Published on January 16, 2013 by Casey
From The White Deer and Other Stories Told by the Lenape Edited by John Bierhorst, William Morrow and Co. Inc., New York, 1995
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One time there was a young girl who was very good-looking, yet years passed and she never married.
But at last a handsome young man, a stranger, began to come around and talk to her, and at last she began to like him, and finally she went away with him.
They traveled a long time until they came to a big lake. And here, to her surprise, the man went down into the water, and she was obliged to follow. But once she was beneath the water it did not trouble her at all, it was just like air.
Traveling on, a long way, they at length arrived at a little house where an old woman lived, who scolded the young man, saying, “I told you not to bring her here! She cannot live with us.”
But the young man insisted. And they began to live together.
Every morning he would start out to hunt, and return in the evening with a deer on his back. And so things went, for a long time.
But one time the girl woke up at night thinking she saw a great snake in the house. Frightened, she ran out and away.
But the young man follwed and caught her. “Why did you run away?” he asked.
“I saw a big snake in the house,” was the answer.
“No. That was no snake,” he told her. “That was only my clothes.”
The same thing happened several times, until the girl made up her mind to escape.
And so, on her trips for firewood, she would wander away as far as possible, so as to learn the country in order to get away when the time came.
One day she started soon after the young man had set out for the day’s hunt, and went a long way before she was discovered. But at last she heard a hissing and a noise like a snake coming. And then the young man appeared.
She told him that she was merely going over to “that hill, to look around,” and she went back with him.
The next time she tried it, when she began to hear the hissing noise of the snake coming, she thought of her dream helper, the weasel, and called upon him to save her.
The weasel ran into the snake’s mouth and down into his body, where he cut out his heart.
So the girl was able to reach the shore of the water. And when she emerged, the Thunders were waiting for her and carried her up into the air. She never realized, until then, that she had been underwater all this time.
When the Thunders took her up, they rubbed her body. And at every rub, many little snakes dropped from her into the water.
By and by, no more snakes dropped, and she was clean and human again.
The Thunders took her back to her home, and she told the people there what had happened, but she said that she could not stay with them but must live with the Thunders.
“I will tell you how you can tell when I am coming,” she said. “When a cloud comes up making a continual rolling or rumbling sound, that is the noise made by my garments.”