The Soot-Faced Girl
A tale of the old times: this is a story of the Soot Face Girl. She lived in a village by a sparkling lake with her father and two older sisters. Her mother died when she was a little child. Her sisters were cruel and they bullied their sister. They were jealous of her kind nature and good looks and feared that she would marry a better man than they would, so they made her do all the chores, so that she was always tired and dirty. The flames from the cooking fire singed her long dark hair and burned her skin. She worked so hard and so long that she often fell asleep by the fire and so was always covered with ashes. That is why she was called the Soot Face Girl. She never had time to make herself nice dresses or bead designs of flowers or water on her moccasins. She wore her father’s old worn out moccasins. Her sisters spent all their time sewing the most beautiful beaded dresses and moccasins for themselves.
In their village, lived a mighty hunter. He lived in a great wigwam with his sister, the Patient One. Everyone in the village called him the Invisible Hunter because no one could see him. One day, the Invisible Hunter told his sister to tell the villagers that he would marry the woman who could see him. Only someone pure of heart would be able to see him. Each day he would carry his bow. The woman who could tell the Invisible Hunter’s sister what his bow and bowstring were made of would be his bride.
The Soot Face Girl’s sisters were certain they would be able to see the Invisible Hunter. They put on their finest dresses and their beads and their moccasins and went to the Invisible Hunter’s wigwam. But the Soot Face Girl watched them, quietly, as she did her chores in her rough clothes. They told the Invisible Hunter’s sister that they had seen him! She only asked them: what is his bow made out of? And what is his bowstring?
The sisters were ashamed that they could not see the Invisible Hunter but they held their heads high and said that his bow was made from the mighty oak and his bowstring was the sinew of the noble elk. You have not seen my brother, the Patient One told them. He will never marry either of you for you are liars and not pure of heart. The Soot Face Girl’s sisters ran crying from the wigwam.
The next morning, the Soot Face Girl decided to go to the Invisible Hunter’s wigwam to discover if she could see him. Her sisters laughed and told her that if they could not see him, then surely she could not. Besides, they said, she was dirty and covered in soot. He would not want to marry someone as ugly as her. But the Soot Face went to the birch tree and asked her to share her bark with her to make a skirt beautiful enough for the Invisible Hunter. She made a skirt as white as snow from the bark of the birch tree and she wove flowers into her hair. Then she went to the wigwam of the Invisible Hunter.
The Invisible Hunter’s sister let her into the wigwam and she sat in the stillness and waited to see. When she was asked: what is his bow made out of? And what is his bowstring? She knew the answer for she had seen the Invisible Hunter. His bow was the Rainbow and his bowstring was the Path of the Migrating Birds.
And the Invisible Hunter told her that she was pure of heart and that she would be his wife. The Patient One embraced her, calling her sister and gave her a beautiful dress and beads and moccasins for her wedding to the Invisible Hunter. From that day onwards, she was no longer the Soot Face Girl, but Dawn Girl for her good heart shone like the dawning sun.
This is an Algonquian tale from North America and has been contributed by the Fairy Encyclopedia.
It is a part of our series, Folklore Worldwide. We are currently open to submissions from around the world, and you are welcome to send us your stories!