Cannibal Basket Woman -- Hunchback Boy is a Fink!

Upper Skagit, Vi Hilbert, Storyteller

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Another tale Upper Skagit elder Vi Hilbert tells about the child-eating cannibal Wild Woman of the Woods and Shores, sometimes called the Basket Ogress, of the Northwest Coast, also in her "Basket Ogress," Haboo, Native American Stories from Puget Sound. Seattle:University of Washington, 1985. This story -- which Hilbert got from a different teller -- is morally more complex than the first one. Again, the real villain isn't clear -- the children are greedy and refuse to share the best parts of the salmon, but here Little Hunchback is clearly shown to be wrong in calling such doom -- which he believes he can easily escape -- upon them. Yet his grampa still goes to find him and bring him back. This tale emphasizes tribal-clan unity over all other values. The children are wrong not to share, Little Hunchback is wrong to call doom upon them; it is understandable to elders the children would leave him behind after their escape, but he's still one of the People -- grandpa goes to fetch him, he isn't condemned.

In the time of legends, it seems that the children were sent to gather together by the shore of the salt water.

When they arrived there they were hungry, so they built a fire to roast their salmon. They roasted their salmon. When it was cooked, they divided it into little pieces, one for each child. Little Hunchback was given the tail, He was told, "The tail part will he your share, Little Hunchback."

Little Hunchback felt so insulted. He hollered, "Come on, ogress, come on. I have just been given the tail of the roasted salmon. "

The frightened children said, "Be quiet, be quiet, Little Hunchback! Be quiet! The Basket ogress might come here to us!"

Again they roasted a salmon. Four times they roasted their salmon, and always it was just the tail that was given to Little Hunchback. Now he thought: I am gotng to holler."

ome on down to the water, Basket ogress. These little children just give me the tail."

e quiet, be quiet! Be quiet, Little Hunchback! The Basket ogress might come to us."

"Let her come."

"If she comes, you will be the first one that she takes, Little Hunchback."

"Oh, no. I will always be on top,"

Then he hollered again: "Come on, Basket ogress, come on down towards the water."

Again the frightened children pleaded, "Don't, don't call the Basket ogress--she might come!"

Suddenly they heard something making noise. It was Basket ogress' cane. She had deer hooves tied there, and they rattled as she walked.

"See there! Basket Ogress is coming."

"No, no! Don't call her! No!"

Te grabbed. Put into a big clam basket. It was on the back of the Basket ogress. She put in another child. Little Hunchback squirmed around, always getting himself up to the top as the ogress threw more children into her basket. This clam basket of ogress I was made entirely of snakes. Just snakes.

Tre eleven children, including Little Hunchback. There were eleven.

She arrived.

She put them all in her big clam basket. Little Hunchback was so small he squirmed up on top of all the children -- but he couldn't get out between the snakes her basket was made of -- they would eat him.

She sang as she happily built a hot fire and placed rocks there to heat. When the rocks were hot, the Basket ogress was pushed into it! Then she sang a different song:

Take me out of the fire,
Children, please!
Take me out of the fire,
Children, please!
Take me out of the fire,
Children, please!

The children answered, "We are taking you out of the fire. We are taking you out of the fire, but the flames and the rocks are so hot."

"Put out the fire, children. Put out the fire."

"No, no, Basket ogress! We can't get it out. We have tried in vain to put it out."

Basket ogress again sang her request four times:

Remove me from the fire,
Children, please!
Remove me from the fire,
Children, please!
Remove me from the fire,
Children, please!
Remove me from the fire,
Children, please!

The happy children danced around as she sang.

They sang in reply:

"We are removing you, Basket ogress- but we can't seem to manage to get you out."

The fire burned until it went out. They tried in vain to get the Basket ogress out.

Little Hunchback ran. He went down to the water. He got there. He wanted to be in the bow of the canoe.

"No, no, Little Hunchback. No! You get in the middle, get in the stern." But no, he wanted to be in front. They didn't let Little Hunchback on board. They went where they were going.

Little Hunchback threw rocks at them. He'd fix them. Their paddles would break. Didn't work.

The children arrived where they had come from.

"What did you children do? What did you do with your younger brother?" They were all women at that place. There were no men among them.

"We left Little Hunchback because he wouldn't listen to us when we tried to stop him."

"Oh, okay. It was all right that you left him."

Now his grandfather went out looking for Little Hunchback. He put his grandson on board and they traveled through the swamp grass and reeds that grew there. When he arrived home he asked the children,

"Why did you leave your younger brother?"

They answered, "Well, it was because he called the Basket ogress and she would have burned us. That is why we got angry with him and we left him!"

That is the end of the story.

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Page prepared by Paula Giese graphics and layout copyright 1996.

CREDITS: Story transcribed from Vi Hilbert, "Basket Ogress," Haboo, Native American Stories from Puget Sound. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985 p. 42-44 transcribed by Tacoma Public Library, edited by me to correct typing and coding errors (and provide nice layout). Photo of Vi Hilbert and bird from National Public Broadcasting series.

Last Updated: Sunday, July 07, 1996 - 4:10:04 AM