The Legend of Tow Hill

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HAIDA GWAII  (Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia)


It was sometimes called Little Mountain by the Haidas.  One legend states Tow once stood with his brother Towustasin in Juskatia.  Imagining that he had been unfairly treated in the disposition of fish, he left in a jealous rage.  Tow was a miserable neighbour when he came to live at the mouth of the Hiellen.  Constantly making night raids on the Haida village, he stole everything he could lay his hands on to satisfy his gluttonous appetite even children.  One day he sent word that his next victim would be Beautiful Star, the chiefs daughter. 

     Terrified though the Haida were, they decided something had to be done and a meeting hurriedly got under way.  It was decided they would hide at the foot of the path and kill Tow when he descended.  Volunteers were called.  No one responded.  then you will draw straws, said the elders. 

     The panic became great.  No one wanted to pick a straw lest the short one be his.  Then the outcast crippled Hopi stepped forth, his homely face causing the others to shrink back. 

     If the chief will promise me Beautiful Star for my bride, I will kill Tow.  The roar of scorn which greeted Hopi nearly bowled him over.  The very idea of that old man even thinking he could match Tow let alone the audacity to ask for Beautiful Starhe must be mad.  But Hopi stood his ground. 

     Finally the elders said, What have we got to lose?  No one here will do anything.  If Hopi can kill Tow before the monster gets his hands on the girl, then he should have her for his wife. 

     There is one condition more, said Hopi. 

     Everyone must go into his lodge and stay until sundown.  Even so much as a peek and I will let Tow take you all. 

     It was then late afternoon.  Hopi got out his powerful whalebone whistle and a big rawhide drum and stood in front of the hill.  He blew the whistle and beat the drum will all his might. Tow, just waking from his sleep, was hungry and cranky. 

     Stop that infernal racket, he roared down at Hopi.  But Hopi just made more noise. 

     If you dont cut that out, blast you, Ill send my eagle to tear you apart, screamed Tow.  Still Hopi continued to beat the drum. 

     The eagle was loosed a great 20 foot bird which swooped down on the little cripple.  Hopi let forth a piercing whistle on the whalebone and the eagle became paralyzed, slammed against the face of the hill and turned to stone.  Parts of him may still be seen there.

     Tow was enraged.  Calling his pet whale, he ordered it to swallow Hopi.  The whale began to obey, but when he heard the beat of the drum, he overshot his mark and ran aground. He too turned to stone.  There he lies to this day, his place marked by the blowhole the only part of him which still continues to function.

     When he saw what had happened to his whale, Tows rage knew no limit.  He began to heave down boulders on Hopi, which the little man dodged easily.  Finally, there were no more rocks to throw and Tow said, Stop that noise, damn you, or Ill come down myself and eat you alive.

     At this Hopi drummed all the louder and blew his whistle to a screaming whine. Suddenly Tow ran to the edge of the cliff and jumped.  But he had become so fat and lazy that he could not control his jump and hurtled onto the beach head first, dashing his brains out on the boulders he had thrown down shortly before.  It is said that the rocks are still there and old Tows big fingerhole marks still may be easily be seen.

     Hopi, our little hero, not only got the girl, but became a very important figure in his village from that moment on.


Tow Hill
Acrylic on Canvas
October 2002
24 X 36

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