We are pleased to participate in the A to Z Blog Challenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/). The Story Crossroads theme for this year is Beating the Odds…Lucky Folktales Around the World to Brighten Your Day. Each post highlights that the stars aligned and what would have normally been…bad…turned out after all. Considering what we – as humankind – have experienced the past year, how nice is it to remember that all of us can “beat the odds” to some level in our lives.
And we’ll admit now…some are actually myths, legends, or epics rather than only limited to folktales. So is that a type of “loading the dice”? Ah, but the stories were too wonderful to pass by.
Growing up in Wisconsin, I learned about the Menominee as the Menominee River itself drains into Green Bay. You may have heard of the Green Bay Packers? So this was one of the key tribes we talked about in school. There are five clans in the Menomini: Bear, Eagle, Wolf, Moose, and Crane. These five were brothers who took on different duties so that the whole tribe would flourish. Bear was in charge of administration. Eagle oversaw war and fire. Wolf led in hunting. Crane guided in anything that needed to be built. Moose was part of distributing and guarding the rice and protecting the village. For this story, we need to focus on the Bear Clan and the other animals within Bear Clan: Beaver, Muskrat, Otter, Sturgeon, Mud Turtle, Sunfish, and Porcupine. Notice that last animal – Porcupine? Important. Each of these animals within the Bear Clan are considered “younger brothers” to help with the overall tasks of the clan.
How dangerous are “Friends”?
We love friends and can “curse” friends. Sometime we hurt the ones we care about the most. Though, if each of us had to undertake a friend test…well, let’s say that these 9 “friends” would not pass it. When someone tells you that something must never happen but then you go ahead and do exactly that as a prank? Be that friend and believe them. The story does not reveal which Clan they were part of but it was obvious who one young men originated.
Man warns 9 friends that he must never eat porcupine meat. Friends purposely dip meal in porcupine grease. Man eats. Turns into catfish. Friends grieve. Catfish asks friends to tell his father who then lives near shore. Despite curse, catfish guides animals to father so always has food.
Those 9 friends got lucky that no vengeance was sought for the betrayal! And while the man would forever remain a catfish, he took an “unlucky” time and turned it into a blessing for his father. So perhaps not THAT happy of an ending, but the catfish-man never had to worry about providing for his father. There is always love and relief in that act.
Finding the Story “The Man Who Transgressed a Taboo”:
https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/man-who-transgressed-taboo that is also from “American Indian Literature: An Anthology” by Alan R. Velie
While not of this story, here are hints of other wonderful Menominee stories: https://www.mpm.edu/plan-visit/educators/wirp/nations/menominee/oral-tradition
Please share in the comments…or anything on your mind. While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings with virtual as well as proper-distanced/masked/outdoors.