A Story of Magic
A Caddo Legend
Snow Bird, the Caddo medicine man, had a handsome son. When the boy was old enough to be given a man's name, Snow Bird called him
Braveness because of his courage as a hunter. Many of the girls in the Caddo village wanted to win Braveness as a husband, but he paid little
attention to any of them.
One morning he started out for a day of hunting, and while he was walking along looking for wild game, he saw someone ahead of him sitting under
a small elm tree. As he approached, he was surprised to find that the person was a young woman, and he started to turn aside.
"Come here," she called to him in a pleasant voice. Braveness went up to her and saw that she was very young and very beautiful.
"I knew you were coming here," she said, "and so I came to meet you."
"You are not of my people," he replied. "How did you know that I was coming this way?"
"I am buffalo Woman," she said. "I have seen you many times before, from afar. I want you to take me home with you and let me stay with you."
"I can take you home with me," Braveness answered her, "but you must as my parents if you can stay with us."
They started for his home at once, and when they arrived there Buffalo Woman asked Braveness's parents if she could stay with them and become
the young man's wife. "If Braveness wants you for his wife, we will be pleased," said Snow Bird, the medicine man. "It is time that he had someone
And so Braveness and Buffalo Woman were married in the custom of the Caddo people and lived happily together for several moons. One day she
asked him, "Will you do whatever I may ask of you, Braveness?"
"Yes," he replied, "if what you ask is not unreasonable."
"I want you to go with me to visit my people."
Braveness said that he would go, and the next day they started for her home, she leading the way. After they had walked a long distance they came to
some high hills, and all at once she turned around and looked at Braveness and said: "You promised me that you would do anything I say."
"Yes," he answered.
"Well," she said, "my home is on the other side of this high hill. I will tell you when we get to my mother. I know there will be many coming there to
see who you are, and some may provoke you and try to make you angry, but do not allow yourself to become angry with any of them. Some may
try to kill you."
"Why should they do that?" asked Braveness.
"Listen to what I am about to tell you," she said. "I knew you before you knew me. Through magic I made you come to me that first day. I said that
some will try to make you angry, and if you show anger at even one of them, the others will join in fighting you until they have killed you. They will
be jealous of you. The reason is that I refused many who wanted me."
"But you are now my wife," Braveness said.
"I have told you what to do when we get there," Buffalo Woman continued. "Now I want you to lie down on the ground and roll over twice."
Braveness smiled at her, but he did as she told him to do. He rolled over twice, and when he stood up he found himself changed into a Buffalo.
For a moment Buffalo Woman looked at him, seeing the astonishment in his eyes. Then she rolled over twice, and she also became a Buffalo.
Without saying a word she led him to the top of the hill. In the valley off to the west, Braveness could see hundreds and hundreds of Buffalo.
"they are my people," said Buffalo Woman. "This is my home."
When the members of the nearest herd saw Braveness and Buffalo Woman coming, they began gathering in one place, as though waiting for them.
Buffalo Woman led the way, Braveness following her until they reached an old Buffalo cow, and he knew that she was the mother of his beautiful
For two moons they stayed with the herd, Every now and then, four or five of the young Buffalo males would come around and annoy Braveness,
trying to arose his anger, but he pretended not to notice them. One night, Buffalo Woman told him that she was ready to go back to his home, and
they slipped away over the hills.
When they reached the place where they had turned themselves into Buffalo, they rolled over twice on the ground and became a man and a woman
again. "Promise me that you will not tell anyone of this magical transformation," Buffalo Woman said. "If people learn about it, something bad will
happen to us."
They stayed at Braveness's home for twelve moons, and then Buffalo Woman asked him again to go with her to visit her people. They had not been
long in the valley of the Buffalo when she told Braveness that the young males who were jealous of him were planning to have a foot-race. "They will
challenge you to race and if you do not outrun them they will kill you," she said.
That night Braveness could not sleep. He went out to take a long walk. It was a very dark night without moon or stars, but he could feel the presence
of the Wind spirit.
"You are young and strong," the Wind spirit whispered to him, "but you cannot outrun the Buffalo without my help. If you lose, they will kill you. If
you win, they will never challenge you again."
"What must I do to save my life and keep my beautiful wife?" asked Braveness.
The Wind spirit gave him two things. "One of these is a magic herb," said the Wind spirit. "The other is dried mud from a medicine wallow. If the
Buffalo catch up with you, first throw behind you the magic herb. If they come too close to you again, throw down the dried mud."
The next day was the day of the race. At sunrise the young Buffalo gathered at the starting place. When Braveness joined them, they began making
fun of him, telling him that he was a man buffalo and therefore had not the power to outrun them. Braveness ignored their jeers, and calmly lined up
with them at the starting point.
An old Buffalo started the race with a loud bellow, and at first Braveness took the lead, running very swiftly. But soon the others began gaining on
him, and when he heard their hard breathing close upon his heels, he threw the magic herb behind him. By this time he was growing very tired and
thought he could not run any more. He looked back and saw one Buffalo holding his head down and coming very fast, rapidly closing the space
between him and Braveness. Just as this Buffalo was about to catch up with him, Braveness threw down the dried mud from the medicine wallow.
Soon he was far ahead again, but he knew that he had used up the powers given him by Wind spirit. As he neared the goal set for the race, he heard
the pounding of hooves coming closer behind him. At the last moment, he felt a strong wind on his face as it passed him to stir up dust and keep the
Buffalo from overtaking him. With the help of the Wind spirit, Braveness crossed the goal first and won the race. After that, none of the Buffalo ever
challenged him again, and he and Buffalo woman lived peacefully with the herd until they were ready to return to his Caddo people.
Not long after their return to Braveness's home, Buffalo woman gave birth to a handsome son. They named him buffalo Boy, and soon he was old
enough to play with the other children of the village. One day while Buffalo Woman was cooking dinner, the boy slipped out of the lodge and went to
join some other children at play. They played several games and then decided to play that they were Buffalo. Some of them lay on the ground to roll
like Buffalo, and Buffalo Boy also did this. When he rolled twice, he changed into a real Buffalo calf. Frightened by this, the other children ran for
About this time his mother came out to look for him, and when she saw the children running in fear she knew that something must be wrong. She
went to see what had happened and found her son changed into a Buffalo calf. Taking him up in her arms, she ran down the hill, and as soon as she
was out of sight of the village she turned herself into a Buffalo and with Buffalo Boy started off toward the west.
Late that evening when Braveness returned from hunting he could find neither his wife nor his son in the lodge. He went out to look for them, and
someone told him of the game the children had played and of the magic that had changed his son into a Buffalo calf.
At first, Braveness could not believe what they told him, but after he had followed his wife's tracks down the hill and found the place where she had
rolled he knew the story was true. For many reasons, Braveness searched for Buffalo Woman and Buffalo Boy, but he never found them again.
Music: The White Feather by AH-NEE-MAH
|Coyote and the Origin of Death
A Caddo Legend
In the beginning of this world, there was no such thing as death. Everybody continued to live until there were so many people that the Earth had no
room for any more.
The chiefs held a council to determine what to do. One man rose and said he thought it would be a good plan to have the people die and be gone for a
little while, and then return.
As soon as he sat down, Coyote jumped up and said he thought people ought to die forever. He pointed out that this little world is not large enough to
hold all of the people, and that if the people who died came back to life, there would not be food enough for all.
All the other men objected. They said that they did not want their friends and relatives to die and be gone forever, for then they would grieve and
worry and there would be no happiness in the world.
Everyone except Coyote decided to have people die and be gone for a little while, and then come back to life again. The medicine men built a large
grass house facing the East. When they had completed it, they called the men of the tribe together and told them that people who died would be
restored to life in the medicine house. The chief medicine man explained that they would sing a song calling the spirit of the dead to the grass house.
When the spirit came, they would restore it to life.
All the people were glad, because they were anxious for the dead to come and live with them again. When the first man died, the medicine men
assembled in the grass house and sang.
In about ten days a whirlwind blew from the West and circled about the grass house. Coyote saw it, and as the whirlwind was about to enter the
house, he closed the door. The spirit of the whirlwind, finding the door closed, whirled on by.
In this way Coyote made death eternal, and from that time on, people grieved over their dead and were unhappy.
Now whenever anyone meets a whirlwind or hears the wind whistle, he says: "Someone is wandering about." Ever since Coyote closed the door, the
spirits of the dead have wandered over the Earth trying to find some place to go, until at last they discovered the road to the spirit world.
Coyote ran away and never came back, for when he saw what he had done, he was afraid. Ever after that, he has run from one place to another,
always looking back first over one shoulder and then over the other to see if anyone is pursuing him. And ever since then he has been starving, for
no one will give him anything to eat.
Now Coyote was always hungry, and as he was a coward, he used to sneak about the fields and timber searching for something to eat. One day, as
he was walking by the side of a brook, he heard something in a Persimmon Tree. He looked up, and there was Opossum eating Persimmons.
Coyote begged him to throw down some of the fruit, but Opossum only laughed and ate more Persimmons. He picked Persimmons, ate them with
grunts, and then threw down the seeds at Coyote. This he kept on doing.
By and by Coyote grew angry, but Opossum only laughed the more. He crawled out on a branch and dropped down as though he were going to fall
into Coyote's mouth. And just when Coyote made a snap at him with his teeth, Opossum, instead of falling, wrapped his tail around the branch and
drew himself up. This he did again and again.
Well, Coyote grew more and more angry, then Opossum climbed out on a dry limb, and shouted: "Look out! Here I come this time! Catch me!"
And sure enough, the limb suddenly broke, and down tumbled Opossum to the ground. Then Coyote gave him a hard beating, and, leaving him to
die, walked away.
But Opossum was only fooling, for he was not hurt at all. As soon as Coyote had gone a little distance, up jumped Opossum and climbed into the
Persimmon Tree. Coyote turned around to see if Opossum was dead, and there he sat in the tree eating Persimmons, and throwing down the seeds,
Well, as Coyote was very hungry, he went on farther looking for something to eat. By and by he heard a noise as though a lot of people were having
fun. He went toward the noise and saw a number of young Turkeys playing on a hill side. They were climbing into a bag, and rolling each other
Coyote thought to himself, "Now is my chance to have a good dinner!" So he begged the Turkeys to let him get into the bag and roll downhill too. As
the birds were good-natured, they put him in the bag, and rolled him down two or three times.
Then Coyote told them that if they would all get in at once, he would roll them down the hill. So every one crawled in, and Coyote, quick as a wink,
tied the mouth of the bag tight, so they could not get out. Then he slung the bag on his back and went home.
His four Coyote sons saw him coming, and ran to meet him.
"You see this bag?" said he. "It is full of Turkeys, young and tender. Build me a hot fire, and we will have a feast."
They built a fire, but there was not enough wood, so Coyote had to go to the timber to fetch some. Before he went, he said, "Be sure not to open the
bag while I am gone."
Well, the youngest son was very curious, and as soon as Coyote was out of sight, the youngster thought he would like to see what the Turkeys were
doing. So he untied the string, and out jumped the Turkeys one and all, and flew gobbling away.
When Coyote came back with the wood, he found all the Turkeys gone, and though he beat his youngest son, they had no Turkey dinner that day.
On another morning, Coyote set out for the timber to get some food. He soon saw a wild Turkey sitting on a tree. Now the Turkey was fat, and
Coyote licked his chops and said to himself, "I must have that fine bird for dinner."
And as Coyote was a great liar, as well as a coward, he spoke to the Turkey, and said: "If you do not come down from that tree I will climb up and
kill you. But if you will fly over the prairie I cannot hurt you there."
The Turkey believed him, and flew toward the prairie, and Coyote ran after him. The Turkey flew high at first, but by and by he began to get tired,
and there was no tree to light on. So he flew lower and lower, until he reached the ground, and then Coyote pounced upon him, and ate him.
Now, while Coyote was licking the Turkey's bones, he looked back to see if anybody was watching, and he thought he saw a man standing just
behind him with a big stick ready to strike him.
Coyote was terribly frightened, and away he ran as fast as he could go, every now and then turning around to see if the man was following. And
each time he looked, he thought he saw the man close behind, ready to strike. So Coyote ran faster and faster, thinking he must die; until at last his
strength gave out. Then he thought he would fool the man, and he began to dodge from left to right, and right to left, until he was so tired that he
could not run any more. So he rolled on the grass and turned over on his back, begging hard not to be killed.
After that he rolled over on his face, and as he did so he heard something crack in his head. He thought it was one of his teeth. But, no indeed, it was
not a tooth! It was a long Turkey feather that had stuck between two of his upper teeth, and stood up behind his left eye.
And when Coyote saw this, he knew that he had been fooled; for there had been no man behind him at all. He had been trying to run away from a
Ever since that day, Coyote has been afraid, and his eyes are wild; and when he runs he always looks back to see in anybody is following.
|Coyote the Hungry
A Caddo Legend
|Sacred Medicine Water
A Caddo Legend
The favor of the Great Spirit rested on the abundant forest, flowers, songbirds, and small animals of these quiet hills. Then a fierce dragon
devastated the land, bringing disease and hunger on the people.
The Indian Nations pleaded with the Great Spirit to subdue the dragon, and the might of all the heavenly forces contrived to bury it deep under the
mountain, where it shakes the Earth even today.
Once the Great Spirit had reclaimed his beautiful resting spot, he caused pure water to gush from the Earth, and asked that this favorite place be held
neutral ground, so all can share in the healing waters.
|The Twin Brothers
A Caddo Legend
Many, many winters ago, there lived a young man who had learned the secrets of plant and animal lore. He knew which plants and herbs cured
illness, which could be used to purify the body and spirit, and which could help the People see more clearly their thoughts and dreams. He came to be
known as Medicine Man.
Medicine Man loved a young girl named Clay Pot Woman, and she loved him. She chose him as her husband, and they were married in a ceremony
witnessed by their entire village. They built their grass house outside the village, near the river.
One winter later, Clay Pot Woman was going to have a baby. But she grew ill, and the birth of the baby was a difficult time for her.
Medicine Man was very afraid for Clay Pot Woman.
Medicine Man went out and gathered all the good herbs and plants to make the strongest medicine he could for both body and spirit. He made a
drink from some of the herbs. He burned some of the other plants in the fire to make a good smell and purify the air in the grass house. Other plants
he placed at the head of Clay Pot Woman's bedding, to give her spirit comfort and strength.
After a difficult birth, Clay Pot Woman presented Medicine Man with a new baby son. Medicine Man gathered up all the herbs and what was left of
the drink, the dirty bedding with all the things left over from the birth and threw them on the midden pile, where garbage and broken pots were
thrown. The medicine mixed with the things left over from birth and a magic event occurred: up from the midden pile sprang another baby boy,
larger than the one inside the grass house.
Because the medicine was so strong, the second boy born was larger and seemed older already. According to Indian custom, that would make him
the older brother. Because he was not born in the grass house, he ran away into the forest and grew up with the wild animals.
Winters came and went, and the young boy born in the hut grew up. Medicine Man and Clay Pot Woman loved him and taught him well. He was
known by a boyhood name, but he looked forward to the day when he would be a hunter or warrior and earn himself a manhood name. For that
day, Medicine Man made the boy a strong bow and many straight arrows, and the boy spent many happy days practicing his bowmanship.
One day in summer, Medicine Man went out to hunt and Clay Pot Woman took one of her pots to the nearby river to get water for the day. The boy
played in the bare yard that his tribe always cleared around their grass houses.
The boy's mother did not return as the shadows of evening grew long across the grass house, she did not return as the sun went down behind the
trees. Medicine Man came home, but not Clay Pot Woman.
Fearing for his wife's safety, Medicine Man took his son with him to the river's edge. There they saw the footprints of Clay Pot Woman, they saw her
pot lying broken by the riverbank. Two sets of footprints went into the river. No footprints came back out.
Medicine Man knelt in the clay at the river's edge and wept. "The ogres from across the river have come and taken her away," he said. "The tribe of
creatures that lives over there eats people for supper. My wife, your mother, is gone forever." The boy also knelt and wept with his father.
Medicine Man and his son went back to the grass house, built a fire, and stayed inside and mourned for six days. On the seventh, with all their food
gone, Medicine Man prepared to go hunting again.
The next morning he said goodbye to the boy and told him to stay near the clearing that was their yard, near the protection of the village. Medicine
Man promised to return before sundown.
The boy played in the yard as usual and shot his arrows into a wooden target. Suddenly, when the sun was high in the sky, another boy stepped out
of the forest and greeted him. The other boy was taller and stronger and appeared older than the younger son of Medicine Man, but he resembled
their father, and he looked very much like the younger boy's reflection in the water. The Wild Boy had a nose just a little bit too long, like an animal's
snout, and his hair was long and unkempt. He wore no clothing at all, but he spoke gently and the two boys played together.
They laughed and joked, and shot the bow in turn, each trying to better the other's aim. They became fast friends. At last, the Wild Boy revealed his
"I am your older brother," he said, "born out of Father's magic. But you must not tell Father about me, I choose to live in the forest."
As the sun was setting, the Wild Boy left quickly. Medicine Man came home with game for supper.
For four days it was the same. Each day, Medicine Man left the grass house to hunt or to go into the village. The Wild Boy came, and the twin
brothers played together. At sunset, the Wild Boy left, saying, "You must not tell Father about me, I choose to live in the forest."
Each night, missing the companionship of his new found brother, the younger son moped about the grass house and stared vacantly into the fire. His
father noticed, and asked what was troubling him. The boy, who would never lie to his father, told him all about the Wild Boy.
"We must capture him," said Medicine Man joyfully, "and bring him into our house to become part of our family! When you see him tomorrow, walk
to him, and pretend that you see a little bug crawling in his long hair. Tell him you will remove the bug, but instead tie four knots in a hank of his hair.
By this magic we will capture him, and bring him into our family. I will transform myself into a flying insect, and hide in the grass nearby."
The next day, Medicine Man became an insect and sat on a blade of grass at the edge of the yard. The Wild Boy came.
"Where is our father?" he asked, suspiciously. "He is not here," said the younger brother, for in fact, their father was not present in his usual form.
"Then who is that man on that blade of grass?" asked the Wild Boy, and he ran into the forest.
Four more times they tried to fool the Wild Boy. Medicine Man became a bird, he became a dog, he became a crawling bug and hid behind the fire.
Every time, the Wild Boy saw him. Finally, the father told the younger boy, "Today I must go hunting. But if your brother should come, try to tie the
magic knots anyway."
Medicine Man took his bow and arrows and left the grass house, but a short walk away from the yard he stopped and hung his weapon on a tree
limb. He transformed himself into a insect and returned to the yard without his younger son's knowledge.
The Wild Boy came again. "Where is our father?" he asked.
"He is not here," said the Village Boy, unaware of their father's presence.
The Wild Boy smiled, came into the yard, and they played together.
"Brother," said the Village Boy, "you have a bug in your hair. I will take it out." With that, he tied four knots in a hank of the long hair. Just then,
Medicine Man became himself again, and he and the Village Boy took the Wild Boy by the arms and led him into the grass house.
Medicine Man took a sharp shell and snipped off the excess nose from the Wild Boy and cut his hair like the boys of the village wore it. He gave the
Wild Boy a robe made of buffalo calfskin to wear.
Later, their father gave the boys supper, and while they ate, he went for his bow and arrows. When he returned, to show the Wild Boy that he was
welcomed into the family, Medicine Man presented him with a very special arrow, blackened from the smoke of herbs burned in the medicine fire.
To show his love for his younger son as well, Medicine Man gave a blue arrow to the younger boy, painted with juice and oil of many medicinal
The Wild Boy, now dressed and behaving as a proper village brother should, cut bark from an elm tree and made a wheel of bark for the twp boys to
shoot at. They painted the target in two colors, black and blue. They spent many happy hours in target practice, sometimes rolling the wheel of bark
along the ground to test their skill with a moving target.
One day the wheel rolled in to the forest without either boy hitting it. When they went to look for it, it was gone.
"Someone has been here, watching us," said the Wild Boy, "and he has taken our target wheel!"
The twin brothers grew stronger and taller as the winters came and went, and the three were very happy as a family. One day in the spring, while
their father was away for many days, the Wild Boy said to the Village Boy, "The time has come for us to take our manhood names. Let us go on a
Each took his own bow, made from the wood of the bois d'arc tree, and his arrows, and parched corn to eat on the journey. The Wild Boy also carried
his black arrow, the special gift from their father.
The twin young men walked the path deep into the forest, along the river. The Wild Boy led the way, and they left the path to go into the dense woods.
There they met a great squirrel, larger than a dog, who was a friend of the Wild Boy.
The great squirrel gave the twins two pecans that had unusual power within them. The great squirrel told the Wild Boy that his many friends in the
forest remembered him and missed him. This gift was a remembrance from the animals and birds in the deep woods.
When night came, the twins made camp and planted one of the pecans in the soft earth. When they awoke the next morning, a great pecan tree had
grown overnight. It was so tall that its upper branches were among the clouds, up in the World of Dreams.
The Wild Boy explained to his younger brother, "The Great Father Above has special gifts to give us as we reach manhood. He promised me the gifts
when I was a very little boy living in the forest. Now I will climb high in this tree and see a vision, a dream. All my bones will drop out of my body
and fall to the ground. The head bone will fall last of all. You will think that I am dead, but it will not be so."
"Take my bones and put them in a pile, with the head bone on top. Cover the pile with my buffalo calf robe and shoot the black arrow into the air.
Then, just as we did when we played together and shot our arrows into the air to watch them turn and fall to Earth, call out to me, 'Look out, Brother,
for the arrow is coming straight toward you!'"
The younger boy was afraid to look up as the Wild Boy climbed, and just as he had said, soon the bones began to fall, the head bone last of all. The
Village Boy gathered the bones, covered them, and shot the arrow. He called out, "Look out, Brother, for the arrow is coming straight toward you!"
The Wild Boy ran out from under the calf robe whole and healthy as ever, just before the struck the buffalo hide.
"Now," said the older boy, "you must also climb up and see your vision, your dream, and receive the powers the Great Father Above has reserved for
you. I shall do as you did for me, and we will meet here below afterwards."
The Village Boy was fearful as he climbed into the clouds, but soon he felt warm and comfortable, as if he were asleep, and he saw a vision of power.
He felt no pain as he fell out of the cloud and struck the Earth.
But he did hear his brother call out to him, and he ran out from under the buffalo robe, whole and healthy as ever. The arrow struck the hide and
"What gift did you receive?" asked the older brother.
"Listen," said the younger brother, delighted. And he opened his mouth and spoke a word that rumbles like a earthquake and echoed off the trees and
"We will call you by the name Thunder," said the older brother.
"What powers did you receive?" asked Thunder.
"Look," said the older boy, and he opened his mouth and spoke a word that lashed out of his mouth like a snake's tongue, and flashed like flames
reaching across the sky.
"We will call you by the name Lighting," said Thunder.
The long day was ending, but strengthened by their new powers and their new manhood names, Lighting and Thunder walked together to the edge of
the great river that also ran past their village. As they laid down to sleep for the night, they planted the second pecan.
By daybreak, when they awoke, another great pecan tree had grown overnight. Its long branches drooped across the river, giving them a way to
Lighting and Thunder climbed up the second great pecan tree and walked down its drooping branches to the opposite side of the river. There, after
walking only a short distance, they came to the village of the ogres, creatures that ate people for supper. They saw piles of bones here and there in the
"Look!" cried Lighting, pointing at a pile of bones. "These are the bones of our mother!" How he knew this, Thunder could not imagine, but he trusted
his brother's wisdom.
Quickly they piled all the bones in a heap, and the head bone last of all. They put the buffalo robe over the bones and Lighting shot the black arrow
into the air.
"Look out Mother," called Thunder, "for the arrow is coming toward you!"
The black arrow flew higher and higher in the sky shot by the greatest strength Lighting could gather, it turned slowly, and fell to Earth, faster and
faster. Suddenly Clay Pot Woman ran out from under the robe, and the black arrow struck the ground so hard it pierced deep through the calf robe
and shattered into splinters.
Despite the many years she had been gone from among the People, Clay Pot Woman knew both her sons the moment she saw them. They embraced
and wept with happiness.
Just as they hugged each other, the Great Chief of the Ogres came from the grass house nearby. He was very ugly and very cruel. As he approached,
Thunder drew his blue arrow and notched it into his bowstring.
As the ogre chieftain drew closer, the brothers saw he was wearing their target wheel as an ornament on his right side. By this, they knew he was the
ogre that had crossed the river, that had watched them, and that had taken their mother so long before.
Taking aim at the ogre's side, Thunder sent the blue arrow at its target and the great beast-man fell dead.
Before the rest of the ogre village was aroused, the three People ran back to the pecan branch and crossed the river. As they were on the branch, the
first of the ogre warriors came running out of the village and came at the People, throwing spears. Thunder turned back and spoke his word, and the
great roaring rumble rolled out across the water and frightened the ogres from ever coming across the river.
Once Thunder had helped their mother down the tree trunk, Lighting turned back and spoke his word. A great white bolt of lightning writhed out of
his mouth and split the great pecan tree so that its drooping branches fell into the river and washed away. No People would cross the river to the land
of the ogres out of curiosity.
Soon the three People were back at the village, and they came into the grass house and greeted Medicine Man. He embraced them all, and they were a
They lived happily for many years, but finally the day came when Medicine Man, old and having lived a good life, died quietly. Clay Pot Woman did
not stay long in this world without her husband, she soon was also dead.
Lighting and Thunder, now grown men, took the bones of their mother and father, wrapped them in buffalo robes, and buried the bundles as their
People had always done.
Then, no longer wanting to be in this world, Thunder and Lighting went back down the forest path they had traveled so many years before, climbed
the first great pecan tree, and stepped off into the clouds. The old tree fell away beneath them and became a long log in the forest.
Thunder and Lighting lived thereafter in the sky and came and went with the wind and the storms, the People below looked up and remembered.
When they gathered around the fires at night, they told the wonderful story of the Twin Brothers.
|The Voice, The Flood, and The Turtle
A Caddo Legend
Once there was a chief whose wife, to the fear and wonder of the people, gave birth to four little monsters.
The elders said: "These strange children will bring great misfortune. It would be better to kill them right now, for the sake of the tribe."
"No way we will kill them," said their mother. "These children will turn out alright, by and by."
But they didn't turn out all right.
The small monsters grew fast, much faster than ordinary children, and became very big. They had four legs and arms each. They hurt other children;
they upset tepee's; they tore up buffalo robes; they befouled people's food. A wise man, who could see things in his mind which had not yet happened,
said: "Kill these strange bad things before they kill you."
But their mother said: "Never. They'll be fine young men some day."
They never became fine young men; instead they started killing and eating people. At that point all the men in the village rushed at them to do away
with them, but by then it was too late. The monsters had become too big and too powerful to be killed. They grew taller and taller.
One day they went into the middle of the camp and stood back to back, one facing East, one facing South, one facing West, and one facing North.
Their backs grew together, and they became one.
As they grew higher and higher, most people took refuge near the monsters' feet, where the huge creatures could not bend down to catch them. But
people who stayed farther off were seized by mile-long arms, killed, and eaten.
The four monsters, now grown together, rose up to the clouds, and their heads touched the sky.
Then the man who could see into the future heard a voice telling him to set up a hollow reed and plant it in the ground. The man did, and the reed grew
bigger and bigger very fast. In no time it rose to touch the sky.
The man heard the voice again, saying: "I will make a great flood. When the signs of bad things coming appear, you and your wife climb up inside
this hollow cane. Be naked as you were born, and take with you a pair of all the good animals in order to save them."
The man asked: "What sign will you be sending?"
"When all the birds in the world - birds of the woods, the sea, the deserts, and the high mountains - form up into a cloud flying from North to South,
that will be the sign. Watch for the cloud of birds."
One day the man looked up and saw a big cloud made up of birds traveling from North to South. At once he and his wife moved up into the hollow
reed, taking with them all the animals they wished to save.
Then it began to rain and did not stop. Waters covered the Earth and kept rising until only the top of the hollow cane and the heads of the monsters
were left above the surface.
Inside the hollow reed, the man and his wife heard the voice again: "Now I shall send Turtle to destroy the monsters."
The monster's heads were saying to each other: "Brothers, I'm getting tired. My legs are weakening. I can't keep standing much longer."
The floods swirled around them with strong currents that almost swept them away.
Then the Great Turtle began digging down underneath the monster's feet. It uprooted them, and they could not keep their footing but broke apart and
toppled over. They fell down into the waters, one sinking toward the North, one toward the East, one toward the South, and one toward the West.
Thus the four directions came into being.
After the monsters had drowned, the waters subsided. First the mountain tops reappeared, then the rest of the land. Next came hard-blowing winds
that dried the Earth.
The man climbed down to the bottom of the hollow reed and opened the hole at it's foot. He looked out. He stuck out his hand and felt around.
He said to his wife: "Come out. Everything is dry." So they emerged, followed by all the animals.
They left the reed, which collapsed and disappeared. But when they stepped out on the Earth. it was bare; nothing was growing.
The wife said: "Husband, there's nothing here and we are naked. How shall we live?"
The man said: "Go to sleep." They lay down and slept, and when they woke the next morning, all kinds of herbs had sprung up around them.
The second night while they slept, trees and bushes grew. Now there was firewood to keep them warm, and all kinds of wood for making bows and
During the third night green grass covered the Earth, and animals appeared to graze on it.
The man and his wife went to sleep a fourth time and woke up inside a grass hut. They stepped out and found a stalk of corn.
Then they heard the voice say: "This will be your holy food." It told the woman how to plant and harvest the corn and ended with: "Now you have
everything you need. Now you can live. Now you will have children and form a new generation. If you, woman, should plant corn, and something
other than corn comes up, then know that the world will come to it's end."
After that, they never heard the voice again.
|Why Coyote Stopped Imitating His Friends
A Caddo Legend
Coyote and Raven were good friends.
One day after Coyote had grown weary of hunting for food and finding none, he decided to go to the top of Blue Mountain to see his friend Raven.
"Welcome," Raven said. "But why do you look so weary and sad, my friend?" "I have been hunting for food," replied Coyote, "but I found nothing."
Upon hearing this, Raven put an arrow to his bow and shot it straight up into the air, and then stood waiting for it to come down. It came down and
pierced his upper wing. When Raven drew the arrow out, it had a large piece of buffalo meat fixed to the head. Raven gave the meat to Coyote, who
smacked his mouth and ate heartily.
"That was a fine piece of meat," Coyote said. "I must repay you some time. Will you come and visit me soon?"
"Yes, I will come," promised Raven. Coyote did not know that Raven possessed magic powers over the buffalo, and he believed that he could perform
the same trick to obtain meat.
In expectation of Raven's visit, he made himself a new bow, and a few days later Raven came down from Blue Mountain to see him.
"Welcome, welcome," Coyote greeted him. "I have no meat because I did not expect you, but if you will wait a moment I will soon have some for you."
Coyote took his new bow and shot an arrow straight up into the sky. He then stood waiting for it to come down.
Raven watched him but said not a word.
The arrow came down and struck Coyote's thigh. He ran away screaming with pain, leaving his guest behind. Raven waited a while and then went
home without any meat, but in very high spirits because Coyote's attempt to imitate him amused him greatly. For days he chuckled to himself
whenever he thought of it.
As for Coyote, he ran for miles until he finally had the sense to stop and pull the arrow out of his thigh. He was so humiliated that he broke the arrow
to pieces, and then wandered off and hid in the woods.
After a time he grew hungry, and when he could find nothing to eat he decided to go up on Rich Mountain and visit Brown Bear.
"Welcome, old friend," said Brown Bear. "I will see if I can get some food to offer you." As he spoke he leaned against a persimmon tree that was
weighted down with ripe persimmons. His body jarred the tree so that the ripe fruit fell to the ground. Bear smiled and asked his friend to eat.
Coyote ate persimmons until he was no longer hungry, and then he filled his pack with them. "Thank you, indeed, my friend," said Coyote. "I must be
going now, but I insist that you promise to visit me soon."
Next day Coyote wandered all about looking for a persimmon tree. He could not find one with any fruit on it, and so he cut down one without fruit.
He carried it home where he sit it up. Then he took the persimmons he had brought in his pack and tied them to the tree branches so that they looked as
though they had grown there. Not long after that, Brown Bear came by to make his promised visit.
"I am glad to see you," said Coyote. "Wait a moment and I will try to get you something to eat." Coyote began bumping against the persimmon tree
with his head. He butted harder and harder but the persimmons were tied on so well they would not fall off. Finally he shook the tree with his paws,
although it embarrassed him to have to do this. He gave the tree a big shake and over it fell, crashing upon his head. He pretended that it did not hurt
and went about gathering up the fruit for Bear, but he could hardly see for the pain. The knot on his head kept growing larger and larger.
Bear ate, but he could scarcely swallow for laughing at the way Coyote had tried to imitate him. After a while he told Coyote that it was time for him to
leave. He was afraid to stay longer for fear Coyote would see him laugh.
After Bear left, Coyote sat down and held his sore head, but he felt happy because he had furnished food for his friend Brown Bear.
A few days later while Coyote was out in the forest looking for something to eat, he came upon a grass lodge that he had never seen before. Wondering
who might live in the new lodge and if they might have some food to share with him, he went right up to the entrance and called out: "Hello in there.
"And I'm Woodpecker," a voice replied. "Come in."
Coyote entered and saw a bird walking around with a bright light on his head. "Say, friend," cried Coyote, "your head is on fire, and you and your
house will burn up if you don't put it out."
The Red-Headed Woodpecker smiled and replied in a calm voice: "I've always worn this light on my head. It was given to me in the beginning. It will
not burn anything." Woodpecker then gave Coyote something to eat.
After Coyote had eaten all he could, he arose and said that he must go. "Please come over and make me a visit," he said, "and I shall return your
Some time later Woodpecker visited Coyote's lodge. "Is anybody home?" he called out at the entrance. "Just a moment," replied Coyote. Woodpecker
could hear him rustling around inside, and then Coyote said: "Now, come in and be seated." Woodpecker entered and was surprised to see a bunch of
burning straw on Coyote's head.
"Oh, take that off," cried Woodpecker. "You will burn your head." Coyote smiled and replied in a calm voice: "no, no, that will not burn my head. I
always wear it. I was told in the beginning that I would wear a light on my head at nights so that I can do whatever I like while others are in
darkness." Coyote had no more than finished speaking when the hair on his head caught fire. He began to scream in pain and tried to put it out, but
could not. He ran out of his lodge, howling all the way to the river.
Woodpecker waited a long time for him to return, but Coyote stayed in the river all day trying to soothe his burned head.
After that, Coyote stopped trying to imitate his friends.