Alconquin Cinderella – Storytelling for Everyone

Art by Michael Hague

Once there was a great warrior named Strong Wind. He lived with his sister in a tent on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Strong Wind had an amazing power. He was able to make himself invisible. His sister could see him, but no one else could. He said he would marry the first woman who could see him as he came home at the end of the day.

Many women came to the tent to watch for him. When his sister saw him coming, she would ask, ‘Do you see him?’

Each girl would answer, ’Oh, yes! I see him!’

Then Strong Wind’s sister would ask, ‘What is he pulling his sled with?’

And the girl would answer, ‘with a rope’ or ‘with a wooden pole.’

Then Strong Wind’s sister would know that they were lying, because their guesses were wrong. Many tried and lied and failed. For Strong Wind would not marry anyone who was untruthful.

A chief lived in the village. His wife had died, but he had three daughters. One was much younger than the other two. She was gentle and kind and beautiful, but her sisters were jealous of her and treated her badly.

They cut off her long black hair and they made her wear rags. They also burned her face with coals from the fire to make her look ugly. And they lied to their father and said that she had done these things to herself. But she remained kind and gentle and went about her work with a patient heart.

The two older sisters also went to try and see Strong Wind. When he was coming Strong Wind’s sister asked them, ‘Do you see him?’

Oh, yes! I see him!’ each of them answered.

‘What is his bow made out of?’ asked Strong Wind’s sister.

‘Out of iron,’ answered one. ‘Out of strong wood,’ answered the other.

‘You have not seen him,’ said Strong Wind’s sister

Strong Wind himself heard them and knew that they had lied. They went into the tent, but still they could not see him. They went home very disappointed.

One day the youngest daughter went to try and see Strong Wind. She was wearing rags, and her face was covered in burns. As she went along the road, people pointed and laughed at her, but still she continued on her way. When she came to Strong Wind’s tent she waited.

When Strong Wind was coming, his sister asked the girl, ‘Do you see him?’

‘No,’ the girl answered. ‘I do not see him.’

Strong Wind’s sister was surprised because the girl had told the truth.

‘Now do you see him?’ asked Strong Wind’s sister.

‘Yes,’ answered the girl. ‘Now I do see him. He is magnificent.’

‘What is his bow made of?’ asked Strong Wind’s sister.

‘The rainbow,’ answered the girl.

‘And what is the bowstring made of?’ asked Strong Wind’s sister.

‘Of stars,’ answered the girl.

Then Strong Wind’s sister knew that the girl could really see him. He had let her see him because she had told the truth.

‘You really have seen him,’ said Strong Wind’s sister. Then the sister bathed the girl in a sacred spring, and all the burns went away. Her hair grew long and black again. The sister dressed the girl in fine clothes. Strong Wind came to the teepee and greeted his wife.

The girls’ two older sisters were very angry, but Strong Wind turned them into aspen trees. Ever since that day, the leaves of the aspen tree tremble with fear whenever the wind comes near, because they know he will never forget their cruelty.


Sources: Legends of the Micmacs, by Silas Rand, Longmans, New York and London, 1894; and The Algonquin Legends of New England, by Charles Leland, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1884. (Rand’s manuscript, though published later, was the basis for Leland’s version.) Background on the Micmacs came from The Micmac Indians of Eastern Canada, by Wilson and Ruth Wallis, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1955.

Note: This tale was popular in many Native American tribes with languages in the Algonquian family. The variant here comes from the Mi’kmaq (or Micmac) tribe of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, Canada, and was recorded in Nova Scotia.

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