Skok en sept temps is a very short collection of traditional Abenaki tales for readers of all ages. Many will be surprised by just how familiar some of the stories are and, consequently, how much overlap there can be between global traditions and cultures. Eve pops up with a snake in the Garden of Eden, for instance, although in this version of the tale, she is called Ep (Abenaki for Eve) and the Great Spirit banishes her from the “vast, fabulous expanse” where she lives with her husband.
Snakes are the common theme that binds the collection of seven tales together. Throughout, the language is simple, with the emphasis very much on storytelling, and there is something to take away from each of the tales.
The illustrations fit perfectly with the text, a gorgeous blend of the fantastical and the traditional, just like the book itself. ≈
From Skok en sept temps
by Sylvain Rivard
≈ translated by Peter McCambridge
Let us now shift our attention to a time they call the golden age of W8banaki culture. In those far-off days there lived a being known to some as Kloskomba, to others as Kloskabe, and to others still as Glooscap. This important, well-respected individual had created humankind and most animals, and had fought many monsters and giants.
Our hero, Kloskomba, (also sometimes known as the Great Transformer) always had the well-being of the human race at heart and warned the people who lived at the top of a mountain that an enormous flood was coming. But they would not listen and told him they were not worried: The water would flood all the land around them, they said, leaving their mountain an island.
Kloskomba told them the water would destroy all their food, but they replied that they had enough provisions to see them through more than one season.
When the Great Transformer asked them to be good and quiet, and to beg help from the spirits that protected them, the mountain people remained indifferent.
Then they thumbed their noses at him. They took the rattles they had made from tortoise shells and did a big dance in honour of the flood that was supposed to come.
As the rain started to fall, they continued dancing.
The thunder rumbled, but they defied it, singing and shaking their rattles up at the sky.
Kloskomba flew into a rage and at a stroke turned them all into rattlesnakes. And ever since that day, every time they see a human, these reptiles lift themselves up, sway their heads from left to right, and shake the rattles at the end of their tales. That’s how rattlesnakes dance.
The enchantress Pokwjinskwas heard tell of this group of snakes that lived only on the island of Sisikwaimenahan in the middle of Lake Winnipesaukee. She often used songs with her magic and wanted to get her hands on the sound made by the snakes. She went to the island and laid hollowed-out buffalo horns on the ground. Then she sang a bewitching magical song.
The snakes fell under her spell and danced over to Pokwjinskwas. Once they had all gathered around her, she proposed they take the horns to use as wigwams. They agreed and each snake slithered into a horn.
As soon as they were all inside the horns, the enchantress shut them in with a wooden plug. And that is how the sisiwan* was made. ≈