Published on January 9, 2013 by Casey
An Arapaho Legend
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It was in winter and a large party was on the war-path. Some of them became tired and went home, but seven continued on their way. Coming to a river, they made camp on account of one of them who was weary and nearly exhausted.
They found that he was unable to go farther.
Then they made a good brush hut in order that they might winter there. From this place they went out and looked for buffalo and hunted them wherever they thought they might find them.
During the hunting one of them ran against a thorny plant and became unable to hunt for some time. His leg swelled very much in consequence of the wound, and finally suddenly opened. Then a child issued from the leg. The young men took from their own clothes what they could spare and used it for wrapping for the child.
They made a panther skin answer as a cradle. They passed the child around from one to the other, like people smoking a pipe. They were glad to have another person with them and they were very fond of the child.
While they lived there they killed very many elk and saved the teeth. From the skins they made a dress for the child, which was then old enough to run about. The dress was a girl’s, entirely covered with elk teeth. They also made a belt for her. She was very beautiful. Her name was Foot Stuck Child.
A buffalo bull called Bone Bull heard that these young men had had a daughter born to them. As is the custom, he sent the magpie to go to these people to ask for the girl in marriage. The magpie came to the young men and told them what the Bone-bull wished; but he did not meet with any success.
The young men said, “We will not do it. We love our daughter. She is so young that it will not be well to let her go.”
The magpie returned and told the Bone-bull what the young men had said. He advised the bull to get a certain small bird which was very clever and would perhaps persuade the young men to consent to the girl’s marriage with him.
So the small bird was sent out by the bull. It reached the place where the people lived and lighted on the top of the brush house. In a gentle voice it said to the men, “I am sent by Bone Bull to ask for your daughter.”
The young men still refused, giving the same answer as before. The bird flew back and told the bull of the result. The bull said to it, “Go back and tell them that I mean what I ask. I shall come myself later.” It was known that the bull was very powerful and hard to overcome or escape from. The bird went again and fulfilled the bull’s instruction, but again returned unsuccessfully.
It told the bull: “They are at last making preparations for the marriage. They are dressing the girl finely.” But the bull did not believe it.
Then, in order to free itself from the unpleasant task, the bird advised him to procure the services of some one who could do better than itself; some one that had a sweet juicy tongue. So the bull sent another bird, called “Fire Owner,” which has red on its head and reddish wings. This bird took the message to the young men. Now at last they consented.
So the girl went to the bull and was received by him and lived with him for some time. She wore a painted buffalo robe. At certain times the bull got up in order to lead the herd to water. At such times he touched his wife, who, wearing her robe, was sitting in the same position as all the rest, as a sign for her to go too.
The young men were lonely and thought how they might recover their daughter. It was a year since she had left them. They sent out flies, but when the flies came near the bull he bellowed to drive them away. The flies were so much afraid of him that they did not approach him. Then the magpie was sent, and came and alighted at a distance; but when the bull saw him he said, “Go away! I do not want you about.”
They sent the blackbird, which lit on his back and began to sing. But the bull said to it also: “Go away, I do not want you about.”
The blackbird flew back to the men and said, ” I can do nothing to help you to get your daughter back, but I will tell you of two animals that work unseen, and are very cunning: they are the mole and the badger. If you get their help you will surely recover the girl.”
Then the young men got the mole and the badger, and they started at night, taking arrows with them. They went underground, the mole going ahead. The badger followed and made the hole larger. They came under the place where the girl was sitting and the mole emerged under her blanket. He gave her the arrows which he had brought and she stuck them into the ground and rested her robe on them and then the badger came under this too. The two animals said to her, “We have come to take you back.” She said, ” I am afraid,” but they urged her to flee.
Finally she consented, and leaving her robe in the position in which she always sat, went back through the hole with the mole and the badger to the house of the young men.
When she arrived they started to flee. The girl had become tired, when they came to the stone and asked it to help them. The stone said, “I can do nothing for you, the bull is too powerful to contend with.”
They rested by the side of the stone; then they continued on their way, one of them carrying the girl. But they went more slowly on account of her. They crossed a river, went through the timber, and on the prairie the girl walked again for a distance. In front of them they saw a lone immense cottonwood tree.
They said to it: “We are pursued by a powerful animal and come to you for help.”
The tree told them, “Run around me four times,” and they did this. The tree had seven large branches, the lowest of them high enough to be out of the reach of the buffalo, and at the top was a fork in which was a nest. They climbed the tree, each of the men sitting on one of the branches, and the girl getting into the nest. So they waited for the bull who would pursue them.
When the bull touched his wife in order to go to water, she did not move. He spoke to her angrily and touched her again. The third time he tried to hook her with his horn, but tossed the empty robe away. “They cannot escape me,” he said.
He noticed the fresh ground which the badger had thrown up in order to close the hole. He hooked the ground and threw it to one side, and the other bulls got up and did the same, throwing the ground as if they were making a ditch and following the course of the underground passage until they came to the place where the people had lived. The camp was already broken up, but they followed the people’s trail.
Coming to the stone, the bull asked, “Have you hidden the people or done anything to help them?”
The stone said: “I have not helped them for fear of you.”
But the bull insisted: “Tell me where you hid them. I know that they reached you and are somewhere about.”
“No, I did not hide them; they reached this place but went on,” said the stone.
“Yes, you have hidden them; I can smell them and see their tracks about here.”
“The girl rested here a short time; that is what you smell,” said the stone.
Then the buffalo followed the trail again and crossed the river, the bull leading. One calf which was becoming very tired tried hard to keep up with the rest. It became exhausted at the lone cottonwood tree and stopped to rest. But the herd went on, not having seen the people in the tree. They went far on.
The girl was so tired that she had a slight hemorrhage. Then she spat down.
As the calf was resting in the shade below, the bloody spittle fell down before it. The calf smelled it, knew it, got up, and went after the rest of the buffalo. Coming near the herd, it cried out to the bull: “Stop! I have found a girl in the top of a tree. She is the one who is your wife.”
Then the whole herd turned back to the tree.
When they reached it, the bull said: “We will surely get you.”
The tree said: “You have four parts of strength. I give you a chance to do something to me.”
Then the buffalo began to attack the tree; those with least strength began. They butted it until its thick bark was peeled off. Meanwhile the young men were shooting them from the tree.
The tree said: “Let some of them break their horns.”
Then came the large bulls, who split the wood of the tree; but some stuck fast, and others broke their horns or lost the covering.
The bull said, “I will be the last one and will make the tree fall.” At last he came on, charging against the tree from the southeast, striking it, and making a big gash. Then, coming from the southwest, he made a larger hole. Going to the northwest, he charged from there, and again cut deeper, but broke his right horn. Going then to the northeast, he charged the tree with his left horn and made a still larger hole. The fifth time he went straight east, intending to strike the tree in the center and break it down.
He pranced about, raising the dust; but the tree said to him: “You can do nothing. So come on quickly.” This made him angry and he charged. The tree said: “This time you will stick fast,” and he ran his left horn far into the middle of the wood and stuck fast. Then the tree told the young men to shoot him in the soft part of his neck and sides, for he could not get loose or injure them.
Then they shot him and killed him, so that he hung there. Then they cut him loose.
The tree told them to gather all the chips and pieces of wood that had been knocked off and cover the bull with them, and they did so. All the buffalo that had not been killed went away. The tree said to them: “Hereafter you will be overcome by human beings. You will have horns, but when they come to hunt you, you will be afraid. You will be killed and eaten by them and they will use your skins.” Then the buffalo scattered over the land with half-broken, short horns.
After the people had descended from the tree, they went on their way. The magpie came to them as messenger sent by Merciless-man to ask the young men for their daughter in marriage. He was a round rock. The magpie knew what this rock had done and warned the men not to consent to the marriage.
He said, “Do not have anything to do with him, since he is not a good man. Your daughter is beautiful, and I do not like to see her married to the rock. He has married the prettiest girls he could hear of, obtaining them somehow. But his wives are crippled, one-armed, or one-legged, or much bruised. I will tell the rock to get the hummingbird for a messenger because that bird is swift and can escape him if he should pursue.”
So the magpie returned and said that the young men refused the marriage. But the rock sent him back to say: “Tell them that the girl must marry me nevertheless.” The magpie persuaded him to send the hummingbird as messenger instead of himself.
Then the hummingbird went to carry the message to the young men; but, on reaching them, told them instead: “He is merciless and not the right man to marry this girl. He has treated his wives very badly. You had better leave this place.”
So he went back without having tried to help the rock. He told the rock that he had seen neither camp nor people.
“Yes you saw them,” said the rock; “you are trying to help them instead of helping me. Therefore you try to pretend that you did not see them. Go back and tell them that I want the girl. If they refuse, say that I shall be there soon.”
The hummingbird went again to the men and told them what the rock wished, and said: “He is powerful. Perhaps it is best if you let your daughter go. But there are two animals that can surely help you. They can bring her back before he injures her. They are the mole and the badger.”
“Yes,” they said, now having confidence in these animals.
So the hummingbird took the girl to the rock. He reached his tent, which was large and fine, but full of crippled wives. “I have your wife here,” he said.
“Very well,” said the rock, “let her come in. I am pleased that you brought her; she is pretty enough for me.”
Soon after the hummingbird had left with the girl, the mole and the badger started underground and made their way to the rock’s tent. In the morning the rock always went buzzing out through the top of the tent; in the evening he came back home in the same way. While he was away, the two animals arrived. The girl was sitting with both feet outstretched.
They said to her, “Remain sitting thus until your husband returns.” Then they made a hole large enough for the rock to fall into and covered it lightly. In the evening the rock was heard coming. As he was entering above, the girl got up, and the rock dropped into the hole while she ran out of the tent saying: “Let the hole be closed.”
“Let the Earth be covered again,” said the mole and the badger. They heard the rock inside the Earth, tossing about, buzzing, and angry. The girl returned to her fathers.
They traveled all night, fleeing. In the morning the rock overtook them. As they were going, they wished a canyon with steep cliffs to be behind them. The rock went down the precipice, and while he tried to climb up again, the others went on. It became night again and in the morning the rock was near them once more.
Then the girl said: “This time it shall happen. I am tired and weary from running, my fathers.” She was carrying a ball, and, saying: “First for my father,” she threw it up and as it came down kicked it upwards, and her father rose up. Then she did the same for the others until all had gone up. When she came to do it for herself the rock was near. She threw the ball, kicked it, and she too rose up.
She said, “We have passed through dangers on my account; I think this is the best place for us to go. It is a good place where we are. I shall provide the means of living for you.” To the rock she said. “You shall remain where you overtook us. You shall not trouble people any longer, but be found wherever there are hills.”
She and her fathers reached the sky in one place. They live in a tent covered with stars.