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AMONG this singular people -the aborigines of the Mississippi Valley -the chief deities appear to have been Munnee and his wife Boshor. Their story is very obscure, but the most recent investigations seem to show that they came from the land of the rising sun, and found, in the country of the mound-builders, a hopelessly savage people. With the aid of the magic power which they drew from the sun, they gained complete control of the whole region, but they were at first unable to civilize the natives. The aboriginal race had sunk to such a depth of degradation that even the divine power of the gods could not of itself raise them. When Munnee and Boshor discovered this, they spat upon the earth, and a great river sprang forth which divided the world into two parts. On one side of the river they placed all the men, and upon the other side all the women. Munnee then took his place among the women, and Boshor among the men. At the end of a year the miraculous power of Boshor enabled her to bring forth as many female children as there were men, while the commerce of Munnee and the women produced an equal number of males. When these demigods were fully grown, Munnee placed a treasure in the hands of each woman, and thereby induced his sons to murder their mothers. Boshor at the same time aroused the jealousy of her daughters by fascinating all the men, and, working upon their passions, she induced them to poison their fathers at a great feast. The old savages having been thus destroyed, the gods made two canoes. In one of these they carried half the women over to the men; in the other they carried half the men over to the women. They then presented the renovated race with a code of laws, and, getting into a third canoe, they floated away from sight.
From this godlike race the mound-builders were directly descended, and it is probable that the mounds were erected in the hope of attracting the attention of Munnee and Boshor, if they ever came sailing back, and of inducing them to land and to renovate the human race once more.
The moral code of the mound-builders seems to have been founded upon the laws of Munnee and Boshor, and it is very curious to notice its radical difference from any system known to European civilization. The fundamental rule was, "Let thy thoughts and thy purposes be hidden from the world"; and based upon this were many others, such as, "Glorify thyself, and the world shall glorify thee"; "Keep thine eye open, thy hand ready, and thy mouth shut"; "Revile no man before his face, neither speak ill of him that is more powerful than thyself"; "Bow down before the great and the strong, and let the poor and the weak bow down before thee"; "Smile upon the face of thine enemy, and take thy vengeance in a secret place"; "Let gold and gaudy raiment* be ever before thine eyes"; "Let thy life be a life of revelry and of joy, but declare unto the world that thy days are full of care and of toil."
The result of conscientious adherence to a code like this was very remarkable; and the peculiar ideas of the mound-builders are so clearly shown in a fable, which appears to have been one of their household words, that I shall conclude this brief article with a translation of some of the most prominent parts of
THE TALE OF THE TWO BROTHERS.*In a country far from the shores of the great river dwelt two brothers; and the elder was called Square, and the younger was called Cute. And Square arose, and said unto his brother, "I will go unto the shores of the great river, that I may mingle with men; and I will take with me of the fruit of the land, that I may barter it for gold and for gaudy raiment, and give praise unto the great parents, Munnee and Boshor. All men will I treat with fairness, that with fairness all men may treat me. And when I wax wealthy, I will come back and I will share my gains with thee, and we shall be happy forevermore."
And he took of the fruit of the land and went his way unto the shores of the great river. And one met him, and said unto him, "What wouldst thou here?"
And Square answered and said, " I would barter this fruit of the land for gold and for gaudy raiment, that I may praise the great parents!"
And the man said unto him, "Give unto me the fruit of the land, and I will give unto thee this piece of gold; and come unto my house on the morrow, for there will I give thee gaudy raiment."
And Square said unto him, "Who art thou?" And he answered and said, "I am the ruler of the land."
Then Square gave unto him the fruit of the land, and received therefor a piece of gold; and they went their way.
And it came to pass that Square waxed hungry, and he went into a shop and began to eat. And the master of the shop said unto him, "Hast thou wherewith to pay for that which thou eatest?" And Square answered and said, "Yea, verily, have I this piece of gold." And the master of the shop took the piece of gold, and looked upon it, and bit it with his teeth, and said, "This is not gold, but the semblance thereof. Therefore give unto me gold, or I will call upon the guards, and they shall give thee over to the ruler of the land." And Square said, "Gold have I none, but do thou take this garment in payment of my debt, and give me back the semblance of gold."
And the master of the shop took the garment, but he gave not back the semblance of gold, saying that he feared lest Square should deceive the unwary.
And Square went to the house of the ruler of the land, and cried out, and said unto the ruler of the land, "I gave thee of the fruit of the land, and thou didst promise me gold and gaudy raiment; .... give, then, unto me my due."
And the ruler of the land said unto him, "I know thee not." And he scourged him, and cast him forth naked, and drove him from the dwellings of men and from the shores of the great river.....
And Cute arose and took of the fruit of the land, and went his way unto the shores of the great river. And one met him and said unto him, "What wouldst thou here?" And Cute answered and said, " I would barter this fruit of the land for gold and for gaudy raiment, that I may praise the great parents."
And the man said unto him, "Give unto me this fruit of the land, and I will give unto thee this piece of gold; and come unto my house on the morrow, for there will I give thee gaudy raiment." .... And Cute said unto him, " Do thou give unto me the gold, and I will bear the fruit to thy doors, that thou mayst not be burdened with it. Do thou then lead the way."
And the man gave unto Cute the gold, and led the way. And when his back was turned, Cute turned about, and ran, and bore away both the gold and the fruit. ....
And it came to pass that Cute waxed hungry, and he went into a shop and began to eat. And the master of the shop said unto him, " Hast thou wherewith to pay for that which thou eatest?" And Cute said unto him, " Hold thy peace!"
Now when Cute had eaten his fill, he arose to depart. And the master of the shop stood in his way, and said unto him, "Give me my due." Now the master of the shop was of small stature; and Cute seized him and beat his head upon the floor, and took his garment, and went his way. And the garment was rich and shapely. ....
Now Cute waxed rich and great, and they made him ruler of the land. And it came to pass that Square knocked upon his gate and said, "Brother, if I had wealth I would divide it with thee. Do thou then give me of that which thou hast, that I may be clothed and fed."
And Cute answered and said, "Fool, I know thee not. Have not the great parents said, 'Let him whom prosperity forsaketh be forsaken by all?' Get thou therefore from my sight." And he cast him out. . . . .
And Square leaped into the great river, and was drowned; but Cute lived and was honored, and well beloved of the great parents, Munnee and Boshor.
* The emblems of Munnee and Boshor.
* Printed upon birch bark in hieroglyphic characters, and recently discovered in a mound near St. Louis.
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