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chilliwack lake

The Story About Wren

Lerman, Norman. (1952).
An Analysis of Folktales of Lower Fraser Indians,
British Columbia. Seattle: University of Washington.

Story about Wren
Told by Mrs. Agnes James. pp 97-102

Wren lives with his grandmother, Caterpillar, near
Tomihy Mountain.
Wren catches Bear stealing fish from his fish trap.
Wren kills Bear, and dries his meat and hide.
Bear’s wife visits Wren and sees Bear’s hide.
The birds and animals plan to kill Wren.
Wren tells Caterpillar to climb into a wooden ball
and wriggle it around when the ball is thrown into
fire or water.
Caterpillar wriggles, and the ball rolls out of the
fire and water and she is saved.
The people decide to make war on Thunder, and appoint
Wren as leader.
Wren shoots an arrow chain ladder to the shy with the
help of other birds and animals.
All of them climb the ladder, except for Beaver, Elk
and Deer, who are too heavy, and Duck who laughs
too much.
In the sky country they cross a valley and meet Blue
Crane, who shouts a warning of their approach.
The ground around Thunder’s house is burnt because of
the lightning flashes which occur when she opens
her eyes.
Pheasant shakes Thunder until Thunder gives him her rumble.
On their way back to the ladder, Thunder burns some of
them with her lightning.
The ladder is gone, so Spider offers to take them down
to earth in his basket if they don’t move.
On the second try they reach the ground.
Coon and Wildcat were not brought back by the Spider
because they scratch.
Coon and Wildcat jump down.
That is why they are such good jumpers today.

When Wren was a person, he lived near Tomihy Mountain. The mountain was named after him. (My mother came from there.) Wren lived with his grandmother, Caterpillar, near Tomihy Mountain. He built a fish trap to catch salmon in a creek. Every morning he would go down to see
his fish trap and get the fish. His grandmother would butcher and dry them. He caught a lot of fish and dried all that he caught. One morning when he went down to see his traps he didn’t find any fish in them. The next day he went down to see this traps again there were no fish in them.
Wren said to his grandmother, “There must be something stealing my fish. Tonight I’m going to stay near my trap and watch.” He got his bow and arrow and took it with him when he went to watch his fish trap. He sat and watched until after midnight. He heard someone coming. When the person got near he recognized it was Bear. Bear and his wife had a house not far away
from Wren. Wren shot Bear and killed him.

After he had killed Bear he went home and told his grandmother that he had killed Bear, who had been stealing his fish. When morning came, he got his knife and he told his grandmother that he was going to go up and butcher Bear, whom he had killed. Little granny wanted to go along, so
she tagged after him. He butchered Bear, and cut it up into hunks so that both he and granny could pack it to their house. They made a number of trips. Wren was small, but awful strong. He carried the hunks from the river to the house. On the last trip he rolled up the hide and carried it up.
They cut up the meat, and hung it up to dry. Then he stretched out the hide on a hoop, and put it way up on the roof on top of the dried fish, in order to hide it. (You hear my stories and take away my power.)

Mr. Bear never came home, and Mrs. Bear mourned him and cried. It was many days past that he has gone away, Mrs. Bear just cried every day. She had given up all hope because he had been gone so long. She had quite a few children to stay home. She went over there, and went in, and the grandmother seated her up against the wall at the back of the fire. The grandmother took down some of the fish and cooked it and gave Mrs. Bear dinner. After Mrs. Bear had finished dinner, she still sat where she was. While she was sitting there, a drop fell on her hand. She looked at it and saw that it was oil. She looked up and saw Bear’s hide up there. She went home and told her children that their father was really dead, because she saw his stretched –out hide at Wren’s place.

The news spread around the neighborhood that Bear had been murdered. The people got together, and they were going to kill Wren. All the animals and birds made special bows and arrows for the occasion. All the animals and birds were for shooting Wren, except škʷúkʷex (That’s a little bird like Wren, with white on the side of the head). He was the only one who sided with Wren. The day had arrived when they were going to shoot Wren. Wren didn’t want his grandmother to get hurt, so he got a wooden ball, opened it up and put her inside. He told his grandmother, Caterpillar, “If they burn the ball, just wriggle around and you will get out of the fire.” The grandmother had heard all the plotting about what they were going to do with her grandson. When all the people got there, they threw the ball into the fire. The grandmother would just wriggle around, and the ball would just roll out of the fire again. They rolled her into the fire many times, and each time she rolled away. They finally just gave up. Then they changed their minds, so they took her and rolled her down to the river. But her grandson had told her, “If they throw you in the river, you just do the same thing as when they throw you into the fire.” She rolled back to shore, and again they threw her out, and she rolled back. Her enemies finally gave up. She’d rolled back to shore each time. When all those people who wanted to shoot Wren saw that they couldn’t kill his grandmother, they decided that Wren was right. Wren’s grandmother saved his life. After everything was over, Wren opened up the wooden ball and let out his grandmother.

The people said, “Let’s make war in another country, way above.” They were going to war on Thunder. They had a platform built, and they were going to shoot arrows way up in the sky. They all agreed to choose Wren as their leader. They were his enemies, but now they figured that he was a smart guy. Wren got up on the platform, and danced around and sang. All the people surrendered their bows and arrows to him, and he built a ladder way up into the sky. He took his bow and arrow and pulled it way back as far as he could, and the arrow went up, up, up, until it struck something and made a ringing sound. The song Wren sang was in Nooksack, and meant, “The bow and arrow. I’m going to shoot the sky.” He sang that song and danced and shot the arrows. That’s why Wren has that kind of a movement today. He’d sing, and shoot an arrow. He’d shoot one arrow and it would stick into the end of the other arrow. he called on škʷúkʷex and asked him to shoot his arrows up. Wren ran out of arrows, and škʷúkʷex stepped up on the platform. He finished his arrows, and škʷúkʷex finished his, then Wren called on the other people to shoot for this long ladder. Wren shot up their arrows, too. (It’s a great story. Worth a thousand dollars. A real old story) Then his grandmother repeated, “Your arrow is going up.” That was her power. The old lady was helping her grandson. It was through her power that they connected the arrows. The platform was on Tomihy Mountain. The mountain was low before he started to build the ladder.

After the ladder was finished, they all started to climb up. They didn’t want Beaver to go, because he was to heavy and might break the ladder. They did want Elk to go, because he was too heavy. They didn’t want Deer to go, either. They didn’t want Duck to go, because she laughed to much. When they reach the other country, she might laugh up there.

After they had all climbed up, Wren said, “We’ll go this way. That’s where Thunder’s house is. No one is to make a sound.” When they got up there they came into a nice valley. They had gone beyond the sky and into another land. After they crossed the valley, hey saw an old lady, Blue Crane, digging vegetables – onions, I guess. Blue Crane repeated, “People: People!” All these warriors passed her by, nobody bothered her at all. It was a long hike from the hole through which they had come to the other side of the valley. At a distance they saw Thunder’s house. The ground around Thunder’s house was all burnt, because when he opened his eyes there was lightning. Pheasant said, “I’m going to go ahead.” Pheasant was going to pull Thunder by the head. Pheasant grabbed Thunder by the head and shook her. (Thunder is a woman.) All those that went up were men, and their wives were at home. The rest of the warriors went in the house. Pheasant got his demand, and Thunder gave him a rumble like thunder. Ever after, Pheasant would also make a noise like thunder. When Pheasant got that thunder rumble, they didn’t make war on Thunder any more, and just came home. After they had come out of the house and gone some distance, Thunder came to the door, opened her eyes, and a lot of people got burnt, and they all ran away. Thunder is also Thunderbird.

Those who escaped getting burnt reached the place where the ladder was, but it was gone. It had fallen down. Those who had survived were just stuck up there, and couldn’t come down. Wren had to find some way to get down. He saw a big spider with a big basket. Spider agreed to take them down if they were very, very still, and if anyone moved he would bring them back up again. They were to ride in this basket. He let them all into the basket, but he told two guys to stay behind, Coon and Wildcat, because they might scratch, and then he’d have to take them all back. Spider came down with his load, but part of the way someone moved, so he had to go back up. It was Spider’s rope that they were using, and he had to go back up. After hey went up, Wren said “Everybody sit real still, we’ve got to get home.” They all closed up the basket, Spider went down, and this time he landed on earth. They opened up the top of the basket, and people came out. Those boys who had been left behind because they were to heavy to climb the ladder were sore. Beaver had gnawed on the ladder, and Elk had punched the earth under the ladder’s leg, so that the ladder came down. All those people who came down, went home. Coon and Wildcat, who are left behind, decided that they didn’t want to stay there. They wanted to go home, too, so they said, “Let’s jump.” So they jumped, and when they made the jump they spread out their legs and arms, and came down and landed on Tomihy Mountain. It was a mountain before they jumped. That’s why when someone goes hunting for Coon or Wildcat, they can go way up high, like in a tree, and jump down and never get hurt. That’s the end, when those two guys get home.