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Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes

Page: 49

Little white one, tell me,
Little white one, tell me,
Why are your ears so thin and dry?

Tshwee! Tshwee! Tshwee! Tshwee!” cried little Hare, and ran back to Grandmother.

“See, Grandmother,” said Hare, “Lynx came down the trail and sang,

Little white one, tell me,
Little white one, tell me,
Why are your ears so thin and dry?”

“Ho!” said Grandmother, “Go and tell him your uncles made them so when they came from the South.”

So Hare ran up the trail and sang,

My uncles came from the south;
They made my ears as they are.
They made them thin and dry.

[136] And then Hare laid her little pink ears back upon her shoulders, and started to go to the point of land. But Lynx sang again,

Why do you go away, little white one?
Why do you go away, little white one?
Why are your feet so dry and swift?

Tshwee! Tshwee! Tshwee! Tshwee!” cried Hare and again she ran back to Grandmother.

“Ho! do not mind him,” said Grandmother. “Do not listen to him. Do not answer him. Just run straight on.”

So the little white hare ran up the trail as fast as she could. When she came to the place where Lynx had stood, he was gone. So Hare ran on and had almost reached her native land, on the point of land, when Lynx sprang out of the thicket and ate her up.

[137]

WELCOME TO A BABY

Cherokee

LITTLE WREN is the messenger of the Birds. She pries into everything. She gets up early in the morning and goes around to every wigwam to get news for the Bird council. When a new baby comes into a wigwam, she finds out whether it is a boy or a girl.

If it is a boy, the Bird council sings mournfully, “Alas! The whistle of the arrow! My shins will burn!” Because the Birds all know that when the boy grows older he will hunt them with his bows and arrows, and will roast them on a stick.

But if the baby is a girl, they are glad. They sing, “Thanks! The sound of the pestle! In her wigwam I shall surely be able to scratch where she sweeps.” Because they know that when she grows older and beats the corn into meal, they will be able to pick up stray grains.

Cricket also is glad when the baby is a girl. He sings, “Thanks! I shall sing in the wigwam where she lives.” But if it is a boy, Cricket laments, “Gwo-he! [138] He will shoot me! He will shoot me! He will shoot me!” Because boys make little bows to shoot crickets and grasshoppers.

When the Cherokee Indians hear of a new baby, they ask, “Is it a bow, or a meal sifter?” Or else they ask, “Is it ball-sticks or bread?”

[139]

BABY SONG

Cherokee

Ha wi ye hy u we,
Ha wi ye hy u we.
Yu we yu we he,
Ha wi ye hy u we.
The Bear is very bad, so they say,
Long time ago he was very bad, so they say.
The Bear did so and so, they say.

[140]

SONG TO THE FIREFLY

Ojibwa

IN THE hot summer evenings, when the grassy patches around the lakes and rivers sparkle with fireflies, the Indians sing a song to them.

Flitting white-fire-bug,
Flitting white-fire-bug,
Give me your light before I go to sleep.
Give me your light before I go to sleep.
Come, little waving fire-bug.
Come, little waving fire-bug.
Light me with your bright torch.
Light me with your bright torch.[22]
[22] Saw the fire-fly, Wah-wah-taysee,
Flitting through the dusk of evening,
With the twinkle of its candle,
Lighting up the brakes and bushes;
And he sang the song of children,
Sang the song Nokomis taught him;
“Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly,
Little, flitting, white-fire insect ...”
Hiawatha

[141]

SONG OF THE MOTHER BEARS

Cherokee

ONE day a hunter in the woods heard singing in a cave. He came near and peeped in. It was a mother bear singing to her cubs and telling them what to do when the hunters came after them.

Mother Bear said,

When you hear the hunter coming down the creek, then
Tsagi, tsagi, hwilahi,
Tsagi, tsagi, hwilahi,
Upstream, upstream, you must go.
Upstream, upstream, you must go.
But if you hear them coming down stream,
Ge-i, ge-i, hwilahi,
Ge-i, ge-i, hwilahi,
Downstream, downstream, you must go.
Downstream, downstream, you must go.

Another hunter out in the woods one day thought he heard a woman singing to a baby. He followed the sound up a creek until he came to a cave under the bushes. Inside there was a mother bear rocking her cub in her paws and singing to it,

[142] Let me carry you on my back,
Let me carry you on my back,
Let me carry you on my back,
Let me carry you on my back,
On the sunny side go to sleep.
On the sunny side go to sleep.

This was after some of the people had become bears. The hunter knew they were of the Ani Tsagulin tribe.[23]

[23] See “Origin of the Bear.”

[143]

THE MAN IN THE STUMP

Cherokee

AN INDIAN had a field of corn ripening in the sun. One day when he wanted to look at it, he climbed a stump. Now the stump was hollow and in it was a nest of bear cubs. The man slipped and fell down upon the cubs.

At once the cubs began calling for their mother, and Mother Bear came running. She began to climb down into the stump backwards. Then the Indian caught hold of her leg; thus she became frightened. She began to climb out and dragged the Indian also to the top of the stump. Thus he got out of the stump.

[144]


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