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Myths and Legends of the Great Plains

Page: 50

Petroglyph in Nebraska

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution


[Pg 147]

QUARREL OF THE SUN AND MOON

Omaha

“I am out of patience with you,” said Moon to Sun. “Although I bring people together, you scatter them. Thus many are lost.”

“I have desired many people to grow,” said Sun, “and so I have scattered them; but you have been putting them in darkness and thus have you been killing many with hunger. Ho! ye people!” called the Sun. “Many of you shall mature. I will look down on you from above. I will direct you, whatever you do.”

Then Moon said, “And I, too, will dwell so. I will collect you; when it is dark, you shall assemble in full numbers, and sleep. I myself will rule you, whatever you do. And we shall walk in the road, one after the other. I will walk behind him.”

Moon is just like a woman. She always walks with a kettle on her arm.


[Pg 148]

WHY THE POSSUM PLAYS DEAD

Cherokee

Rabbit and Possum each wanted a wife, but no one would marry either of them. They talked over the matter and Rabbit said, “We can’t get wives here. Let’s go to the next village. I’ll say I’m messenger for the council and that everybody must marry at once, and then we’ll be sure to get wives.”

Off they started for the next town. As Rabbit traveled the faster, he got there first. He waited outside the village until people noticed him and took him into the council lodge. When the chief asked his business, Rabbit said he brought an important message: everyone must be married at once. So the chief called a great council of the people and told them the message.

Every animal took a mate at once, and thus Rabbit got a wife.

But Possum traveled slowly. Therefore he reached the village so late that all the men were married and there was no wife for him. Rabbit pretended to be sorry. He said, “Never mind. I’ll carry the same message to the next village.”

[Pg 149] So Rabbit traveled ahead to the next village. He waited outside until they invited him to the council lodge. There he told the chief he brought an important message: there had been peace so long, there must be war at once. The war must begin in the council lodge.

The animals all began to fight at once, but Rabbit got away in just four leaps. Then Possum reached the lodge. Now Possum had brought no weapons. So all the animals began to fight Possum. They hit him so hard that after a while he rolled over in a corner and shut his eyes and pretended to be dead. That is why Possum pretends to be dead when he finds the hunters after him.


[Pg 150]

BOG MYTH

Dakota

Bogs are very mysterious. Strange things, with thick hair, remain at the bottom of a bog. These things have no eyes, but they eat everything which comes to them, and from their bodies water flows always. When one of these Beings wishes, he changes his place of abode. He lives at a new place. Then the old place where he lived dries up; but a fresh spring of water gushes from his new lodge. The water of this spring is warm in winter; but in summer it is as cold as ice. Before one dares drink of it, he prays to the water, else he may bring illness on himself for irreverence.

In the olden days, one of the Bog Beings was pulled out of a bog and carried to the camp. A special tepee was built for him. But so much water flowed all around that the people were almost drowned. Then those who were not drowned offered him food. He sat motionless, gazing at them. But the food vanished before they could see it go; and no one saw the Bog Being eat it.


[Pg 151]

COYOTE AND SNAKE

Omaha

Coyote was going in a straight line across the prairie. While he was seeking something, a person said suddenly, “Stop!” Coyote thought, “Who can it be?”

He looked all around but saw no one. Then he walked on a few steps, when some one said, “Walk around me!” Then Coyote saw it was Snake.

“Humph!” said Coyote. “When I walk here, I do not wish to walk around anyone at all. You go to one side. Get out of my way!”

Snake replied, “I am here. I have never thought for a moment of giving place to anyone!”

“Even if you think so,” said Coyote, “I will run over you.”

“If you do so, you shall die,” said Snake.

“Why should I die? There is nothing that can kill me,” said Coyote.

“Come! Step over me. Do it in spite of me,” said Snake. Then Coyote stepped over him. And Snake bit him. But Coyote did not feel it.

[Pg 152] “Where is it? You said that if I stepped over you, I should die. Where have I received my death blow?” said Coyote.

Snake made no reply and Coyote walked on. After some time he came to a creek. As he was about to drink, he saw himself in the water. He seemed very fat.

“Whew!” he said. “I was never so before. I am very fat.” Saying this, he felt himself all over; but that was all he did. Then he walked on until he felt sleepy. He said, “I am very sleepy.” So he pushed his way into the thick grass and fell asleep. Coyote did not wake up. Snake had told the truth.


[Pg 153]


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