A Native American Cinderella

Strong Wind and Changing Moon, a story of the Algonquin people

illustrations by 

Lawrence Gullo

to:

The Irish Cinderella  

 

Introduction 

 

Sisters in Story 

 

Eileen Charbonneau Homepage

    There once lived a brother called Strong Wind and his sister Changing Moon.  Strong Wind was a fine hunter and great leader.  He was generous to the people and kind to children.  His sister Changing Moon had healing hands and helped the Three Sisters Corn, Beans and Squash to grow in abundance.  She was as wise and kind as she was beautiful.   Creator loved this brother and sister so much that they were given a magic cloak under which they could become invisible.  The brother and sister had many adventures with this fine gift.  Once they used it to find Strong Wind a wife.  It happened in this way…

            Changing Moon walked into the center of the village, gathering all around her.  She said, “Hear me.  My brother seeks a wife.   Any woman who is interested in becoming Strong Wind’s wife should come to the river’s edge at dusk.

Well, to have Strong Wind for a husband would mean good things for his wife.  He was handsome and considerate.  There would be food and a warm, snug fire.  And he was a caring and patient uncle to his sister’s children, so he showed great promise as a man of family and nation.  Changing Moon found the whole village watching the many young women ready at the river’s edge at dusk. 

In the shadows behind the others stood a poorly dressed dirty girl with short tuffs of hair.  Her name was Burned Woman.  At first, no one noticed her as they listened to Changing Woman proclaim, “It’s almost dusk.  My brother will come on the other side of the water, pulling his sled.   When you see him, tell me with what he pulls his sled.  The one who can do this, will be his wife.”

The women were delighted.  “Ho, this is not much of a test!” one of them said.  “I’m glad we arrived here first.”

Another woman began to quarrel with her.  “I ran faster than you!  I was the one here first!”

“Only because I was sewing a new copper ornament onto my dress.  I am older, and you should show respect and give me your place!”

The argument was cut short by the sound of wind through the trees and over the river.  “Here comes my brother!”  Changing Moon said.  “Who can see him?”

The silenced women lean forward, straining their eyes.  Finally, one of them spoke.  “I can.  I can see Strong Wind.”

            Changing Moon asked her question.  “With what does he pull his sled?”

The woman hesitated.  “With…ummm, with a fine wolf pelt!”she said.

The wind came, and it sounded like the snarl of an angry wolf.

“That is not true,” Changing Moon said.  “Here he comes again.  Who can see my brother?”

“I see Strong Wind!” another woman claimed.

“With what does he pull his sled?”  Changing Woman asked her.

“With…with the skin of a Timber rattlesnake!”

The wind hissed disapproval this time as his sister said, “That is not true.”

And so it continued in this way, with many other answers…

“A strip of rawhide?” 

“A green branch?” 

“A beaver pelt?”

At last there was but one who had not offered an answer:  Burned Woman. 

Now, Burned Woman was a slave captured from another tribe and adopted into a family.  But two sisters of that family treated her with great cruelty.  They gave her only ragged clothing to wear and cut off her hair.  She had the most difficult tasks.  When she had done them, she still had to watch the fire all night.  Sometimes she was so tired she would fall into the embers and so her skin was burned and scarred.

Changing Moon looked at her this time when she asked, “Is there anyone else who would like to marry my brother?”

“I would,” Burned Woman whispered.

The other women finally noticed her.  “You?  Who asked you to the waterside?”  one said.  “Go back to the village where you belong!” shouted another.

Her sisters agreed.  “Yes, if Strong Wind looks upon your ugly face, he will leave and never return!”

But Changing Moon, who was as wise and kind as she was beautiful,  held up her hand, just as the wind moved over the water again.  “Hear me,” she said.   “My brother and I wish everyone to have the same chance.” 

Then Changing Moon took Burned Woman by the hand and led her to the edge of the water.  “Now,” she spoke gently, “he comes again.  Do you see him?”

Burned Woman looked.  She looked harder.  “No,” she finally said.  “I do not see him.”

Changing Moon frowned.  “Well, he’s right there!” she insisted.  “With what does he pull his sled?”

Burned Woman closed her eyes as she felt a breeze from Strong Wind.  She opened her eyes hopefully, but was disappointed.

“I don’t see any sled,” she said.  “I don’t see anything.”

She turned to go, but Changing Moon stopped her retreat.  “Wait.  You are the only one who did not allow your desire to cloud your eyes.  You alone told the truth.  Look again.”

Changing Moon moved over the water and took off her brother’s cloak.  She faced Burned Woman and smiled.  “Now do you see him?” she asked.

Well, Burned Woman could now barely speak because the sight before her so dazzled her eyes.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“With what does he pull his sled?”  Changing Moon asked.

Burned Woman took in a breath. “With a rainbow,” she whispered.

“She speaks the truth!”  Changing Moon proclaimed.

Changing Moon beckoned Burned Woman into the river.  She bathed her gently and as she did, Burned Woman’s burns and scars disappeared.  As Changing Moon combed her new sister’s hair, it grew long and black and beautiful as a raven’s wing.  And as she brought Burned Woman from the lake, the village saw that her rags were now a fine white deerskin wedding dress, with a rainbow at the hem to proclaim that she was now Strong Wind’s bride.

A great feast was held to honor the marriage of Strong Wind and Burned Woman.  It went on for a whole week and was full of feasting and games and dancing. 

But soon Strong Wind heard of the way his wife’s sisters had treated her.  He grew so angry that he turned those sisters into aspen trees. And even now, to this day,  the leaves of the aspen are still the first to tremble when Strong Wind passes by.