of the Serpents lodge and raced back the shore of the
lake, running as fast as he could.
When the guardian animals realized what had happened they
roared with rage and summoned the rest of the Serpent People, who
immediately caused the water in the lake to rise again. But Nanabush heard
the movement of the water as it began to rise, and he ran toward the hill
where he had hidden the giant raft. As he ran he called loudly to his
friends, the birds and animals.
‘Come with me, my friends!’ he shouted. ‘Come to my raft
on the hill. The water is rising again, and this time you will drown unless
you come with me.’
The birds and animals answered his call not a moment too
soon. Just as they reached the giant raft and climbed safely aboard, the
water rose over the crest of the hill as set the raft afloat. In a few more
minutes the whole world was covered by the surging water. There was not a
single thing to be seen on top of the water except Nanabush and his friends
on the floating raft. Even the highest hills were not seen.
Nanabush and the birds and animals floated around
aimlessly on the raft for many days and nights. At first Nanabush thought
the water was going down again, but after they had been on the raft a full
month he realized that the old world was submerged forever beneath the water
and that the wicked Serpent People had drowned with it. Nanabush, himself
would have to find a way to create a new world.
‘Loon!’ he called, when he decide what he should so. ‘You
are an excellent swimmer. Dive down and bring me a lump of mud in your
The loon dived into the water and was gone a long time.
Presently, he returned.
‘I couldn’t reach the old world,’ replied sadly. ‘It was
to far down.’
‘Beaver!’ called out Nanabush, ‘you are a great diver.
You try next.’
The beaver dived into the water and was gone much longer
than the loon. But he failed to reach the bottom of the vast ocean.
‘Muskrat!’ exclaimed Nanabush, ‘ You must try next.’
The muskrat dived in and was gone even longer then the
other two, they were certain that muskrat drowned. Just as they were going
to give up on him, he suddenly appeared on the surface, motionless, floating
around as if he were indeed dead.
Nanabush pulled the muskrat onto the raft and revived
him. He noticed that the little animal was holding onto a paw tightly
closed. He pried it open - and there was a tiny, wet particles of sand. The
muskrat had reached the old world after all!
Nanabush took the grains of sand and dried them out
carefully. Then he planted the grains gently onto the back of the turtle (mikinaak) and
a wind in all four directions blew and the grains started to grow. Soon they
grew so big that an island (minisi) was formed in the shape of the
turtle. Nanabush and all the animals stepped on the island and began to sing
and danced in a circle. They made the circle bigger and bigger as the island
grew. Then the wind in the four directions stopped to blow and a huge island
was standing in the shape of the turtle. That is how Turtle Island was
Nanabush then said:
" Here is the new world - home for all birds and
And that, so the Ojibway story tellers say, is how
Nanabush created the world in which we animals live in today.