The Undying Head

In a remote part of the north there lived a great magician, Iamo, with his young sister, who had never seen a human being. They had no need ever to venture far from home; for to procure food, he had only to go a little way from their lodge and at a particular spot stick his arrows into the ground. Next morning his sister would go there and find every arrow fixed in the heart of a deer. Thus they lived until she attained womanhood, when one day her brother said to her, Sister, the time is near when you will become ill. Now listen carefully to my advice. If you don't, you will probably be the cause of my death. Take the fire-sticks with which we build our fires and go some distance from our lodge and build yourself a separate fire. When you need food, I shall tell you where to find it. You must cook for yourself at that time, and I shall cook for myself. During the period of your illness, do not attempt to come near to this lodge or to bring into it any of the utensils you will then be using. For the present, furthermore, since you do not know when that time will come, you must wear fastened to your belt the utensils you will then require, so that when the moment arrives, you will not have to return to our lodge to get them.

The sister promised to obey her brother in everything he had told her. But shortly after, when he was out of the lodge and she was alone there, combing her hair, she had just untied the belt to which the implements were fastened, when suddenly the event occurred to which her brother had referred. Out of the lodge she ran, but in her haste she forgot the belt and, afraid to return, stood for some time thinking, then deciding to go in and fetch it For, as she thought, my brother is not there and this will take but a moment! in she ran, and was coming out when the brother, returning, came in sight and immediately knew what had happened.

Well, he said; you have killed me. It was an accident, I know. But what can we do? What is to become of you? You have killed me. He laid his hunting clothes and gear aside, and soon his feet began to inflame and turn black, so that he could no longer move. Then he explained to her how to set the arrows in the ground, so that she should always have a supply of food; and when the inflammation reached his first rib, he said, My sister, my end is approaching. You must now do exactly as I say. Over there are my medicine bag and war club. In the bag are all my medicines, war feathers, and paints of all colors. When the inflammation reaches my breast, you must take the club and with its sharp edge cut my head off; place the head in the bag and, leaving the top open, hang the medicine bag back where it was. Also, pay attention to my bow and arrows. You will need one of the arrows to procure your food. The others, along with the bow, you must tie to the medicine bag. And the whole must then be arranged so that I shall be looking out toward the door. I shall speak to you now and then, but not very often.