Cannibal Basket Woman Defeated by Clever Kids

Upper Skagit, Vi Hilbert, Storyteller

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This tale is one of several about the Wild Woman of th Woods and Shores, somtimes called the Basket Ogress, of the Northwest Coast (Washington state through British Columbia, the coast and islands). She is a cannibal-booger-lady, who ate only children. She was used by parents for disciplinary and educational purposes: to warn children not to stray, and to be good, or she would get them. Yet in almost all these tales, the boogerlady is defeated, by children and by animals. This tale is told by 77-year-old Upper Skagit (Lushootseed) storyteller and elder Vi Hilbert, who has done a great deal to preserve her language, working with University linguists, and culture, in her work as a public storyteller and writer. The tale below is from her book, Haboo, Native American Stories from Puget Sound. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985 p. 42-44. It was typed and posted by the Tacoma (WA) Public Library for what they call an Unsettling Events database Here the children are disobedient, but what brings Giant Woman, the cannibal ogress, down on them is that they are greedy and mean and give little Hunchback Boy only the tails, not the fat front ends, of their salmon. He finks out on them, and is caught too -- but escapes.

A group of children knew a woman who lived all alone near the river. The children knew that she was lonely, and they wanted to go visit with her. When they asked their parents for permission to go, their parents said, "No. You can't go, because it is too far away: the Giant Woman might get you when you are away from home. The Giant woman is powerful. She would put you in her huge clam basket."

The children ignored their parents. They got into a canoe and went on their way to visit the lonely woman. When night came, they made themselves a camp on the other side of the river. They built a fire and cooked their supper. One of the children was a liunchback. When the children divided their supper, Hunchback was given the tail part.

They traveled for several days. Each evening they would stop to camp overnight and eat their supper. Every time, they would give Hunchback the tail part for his share.

Hunchback finally said, "If you folks are always going to be giving me the tail part when I woulet really rather have the tips, I will call the Giant Woman!"

When night came again and they stopped to camp and eat their supper, it was still the tail part which he was given. Now Hunchback hollered! He hollered:

"Come downhill, Giant Woman, Come downhill, Giant Woman. It is just the tail part that I am given by my playmates ! "

The Giant woman heard right away. "Oh, there is someone hollering at me!" She put her basket on her back and she walked. She was a huge person, this Giant Woman. She chewed on everything as she traveled.

She arrived where the children were. Right away she began to pick up the children one by one and put them into her basket. She grabbed Hunchback first and put him there. When all of the childran were in the basket, the Giant Woman walked. she carried these children upland. suddenly she could feel something catch at her basket. She thought, "Oh, it must be Hunchback who has caught onto something."

Hunchback had squirmed and squirmed until he managed to get himself up on top of the other children. Each time he came to a leaning tree he tried to grab ahold of it. No. He couldn' t do it. On the fourth try, he did it.

Giant Woman went on walking. When she arrived at her home with the children she immediately gathered rocks and placed them on her fire to heat. When they were good and hot she began to take the children out of her basket. Then she found that Hunchback was missing. "Oh, Hunchback isn't here ! Where is he? Maybe he managed to run away."

Giant Woman ran!

Hunchback was in the canoe, shoving off from shore. He had a paddle with holes in it. This paddle had holes. When Giant Woman threw rocks at him, he held up his paddle and the rocks just went through. Hunchback paddled hard. Each time she threw a rock at him, he raised his paddle and the rock just went through a hole.

Giant Woman gave up. she went home and put more rocks on her fire. She wanted the rocks to be very hot to cook her supper fast.

The children huddled together and began talking to each other. They watched the Giant Woman heating all of those rocks on the fire.

Giant Woman noticed and said to them, "What are you children saying?"

The children carefully answred, "Oh, it is just that we are so happy for you that you are heating rocks. We would like for you to sing and dance before you cook us there."

Giant Woman was so flattered at the request that she said, "All right!"

The children said, "You will dance!"

She proudly said, "Yes, I will." Now Giant Woman danced. She sang this as she danced:

The children will be roasted on the rocks.
The children will be roasted on the rocks.
The children will be roasted on the rocks.
The children will be roasted on the rocks.

The children said, "Oh my, but your song is so nice. Sing more. " And again Giant Woman sang and danced.

The oldest and strongest of the children were making plans: "We had better push her onto the hot rocks."

Giant Woman asked, "What. are you children saying?"

They cautiously answered,, "Oh, we are just so happy for you."

They whispered to each other, "When she comes near us, let's all push her."

Ohl Giant Woman was coming closer, singing:

The children will be roasted on the rocks
The children will be roasted on the rocks
The children will be roasted on the rocks
The children will be roasted on the rocks

As she came close to them, all of the oldest, strongest children pushed her. Right onto the hot rocks she fell. She screamed, "Remove me, children. Remove me from the fire and I will return you to your home. "

One of the children said, "Get a forked stick, and we shall remove your grandmother from the fire. We shall remove her. Get a forked stick."

However, the children took the forked stick, and everyone pressed her down onto the hot rocks until she was just stuck there, roasting.

That is the end of the story.

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Page prepared by Paula Giese graphics and layout copyright 1996.

CREDITS: Story transcribed from Vi Hilbert, "Basket Ogress," Haboo, Native American Stories from Puget Sound. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985 p. 42-44 transcribed by Tacoma Public Library, edited by me to correct typing and coding errors (and provide nice layout). Photo of Vi Hilbert and bird from National Public Broadcasting series.

Last Updated: Sunday, July 07, 1996 - 4:10:04 AM