Pitcher Witch and Black Cats
The Native American Story of the Pitcher Witch and Black Cats
The Red Indian Fairy Book by Frances Jenkins
An Algonquin Story
The Story of the Pitcher Witch and Black Cats
In the days when the great Magician Glooskap
dwelt in the land of the Wabanaki he lived in a
magic lodge on a lonely island. His servant was
old Dame Bear, who kept his lodge and cooked his
food. There lived with him, also, his younger
brother, Martin the Fairy, who could change
himself into baby or man, just as he wished.
Martin, with his Fairy power, made a Birchbark
dish, from which he ate. Whenever he went into
the forest alone, he left this dish in the lodge
so that Glooskap, looking into it, might see all
that Martin was doing, for it was a Fairy dish.
One time, Glooskap returned from a long journey,
and entered his lodge. The place was empty, the
fire was out, and the ashes were cold. He called
Dame Bear, but she did not answer. He shouted
for Martin, but the boy did not come. Then he
looked into the Birchbark dish and saw a distant
seashore, and he could see Dame Bear walking
through the sand with a baby on her back, who
was Martin the Fairy. And all around her ran and
leaped many Black Cats.
Then Glooskap knew that Dame Bear and Martin had
been stolen by the order of Pitcher the Witch,
who ruled the tribe of the Black Cats.
So Glooskap armed himself with his mighty bow,
and hastened after the robbers. He followed
their tracks to the shore where he found the
Black Cats, with Dame Bear and Martin, just
pushing off in a canoe.
Glooskap called out to Dame Bear to send back to
him his Dogs, so she took from her robes the
little Dogs that were no bigger than Mice, and
placed them on a wooden platter. This she laid
on the water, and it floated to land and stopped
at Glooskap's feet. He took the platter up and
placed the Dogs in his bosom, and as he did so
the canoe of the Black Cats sailed rapidly away
over the sea, and disappeared from his sight.
Standing on the shore, Glooskap began to sing a
magic song. Louder and louder he sang, and a
small Whale heard him and swam to land. Glooskap
set his mighty foot upon her back, and as he did
so she sank beneath the water.
Then he sent her away and sang another magic
song, and a large and powerful Whale came
swimming to land. Glooskap, stepping upon her
back, found she bore him well. So he bade her
journey on, and she swam fast through the waves.
At last, as she drew near another country, the
Clams hidden in the sand called out bidding her
throw Glooskap from her back, or else soon she
would be stranded high upon the land. But the
Whale did not understand their language, and she
swam swiftly on until she found herself high and
dry on the shore.
And as Glooskap stepped from her back, the
Whale, lying gasping on the sand, lamented:—
"Alas! my Grandchild!
If I cannot leave the land,
I shall swim in the sea no more!"
And then Glooskap answered gently:
"Have no fear, Grandmother!
I'll help you from the land,
And you shall swim in the sea once more!"
And so saying, he pushed his mighty bow against
her side and sent her out into the deep water.
And the Whale, rejoicing, went swimming swiftly
After this, Glooskap set out once more to pursue
the Black Cats. He walked on for a long time,
and when darkness fell he came to an old wigwam
and, entering it, saw an ugly hag, in ragged
clothes, sitting before a dying fire. She begged
him to gather some firewood, and he did so, and
kindled the fire to a blaze. Then she prayed him
to free her from many little Imps that were
tormenting her body.
Now this hag was really Pitcher the Witch, and
the Imps were bad Elves. And she knew that if
Glooskap tried to harm them, they would sting
and kill him. But Glooskap, standing behind her,
began to pick the Imps off her body, and as he
did so, each turned into a horrible thing,—a
slimy Toad or a foul Porcupine. And instead of
killing them, he laid them beneath a wooden
platter he found at his feet. With his magic
power he soothed the hag, so that she soon fell
asleep; then he departed.
And when the morning was come, Pitcher the Witch
awoke and found Glooskap gone, and the slimy
Toads and Porcupines swarming over the floor.
She rose in a rage, and hastened after Glooskap,
determined to destroy him with her magic power.
Now, Pitcher could change herself into anything
she wished. She searched until she found
Glooskap by the seashore; then she turned
herself into a man. Approaching Glooskap, she
invited him to go with her to gather Sea-Gulls'
eggs. As he was hungry, he consented.
Getting into a canoe, they paddled off together,
going farther and farther from land. After a
while they came to a lonely island and stepped
out upon the beach.
And while Glooskap was gathering Sea-Gulls'
eggs, the evil Pitcher stole away in the canoe,
and as she paddled off she sang:—
"I have left Glooskap on the island!
I have left Glooskap on the island!
And I shall be the greatest of Magicians now!"
But Glooskap, when he perceived that Pitcher was
gone, began to sing a magic song, and a Fox,
that was far away beyond the mountains, heard
him. It came running to the shore, and swam to
the island, where it found the great Magician
waiting. It bade him mount upon its back,
saying: "Close your eyes and do not open them
until we reach the shore. Hold fast to my tail,
and we shall soon be there."
So Glooskap stepped upon its back, and the Fox
swam fast through the water. And while they were
yet far from the shore, Glooskap, forgetting
what the Fox had said, opened his eyes. In a
minute the wind began to blow fiercely, and the
waves roared and foamed about him; for the evil
Pitcher had been able to raise a storm by means
of her magic. So the Fox could not reach the
land that day, and it swam all through the
night. But when morning dawned, it touched the
shore. And as Glooskap stepped from its back,
the Fox ran away to the forest.
After this Glooskap set out once more to pursue
the Black Cats. And as he followed their tracks
along a forest trail he saw in the distance old
Dame Bear carrying Martin the Fairy on her back.
And they were following the Black Cats, who had
gone on ahead to prepare their camp for the
And Martin looked back, and saw Glooskap. "My
Brother! My elder Brother!" he cried, "Oh,
Glooskap, help me!"
Just then Pitcher the Witch came hobbling down
the forest trail, but she did not see Glooskap.
"Cry out for your brother!" said she to Martin
the Fairy. "Yes, cry out aloud to him! Much good
can he do you, for last night I left him on a
lonely island to die!"
Then Martin cried out again, and Glooskap sprang
on Pitcher the Witch, shouting: "Now I know you,
evil Pitcher! Never again shall you deceive me!"
And with that he bound her by his magic power,
and placed her back against a tree, where she
stuck fast. Then he led Dame Bear, still
carrying Martin, to the camp of the Black Cats.
And when the animals knew that Glooskap had
overcome Pitcher, they obeyed and served him,
for his magic was stronger than theirs.
Now, Pitcher had a hatchet and wedge, and she
began to chop herself loose. And all night long
the Black Cats heard her chopping and pounding
and shrieking with rage. And when morning was
come she hobbled into the camp with a piece of
the tree stuck to her back. And when the Black
Cats saw her, they leaped around her, and
laughed, and spit in her face.
Then Pitcher the Witch, when she heard the Black
Cats laugh, knew that they would serve her no
longer. So she ran through the forest howling
like a wild Wolf. At last she came to the shore,
and, sitting down upon a log, thought long and
fiercely how she might torment men forever.
And as she thought thus, her body began to
shrink, and became smaller and smaller, until it
was like a thin Fly. Fine wings grew from her
sides, and long legs beneath her body, while
sharp things like needles protruded from her
mouth. She rose buzzing with anger into the air,
and became a Mosquito, thirsty for the blood of
And ever since that day Mosquitoes have
tormented people; and wherever there is a Black
Cat, a Witch is sure to be.
The Story of the Pitcher Witch and Black Cats
This story of the Pitcher Witch and Black Cats is featured in the book
entitled the Red Indian Fairy Book by Frances
Jenkins Olcott published in Boston, New York by
Houghton Mifflin Company in 1917