CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 11 . . . . February 2, 2001
These little people had many magical powers; indeed it would seem they were magic itself. They were only about three or four feet high and had the most peculiar faces. For their faces were almost flat, and they had nearly no nose at all, just two holes for nostrils. They seemed rather embarrassed by this, and when you would come upon them, they would crouch down, bow their heads and bury their faces in their hands so you could not see they had no real nose.Told in the first person by a 75-year-old Cree man from the Pelican Narrows Band in northeastern Saskatchewan, this story is not actually a legend in the traditional sense. It reads more like a fireside story, made up on the spot, by an elder wishing to pass on to the next generation the beliefs and traditions of his people. The importance of nature, particularly forests, to the Cree, is evident in the book's opening pages. In fact, it is not until page 22, more than halfway through the book, that the Mimigwesseos are mentioned. Ballantyne rambles on about life in the old days - how the forest provided the people with many of their needs, how native people hunted, cooked and built a fire - then tells brief stories about humans' encounters with Mimigwesseos, tiny people with magical powers. One such tale is about two young girls who were paddling their canoe past the forbidden island where the Mimigwesseos lived. Growing near the shore were white birch trees whose bark would make fine baskets. Wishing to have some of the bark, one of the girls convinced her companion to drop her off on the island for a few minutes. Once ashore, the girl disappeared from view and a scream pierced the air. Her companion paddled away in terror. Years later, some men travelling to the island saw the girl sitting upon the rocks. Strangely, she looked exactly the same as she did 12 years earlier when she disappeared. She was never seen again.
Translated by Prentice Downes with some help from interpreters, the book reads like a soft, gentle narrative. Readers can almost see Ballantyne sitting by the fire and relaying to his grandchildren the stories which are an integral part of his culture. The Legend of the Mimigwesseos is recommended only as a supplement to an already established collection of native lore.
Recommended with Reservations.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.