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john billum Xay Tnaey Spruce Root Man In far-off time, many people lived in a big village by the seashore. They went out hunting seal, fish, and whatever they could find. One group of people went out and did not return. About three boats full of people did not come back. Only one lady was left in the village. She looked for her brother and relatives every day. She walked around looking. One day she decided she was going to get some spruce roots to make baskets and dip nets. She started digging up some spruce roots, and she heard a baby crying. She listened, and it sounded as if it came from within the roots. She dug deeper, and here was a lump on the root, a large one. She was afraid to cut it open; she might cut the baby. As carefully as she could, she cut it open. There was the baby. She took it home and nursed it and cared for it, and the baby grew very fast. In a couple of years, he became a man. One day he began looking around outside at the empty houses. He asked his mother, ‘‘Whose houses are those out there?’’ She did not want to tell him because she knew he would want to go find them. He kept asking. So one day she had to tell him, ‘‘Those are your uncles’ houses and your relatives’ houses.’’ He asked, ‘‘Where are my uncles and my relatives?’’ His mother told him, ‘‘They went to sea to hunt, and they disappeared.’’ ‘‘Oh, I want to go look for them,’’ he insisted. ‘‘Oh, please don’t go,’’ she begged him. ‘‘You must stay with me or you too will disappear.’’ ‘‘Oh, I’ll be back. I just want to know what became of my uncles and relatives ,’’ he said. She could not hold on to him, so finally she let him go. Before he left, he told his mother to dig a great big hole because he was going to bring back the prisoners. He made a bow and arrows for himself, then left in a boat. He went john billum: spruce root man  around one bend and then around another, and there sat two old ladies, one on each side of the river. The first old lady said, ‘‘Come over to me. Don’t go to that person over there. She will kill you the same as she did to your relatives .’’ The other lady said, ‘‘Oh, come here, my grandson. You finally came. I’m so glad to see you. Don’t go to that old lady over there.’’ But Xay Tnaey knew that this other lady was telling him the truth. So he told her, ‘‘I’ve got to find out what happened to my uncles and relatives. I am going to her.’’ So he went to this bad old lady. She put her hands in the water. She had a gaff hook. He had an arrow, and he threw the hook out of the water with the arrow. ‘‘What are you doing with this?’’ he asked her. She used the gaff hook to tip the boats over, and the people drowned. Soon he came into her house. ‘‘What’s your name?’’ she asked him. ‘‘Xay Tnaey,’’ he replied. She laughed, ‘‘That’s a funny name.’’ He asked, ‘‘What is your name?’’ ‘‘Necaan Koldaeł Tnaey,’’ she said. ‘‘That’s a funny name. Why do you have a name like that? It sounds like you are eating people’s guts,’’ he said. Then she asked, ‘‘Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?’’ ‘‘Sure,’’ he said. She took a man’s arm and put it over the fire awhile. Then she put it in a bear-skull dish. She handed it to him. ‘‘Here.’’ He kicked it back to her, and it turned into a bear and growled and bounced on her. He jumped into his boat quickly. He was rowing as fast as he could. He looked back and saw her coming in a boat made from a man’s ribs. She yelled, ‘‘Wait for me, my grandson.’’ He waited as she talked. He saw she had her hand in the water with her hook. He pushed it up with his arrow and said, ‘‘What is this? What are you doing?’’ Then he took his bow and arrow and shot at the boat, and it broke in two. She fell in the water. He took the...


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