|Illustrated by Gaetano, N.|
Once upon a time, in the Longhouse, lived a young girl named Gi-da-no-neh. She wandered by the shores of the great lake, allowing the peaceful sound of the waves to soothe her. Her life "was not a happy one. Furs and rare feathers and a lodge had been promised her by the man her father had chosen to be her husband. But his feet were slow," and his vitality at its ebb. He cared not for Gi-da-no-neh, and as for her, the thought of spending her nights and days with the old man caused her spirit to wither. She could not disobey her father, but she had displeased him. Now she was hungry, for she had not been welcomed at his fire that night. So began her meanderings by the lake. Only when she was near the water could she evade the misery of what her life was very soon to become. It happened one day that on her way back from the lake, "she found two fish lying in the path. Never had she seen such beautiful fish! Their scales were shining silver brooches — rows of them — that seemed to have caught the sunset fire, so brilliantly did they glisten." Gi-da-no-neh scaled the fish, and decorated her ragged dress with them. Then she built a fire and roasted the fish, for she was hungry, as usual. Her father had smelled the fish, and came to investigate. When he saw what was on her dress, he was frightened and angry. He "ripped the brooches from her dress, threw them into the lake, and led his weeping daughter back to the lodge." There he kept her for many days. She was miserable, and grieved day and night. She had also developed a strange thirst, and the taste of the fish she had eaten seemed always to beckon her. At last, she could not stand the confinement, and burst forth from her father's house. As quick as the flip of a fish she was at the lake's edge, where she bent to drink deeply of the sweet tasting water. She could not get enough of the water inside of her, she felt that she simply must be inside the water as well. As if in a dream, she slid into the lake drinking and swimming in the delightful water. Now she felt herself sinking, and suddenly, "she felt strong arms thrown around her and heard someone speaking", or perhaps singing. It called, "Gi-da-no-neh, do not be afraid! Gi-da-no-neh! It is I, Ga-yeh-was, the Fish!" Opening her eyes, she saw a strong young man of her own tribe — yet he was covered all over in glittering silver scales! He told her that he had fallen in love with her as she walked the shores, and knew of her troubles. Although he was wealthy, he said, he had been so lonely, and hoped that Gi-da-no-neh would consent to be his wife. Now the maiden drew in her breath, for she realized who he was. "Ga-ye-was, the most might of all fish, ruler of the lake and the mountain streams! And he had said he loved her!" As he spoke, her dress once again became covered with rows and rows of silver scales. He told her that it was he who had left the fish in the path for her, and that it was his way of sending her a message. Together the great Fish and Gi-da-no-neh explored his underwater kingdom. In the morning, Gi-da-no-neh's father walked the shores of the lake. He was very worried about his daughter, and sorry for having driven her away the night before. He heard a snatch of voice, and then another. He was sure that one of the voices was that of Gi-da-no-neh, but where was it coming from? That's when the waters parted, and his daughter and a young brave covered in silver brooches rose from the lake. She called out, "Father, it was not an evil spirit, but Ga-ye-was the Fish who lured me away. My true lover rules these pleasant waters, and I am now his bride. I will return no more to my land life, though I will always be near to help you. You loved me, but you did not know my heart! Goodbye. Farewell!" And the two lovers floated for a moment on the surface, then disappeared beneath the lapping waves.
From Jones, H. Longhouse Winter, (1972) Holt, Rinehart & Winston, NYC, Chicago, SF
Notes: This story seems at first to be not quite a Cinderella. However, if we examine some critical features, we see that it clearly fits the Catskin variant: 1. "Unlawful marriage", which is defined by Cox as being either to an inappropriate husband, or the father himself. 2. Motherless, miserable girl in need of help. 3. Fish as helper animal. 4. Magical spirit giving assistance. 5. Use of silver fish scales to decorate Gi-da-no-neh's dress is evocative of a Catskin, cloak of feathers, or dress the color of the sea. 6. Marriage to wealthy, powerful man. The story differs, in a very nice way, in that the father actually cares about his daughter, is sorry, and has come in search of her.
Montessori Connection: Zoology/Fish/Fish of North America
1. Read the story and see if you can find the location. Hints: Iroquois tribe, and Great Lakes area
2. Once you know what state it is in, try to identify the kind of fish that might have appeared to Gi-da-no-neh in the path.Fishes of the Great Lakes Region, Revised Edition
3. Learn more about fish as food. Jamie's Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook or Sushi for Kids: A Children's Introduction to Japan's Favorite Food