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The Blind Boy and the Loon

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There once lived a blind boy with his sister and stepmother. Although blind, the boy was strong and could hunt and provided well for the family. Even so, the stepmother did not love the boy and treated him badly.

One day, in spring, when food was short and when the ice in the window was melted, a huge bear, smelling meat, attacked the ice hut. “Aaah,” shrieked the stepmother, thrusting the boy’s bow and arrow into his hands, “shoot it, shoot it.” The boy did so and the bear fell to the ground

The boy did so and the bear fell to the ground with a terrific thud.

“I got it,” he rejoiced.

“No you didn’t,” yelled his stepmother, “You have shot our dog. You wicked boy – you shall be punished.”

And she grabbed his arm, threw away his bow and pulled him far off to another snow house, and left him there. The hut was old and dirty, it was smelly and falling down; the boy wanted to leave but could not find his way back.

He sat in the hut, thinking and thinking.
“That was not our dog. The noise of it falling was too big and heavy for a dog. Why is she lying to me? Why has she left me in this horrible place?”

He felt very bewildered, very sad, very lonely and soon very hungry.

The stepmother and the sister skinned the bear and had a wonderful feast. But the sister loved her brother and was worried about him. The stepmother was busy preparing the rest of the bear meat for storage, so she slipped out and took some meat to her brother.

“I can’t stay,” said she, “or step-mother will miss me. But I will come when I can.” Her brother thanked her and hungrily bit the small portion of meat. He knew at once that his suspicions were true and that this was indeed bear meat.

The weeks passed and the sister continued to smuggle food to her brother whenever she could.

One day, the boy heard the call of the red-throated loon and decided to find his way to the lake. He crawled on his hands and knees over the rough ground, feeling all about him until, eventually, his hands touched the softer earth of the lake’s edge.

Then he sat, with his head in his hands, looking for all the world as if he were gazing over the beautiful lake.

Suddenly, he felt a soft peck at his hand and a voice said, “Why are you staring so with those strange eyes?” The boy lifted his hand and felt the feathers of a loon. “I am blind,” he replied, “and cannot see the lake – only darkness.”
The loon was so sympathetic that soon the boy found himself telling all about his stepmother and how unkind she was to him.

“We loons can see well,” said the bird. “Everyday we dive deep down into the lake. If you will trust me, I will take you deep down into the lake to wash away your blindness.”
The boy hesitated only a moment. “Yes please,” he replied, “What must I do?”

“You must hold on to me and make no movement until you are out of breath.”

The boy clasped the loon firmly and the loon rose with the boy, flying out over to the middle of the lake.

Suddenly it turned into a steep dive and took the boy deep, deep into the waters.

When the boy could hold his breath no longer, the loon rose to the surface with him.
“What can you see?” asked the loon.
“I can see a greyness,” replied the boy. The loon dived once more into the far depths of the lake and only surfaced when the boy had run out of air.
“What can you see?” asked the loon.
“I can see light and shadow,” replied the boy.

For the third time, the loon dived and surfaced.

“What can you see?” asked the loon.

“I can see mountains in the distance and clouds in the sky and huts way beyond the edges of the lake. Oh thank you, thank you. I never knew the world was so beautiful.”

“Beware your stepmother,” warned the loon. “She will not be happy that you can see.”

The boy made his way back to the dirty, ramshackle hut his stepmother had put him in and found it even more disgusting now that he could see. But hearkening to the words of the loon, he sat down amidst the filth.

Over the next few weeks, he did not tell anyone that he could see. Soon the food had run out, and his stepmother came for him. He heard her footsteps outside his hut.
“Get out here quickly,” she yelled. “We must go hunting."

Pretending to stumble and feel his way, the boy followed her as she led him towards the sea.

Putting the harpoon in his hand, she turned him toward the sea and told him there were two white whales, one large, one small. The small whale was close to the shore and would make a good meal, said the stepmother.
“I will tie the harpoon line around my waist," she said. “That way I will be the brace and we can pull together to haul the whale to the shore."

She tied the line firmly around her middle. The boy's heart sank. 'Would he ever be free,' he thought, 'to enjoy this beautiful world.' At least this time, as he could see, he would be sure to hit the whale and avoid punishment.

The boy stepped forward to the shore and threw the harpoon with all his strength towards the small whale but as he did so, a fluttering of giant loon wings lifted the harpoon up over the little whale and into the side of the much bigger whale further out.

The huge whale began to thrash, and the whale pulled strongly towards the open sea. The stepmother found herself being dragged deeper into the water behind the angry, wounded whale.

She screamed at the boy, "You cannot hunt alone, you're blind, help me you fool, you need me." But a lifetime of cruelty saw the boy stood still. From the shore he watched her being pulled further and further out to sea, until she was just a tiny dot on the horizon.

The boy retuned to his sister and to great celebrations. He became one of the greatest hunters that ever lived - a hunter that used not just his sight but all his senses.

As for the stepmother, it is said that, even today, fishermen still hear her cries over the water, as she is dragged around and around the oceans behind the great white whale.

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