Burnt Face (A
Micmac Tale from North America)
ONCE upon a time, in a large Indian
village on the border of a lake, there lived an old man who was a widower.
He had three daughters. The eldest was jealous, cruel, and ugly; the second
was vain; but the youngest of all was very gentle and lovely.
Now, when the father was out hunting in the forest, the
eldest daughter used to beat the youngest girl, and burn her face with
hot coals; yes, and even scar her pretty body. So the people called her
When the father came home from hunting he would ask why
she was so scarred, and the eldest would answer quickly: "She is
a good-for-nothing! She was forbidden to go near the fire, and she disobeyed
and fell in." Then the father would scold Little Burnt-Face and she
would creep away crying to bed.
By the lake, at the end of the village, there was a beautiful
wigwam. And in that wigwam lived a Great Chief and his sister. The Great
Chief was invisible; no one had ever seen him but his sister. He brought
her many deer and supplied her with good things to eat from the forest
and lake, and with the finest blankets and garments. And when visitors
came all they ever saw of the Chief were his moccasins; for when he took
them off they became visible, and his sister hung them up.
Now, one Spring, his sister made known that her brother,
the Great Chief, would marry any girl who could see him.
Then all the girls from the villageexcept Little
Burnt-Face and her sistersand all the girls for miles around hastened
to the wigwam, and walked along the shore of the lake with his sister.
And his sister asked the girls, "Do you see my brother?"
And some of them said, "No"; but most of them
Then his sister asked, "Of what is his shoulder-strap
And the girls said, "Of a strip of rawhide."
"And with what does he draw his sled?" asked
And they replied, "With a green withe."
Then she knew that they had not seen him at all, and said
quietly, "Let us go to the wigwam."
So to the wigwam they went, and when they entered, his
sister told them not to take the seat next the door, for that was where
her brother sat.
Then they helped his sister to cook the supper, for they
were very curious to see the Great Chief eat. When all was ready, the
food disappeared, and the brother took off his moccasins, and his sister
hung them up. But they never saw the Chief, though many of them stayed
One day Little Burnt-Face's two sisters put on their finest
blankets and brightest strings of beads, and plaited their hair beautifully,
and slipped embroidered moccasins on their feet. Then they started out
to see the Great Chief.
As soon as they were gone, Little Burnt-Face made herself
a dress of white birch-bark, and a cap and leggings of the same. She threw
off her ragged garments, and dressed herself in her birch-bark clothes.
She put her father's moccasins on her bare feet; and the moccasins were
so big that they came up to her knees. Then she, too, started out to visit
the beautiful wigwam at the end of the village.
Poor Little Burnt-Face! She was a sorry sight! For her
hair was singed off, and her little face was as full of burns and scars
as a sieve is full of holes; and she shuffled along in her birch-bark
clothes and big moccasins. And as she passed through the village the boys
and girls hissed, yelled, and hooted.
And when she reached the lake, her sisters saw her coming,
and they tried to shame her, and told her to go home. But the Great Chief's
sister received her kindly, and bade her stay, for she saw how sweet and
gentle Little Burnt-Face really was.
Then as evening was coming on, the Great Chief's sister
took all three girls walking beside the lake, and the sky grew dark, and
they knew the Great Chief had come.
And his sister asked the two elder girls, "Do you
see my brother?"
And they said, "Yes."
"Of what is his shoulder-strap made?" asked
"Of a strip of rawhide," they replied.
"And with what does he draw his sled?" asked
And they said, "With a green withe."
Then his sister turned to Little Burnt-Face and asked,
"Do you see him?"
"I do! I do!" said Little Burnt-Face with awe.
"And he is wonderful!"
"And of what is his sled-string made?" asked
his sister gently.
"It is a beautiful Rainbow!" cried Little Burnt-Face.
"But, my sister," said the other, "of what
is his bow-string made?"
"His bow-string," replied Little Burnt-Face,
"is the Milky Way!"
Then the Great Chief's sister smiled with delight, and
taking Little Burnt-Face by the hand, she said, "You have surely
She led the little girl to the wigwam, and bathed her
with dew until the burns and scars all disappeared from her body and face.
Her skin became soft and lovely again. Her hair grew long and dark like
the Blackbird's wing. Her eyes were like stars. Then his sister brought
from her treasures a wedding-garment, and she dressed Little Burnt-Face
in it. And she was most beautiful to behold.
After all this was done, his sister led the little girl
to the seat next the door, saying, "This is the Bride's seat,"
and made her sit down.
And then the Great Chief, no longer invisible, entered,
terrible and beautiful. And when he saw Little Burnt-Face, he smiled and
said gently, "So we have found each other!"
And she answered, "Yes."
Then Little Burnt-Face was married to the Great Chief,
and the wedding-feast lasted for days, and to it came all the people of
the village. As for the two bad sisters, they went back to their wigwam
in disgrace, weeping with shame.
Olcott, Frances Jenkins. The
Red Indian Fairy Book. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1917.
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