Tow Hill – A Story

 

Long, long ago, when the earth was young, Haida Gwaii as we know it today did not exist. For in that far away time, an evil greater than any other force ever known to mortals had fallen upon both man and all creatures. A group of evil spirits had claimed these islands as their own. In doing so they cast a dark spell upon them, turning them into a great Fortress of Darkness, protected by steep cliffs and jagged rocks.

 

On an island far away a young warrior decided to try to get rid of the evil, which killed his family and left him to suffer. He built a canoe and sailed across the ocean toward the island. As he neared the island the wind was getting stronger and the waves bigger. Just as he reached the island the canoe hit a jagged rock and broke into small pieces. As he struggled to stay above the water, waves were pushing him further away from the island. Just when he felt he could not swim any longer he felt something under him and looked down and saw it was a killer whale.

 

The killer whale told him to rest on his back while the whale swam to the islands, blowing great spumes of water through his blow hole. After a day of swimming and fighting the waves the whale finally reach the islands. As the warrior tried to look for a place to land, a gigantic wave picked them both up and threw them on a ledge, high above the ground. Dazed and confused the man stood up to see if the whale was alright. The whale lay thrashing on the ground, trying to get off the ledge and into the water. But it was hopeless. The warrior tried to help, pushing with all his might, but could not move his friend. “I will stay here with you ’til the end,” the warrior told the whale. “No, you must carry on and finish the mission on which we have come. Go now!”

 

For countless hours, the young warrior attacked the steep cliffs, whose sides were like great vertical columns of cedar. Time and again, the evil spirits buffeted him with great gusts of wind, and tossed bolts of lightning toward him. Time and again, he slipped and fell, yet each time the whale, its voice becoming dimmer and weaker, urged the warrior on.

 

The warrior’s body was torn and battered, but he called to the Great Spirit for strength, and battled onward, ’til finally he reached the top. The moment he set his foot atop the cliffs, the evil spell was broken. The evil spirits were cast away from their fortress, and the steep cliffs sank into the sea, except where the young warrior stood.

 

Looking above him from his high viewpoint, he saw lowlands spreading north, south, and west, with a great spit spreading out into the ocean strait southeast of him. “I have done it! We have done it together!” he shouted exultantly to his friend the whale. But no answer came. The warrior’s eyes misted with tears as he looked down at the body of his friend. And as his tears dropped they landed on the whale, and a strange transformation took place. For where the whale had lain, great rocks formed, through which great spumes of water blew skyward as the tide rose.

 

Thus it is said that Tow Hill stands even today as a reminder of the evil that once possessed the land, and of the brave young warrior who fought and overcame the evil. And down below, the blow hole blows even today, reminding one and all of the whale who gave his life to help the young warrior overcome the evil spirits.

 

by Taryn Rose Hill
1995

 

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