Native American Tales

The Owl Husband

The Owl HusbandThe Owl Husband

Passamaquoddy

A man had promised his daughter to anyone who could spit on a fire and make it flare up. Of course, usually the opposite happened and no man could complete the challenge. Owl, who wanted a wife, but was despised by the people, decided he liked the girl, who was haughty, but he didn’t much care that she was haughty.

He went to the father in the form of a man and asked if the challenge still stood. It did. Owl was able to do what was asked and the man had to give up his daughter. The wedding and all went well, until that night. The girl looked over at her new husband and he was the owl, who was despised by all. She ran away.

Owl, of course, tried to get her again. He came back, as a man, but his horned ears stuck out, and he could not get her. Again, he came back, as a man, but the girl was looking for his ears. She said she had a story to tell, but everyone must pull their hair away from their ears because she must tell it quietly. Owl refused at first, but finally relented and the girl knew it was him.

She and her family moved into the center of the village and owl could not get to her, even after pretending to be a hunter. He went to his aunt, who made him a magical flute. If he played it the girl would not be able to resist. Owl, of course could not get to the girl because she was in the middle of the village. One day, the girl decided that Owl must have forgotten about her since it had been so long since he had tried to get her. She went walking in the woods, as she used to. She heard the most beautiful sound. It was Owl. Owl picked her up and took her home, and after a time, she became used to her husband as all women must.

Observations

Depending on which tribe we’re talking about, owls are either something to be avoided or something that is respected. I know that some western tribes, do not like owls. In fact, if you have some type of owl figurine in your house, they won’t come in. Of course, this is the tradition and the superstition. Owls can portend death in some folklore. Owls do terrible things in others.

In more modern, conspiracy theory, out-there-ness, owls are seen as a symbol of Molech, think something like devil worship. Molech can be depicted as a big owl. The Bohemian Grove, more conspiracy theory out-there-ness, has a large statue of an owl, in front of which is built a bonfire and people dress up in robes. In this sense, an owl certainly does not have a good connotation.

What an owl means, differs from people to people. To some it’s a sign of death, to others, it’s just a bird. To me, it’s an annoying bird that used to sit out in a tree in my front yard and have a hooting party when I was trying to sleep.

Themes

The entire idea of this story is that the girl was married to the owl and whether she liked it or not, that was just that. She was married and she was going to stay that way, whether she wanted to or not.

I don’t agree with this sentiment at all. The story states that all wives must get used to their husbands. The story is a little more light-hearted. There’s some trickery and running away and such, but get rid of that stuff and think on this a minute. If you were really that terrified of your husband, is it ok to “get used to him”? Is it ok to stay married to him? If you tried to run away from your husband, multiple times, is it ok for someone to help put you back in his reach?

Just no. No, no, and more no.

Let’s just say that maybe Owl was misunderstood. He was different, but not that bad of a guy. That’s fine and all. He can still get married and people may give him a hard time, but you know what–he’s not so bad. The thing is, in this story, he was bad. He tricked a girl into marrying him and tried to kidnap her multiple times before he finally succeeded. This is not the definition of a good guy. It wouldn’t have mattered had he been different had he been good, but that wasn’t the case.

This story is kind of a product of its culture and generation. Women didn’t always choose who they married. They didn’t always go peacefully into marriage. This sort of thing did actually happen. It doesn’t make it any less nice that it happened historically though.

These kind of stories irk me because I’ve been in this type of situation. I’ve been a scared wife trying to get away from her husband and I’ve had people tell me that I had to stay, even though I was terrified, because I was married. Screw that. Screw any ideas about marriage that say a person should stay with someone just because they’re married when they’re terrified to death of that person.

Getting used to your husband’s snoring is an entirely different concept than becoming resigned to the fact that you’re a prisoner in your marriage because you can’t get away from your spouse.

Overall

Someone go get this girl, take her away. I’d rather she marry a rattlesnake, they seem nice enough.

Weigh In

Was anything about this owl redeeming? Was there any one thing that gave him humanity?

Was the woman wrong to run away from the owl since they were married and all?

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