The #Wedding Guest

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing growing up in Cape Breton. Check the Village Stories page here for previous pieces in this series.

The Wedding Guest’s Tale

the choir had sung at a wedding

‘jesu of man’s perspiring’

each of us was given the traditional

cayenne molasses candy favours

outside the church I was stopped

by one of the wedding guests

he was very drunk

but had such a happy face

I shared some of my sweets

he began to cry as drunks were wont to do

‘yer the bes’pal I ‘er had’

he slurred as he chewed the candy

‘let me tell you something son

something  I have never told another

something you must never ever repeat

you understand’

I nodded yes

‘this is the story of how we learned

to hunt the moose

has anyone told you this story son’

‘no’ I replied.


‘well this is how it happened

years before I was born

you know

it was told me by my great-grandfather

he was a lad when they discovered

how to hunt the moose

one winter the water was too frozen to fish

up till then we had only been fishers

there wasn’t smelt in the storage silos

when the men went into the woods

the moose charged at them

they could smell a villager a mile away

with their antlers they killed two men

flicked them into the willow trees

it’s the wind in their bones you hear

in Whistling Woods

then one of the men had an idea

he dressed half his body as a robin

all red feathers

the other side he dressed as a smelt

covered with silver scales

he ran through the moose

a long sharp knife in either hand

to slash as them as fast as he could

half the moose claimed

they were attacked by a great robin

the other half swore they were attacked

by a deadly silver smelt

they began to argue amongst themselves

distrust set in

one half the herd attacked the other

at night fall the men went back

and dragged away the carcasses

thus we learned to hunt the moose

we don’t wear feathers and scales anymore

because the moose have no faith in

their senses or one another

when they warn that a man is near

they snort with distrust

and are easy prey for us’


do you know the way to fan expo

Here I return to the folk lore roots of the Village stories. Many of the elements in this are from or variations of actual folk lore. The wedding guest, the old story teller, is a stock ballad figure – one of them starts the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. The ‘swear’ is also out of that tradition.


stripe hydranted

The disguised hunter come from African lore, the particulars of the disguise come from the mythos of the island – moose, robins – I was working with. Its been some years since I read the original folk tale but I think it involved and enemy confusing villagers with this split side disguise.



There’s also some use of this misidentification in Chaucer & Boccaccio for amorous ends so its one of this universal notions. I also enjoy this sense that it’s our distrust of what is in fact real that makes us easy prey. How easy it is to lose sight of what happened: the moose get slashed is diverted into arguing over details, rather than developing some defence to deal with it. Like passing a law that makes it illegal for people to act on their bias rather than educate people out of their bias.

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


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