Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes

Page: 51

THE Ancient of Ants was building a house. She worked hard to finish her house before the cold weather came.

Now when it was very cold, the Katydid and the Locust reached her house, asking for shelter. They said they had no houses.

The Ancient of Ants scolded them. She said, “After you are grown up, in the warm weather, you sing all the time, instead of building a house.” She would not let them come into her house.

Then the Katydid and the Locust were ashamed, and as the weather was very cold, they died. That is why katydids and locusts die every winter, while the ants live in their warm houses. But the katydids and locusts never do anything in warm weather but sing.




ONCE there was a widow with only one daughter. She said often, “You should marry and then there will be a man to go hunting.”

Then one day a man came courting the daughter. He said, “Will you marry me?”

The girl said, “I can only marry a good worker. We need a man who is a good hunter and who will work in the cornfield.”

“I am exactly that sort of a man,” he said. So the mother said they might marry.

Then the next morning the mother gave the man a hoe. She said, “Go, hoe the corn. When breakfast is ready I will call you.” Then she went to call him. She followed a sound as of someone hoeing on stony soil. When she reached the place, there was only a small circle of hoed ground. Over in the thicket someone said, “Hoo-hoo!”

When the man came back in the evening, the mother said, “Where have you been all day?”

He said, “Hard at work.”

[146] The mother said, “I couldn’t find you.”

“I was over in the thicket cutting sticks to mark off the field,” he said.

“But you did not come to the lodge to eat at all,” she answered.

“I was too busy,” he said.

Early the next morning he started off with his hoe over his shoulder.

Then the mother went again to call him, when the meal was ready. The hoe was lying there, but there was no sign of work done. And away over in the thicket, she heard a hu-hu calling, Sau-h! sau-h! sau-h! hoo-hoo! hoo-hoo! hoo-hoo! chi! chi! chi! whew!

Now when the man came home that night, the mother asked,

“What have you been doing all day?”

“Working hard,” he said.

“But you were not there when I came after you.”

“Oh, I went over in the thicket awhile,” said the man, “to see some of my relatives.”

Then the mother said, “I have lived here a long while, and no one lives in that swamp but lazy hu-hus. My daughter wants a husband that can work and not a hu-hu!” And she drove him from the house.



KITE was very boastful. One day he spoke scornfully of Eagle, who heard his words. Kite began to sing in a loud voice,

I alone,
I alone,
Can go up,
So as to seem as if hanging from the blue sky.

Eagle answered scornfully. He sang,

Who is this,
Who is this,
Who boasts of flying so high?

Kite was ashamed. He answered in a small voice, “Oh, I was only singing of the great Khakate. It is he who is said to fly so high.”

Eagle answered, “Oh, you crooked tongue! You are below my notice.”

Then Eagle soared high into the sky. But just as soon as he was out of hearing, Kite began to sing again in a very loud voice,

I alone,
I alone,
Can go up,
So as to seem as if hanging from the blue sky.




ALL the Birds met in council, each claiming to fly the highest. Each one claimed to be the chief. Therefore the council decided that each bird should fly toward the Sky-land.

Some of the birds flew very swiftly; but they tired and flew back to earth. Now Eagle went far above all. When Eagle could fly no farther, Linnet, who had perched upon Eagle’s back, flew up. Far above Eagle flew the tiny gray bird.

Now when the Birds held a council again, Eagle was made chief. Eagle had flown higher than all the rest, and had carried Linnet on his back.




IN THE old days, Terrapin had a fine whistle and Partridge had none. Terrapin whistled constantly. He was always boasting of his fine whistle.

One day Partridge said, “Let me try your whistle.”

Terrapin said, “No.” He was afraid Partridge would try some trick.

Partridge said, “Oh, if you are afraid, stay right here while I use it.”

So Terrapin gave it to him. Partridge strutted around, whistling constantly.

He said, “How does it sound with me?”

“You do it very well,” said Terrapin, walking by his side.

“Now how do you like it?” asked Partridge, running ahead.

“It’s fine,” said Terrapin, trying to keep up with him. “But don’t run so fast!”

“How do you like it now?” asked Partridge, [150] spreading his wings and flying to a tree top. Terrapin could only look up at him.

Partridge never gave the whistle back. He has it even to this day. And Terrapin was so ashamed because Partridge stole his whistle, and Turkey had stolen his scalp, that he shuts himself up in his box whenever anyone comes near him.




SOME of the old men say that Kingfisher was meant in the beginning to be a water bird, but because he had no web on his feet and not a good bill, he could not get enough to eat. The animals knew of this, so they held a council. Afterwards they made him a bill like a long, sharp awl. This fish gig he was to use spearing fish. When they fastened it on to his mouth, he flew first to the top of a tree. Then he darted down into the water and came up with a fish on his bill. And ever since, Kingfisher has been the best fisherman.