Music: Flute Forest by R. Carlos Nakai
Once there was a man living by the big water. He was a deer hunter. He would go out and kill wild turkeys and bring them in. Finally his
mother-in-law fell in love with him.
There was a swing by the water, and the old woman and her daughter would swing across it and back. After a while, the old woman partially cut the
rope, so that it would break. While the husband was out hunting one day the old woman said to her daughter, "Let us go to the swing, and have some
The old woman got in first, and swung across the water and back. Then the girl got in the swing and she swung across all right, but when she was
half-way back, the rope broke in two, and the girl fell into the water and was drowned.
The old woman went home and got supper for her son-in-law. The man came in just at dark, and he missed his wife, and said, "Mother-in-law,
where is my wife?" The old woman said, "She has gone to the swing, and has not returned." The old woman began to prepare supper for her
son-in-law. The man said, "Do not give me any supper."
So he started to cry. The old woman said, "Do not cry; she is dead, and we cannot help it. I will take care of the baby. Your wife got drowned, so she
is lost entirely." The man cut off his hair and threw his leggings away and his shirt, and was mourning for his wife. He would go out, and stay a
week at a time without eating.
He became very poor. Finally he said he was going off to stay several days; that he could not help thinking about his wife. He went off and stayed
several days, and when he came home he would cry all the time.
One time, when he was out mourning, a rain and thunderstorm came up, and lightning struck all around the tree he was sitting under. He went back
home and saw his baby, but stayed out of his sight. Again he went out, and it rained and thundered, and he went up by a big tree and lightning struck
a tree near by him.
The Lightning left him a club, and said, "Man, I came here to tell you about your wife for whom you are mourning. You do not know where she is, or
how she came to be missing. That old woman drowned her in the big water. The old woman broke the rope and the girl is drowned in the big water.
This club you must keep in a safe place. I was sent here to you, and I will help you get your wife back, and you must not be afraid of the big water. Go
ahead and try to get her, and the fourth day you will get her all right."
The man went to the big water, and he saw his wife out in the water, and she said, "I cannot get to you, I am tied here with chains. I am going to
come up four times." The next time she came out half-way. She said, "Bring me the baby, and I will let her nurse." So the man took the baby to her
mother and let her nurse.
The woman said, "They are pulling me, and I must go. But the next time you must get me." So she came out the third time up to her knees. The man
took the baby to her and let it nurse again. The woman said, "I have got to go back. They are pulling me by the chains. I must go, but the next time
will be the last.
"I want you to try your best to get me." The man said, "I am going to get you, without a doubt." The woman came up the fourth time, and the man
hit the chain with the club and it seemed as though lightning struck it, and broke it. He got his wife.
So they went home, and the old woman said, "My daughter, you have got home." But the woman said not a word. Then the man heated an arrow
red-hot and put it through the old woman's ears. So they killed the woman.
|The Fatal Swing
An Osage Legend
|The Spider and The People
An Osage Legend
One day, the chief of the Isolated Earth people was hunting in the forest. He was also hunting for a symbol to give life to his people. He came upon
the tracks of a huge deer. The chief became very excited.
"Grandfather Deer," he said, "surely you will show yourself to me. You are going to become the symbol of my people."
He began to follow the tracks. His eyes were on nothing else as he followed those tracks, and he ran faster and faster through the forest. Suddenly,
he ran right into a huge spider's web that had been strung between the trees, across the trail. When he got up, he was very angry. He struck at the
spider who was sitting at the edge of the web. But the spider jumped out of reach. Then the spider to the man.
"Grandson," the spider said, "why do you run through the woods looking at nothing but the ground?"
The chief felt foolish, but he had to answer the spider. "I was following the tracks of a great deer," the chief said. "I am seeking a symbol of strength
for my people."
"I can be such a symbol," said the spider.
"How can you be a symbol of strength?" said the chief. "You are small and weak, and I didn't even see you as I followed the great Deer."
"Grandson," said the spider, "look upon me. I am patient. I watch and I wait. Then all things come to me. If your people learn this, they will be
The chief saw that this was so. Thus the Spider became one of the symbols of the people.
|The Wisdom of the Willow Tree
An Osage Legend
What is the meaning of life? Why is it that people grow old and die?
Although he was young, those questions troubled the mind of Little One. He asked the elders about them, but their answers did not satisfy him. At
last he knew there was only one thing to do. He would have to seek the answers in his dreams.
Little One rose early in the morning and prayed to Wah-Kon-Tah for help. Then he walked away from the village, across the prairie and toward the
hills. He took nothing with him, no food or water. He was looking for a place where none of his people would see him, a place where a vision could
come to him.
Little One walked a long way. Each night he camped in a different place, hoping that it would be the right one to give him a dream that could answer
his questions. But no such dream came to him.
At last he came to a hill that rose above the land like the breast of a turkey. A spring burst from the rocks near the base of a great elm tree. It was
such a beautiful place that it seemed to be filled with the power of Wah-Kon-Tah. Little One sat down by the base of that elm tree and waited as the
sun set. But though he slept, again no sign was given to him.
When he woke the next morning, he was weak with hunger. I must go back home, he thought. He was filled with despair, but his thoughts were of
his parents. He had been gone a long time. Even though it was expected that a young man would seek guidance alone in this fashion, Little One
knew they would be worried. "If I do not return while I still have the strength to walk," he said, "I will die here and my family may never find my
So Little One began to follow the small stream that was fed by the spring. It flowed out of the hills in the direction of his village, and he trusted it to
lead him home. He walked and walked until he was not far from his village. But as he walked along that stream, he stumbled and fell among the
roots of an old willow tree. Little One clung to the roots of the willow tree. Although he tried to rise, his legs were too weak.
"Grandfather," he said to the willow tree, "It is not possible for me to go on."
Then the ancient willow spoke to him. "Little One," it said, "all the Little Ones always cling to me for support as they walk along the great path of life.
See the base of my trunk which sends forth those roots that hold me firm in the earth. They are the sign of my old age. They are darkened and
wrinkled with age, but they are still strong. Their strength comes from relying on the earth. When the Little Ones use me as a symbol, they will not
fail to see old age as they travel along the path of life."
Those words gave strength to Little One's spirit. He stood again and began to walk. Soon his own village was in sight, and as he sat down to rest
for a moment in the grass of the prairie, looking at his village, another vision came to him. He saw before him the figure of an old man. The old man
was strangely familiar, even though Little One had never seen him before.
"Look upon me," the old man said. "What do you see?"
"I see an old man whose face is wrinkled with age," Little One said.
"Look upon me again," the old man said.
Then Little One looked, and as he looked, the lesson shown him by the willow tree filled his heart. "I see an aged man in sacred clothing," Little One
said, "The fluttering down of the eagle adorns his head. I see you, my grandfather. I see an aged man with the stem of the pipe between his lips. I see
you, my grandfather. You are firm and rooted to the earth like the ancient willow. I see you standing among the days that are peaceful and
beautiful. I see you, my grandfather. I see you standing as you will stand in your lodge, my grandfather."
The ancient man smiled. Little One had seen truly. "My young brother," the old man said, "your mind is fixed upon the days that are peaceful and
beautiful." And then he was gone.
Now Little One's heart was filled with peace, and as he walked into the village, his mind was troubled no longer with those questions about the
meaning of life. For he knew that the old man he had seen was himself. The ancient man was Little One as he would be when he became an elder,
filled with that great peace and wisdom which would give strength to all of the people.
From that day on, Little One began to spend more time listening to the words his elders spoke, and of all the young men in the village, he was the
happiest and most content.