This section is from the book "Myths And Folk-Tales Of The Russians, Western Slavs, And Magyars", by Jeremiah Curtin. Also available from Amazon: Myths and Folk-Tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and the Magyars.
The hunted man hastens, runs westward by the bank of the river, runs till he comes to two aunts who are witches. They promise to help him and kill the pursuer. Soon after, when the old man has shortened his neck and is sitting on his own side of the river, the wife comes up in hot pursuit, talks roughly, tries to hurry the old pontifex; but he will not hurry, waits, and then stretches his neck, putting the narrow side upward; it is no wider than the woman's feet. She storms, but he says that being old he might break his neck were he to give the broad side as a path; she must walk on the narrow side, and carefully too. She begins to cross, but in the middle of the river grows restive and angry. The old man jerks his neck to one side; she falls to the water and is eaten right away, all save her stomach, which floats with the current. But the aunts, the two witches, are watching; they see and pull out the stomach, cut it up, and burn the life of that man-eater.
The man travels westward till he sees a young woman gathering branches for fuel. He speaks to her, is pleased; she is mild-eyed, kind-looking. He asks her to marry him; she says she is willing if he can live with her grandmother, who is very thick, very ugly, and malicious. He goes home with the young woman; they are married.
Soon after the marriage the old woman took her son-in-law to hunt on an island in a lake. They landed. She said, "Go down there," pointing to a place; "I will drive the game." He started, and when half way, looked back; the old woman was in the canoe paddling to the other shore. He called; she would not listen, and left him alone on the island. There was no escape. When the sun had gone down and darkness came, the water of the lake began to rise, and flooded the place, He selected the highest tree, and began to climb, - the water all the time rising; he climbed, and continued to climb. About three o'clock in the morning all the trees on the island, except that tree, were covered. Around on every side were great hungry savage-eyed creatures, rising with the water, waiting to eat the man. He looked, saw the Morning-star, and cried out: "When I was young the Morning-star appeared to me in a dream, and said that if ever I should be in distress he would save me".
The star heard the call, turned to a small boy standing sentry at his door, and said, "Who is that shouting on the island?"
"That," said the boy, "is the old woman's son-in-law. She put him there. He says you appeared to him in a dream and promised to save him".
"I did, and I will." The Morning-star came forth from his house and called: "Let daylight come!"
Dawn came that moment; the water began to fall, and at sunrise the island was dry. The man was saved, came down, went to the landing-place, and hid in the bushes. Soon the old woman's canoe struck the shore; the man heard her say: "Well, I suppose the larger bones of my son-in-law are under the tree. I must go and eat the marrow." When she had gone far enough, he sprang into the canoe and paddled away. The old woman turned, saw the escape of her son-in-law, and cried: "Come back! I'll play no more tricks".
The man paddled to the other shore, and went to his wife. The old woman was alone, not able to escape.
When darkness came, the lake began to rise. She climbed the highest tree, climbed till the water was nearing the top, and the hungry, terrible creatures were waiting to eat her. Then she called out towards the east: "When I was young the Morning-star appeared to me in a dream, and said he would help me out of distress".
The Morning-star heard, and asked his boy: "Is that man on the island yet?"
"Oh," said the boy, "the man is at home; the old woman herself is on the island now. She says that you appeared to her in a dream, and promised to save her from distress".
"I never appeared to that old woman," said the star. "I will not hurry daylight to-day".
The water rose till the old woman was on the highest point of the tree that would bear her. The water raised all the crowd of hungry, terrible creatures. They tore her to pieces, devoured her.
So the Delawares on the Atlantic, who enjoy seniority among the Algonkin, - the most widely-extended Indian stock of America, - agree with the Modocs, near the Pacific, in the theory of the Morning-star, which for them, as for the Latins, was the Light-bearer. The opposite view, to which I refer in the night-scene at Milwaukee, gave birth to the myth of the struggle of the stars with the sun for possession of the sky. Now, a combination of these two myths - the one in which the Morning-star is the Light-bearer being the earlier - gives us a third, in which the Morning-star is not merely an opponent, but a rebel. This third myth, after it had increased in age, came to be used in describing, not an event in the sky, looked at variously by primitive men, but an event in the moral world; and the stories of the Morning-star and the sun were transferred from the fields of heaven to the kingdom of the soul. This done, Milton had at hand the splendid mythologic material and accessories which he used with such power in Paradise Lost.
I know no American myth in which the Morning-star is represented as. hostile to the sun; the discovery of one would be very interesting and valuable, as showing that the primitive people of this continent might possibly have worked out a physical myth like that made in the Eastern hemisphere, and afterwards spiritualized till it was given the meaning which we find in the pages of Milton.
But whatever the future may bring, the present American Morning-star myth is interesting; for it shows a complete parallelism with Aryan mythology as far as it goes, - that is, to the highest point reached by the non-Aryan tribes of America.
It should be remembered that whatever be the names of the myth-tale heroes at present, the original heroes were not human. They were not men and women, though in most cases the present heroes or heroines bear the names of men and women, or children; they perform deeds which no man could perform, which only one of the forces of Nature could perform, if it had the volition and desires of a person. This is the great cause of wonderful deeds in myth-tales.