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A Kootenai Indian Folk tale

About Gambling

Additional Commentary from "The Fast Thinker"
A Book by Dr. John Anderson

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What Is the Moral of This Tale?

"Many people fondly remember their parents reading bedtime stories to them, including Aesop's tales celebrating the triumph of the Tortoise over the Hare. In this Greek fable the slow moving Tortoise overcomes the Hare through persistence. The Hare gets so far ahead of the Tortoise that he decides to take a nap before finishing up the race.

The Tortoise keeps plodding along and eventually passes the sleeping Hare. the Hare awakes too late, and races desperately to the finish line only to find his rival celebrating his victory. The moral of this Greek racing tale is that one should never give up: perserverence and hard work triumph over arrogance.

Although our Kootenai racing tale shares a number of similarities with Aesop's fable, its moral is different. It teaches two primary lessons: that intelligence wins over brute force, and that group cohesion is essential for success in life. The story has numerous sub-plots, but these are the defining 'lessons' of this Kootenai narrative.

This narrative form is notable for its wide distribution across the world. Tales of this specialized type demonstrate, furthermore, peculiar affinities. The similarities are so remarkable, in fact, that we will examine five different versions of this tale in the text that follows.

The plot in each of these stories is the same, a slow moving animal challenges a very speedy rival to a race. The speedy rival proves to be arrogant, and underestimates the slower racer who uses his intelligence to 'cheat' the faster runner. The deception usually plays a central role in the plot, and it always includes the participation of relatives or clan members in the ruse.

When a specialized narrative type proves to have worldwide distribution, it is worthy of much consideration....(page 12, chapter 2. Note that the following chapters feature similar folk tales from South America, the American South, Europe, and Africa).

Antelope "Like the stars of the southern sky, the antelope leader was "the fastest runner" in the region, but he was overcome by the fast thinking Frog-people. The residents of the defeated Antelope town may represent stars of the southern sky [perhaps responsible for summer solstice ceremonials?]." (From the glossary, page 38).

Frog People "The Frog People were the intellectuals, the thinkers, who overcame the physically stronger Antelope People through cooperation and better planning. Were the residents of the victorious Kootenai town members of a Frog association, linked to winter solstice ceremonials? (from the glossary, page 39).

"A unifying theme of all of these racing stories is the victory of the physically inferior runner, the slow one. In ancient theology, slowness (minimization of movement) was considered a desirable attribute since it mimicked the non-movement of the celestial axis (now occupied by Polaris, also known as the North Star). Animals who were slow, had to rely upon special defences to stay alive. In the Kootenai tale, the slow Frogs overcame the swift Antelope through superior intelligence"(from the glossary, page 41).

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Kootenai Indians
The Swordfish Race (Calif. myth)
The Fox Jumps (Salish myth)
Other books by the Author