THE ALGONQUIN LEGENDS OF NEW ENGLAND
OR
Myths and Folk Lore of the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Tribes

CHARLES G. LELAND

1884

. . .

Another and a very curious version of this story was obtained by Mrs. W. Wallace Brown, who has been the chief discoverer of curious Indian lore among the Passamaquoddies. It is called :

Ne Hwas, the Mermaid.

A long time ago there was an Indian, with his wife and two daughters. They lived by a great lake, or the sea, and the mother told her girls never to go into the water there, for that, if they did, something would happen to them.

They, however, deceived her repeatedly. When swimming is prohibited it becomes delightful. The shore of this lake sands away out or elopes to an island. One day they went to it, leaving their clothes on the beach. The parents missed them.

The father went to seek them. He saw them swimming far out, and called to them. The girls swam up to the sand, but could get no further. Their father asked them why they could not. They cried that they had grown to be so heavy that it was impossible.

They were all slimy; they grew to be snakes from below the waist. After sinking a few times in this strange slime they became very handsome, with long black hair and large, bright black eyes, with silver bands on their neck and arms.

When their father went to get their clothes, they began to sing in the most exquisite tones: —

“Leave them there!
Do not touch them!
Leave them there!”

Hearing this, their mother began to weep, but the girls kept on: —

“It is all our own fault,
But do not blame us ;
‘T will be none the worse for you.
When you go in your canoe,
Then you need not paddle;
We shall carry it along!”

And so it was : when their parents went in the canoe, the girls carried it safely on everywhere.

One day some Indians saw the girls' clothes on the beach, and so looked out for the wearers. They found them in the water, and pursued them, and tried to capture them, but they were so slimy that it was impossible to take them, till one, catching hold of a mermaid by her long black hair, cut it off.

Then the girl began to rock the canoe, and threatened to upset it unless her hair was given to her again. The fellow who had played the trick at first refused, but as the mermaids, or snake-maids, promised that they should all be drowned unless this was done, the locks were restored. And the next day they were heard singing and were seen, and on her who had lost her hair it was all growing as long as ever.