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Myths and Legends

Myths and Legends

Greek Myths and Legends

Europa Pandora's Box Prometheus and Io

Native American Myths and Legends

Cherokee Myths Blackfoot Myths

The Legend of Pandora's Box

The first mortals lived on earth in a state of perfect innocence and bliss. The air was pure and balmy; the sun shone brightly all the year; the earth brought forth delicious fruit in abundance; and beautiful, fragrant flowers bloomed everywhere. Man was content. Extreme cold, hunger, sickness, and death were unknown. Jupiter, who justly ascribed a good part of this beatific condition to the gift conferred by Prometheus, was greatly displeased, and tried to devise some means to punish mankind for the acceptance of the heavenly fire.

With this purpose in view, he assembled the Gods on Mount Olympus, where, in solemn council, they decided to create woman; and as soon as she had been artfully fashioned, each God endowed her with some special charm, to make her more attractive.

Their united efforts were crowned with the utmost success. Nothing was lacking, except a name for the peerless creature; and the Gods, after due consideration, decreed she should be called Pandora. They then bade Mercury take her to Prometheus as a gift from heaven; but he, knowing only too well that nothing good would come to him from the Gods, refused to accept her, and cautioned his brother Epimetheus to follow his example. Unfortunately Epimetheus was of a confiding disposition, and when he beheld the maiden he exclaimed,"Surely so beautiful and gentle a being can bring no evil!" and accepted her most joyfully.

The first days of their union were spent in blissful wanderings, hand in hand, under the cool forest shade; in weaving garlands of fragrant flowers; and in refreshing themselves with the luscious fruit, which hung so temptingly within reach.

One lovely evening, while dancing on the green, they saw Mercury, Jupiter's messenger, coming towards them. His step was slow and weary, his garments dusty and travel-stained, and he seemed to almost stagger beneath the weight of a huge box which rested upon his shoulders. Pandora immediately ceased dancing, to speculate with feminine curiosity upon the contents of the chest. In a whisper she begged Epimetheus to ask Mercury what brought him tither. Epimetheus complied with her request; but Mercury evaded the question, asked permission to deposit his burden in their dwelling for safe-keeping, professing himself too weary to convey it to its destination that day, and promised to call for it shortly. The permission was promptly granted. Mercury, with a sigh of relief, placed the box in one corner, and then departed, refusing all hospitable offers of rest and refreshment.

He had scarcely crossed the threshold when Pandora expressed a strong desire to have a peep at the contents of the mysterious box; but Epimetheus, suprised and shocked, told her that her curiosity was unseemly, and then to dispel the frown and pout seen for the first time on the fair face of his beloved, he entreated her to come out into the fresh air and join in the merry games of their companions. For the first time. also, Pandora refused to comply with his request. Dismayed and discouraged, Epimetheus sauntered out alone, thinking she would soon join him, and perhaps by some caress atone for her present wilfilness.

Left alone with the mysterious casket, Pandora became more and more inquisitive. Stealthily she drew near and examined it with great interest, for it was curiously wrought of dark wood, and surmounted by a delicate carved head of such fine workmanship that it seemed to smile and encourage her. Around the box, a glittering cord was wound, and fastened on the top in an intricate knot. Pandora, who prided herself specially on her deft fingers, felt sure she could unfasten it, and reasoning that ir would not be indiscreet to untie it if she did not raise the lid, she set to work. Long she strove, but all in vain. Ever and anon the laughing voice of Epimetheus and his companions, playing in the luxuriant shade, were wafted in on the summer breeze. Repeatedly she heard them call and beseech her to join them; yet she persisted in her attempt. She was just on the point of giving up in despair, when suddenly the refactory knot yeilded to her fumbling fingers, and the cord, unrolling, dropped to the floor.

Pandora had repeatedly fancied that sounds like whispers issued from the box. The noise now seemed to increase, and she breathlessly applied her ear to the lid to ascertain whether it really proceeded from within. Imagine her suprise when she distinctly heard these words, uttered in the most pitful accents:"Pandora, dear Pandora, have pity upon us! Free us from this gloomy prison! Open, open, we beseech you!"

Pandora's heart beat so fast and loud, that it seemed for a moment to drown out all other sounds. Should she open the box? Just then a familiar step outside made her start guiltily. Epimetheus was coming, and she knew he would urge her again to come out, and would prevent the gratification of her curiosity. Precipitately, therefore, she raised the lid to have one little peep before he came in.

Now, Jupiter had malignantly crammed into this box all the diseases, sorrows, vices, and crimes that afflicted poor humanity; and the box was no sooner opened, that all these ills flew out, in the guise of horrid little brown-winged creatures, closely resembling moths. these little insects fluttered about, alighting, some upon Epimetheus, who had just entered, and some upon Pandora, pricking and stinging them most unmercifully. They then flew out through the open dooe and windows, and fastened themselves upon the merrymakers without, whose shouts of joy were soon changed into wails of pain and anguish.

Epimetheus and Pandora had never before experienced the faintest sensation of pain or anger; but, as soon as these winged evil spirits had stung them, they began to weep, and alas quarrelled for the first time in their lives. Epimetheus reproached his wife in bitterest terms for her thoughtless action; but in the very midst of his vituperation he suddenly heard a sweet little voice entreat him for freedom. The sound proceeded from the unfortunate box, whose cover Pandora had dropped again, in the first moment of suprise and pain. "Open, open, and I will heal your wounds! Please let me out!" it pleaded.

The tearful couple viewed each other inquiringly, and listened again. Once more they heard the same pitiful accents; and Epimetheus bade his wife open the box and set the speaker free, adding very amiably that she had already done so much harm by her ill-fated curiosity, that it would be difficult to add materially to its evil consequences, and that, perchance, the box contained some good spirit, whose ministrations might prove beneficial. It was well for Pandora that she opened the box a second thim, for the Gods, with a sudden impulse of compassion, had concealed among the evil spirits one kindly creature, Hope, whose mission was to heal the wounds inflicted by her fellow prisoners.

Lightly fluttering hither and tither on her snowy pinions, Hope touched the wounded places on Pandora's and Epimetheus' creamy skin, and relieved of their suffering, then quickly flew out of the open window, to perform the same gentle office for the other victims, and to cheer their downcast spirits.

Thus, according to the ancients, evil entered into the world, bringing untold misery; but Hope followed closely in its footsteps, to aid struggling humanity, and point to a happier future.


Prometheus and Io

In those days when Prometheus had just given fire to men and when he was first bound to the rocky peak on Caucasus, he had a strange visitor. A distracted fleeing creature came clambering awkardly up over the cliffs and crags to where he lay. It looked like a heifer, but talked like a girl who seemed mad with misery. The sight of Prometheus stopped her short. She cried:

"This that I see-
A form storm-beaten,
Bound to the rock.
Did you do wrong?
Is this your punishment?
Where am I?
Speak to a wretched wanderer.
Enough-I have been tried enough-
My wandering-long wandering,
Yet I have found nowhere
To leave my misery.
I am a girl who speak to you,
But horns are on my head."

Prometheus recognized her. He knew her story and he spoke her name:

"I know you, girl, Inachus' daughter, Io.
You made the God's heart hot with love
And Hera hates you. She it is
Who drives you on this flight that never ends."

Wonder checked Io's frenzy. She stood still, all amazed. Her name-spoken by this strange being in this strange, lonely place! She begged:

"Who are you, sufferer, that speak the truth
To one who suffers?"

And he answered her "You see Prometheus who gave mortals fire."

She knew him, and his story:

"You-he who succored the whole human race of men?
You, that Prometheus, the daring, the enduring?"

They talked freely to each other. He told her how Zeus had treated him, and she told him that Zeus was the reason why she, once a princess and a happy girl, had been changed into:

"A beast, a starving beast,
That frenzied runs with clumsy leaps and bounds.
Oh, shame...

Zeus's jealous wife, Hera, was the direct cause of her misfortunes, but back of them all was Zeus himself. He fell in love with her, and sent:

"Ever to my maiden chamber
Visions of the night
Persuading me with gentle words:
"O happy, happy girl,
Why are you all to long a maid?
The arrow of desire has pierced Zeus.
For you he is on fire.
With you it is his will to capture love."
Always, each night, such dreams possessed me."

But still greater than Zeus's love was his fear of Hera's jealousy. He acted, however with very little wisdom for the Father of Gods and Men when he tried to hide Io and himself by wrapping the earth in a cloud so thick and dark that a sudden night seemed to drive the clear daylight away. Hera knew and instantly suspected her husband.When she could not find him anywhere in heaven she glided swiftly down to the earth and ordered the cloud off. But Zeus too had been quick. As she cought sight of him he was standing beside a most lovely white heifer-Io, of course. He swore that he had never seen her until just now when she sprung forth, newborn, from the earth. Hera did not believe a word of it. She said the heifer was very pretty and would Zeus please make her a present of it. Sorry as he was, he saw at once that to refuse would give the whole thing away. What excuse could he make? An insignificant little cow...He turned Io reluctantly to his wife and Hera knew very well how to keep her away from him.

She gave her into the charge of Argus, an excellent arangement for Hera's purpose, since Argus had a hundred eyes. Before such a watchman, who could sleep with some of the eyes and keep guard with the rest, Zeus seemed helpless. He watched Io's misery, turned into a beast, driven from her home; he dared not come to her help. At last, however, he wanted his son Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and told him he must find a way to kill Argus. There was no god cleverer than Hermes. As soon as he had sprung to earth from heaven he laid aside everything that marked him as a god and approached Argus like a country fellow, palying very sweetly upon a pipe of reeds. Argus was pleased at the sound and called to the musician to come nearer

"You might as well sit by me on this rock," he said, "you see it's shady-just right for shepherds."

Nothing could have been better for Hermes' plan, and yet nothing happened. He played and then he talked on and on, as drowsily and monotonously as he could; some of the hundred eyes would go to sleep, but some were always awake. At last, however, one story was successful-about the god Pan, how he loved a nymph named Syrinx who fled from him and just as he was about to seize her she was turned into a tuft of reeds by her sister nymphs. Pan said, "Still you shall be mine," and he made from what she had become"

"A shepherd's pipe of reeds and beeswax joined."

The little story does not seem especially tiresome, as such stories go, but Argus found it so. All of his eyes went to sleep. Hermes killed him at once, of course, but Hera took the eyes and set them in the tail of a peacock, her favorite bird.

It seemed that Io was free, but no; Hera at once turned on her again. She sent a gad-fly to plague her, which stung her to madness. Io told Prometheus:

"He drives me all along the sea strand.
I may not stop for food or drink,
He will not let me sleep."

Prometheus tried to comfort her, but he could point her only to the distant future. What lay immediately before her was still more wandering and in fearsome lands. to be sure, the part of the sea she first ran along in her frenzy would be called Ionian after her, and the Bosphorus, which means Ford of the Cow, would preserve the memory of when she went through it, but her real consolation must be that at long last she would reach the Nile, where Zeus would restore her to her human form. She would bear him a som named Epaphus, and live forever after happy and homored, And"

"Know this, that from your race will spring
One glorious with the bow, bold-hearted.
And shall set me free."

Io's descendant would be Hercules, greatest of heroes, than whom the gods were greater, and to whom Prometheus would owe his freedom.



Up in heaven one spring morning as he idly watched the earth, Zeus suddenly saw a charming spectacle. Europa had waked early, troubled just as Io had been by a dream, only this time not a god who loved her but of two Continents who each in the shape of a woman tried to possess her, Asia saying that she had given her birth and therefore owned her, and the other yet nameless, declared that Zeus would give the maiden to her.

Once awake from this strange vision which had come at dawn, the time when true dreams oftenest visit mortals, Europa decided not to try to go to sleep again, but to summon her companions, girls born in the same year as herself and all of noble birth, to go out with her to the lovely blooming meadows near the sea. Here was their favorite meeting place, whether they wanted to dance or bathe their fair bodies at the river mouth or gather flowers.

This time all had brought baskets, knowing that the flowers were now at their perfection. Europa's was of gold, exquisitley chased with figures which showed, oddly enough, the story of Io, her journeys in the shape of a cow, the death of Argus, and Zeus lightly touching her with his divine hand and changing her back into a woman. It was, as may be perceived, a marvel worth gazing upon, and had been made by no less a personage that Hephaestus, the clelstial workman of Olympus.

Lovely as the basket was, there were flowers as lovely to fill it with, sweet-smelling narcissus and hyacinths and violets and yellow crocus, and most radient of all, the crimson splendor of the wild rose. The girls gathered them delightedly wandering here and there over the meadow, each one a maiden fairest among the fair, yet even so, Europa shone out among them as the Goddess of Love outshines the sister Graces. And it was that the very Goddess of Love who brought what happened. As Zeus in heaven watched the pretty scene, she who alone can conquer Zeus-along with her son, the mischevious boy Cupid-shot one of her shafts into his heart, and that very instant he fell madly in love with Europa. Even though Hera was away, he thought it well to be cautious, and before appearing to Europa he changed himself into a bll. not such a one as you might expect to see in a stall or grazing the field, but one beautiful beyond all bulls that ever were, bright chesnut in color, with a silver circle on his brow and horns like the cresent of the young moon. He seemed so gentle as well as so lovely that the girls were not frightened at his coming, but gathered around to caress him and to breathe the heavenly fragrance that came from him, sweeter even than that of the flowery meadow. It was Europa he drew toward, and as she gently touched him, he lowed so musically, no flute could give forth a more melodious sound.

Then he lay down before her feet and seemed to show her his broad back, and she cried to the others to come with her and mount him:

"For surely he will bear us on his back,
He is so mild and dear and gentle to behold,
He is not like a bull, but like a good, true man,
Except he cannot speak."

smiling she sat down on his back, but the others, quick though they were to follow her, had no chance. The bull leaped up and at full speed rushed to the seashore and then not into, but over, the wide water, As he went the waves grew smooth before him and a whole procession rose up from the deep and accompanied him-the strange sea-gods, Nereids riding upon dolphins, and Tritons blowing their horns, and the mighty Master of the Sea himself, Zeus's own brother.

Europa, frightened equally by the wondorous creatures she saw and the moving waters all around, clung with one hand to the bull's great horn and with the other caught up her purple dress to keep it dry, and the winds:

Swelled out the deep folds even as a sail
Swells on a ship, and ever gently thus
They wafted her."

No bull could this be, thought Europa, but most certainly a god; and she spoke pleadingly to him, begging him to pity her and not leave her in some strange place all alone. Zeus spoke to her in answer and showed her she had guessed rightly that he was. She had no cause to fear, he told her, He was Zeus, greatest of gods, and all he was doing was from love of her. He was taking het to Crete, his own island, where his mother had hidden him from Cronus when he was born, and there she would bear him:

"Glorious sons whose scepters shall hold sway
Over all men on earth."

Everything happened, of course, as Zeus had said. Crete came into sight; they landed, and the Seasons, the gatekeepers of Olympus, arrayed her for her bridal. Her sons were famous men, not only in this world but in the next-where two of them, Minos and Rhadamnthus, were rewarded for their justice upon the earth by being made the judges of the dead. But Europa's name remains the best known of all.


Cherokee Myths

Earth Making


The Cherokee are one of the very few Indian tribes who conceive of the sun as female. This version is unusual for the Cherokee because it refers to Sun as "he".

Earth is floating on the waters like a big island, hanging from four rawhide ropes fastened at the top of the sacred four directions. The ropes are tied to the ceiling of the sky, which is made of hard rock crystal. When the ropes break, this world will come tumbling down, and all living things will fall with it and die. Then everything willbe as if the earth never existed, for water will cover it. Maybe the white man will bring this about.

Well, in the beginning also, water covered everything. Though living vreatures existed, their home was up there, above the rainbow, and it was crowded, "We are all jammed together," the animals said, "We need more room." Wondering what was under the water, they sent Water Beetle to look around.

Water Beetle skimmed over the surface but couldn't find any solid footing, so he dived down to the bottom and brought up a little dab of soft mud. Magically the mud spread out in the four directions and became this island we are living on-this earth. Someone Powerful then fastened it to the sky ceiling with cords.

In the beginning the earth was flat, soft, and moist. All th animals were eager to live on it, and they kept sending down birds to see if the mud had dried and hardened enough to take their weight. But the birds all flew back and said that there was still no spot they could perch on.

Then the animals sent Grandfather Buzzard down. He flew very close and saw that the earth was still soft, but when he glided low over what would become Cherokee country, he found that the mud was getting harder. By that time Buzzard was tired and draging. When he flapped his wings down, they made a valley where they touched the earth; when they swept up, they made a mountain. The animals watching from above the rainbow said, "If he keeps on, there will be only mountains," and they made him come back. That's why we have so many mountains in Cherokee land.

At last the earth was hard and dry enough, and the animals descended. They couldn't see very well because they had no sun or moon, and someone said, "Let's grab Sun from up there behind the rainbow! Let's get him down too!" Pulling Sun down, they told him. "Here's a road for you,: and showed him the way-from east to west.

Now they had light, but it was much too hot, because Sun was too close to the earth. The crawfish had his back sticking out of a stream and the Sun burned it red. His meat was spoiled forever, and the people still won't eat crawfish.

Everyone asked the sorcerers, the shamans, to put Sun higher. They pushed him up as high as man, but it was still too hot. So they pushed him father up, but it wasn't far enough. They tried four times, and when they had Sun up to the height of four men, he was just hot emough. everyone was satisfied, so they left him there.

Before making humans, Someone Powerful had created plants and animals and had told them to stay awake and watch for seven days and seven nights. (This is just what young men do today when they fast and prepare for a ceremony.) But most of the plants and animals couldn't manage it; some fell asleep after one day, some after two days, some after three. Among the animals, only the owl and mountain lion were still awake after seven days and nights. That's why they were given the gift of seeing in the dark so that they can hunt at night.

Among the trees and other plants, only the cedar, pine, holly,and laurel were still awake on the eighth morning, Someone Powerful said to them: "Because you watched and kept awake as you have been told, you will not lose your hair in the winter." So these plants stay green all the time.

After creating plants and animals, Someone Powerful made a man and his sister. The man poked her with a fish and told her to give birth. After seven days she had a baby, and after seven more she had another, and every seven days another came. The humans increased so quickly that Someone Powerful, thinking there would soon be no more room on this earth, arranged things so that a woman could have only one child each year. And that's how it was.

Now, there is still another world under the one we live on. You can reach it by going down a spring, a water hole; but you need underworld people to be your scouts and guide you. The world under our earth is exactly like ours, except that it's winter down there when it's summer up here. We can see that easily, because spring water is warmer that the air in winter and cooler that the air in summer.


Blackfoot Myths

The Orphan Boy and the Elk Dog
The Sacred Weed Woman Chooses Death

About the Blackfoot People

The Blackfoot people were really three closely allied Algonquian tribes- the Siksikas, or Blackfoot proper; the Bloods and the Piegans. Siksikas means Black-footed People, and they may at one time have worn black moccasins. The Bloods probably got their name from the vermillion colors of their face paint. Piegan means People with Poor or Badly Dressed Robes.

These tribes drifted down from Canada into what is now Montana, driving the Kootenay and Shoshoni before them. They were much feared by early white trappers and fur traders, because they killed all white men who entered their hunting grounds in search of beaver. Though they inhabited the northern edge of the buffalo range, the Blackfoot tribes lived in tipis and hunted bison like other Plains Indians.

The Piegans’ main ceremonials were the sun dance and the All Comrades festival held by warrior societies.

About 7,000 Blackfoot, 2,100 Piegans, and 2,000 Bloods now live on the Blackfoot reservation at Browning, Montana, at the southern edge of Glacier National Park, and some have joined the Piegan Agency in Alberta, Canada.

The Orphan Boy and the Elk Dog

The horse was introduced to this continent by the Spaniards when they arrived in the middle of the sixteenth century. Within two centuries the horses had been acquired by almost every tribe and had transformed the Indian’s life. As there was no Indian word for horse, and it carried burdens like a dog, it was usually named Elk Dog, Spirit Dog, Sacred Dog, or Moose Dog.

In the days when people only had dogs to carry their bundles, two orphan children, a boy and his sister, were having a hard time. The boy was deaf because he could not understand what people said, they thought him foolish and dull-witted. Even his relatives wanted nothing to do with him. The name he had been given at birth, while his parents stilled lived, was Long Arrow. Now he was like a beaten, mangy dog, the kind who hungrily roam outside a camp, circling it from afar, smelling the good meat boiling in the kettles but never coming close for fear of being kicked. Only his sister, who was bright and beautiful, loved him.

Then the sister was adopted by a family from another camp, people who were attracted by her good looks, and pleasing ways. Though they wanted her for a daughter, they certainly did not want the awkward, stupid boy. And so they took away the only person who cared about him, and the orphan boy was left to fend for himself. He lived on scraps thrown to the dogs and things he found on the refuse heaps. He dressed in the remnants of skins and frayed robes discarded by the poorest people. At night he bedded down in a grass-lined dugout, like an animal in its den.

Eventually the game was hunted out near the camp that the boy regarded as his, and the people decided to move. The lodges were taken down, belongings were packed into rawhide bags and put on dog travois, and the village departed. “Stay here,” they told the boy. “We don’t want your kind coming with us.”

For two or three days the boy fed on scraps the people had left behind, but he knew he would starve if he stayed. He had to join his people whether they liked it or not. He followed their tracks, frantic that he would lose them, and crying at the same time. Soon the sweat was running down his skinny body. As he was stumbling, running, panting, something suddenly snapped in his left ear with a sound like a small crack, and a worm-like substance came out of that ear. All at once he on his left side he could hear birdsongs for the first time. He took this worm-like thing in his left hand and hurried on. Then there was a snap in his right ear and a worm-like thing came out of it, and on his right side he could hear the rushing waters of a stream. His hearing was restored! And it was razor sharp-he could make out the rustling of a tiny mouse in the dry leaves a good distance away. The orphan boy laughed and was happy for the first time in his life. With renewed courage he followed the trail his people had made.

In the meantime the village had settled into its new place. Men were already out hunting. Thus the boy came upon Good Running, a kindly old chief, butchering a fat buffalo cow he had just killed. When the chief saw the boy, he said to himself, “Here comes that poor good-for-nothing boy. It was very wrong to abandon him.” To the boy Good Running said: “Rest here, grandson, you’re sweaty and covered with dust. Here, have some tripe.”

The boy wolfed down the meat. He was not used to hearing and talking yet, but his eyes were alert and Good Running also noticed a change in his manner. “This boy,” the chief said to himself, “is neither stupid nor crazy.” He gave the orphan a piece of the hump meat, then a piece of liver, then a piece of raw kidney, and at last the very best kind of meat-a slice of tongue. The more the old man looked at the boy, the more he liked him. On the spur of the moment he said, “Grandson, I’m going to adopt you; there’s a place for you in my tipi. And I’m going to make you into a good hunter and warrior.” The boy wept, this time for joy. Good Running said, “They called you a stupid, crazy boy, but now that I think of it, the name you were given at birth is Long Arrow. I’ll see that people call you by your right name. Now come along.”

The chief’s wife was not pleased. “Why do you put this burden on me,” she said, “bringing into our lodge this good-for-nothing, this, slow-witted boy? Maybe you’re a little slow-witted and crazy yourself!”

“Woman, keep talking like that and I’ll beat you! This boy isn’t slow or crazy; he’s a good boy, and I have taken him for my grandson. Look-he’s barefooted. Hurry up, and make a pair of moccasins for him, and if you don’t do well I’ll take a stick to you.”

Good Running’s wife grumbled but did as she was told. Her husband was a kind man, but when aroused, his anger was great.

So a new life began for Long Arrow. He had to learn to speak and to understand well, and to catch up on all the things a boy should know. He was a fast learner and soon surpassed other boys his age in knowledge and skills. At last even Good Running’s wife accepted him.

He grew up into a fine young hunter, tall and good-looking in the quilled buckskin outfit the chief’s wife made for him. He helped his grandfather in everything and became a staff for Good Running to lean on. But he was lonely, for most people in the camp would not forget that Long Arrow had once been an outcast. “Grandfather,” he said one day, “I want to do something to make you proud and show people that you were wise to adopt me. What can I do?”

Good Running answered, “Someday you will be a chief and do great things.” “But what’s a great thing I could do now, Grandfather?”

The chief thought for a long time. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this.” He said, “I love you and don’t want to lose you. But on winter nights, men talk of a powerful spirit people living at the bottom of a faraway lake. Down in that lake the spirit people keep mystery animals who do their work for them. These animals are larger than a great elk, but they carry the burden of the spirit people like dogs. So they’re called Pono-Kamita the Elk Dogs. They are said to be swift, strong, gentle, and beautiful beyond imagination. Every fourth generation, one of our young warriors has gone to find these spirit folk and bring back an Elk Dog for us. But none of our brave young men had ever returned.”

“Grandfather, I’m not afraid. I’ll go and find the Elk Dog.”

“Grandson, first learn to be a man. Learn the right prayers and ceremonies. Be brave. Be generous and open-handed. Pity the old and the fatherless, and let the holy men of the tribe find a medicine for you which will protect you on your dangerous journey. We will begin by purifying you in the sweat bath.”

So Long Arrow was purified with the white steam of the sweat lodge. He was taught how to use the pipe, an how to pray to the Great Mystery Power. The tribe’s holy men gave him a medicine and made for him a shield with designs on it to ward off danger.

Then one morning, without telling anyone, Good Running loaded his best travois dog with all the things Lone Arrow would need for traveling. The chief gave him his medicine, his shield, and his own fine bow and, just as the sun came up, went with his grandson to the edge of the camp to purify him with sweet smelling cedar smoke. Long Arrow left unheard and unseen by anyone else. After a while some people noticed that he was gone, but no one except his grandfather knew where and for what purpose.

Following Good Running’s advice, Long Arrow wandered southward. On the fourth day of his journey he came to a small pond, where a strange man was standing as waiting for him. “Why have you come here?” the stranger asked.

“I have come to find the mysterious Elk Dog.”

“Ah, there I cannot help you,” said the man, who was the spirit of the pond. “But if you travel further south, four-times-four days, you might chance upon a bigger lake and there meet one of my uncles. Possibly he might talk to you; then again, he might not. That’s all I can tell you.”

Long Arrow thanked the man, who went down to the bottom of the pond, where he lived.

Long Arrow wandered on, walking for long hours and taking little time for rest. Through deep canyons and over high mountains he went, wearing out his moccasins and enduring cold and heat, hunger and thirst.

Finally Long Arrow approached a big lake surrounded by steep pine covered hills. There he came face to face with a tall man, fierce and scowling and twice the height of most humans. This stranger carried a long lance with a heavy spearpoint made of shining flint. “Young one,” he growled, “why have you come here?”

“I came to find the mysterious Elk Dog.”

The stranger who was the spirit of the lake, stuck his face right into Long Arrow’s and shook his mighty lance. “Little one, aren’t you afraid of me?” he snarled.

“No, I am not.” answered Long Arrow smiling.

The tall spirit man gave a hideous grin, which was his way of being friendly. “I like small humans who aren’t afraid,” he said, “but I can’t help you. Perhaps our grandfather will take the trouble to listen to you. More likely he won’t. Walk south for four times four days, and maybe you’ll find him. But probably you won’t.” With that the tall spirit turned his back on Long Arrow and went to the bottom of the lake, where he lived.

Long Arrow walked on for another four times four days, sleeping and resting little. By now he staggered and stumbled in his weakness, and his dog was not much better off. At last he came to the biggest lake he had ever seen, surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks and waterfalls of ice. This time there was nobody to receive him. As a matter of fact, there seemed to be no living thing around. “This must be the Great Mystery Lake.” thought Lone Arrow. Exhausted, he fell down among the wild flowers and went to sleep with his tired dog curled up at his feet.

When Long Arrow awoke, the sun was already high. He opened his eyes and saw a beautiful child standing before him, a boy in dazzling white buckskin robe decorated with porcupine quills of many colors. The boy said: “We have been expecting you for a long time. My grandfather invites you to his lodge. Follow me.”

Telling his dog to wait, Long Arrow took his medicine shield and his grandfather’s bow and went with the wonderful child. They came to the edge of the lake. The spirit boy pointed to the water and said: “My grandfather’s lodge is down there. Come!” The child turned himself into a kingfisher and dove straight to the bottom.

Afraid, Long Arrow thought, “How can I follow him and not be drowned?” But then he said to himself, “I knew all the time that this would not be easy. In setting out to find the Elk Dog, I already threw my life away.” And he boldly jumped into the water. To his surprise, he found it did not make him wet, that it parted before him, that he could breathe and see. He touched the lake’s sandy bottom. It sloped down, down toward a center point.

Long Arrow descended this slope until he came to a small, flat valley. In the middle of it stood a large tipi of tanned buffalo hide. The images of two strange animals were drawn on it in sacred vermillion paint. A kingfisher perched high on top of the tipi flew down and turned again into the beautiful boy, who said, “Welcome. Enter my grandfather’s lodge.”

Long Arrow followed the spirit boy inside. In the back at the seat of honor sat a black-robbed old man with flowing white hair and such power emanating from him that Long Arrow felt himself in the presence of a truly Great One. The holy man welcomed Long Arrow and offered him food. The man’s wife came in bringing dishes of buffalo hump, liver, tongues, delicious chunks of deer meat, the roasted flesh of strange, tasty water birds, and meat pounded together with berries, chokeberries, and kidney fat. Famished after his long journey, Long Arrow ate with relish. Yet he still looked around to admire the furnishings of the tipi, the painted inner curtain, the many medicine shields, wonderfully wrought weapons, shirts and robes decorated with porcupine quills in rainbow colors, beautifully painted rawhide containers filled with wonderful things, and much else that dazzled him.

After Long Arrow had stilled his hunger, the old spirit chief filled the pipe and passed it to his guest. They smoked, prayed silently. After a while the old man said: “Some came before you from time to time, but they were always afraid of the deep water, and so they went away with empty hands. But you, grandson, were brave enough to plunge in, and therefore you are chosen to receive a wonderful gift to carry back to your people. Now, go outside with my grandson.”

The beautiful boy took Long Arrow to a meadow on which some strange animals, unlike the young man had ever seen, were galloping and gamboling, neighing and nickering. They were truly wonderful to look at, with their glossy coats fine as a maiden’s hair, their long manes and tails streaming in the wind. Now rearing, now nuzzling, they looked at Long Arrow with gentle eyes which belied their fiery appearance.

“At last,” thought Long Arrow, “here they are before my own eyes, the Pono-Kamita, the Elk dogs!”

“Watch me,” said the mystery boy, “so that you learn to do what I am doing.” Gracefully and without effort, the boy swung himself onto the back of a jet-black Elk dog with a high, arched neck. Larger than any elk Long Arrow had ever come across, the animal carried the boy all over the meadow swiftly as the wind. Then the boy returned, jumped off his mount, and said, “now you try it.” A little timidly Long Arrow climbed up on the beautiful Elk Dog’s back. Seemingly regarding him as feather-light, it took off like a flying arrow. The young man felt himself soaring through the air as a bird does, and experienced a happiness greater even than the joy he felt when Good Running had adopted him as a grandson.

When they had finished riding the Elk Dogs, the spirit boy said to Long Arrow: “Young hunter from the land above the waters, I want you to have what you have come for. Listen to me. You may have noticed that my grandfather wears a black medicine robe as long as a woman’s dress, and that he is always trying to hide his feet. Try to get a glimpse of them, for if you do, he can refuse you nothing. He will then tell you to ask him for a gift, and you must ask for three things: his rainbow-colored quilled belt, his black medicine robe, and a herd of these animals which you like.

Long Arrow thanked him and vowed to follow his advice. For four days the young man stayed in the spirit chief’s lodge, where he ate well and often went riding on the Elk Dogs. But try as he would, he could never get a look at the old man’s feet. The spirit chief always kept them carefully covered. Then on the morning on the fourth day, the old one was walking out of the tipi when his medicine robe caught in the entrance flap. As the robe opened, long Arrow caught a glimpse of a leg and one foot. He was awed to see that it was not a human limb at all, but the glossy leg and firm hoof of an Elk Dog! He could not stifle a cry of surprise, and the old man looked over his shoulder and saw that his leg and hoof were exposed. The chief seemed a little embarrassed, but shrugged and said: “I tried to hide this, but you must have been fated to see it. Look, both of my feet are those of the Elk Dog. You may as well ask me for a gift. Don’t e timid; tell me what you want.”

Long Arrow spoke boldly: “I want three things, your belt of rainbow colors, your black medicine robe, and your herd of Elk dogs.”

“Well, so you’re really not timid at all!” said the old man, “You ask for a lot, and I’ll give it to you, except that you cannot have all of my Elk Dogs; I’ll give you half of them. Now I must tell you that my black hair medicine robe and my many-colored belt have Elk Dog magic in them. Always wear the robe when you try to catch Elk dogs; then they can’t get away from you. On quiet nights, if you listen closely to the belt, you will hear the Elk dog dance song and Elk Dog prayers. You must learn them. And I will give you one more magic gift: this long rope woven from the hair of a white buffalo bull. With it you will never fail to catch whichever Elk Dog you want.”

The spirit chief presented him with the gifts and said: “now you must leave. At first the Elk dogs will not follow you. Keep the medicine robe and magic belt on at all times, and walk for four days toward the north. Never look back-always look to the north. On the fourth day the Elk dogs will come up beside you on the left. Still don’t look back. But after they have overtaken you, catch one with the rope of white buffalo hair and ride him home. Don’t lose the black robe, or you will lose the Elk Dogs and never catch them again.”

Long Arrow listened carefully so that he would remember. Then the old spirit chief had his wife make up a big pack of food, almost too heavy for Long Arrow to carry, and the young man took leave of his generous spirit host. The mysterious boy once again turned himself into a kingfisher and led Long Arrow to the surface of the lake, where his faithful dog greeted him joyfully. Long Arrow fed the dog, put his pack of food on the travois, and started walking north.

On the fourth day the Elk Dogs came up on his left side, as the spirit chief had foretold. Long Arrow snared the black one with the arched neck to ride, and he caught another to carry the pack of food. They galloped swiftly on, the dog barking at the big Elk Dogs’ heels.

When Long Arrow arrived at last in his village, the people were afraid and hid. They did not recognize him astride his beautiful Elk dog but took him for a monster, half man and half animal. Long Arrow kept calling, “Grandfather Good Running, it’s your grandson. I’ve come back bringing elk Dogs!”

Recognizing the voice, Good Running came out of hiding and wept for joy, because he had given Long Arrow up for lost. Then all the others emerged from their hiding places to admire the wonderful new animals.

Long Arrow said, “My grandfather and grandmother who adopted me, I can never repay you for your kindness. Accept these wonderful elk Dogs as my gift. Now we no longer need to be humble footloggers, because these animals will carry us swiftly everywhere we want to go. Now buffalo hunting will be easy. Now our tipis will be larger, our possessions will be greater, because an Elk dog travois can carry a load ten times bigger than that of a dog. Take them my grandparents. I shall keep for myself only this black male and this black female, which will grow into a fine herd.”

“You have indeed done something great, Grandson.” Said Good Running, and he spoke true. The people became the bold riders of the Plains and soon could hardly imagine how they existed without these wonderful animals.

After some time Good Running, rich and honored by all, said to Long Arrow, “Grandson, lead us to the Great Mystery Lake so we can camp by its shores. Let’s visit the spirit chief and the wondrous boy; maybe they will give us more of their power and magic gifts.

Long Arrow led the people southward and again found the Great Mystery Lake. But the waters would no longer part for him, nor would any of the kingfishers they saw turn into a boy. Nor, gazing down into the crystal clear water, could they discover people, Elk Dogs, or a tipi. There was nothing in the lake but a few fish.


The Sacred Weed

For longer than anyone knows, Indians throughout the Americas have smoked tobacco and other plants for pleasure and for praying. The smoke was the Great Spirit’s breath taking the prayers up to the Ones Above. With a pipe in his hands, a man could speak nothing but truth. Sir Walter Raleigh learned of the use of tobacco from the Indians. When he first had a smoke in a London inn, the bartender, thinking that he was on fire, emptied a tankard of ale over him. To the white man, smoking became an addiction; but to the Native American, pipe and tobacco were sacred and smoking was a holy ritual. A man who had killed a member of his own tribe could not smoke ritually with the others. He had to smoke a mean little pipe by himself-hard punishment.

There once were four brothers, all spiritual men, who had power. In a vision, the oldest of them heard a voice saying, “Out there is a sacred weed, pick it and burn it.” The man looked around, saw the strange weed, and put it in the fire. It gave off a very pleasing aroma.

Then the second brother had a dream in which the voice said: “Take this herb. Chop it fine. Put it in a hide bag.” The man did what he was told, and the dry herb in the hide bag was wonderfully fragrant. The third brother had a vision in which he saw a man hollowing out a bone and putting strange weed into it. A voice said, “Make four pipes like this.” And the third brother carved four pipes out of an animal’s leg bones.

Then the youngest of the four brothers had a vision. A voice told him” “You four men light your pipes and smoke. Inhale the smoke; exhale it. Let the smoke ascend to the clouds.” The voice also taught him the songs and prayers that went with the smoke.

So the four medicine men, born of the same mother, smoked together. This was the first time that men had ever smoked and they sang and prayed together as they did so.

The brothers, who called the sacred weed nawak’osis, were meant to teach its use to the people. But nawak’osis made them powerful and wise and clear-minded, and they did not want to share it with others. They planted the sacred weed in a secret place that only they knew. They guarded the songs and prayers and rituals that went with smoking. They formed a Tobacco Society, just the four of them.

So there was anger, there was war, there was restlessness of spirit, there was impiety. Nawak’osis was meant to calm anger, to make men worship, to make peace, to ease the mind. But without the sacred herb, unity and peace were lacking.

A young man called Bull-by-Himself said to his wife: “These four powerful ones have been given something good to share with the people, but they are keeping it for themselves. So things are bad. I must find a way to plant and reap the sacred weed they call nawak’osis.”

Bull-by-Himself and his wife went to a sacred lake and set up their tipi close by its shore. The man left every day to hunt and look for the plant nawak’osis. The woman stayed in the lodge to quill, tan, and prepare food. One day while she was alone, se heard someone singing beautifully. She searched everywhere to find the source of the music and discovered it was coming from a beaver house close by the shore. “It must be the beaver singing.” She thought. “Their songs are lovely, I hope they don’t stop.”

Though her husband came home with plenty of meat, he had not found nawak’osis. The woman called his attention to the music, but he said, “I hear nothing. It’s your imagination.”

“No,” she said, “I can hear it clearly. Put your ear to the beaver house.” He did, but still heard nothing.

Then his wife took her knife and made a hole in the beaver lodge. Through it they could not only hear the beavers sing, but also watch them performing a strange, beautiful dance.

“My young brothers,” the wife called to them, “be of a sharing spirit, teach me your wonderful song and your medicine!”

The Beavers answered: “Close the hole you have made, because it lets the cold in. Then we’ll come out and visit you.” So she sealed their wall up, and that night four beavers came to Bull-by-Himself’s lodge. As soon as they were inside they turned themselves into humans-four nice-looking young men. One asked: “What have you come here for?”

“I have come,” said Bull-by-Himself, “to find the sacred weed called nawak’osis.”

“Then this is the right place,” said the man-beavers. “We are water people, and nawak’osis is water medicine. We will give you this sacred herb, but first you must learn the songs, the prayers, the dances, the ceremonies that go with it.”

“There are four powerful men in our tribe,” said Bull-by-Himself, “who have the medicine and knowledge, but keep them from us.”

“Ah,” said the man-beavers, “that is wrong. This sacred weed is meant to be shared. Here is what you must do. By day, go out and get the skin of every four-legged and two-legged creature that lives in and around the water-except, of course the beaver. You must get the skins of the muskrat and otter, of the duck and kingfisher, of all creatures like that, because they represent water. Sun and water means life. Sun begets life, and water makes it grow.”

so every day Bull-by-Himself went out for the skins, while his wife scraped, tanned, and smoked them. And every night the four man-beavers came to teach them the prayers, songs, and dances that go with nawak’osis. After a while the beavers said: “Now all is ready. Now you have all the skins, and now you have the knowledge. Make the skins, which represent water power, into a bag, into a medicine bundle. Tomorrow night we’ll come again for the last time and tell you what to do.”

The following night the beavers came as they had promised. They brought with them the sacred weed nawak’osis. The top of the stalks were covered with little round seeds, and the man-beavers put the seeds into the medicine bundle the woman had prepared.

“It’s planting time now,” said the Beavers, “Don’t touch the nawak’osis before you’re ready to plant. Choose a place where there is not too much shade and not too much sunlight. Mix plenty of brown earth with plenty of black earth, and keep the soil loose. Say the prayers we have taught you. Then you, Bull-by-Himself, must take a deer horn and with its point make holes in the earth-one hole for each seed. And you, his wife, must use a buffalo-horn spoon to drop one seed into each hole. Keep singing the songs we taught you all the while. Then both of you dance lightly over this earth, tamping down the seeds. After that you just wait for nawak’osis to grow. Now we have taught you everything. Now we go.” The nice-looking young men left, turning back into beavers as they went.

Bull-by-Himself and his wife planted the sacred weed as they had been told. The four medicine-men brothers said to one another: “What can this man, Bull-by-Himself, and his wife be planting? Their songs sound familiar.” They sent somebody to find out, and this person came back saying: “They are planting nawak’osis, doing it in a sacred manner.”

The four powerful men began to laugh. “No, it can’t be. It’s some useless weed they’re planting. No one but us can plant nawak’osis. No one but us can use it. No one but us has its power.”

But when it was time to harvest nawak’osis, a great hailstorm destroyed the secret tobacco patch of the four medicine brothers. Nothing was left, and they had not saved a single seed. They said to each other: “Perhaps this man and his wife did plant nawak’osis after all. Perhaps the hail hasn’t destroyed their tobacco patch.”

Again the four brothers sent someone to find out, and that person came back saying: “This man and his wife had no hail on their field. Here is what they have been growing.” He showed the brothers some leaves. “it is indeed nawak’osis,” they said, shaking their heads in wonder.

Thus with the help of the beaver people, Bull-by-Himself and his wife bought the sacred tobacco to the tribes, who have been smoking it in a sacred manner ever since.


Woman Chooses Death

Old Man decided that something was missing in the world he had made. He thought it would be a good thing to create a woman and a child. He didn’t quite know how they should look, but he took some clay and mud and for four days tried out different shapes. At first he didn’t like the looks of the beings he formed. On the fourth day, however, he shaped a woman in a pleasing form, round and nice, with everything in front and back, above and below, just right.

“This is good,” Old Man said, “this is the kind of woman I like to have in my world.” Then he made a little child resembling the woman. “Well,” said Old Man, “this is just what I wanted, but they’re not alive yet.”

Old Man covered them up for four days. On the first day he looked under the cover and saw a faint trembling. On the second day the figures could raise their heads. On th third day they moved their arms andlegs. “Soon they will be ready,” said Old Man. On the fourth day he looked underneath the cover and saw his figures crawling around. “They’re ready now to walk upon my world,” thought Old Man. He took the cover off and told the woman and the child: “Walk upright like human beings.” The woman and the child stood up. They began to walk, and they were perfect.

They followed Old Man down to the river, where he gave them the power of speech. At once the woman asked: “What is that state we are in, walking, moving, breathing, eating?”

“That is life,” said Old Man. “Before you were just lumps of mud. Now, you live.”

“When we were lumps of mud, were we alive then?” asked the woman.

“It is called death,” answered Old Man. “When you are not alive, then you are dead.”

“Will we be alive always?” asked the womn. “Will we go o living forever, or shall we be dead again for some time?”

Old Man pondered. He said: “I didn’t think about that at all. Let’s decide it right now. Here’s a buffalo chip. If it floats, then people will die and come back to life four days later.”

“No,” said the woman. “This buffalo chip will dissolve in the water. I’ll throw in this stone, If it floats, we’ll live forever and there will be no death. If it sinks, then we’ll die.” The woman didn’t know anything yet, because she had been walking on earth for just a few hours. She didn’t know about stones and water, so she threw the stone into the river and it sank.

“You made a choice there,” said Old Man. “Now nothing can be done about it. Now people will die.”