The Whistling Tsonoquas
My friend, January Kiefer, and I use to tell this story in tandem. She did all the research and writing of the story. She based it on a story from the NW coast Indians. It ends with how mosquitoes came into the world. No one knows that until the end of the story, and it always elicits quite a surprise. This story may cause some people to feel uncomfortable because I am not a Native American and I do not know the exact tribe from which this is derived. There is a similar story that the Tlinglit tell. Here is a link to How Mosquitoes Came To Be at http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/How_Mosquitoes_Came_To_Be-Tlingit.html
My friend rarely tells any longer, so I now tell the story by myself, and it is still one of my most popular stories:
This is a story that the Indians of the Northwest used to tell…maybe they still do. It’s the story of the Whistling Tsonoquas. If you haven’t heard of the Whistling Tsooquas, then I need to tell you a few things. You see, they were giants among men. They had (very stylized with gesture)…great, huge, wide, foreheads. Tiny little-red-beady eyes stuck way back in the back of their heads, and mouths that stuck out like this –ooh!
People used to warn each other about the Whistling Tsonoquas. They would say – never, never go off to the high mountains especially - after dark. But, that, if you did, you would at least be forewarned, for you would hear this sound “nnnnnnnnnnnnn.’ And if you were too close, which you did wish to do, you could understand the words, “nnnnnn-we will whistle in your ears, we will whistle in your ears….and we will suck your blood.” They were to be feared, those Whistling Tsonoquas.
Now, there were two boys, brothers they were, and wouldn’t you know it, they were always going off to the high country on some adventure or the other. Their father got a little worried and concerned and took his one son aside and said, “Son, you have an adventuresome spirit, and I admire that in you, but I’m going to give you something. Here, take this.” And in his hand was rock – a common ordinary gray stone. “Here son, take this and keep it with you for I believe you are wise enough to know when and how to use it.” So, the boy very dutifully put the stone in his pouch, but like most boys his age, he forgot completely about it.
Now, the mother, the mother was just as worried and she took the other boy aside and she said, “Son, I have a mother’s heart, and sometimes I worry about you. I want to protect you, so, take this.” And she gave her son a comb – an ordinary comb made from the bone of a fish. “Keep this with you at all times and I believe that you are smart enough and wise enough to know when and how to use it.” So, he too put the rock his pouch….and well, you know how it is…
But, it happened just a few days later, those two boys were off to the high country playing their favorite game – seeing who could shoot his arrow the furthest. (Schwaa-pa! Schwaa-pa!) And in playing that game, they were leading themselves higher and higher, and deeper and deeper into the mountains. Playing so hard and so fast, they didn’t even notice that it was getting very quiet and very…dark. And then they heard “nnnnnn-we will whistle in your ears, we will whistle in your ears…and we will suck your blood.”
The two boys looked up and saw a great, big, huge Whistling Tsonoqua boy…and he had a…great, huge, wide forehead; tiny little red beady eyes stuck way back in the back of his head and a mouth that stuck out like this oooh!
The two boys just stood there as the giant put his hands on top of their shoulders and said, “I’m taking you home…for dinner!” That’s just what those two boys had worried about! He started to drag those two boys into the woods until they came to a house. But, oh that house…it was all broken down with ants and bugs and insects crawling all about, splinters and pieces of wood stick up. There in the doorway they could see the boy’s mother. Oh, she was the boy’s mother all right. For she too had (quicker this time) – a great huge wide forehead, tiny little-red-beady-eyes, and a mouth that stuck way out like this – oooh!
But even as that Tsonoqua boy dragged those boys along the path, he scraped his own leg up against a broken piece of wood and blood began to ooze down his leg. And, when they mama saw that blood, she rushed right over to her big boy and (slurppppp) she sucked that blood right off his leg.
Now the boys saw their chance, and they broke away, and started to run as fast as they could. It made no difference that the branches were whipping their faces, and it made no difference that they were stumbling and falling, they just kept running, but all too soon they heard, (staccato) “We will whistle in your ears, we will whistle in your ears, and we will suck your blood.”
The one brother turned to the other and said, “Quick, what did you do with it? Where is it? Where’s the rock?” And the brother reached inside his pouch, and there it was… and he knew, he knew what he had to do. He took that rock and flung it over his shoulder. And where it landed on the ground, it turned into a huge pit. So, when those Tsonoquas got to that pit – they had to climb all the way down one side of it, all the way across the bottom of it, and all the way back up the other side of it. And that gave the two boys a head start. They just kept running and running. It made no difference that they had a pain in their side, and it made no difference they were running out of breath. They kept running. And then they heard….(staccato) “We will whistle in your ears, we will whistle in your ears, and we will suck your blood.”
The one brother turned to the other and said….”Get the comb!” And he reached inside his pouch, and he knew what he had to do. He took that comb and flung it over his shoulder. And where it landed on the ground, it turned into a thick stand of aspen trees that grew so straight and so tall and so close together…that those big, fat, Whistling Tsonoquas could not get through. They just started to pull out those trees and toss them aside, pull out the trees and toss them aside. And this gave the two boys a chance to get home.
They came running inside (very fast stumbling over words) “Mother, Father, the Whistling Tsonoquas with great foreheads and mouths (slow ) what can we do!” The parents didn’t even stop to say “I told you so” they just went right to work laying a trap…for the …Whistling Tsonoquas.
The first thing they did was to get some sharpened clam shells, and they began to dig in their earthen floor until they had a pit that was wide and deep. At the bottom of that pit they started a very hot fire, but on top of that fire they laid some green grasses, so it would burn slowly…for a while. Then on top of the hole. they laid some planks of wood, and top of those planks of wood, some bear skins, and top of those bear skins… plates and platters filled with delicious foods – smoked salmon…bear steaks…jams and jellies of all sorts. Then, the family sat down on those bearskins, as if they were getting ready to eat a most marvelous meal. But they didn’t…they waited…and waited…and they heard…”.nnnnnnn-we will whistle in your ear…we will whistle in your ear…and we will suck you blood.”
Then, the Whistling Tsonoquas came crashing through the door! The father just looked up and said….”What took you so long? We’ve been expecting you! Come on in and have a meal with us. The Tsonoquas looked at each other rather suspiciously, but when they saw all that food, they thought… what a wonderful appetizer it would make…for the main course.
So, they sat down amongst all that food and sucked that food right in their faces…the smoked salmon (slurp), the bear steaks (slurp) the jams, the jellies…that food just disappeared. They were eating that food and smacking their lips, so… they didn’t notice – not one bit – that the family was beginning to inch their way off the bearskins to the far corners of the room. Eating that food and smacking their lips – they didn’t notice that their own bottoms were getting hotter…and hotter.
But, they noticed, oh, they noticed very much indeed, when there was a huge explosion! And the planks of wood, the bearskins, the plates, the platters, and the Whistling Tsonoquas fell into the fire pit and were burned up! But, even as they burned, they called out, “You will not be free of us, forever and forever. We will whistle in your ears, we will whistle in your ears…and we….will…suck…your…blooooood.”
Some people have asked me, if this is a true story. All I know is that, as the Tsonoquas burned, and there was nothing left but the ash, a wind came along and carried those ashes into the air. And those ashes became…mosquitoes! And, don’t mosquitoes whistle in your ear, and don’t mosquitoes…suck…your…blood? And, that’s how mosquitoes came into this world.
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