The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (§8 of the Trickster Cycle)
retold by Richard L. Dieterle
Hočąk Syllabic Text with an English Interlinear Translation
"Hohó my younger brother, you are having such a fine time, (174) I wish I could be able to do that," he said. He was addressing a buzzard. "My younger brother, you can pack me around if you want, besides, I like your way of doing it," he said. "All right," he said. And only then did he sit on him there. (175) When he tried to fly, finally, as he raised up a little, it was all right. Now he was high up. Trickster was saying, "My younger brother, you're having such a pleasant time. (176) Now that turkey buzzard began to go sideways. Trickster began to beg aloud, "My younger brother, be very careful, you might drop me," he said. (177) As Trickster was being packed around, he was enjoying himself. But this one was looking for a hollow tree. He was to do something to him. There it found a tree without branches. (178) It was hollow. He came by it very close. There Trickster was dumped. Thus it was. "Hohó, that homely one is the worst. He has turned the trick on me," he said.
(179) The man remained there. In the course of time, unexpectedly, someone was causing echoes from the chopping of wood somewhere. "Hohó, It is unlikely if they are people, that they will come here," he was saying. (180) They came nearer and nearer. Finally, he heard their talking. Unexpectedly, they were women. And he said, singing,
(181) I'm a bob-tailed raccoon,
he said. These women heard it. "Waną́, something here is saying something," they said. Again he said it. When they had come there, again he said it. (182) "Nikate, let us cut it out." After they had said this, then they cut him out. He would hold the raccoon skin up, making it appear there. Those women said to him, (183) "Waną́, it's a really big raccoon," they said. Then again this raccoon said, "After I have been plugged up with women's clothing, then leave me, go home and then when they have come after me, I'll be very fat," he said. (184) "Nikate, that's what we'll do," they said. So they pulled their clothes off. With their clothing they plugged the hole here. (185) There they stuffed it. Then they went home. Once they had gone home, he came out. He went off somewhere. Those women had come back there, but there was no one there. Afterwards, he went away from there.1
Commentary. This story is continued in Trickster's Tail. See the table of correspondences in the commentary to the latter tale.
"they pulled their clothes off" — the public nudity of women was considered very embarrassing, contrary to the rather nonchalant attitude that the women in this story seem to have about casting away their clothes and going home without them. This is one of the first stories in the cycle where Trickster actually pulls off a successful humorous trick.
Comparative Material. An interesting parallel to the episode in which Trickster rides the turkey buzzard and is dumped into a hollow tree, is found in the Ponka trickster cycle. There the trickster Ictinike rides on the back of a buzzard who finally dumps him into the hollow of a tree.2
The Ioway version is fairly close to the Hočąk. Ictinike rides on the back of a buzzard who dumps him into a hollow stump. A hunting party comes along, so Ictinike sticks the tail of his raccoon skin blanket out the crack in the stump. Three women notice this, and thinking that a number of raccoons are trapped inside, they cut a hole in the stump. They are so shocked when Icitinike emerges that they flee in panic. (See the full story at the Ioway website. For the remainder of this story, see the episode in Trickster's Tail.)3
The Lakota have a close parallel to our story. Iktó comes to a creek to wide for him to cross, so by flattery, he persuades a pssing hawk to fly him across. As they are flying about, Iktó makes insulting gestures with his fingers which the hawk sees in the shadows on the ground, so he flies over a holloow stump and drops Iktó in. A woodpecker comes by, and Iktó persuades him to make a hole in the stump from which he can see the outside world. While thus imprisoned, two woman chance to pass by. He announces that he is a fat raccooon, and the women are happy at his discovery, since they can use the fat for tanning. They knock the tree down with their axes, but they cannot reach him in the hollow log. He tells them that they should smoke him out, but that they must go back to the village to get the fire. While they are gone, he steps out, making good his escape. When they return, Iktó steps out of the woods with arrow sticks, and presents himself as someone who is cutting arrows. He pretends to commiserate with them aqt the escape of the raccoon, but all the while makes insulting gestures with his fingers underneath his blanket.3.1
An adventure of the Kickapoo trickster Wiza'ka'a is very similar to our story. As Wiza'ka'a lay on his back daydreaming about flying, he saw his uncle Buzzard flying overhead. He called him down and asked him if he could take him all the way to the roof of the sky. Buzzard replied that he often went there and that Wiza'ka'a could hop on his back. When Buzzard reached the vault, to told Wiza'ka'a to hang on to it while he went off to get some arrow paint. He hung there a long time and began to lose his grip. He called constantly for Buzzard, but he never returned. Finally, his hands slipped and he fell from the ceiling of the world. Ten years he spent falling from the sky, until at last he began to see the surface of the earth rushing up at him. To avoid being smash, he turned himself into a leaf and floated down the rest of the way. However, he landed in a hollow tree. An old woman was out gathering wood when she saw his pubic hair hanging out a crack in tree's wood. She thought there was a bear inside, so she plucked a single hair and took it back to her husband. "That's a bear all right," said the old man, and he went out to bag it. When they got there, the old woman began chopping a hole in the tree. Then a voice said from inside the tree, "My dear aunt, make the hole bigger." She turned to her husband and said, "It's that rascally fellow, Wiza'ka'a!" Sure enough, it was he who stepped out. But before he left, he kicked the stump and out tumbled a bear. He killed the bear for the old people and gave it to them for a feast.4 Continuation of the Kickapoo story.
The Fox also have a story of this type. Wī́sa‘kä́ka told Buzzard that Sun wanted him to fly Wī́sa‘kä́ka to his solar residence in the heavens. "Now Buzzard was made unhappy by what Wī́sa‘kä́ka had told him. At this time he was the most beautiful of all creatures. The blue, the red, the yellow, the green, and the white of his feathers were so dazzling that they blinded the eyes of all that looked upon him. And Buzzard became proud, so proud that he dwelt alone with his kin far away in the sky, where no other living-kind could go and intrude upon him. He grew lazy, and he liked nothing better than to look at himself all the while. But he knew better than to refuse Sun and Wī́sa‘kä́ka, and so stooped to let Wī́sa‘kä́ka climb on his back and clasp him about the neck. And when Wī́sa‘kä́ka was on, Buzzard spread his wings and rose; and up, up, up they went till they vanished from the eyes of creatures on earth. The journey was long and it took many days. At last Sun saw his grandson coming; he saw him coming from a great distance, and went to meet him. By and by Buzzard drew near, near enough at last for Sun to reach down to take Wī́sa‘kä́ka by the hand; but as Wī́sa‘kä́ka let go Buzzard's neck with one hand and started to grasp Sun's hand with the other, Buzzard flew quickly from beneath him. Then down fell Wī́sa‘kä́ka, now diving head foremost, now lying on his back, now plunging feet first, and now whirling over and over. Thus Wī́sa‘kä́ka fell; and, had he fallen to the earth, he would surely have been killed. But his grandfather, the tree, saw him, and caught him in his arms, thus saving him from death.4.1 [Previous episode of the Fox story. Next episode of the Fox story.]
The Cherokee version is fairly close, but features Rabbit as the trickster figure. The story begins with an account of how Rabbit tricked Otter into thinking that he could do many of the unique things that Otter could do. Once he decided to catch some ducks the way Otter did, only he took a noose and made a sub-aquatic approach to his prey. "... he came up among the ducks and threw the noose over the head of one and caught it. The duck struggled hard and finally spread its wings and flew up from the water with the Rabbit hanging on to the noose. It flew on and on until at last the Rabbit could not hold on any longer, but had to let go and drop. As it happened, he fell into a tall, hollow sycamore stump without any hole at the bottom to get out from, and there he stayed until he was so hungry that he had to eat his own fur, as the rabbit does ever since when he is starving. After several days, when he was very weak with hunger, he heard children playing outside around the trees. He began to sing:
Cut a door and look at me;
I'm the prettiest thing you ever did see.
The children ran home and told their father, who came and began to cut a hole in tree. As he chopped away the Rabbit inside kept singing, 'Cut it larger, so you can see me better; I'm so pretty.' They made the hole larger, an then the Rabbit told them to stand back so that they could take a good look as he came out. They stood away back, and the Rabbit watched his chance and jumped out and got away."5
The Assiniboine also have parallels to this episode in at least three versions. They are summarized by Radin:
7. Inktumni wishes to fly with the geese. The birds take him up, but drop him in a mud-hole, where he is left sticking for several days.
8. Sitcóⁿski wishes to travel with the eagle. Eagle abandons him on a mountain top. Sitcóⁿski tumbles down head foremost, and sticks in a swamp. When he frees himself, he turns into a moose to entice the eagle down. When the eagle eats of the meat, Sitcóⁿski kills him.
9. Sitcóⁿski wishes to travel with the geese, is warned of dangers, but insists on joining them. The Indians shoot at the geese, who drop Sitcóⁿski into a mud-hole.6
Sitcóⁿski and Inktumni are the same person.
The neighboring Menominee also have a version of this tale. Manabush watched a buzzard in flight and fantasized about flying himself. He became so enraptured by the thought that he began running about with his arms flapping, just as if he were flying himself. The buzzard upon seeing this came down to find out what was going on. Manabush told him that he would like to see what it was like to view the world from so high a vantage, so the buzzard allowed him to ride on his back. Manabush had trouble holding on, and demanded that the flight come to a premature end, so the buzzard let him off on the top of a mountain. There he was trapped by the mountain's precipitous slopes. He decided his only escape lay in gliding off, so he spread his arms just like the buzzard and jumped, only his flight down was a good deal faster. He came down with a thud into a hollow tree. Now he was a prisoner again, and remained entombed for several days until a group of women came along. They were searching for wood, and this was a likely looking tree. Manabush, trying to attract them to it, began making the call of a porcupine, "Ya he, Ya he, Ya he!" The women thought they had themselves a porcupine, and chopped away at the tree, when to their shock, Manabush tumbled out. They ran away in panic.7
In the Ojibwe version, the incidents have been a bit reshuffled, but the kinship of the story is still recognizable. One day Winabozho was sojourning in the countryside when he came to a tall, dead pine tree. Raccoon had made himself comfortable in its crown. Raccoon, being of a mischievous nature, began to tease the giant Winabozho about his many failings. Finally, Winabozho had more than he could take, and clambered up the tree in pursuit of Raccoon. When Winabozho was getting near the top, Raccoon slid down the hollow center of the tree, but Winabozho slid right down after him. But when he got to the trunk, there was no raccoon to be found, as he had made his escape through a limb hole midway down. Winabozho tried to climb out of the wooden pit in which he found himself, but it was just too slippery. Winabozho became so angry he threw himself back and forth inside the tree, causing the pine to pitch to and fro until, finally, it fell over and smashed. As Winabozho stumbled out, he could hear his tormentor laughing somewhere deep in the forest.8
The story of Trickster leaving the women nude has some resemblance to the Omaha story of Rabbit and Ictinike. Ictinike persuades Rabbit to climb a tree to fetch a bird that has been shot dead. Rabbit takes off his clothes to climb the tree, but Icitinike causes him to become stuck in its branches. Ictinike then steals Rabbit's clothes, and dressed like him, is able to go to the nearby village and marry the daughter of a chief.9
Greek mythology offers an interesting parallel to this same episode. There the "bird" is Pegasos, a winged horse. Bellerophon, aspiring to more than is appropriate to his nature, mounted Pegasos in order to fly to Olympus itself. However, the winged horse pitched off his rider, who landed hard on Aleion, the Plain of Wandering, where he spent is days wandering about with a limp.10
Another story similar to this episode is the famous Hindu myth of Krishna and the female cow herders. In that story, the great spirit Krishna expresses his playful trickster nature by swiping the clothing of the maidens as they are bathing in a lake. Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty observes, "... the childish pranks of the little Krishna are replaced by a well-worn bit of erotic strategy, yet the metaphysical overtones of this mischief are profound; by forcing the girls to reveal their nakedness, he forces them into a direct encounter with their god ..."11 In the case of Trickster this direct encounter, albeit with his raccoon alter ego, leads to their embracing of his divine foolishness.
Links: Trickster, The Sons of Earthmaker, Bird Spirits, Raccoons, Tree Spirits.
Links within the Trickster Cycle: §7. Trickster's Penis, §9. Trickster Gets Pregnant. The revenge episode to this story is found in §16. Trickster's Tail.
Stories: featuring Trickster as a character: The Trickster Cycle, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster's Warpath, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster Soils the Princess, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The Elk's Skull, Trickster and the Plums, Trickster and the Mothers, The Markings on the Moon, The Spirit of Gambling, The Woman who Became an Ant, The Green Man, The Red Man, Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Trickster Loses His Meal, Trickster's Tail, A Mink Tricks Trickster, Trickster's Penis, Trickster Loses Most of His Penis, The Scenting Contest, The Bungling Host, Mink Soils the Princess, Trickster and the Children, Trickster and the Eagle, Trickster and the Geese, Trickster and the Dancers, Trickster and the Honey, Trickster's Adventures in the Ocean, The Pointing Man, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Trickster Visits His Family, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Petition to Earthmaker, Waruǧábᵉra, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge; mentioning buzzards (vultures): Trickster's Tail, The Baldness of the Buzzard; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Owl Goes Hunting, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (kaǧi, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧábᵉra, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth (black hawk, kaǧi), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (eagle), The Gift of Shooting (eagle), Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Shaggy Man (kaǧi), The Healing Blessing (kaǧi), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (kaǧi), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įčorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Fleetfooted Man, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds; mentioning raccoons: Trickster and the Mothers, The Raccoon Coat, Raccoon and the Blind Men, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, The Were-fish, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, Bladder and His Brothers, Grandfather's Two Families; mentioning trees or Tree Spirits: The Creation of the World, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Children of the Sun, Visit of the Wood Spirit, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Woman who Became a Walnut Tree, The Old Woman and the Maple Tree Spirit, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, The Pointing Man, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Trickster Loses His Meal, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 2), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Waruǧábᵉra, The Chief of the Heroka, The Red Man, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Blessing of the Bow, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Spirit of Gambling, Peace of Mind Regained, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death. This story has a variant in The Baldness of the Buzzard.
Themes: birds grant someone's wish to fly like them: The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster and the Geese; being carried (off) by a bird: The Baldness of the Buzzard, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Boy who Flew, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Old Man and the Giants; someone falls from the sky while trying to fly with the birds: Trickster and the Geese, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster and the Eagle; Trickster is the victim of a trick: Trickster Soils the Princess, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, The Elk's Skull, A Mink Tricks Trickster, Trickster and the Honey, The Markings on the Moon, Trickster and the Eagle; possessing a raccoon blanket: The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Raccoon Coat; Trickster takes someone's clothes so that they are forced to return to their village naked: Trickster Soils the Princess; a group of women are reduced to going to a lodge naked: The Dipper.
1 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 20-21. The Hočąk text with an interlinear translation is found in John Baptiste (trs.), "Wakjukaga," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, ca. 1912) Winnebago V, #7: 172-186.
2 Ibid., 128, #5. The Ponca trickster cycle is found in James Owen Dorsey, ¢egiha Texts, in Contributions to North American Ethnology (Washington, D. C.: 1890) vol. 6.
3 Lewis Spence, Myths of the North American Indians (London: George G. Harrap & Company, 1916).
3.1 Ella Deloria, Dakota Texts (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006) 36-43.
4 Kickapoo Tales, collected by William Jones, trs. by Truman Michelson. Publications of the American Ethnological Society (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1915) IX:9-11.
4.1 William Jones, "Episodes in the Culture-Hero Myth of the Sauks and Foxes," The Journal of American Folk-lore, XIV, #55 (Oct-Dec, 1901) 225-238 [235-237].
5 "The Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting," in James Mooney, History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (Asheville, North Carolina: Bright Mountain Books, 1992 [1891/1900]) Story 16, p. 266.
6 Radin, The Trickster, 98, ##7-9. These tales are collected in R. H. Lowie, The Assiniboine, in The Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History (New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1909) 4:239-244.
7 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Manabush: Menomini Tales, Wisconsin Folklore Booklets (Madison: 1948) 4-5.
8 Charles E. Brown, "Raccoon Foils Winabozho," in Winabozho (Madison: 1944). Dorothy Moulding Brown, Indian Fireside Tales: Ka Gwe Do Say ... Sunrise Walker, Wisconsin Folklore Society Booklets (Madison: 1947) 37.
9 Roger Welsch, Omaha Tribal Myths and Trickster Tales (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1981) 40.
10 Iliad 6.201; Scholia in Iliad 6.155; Hesiod, Theogony 286; Pindar, Isthmian Odes 7.44-45; Pindar, Olympian Odes 13.92; Eurippides, fragments 285, 286, 306-308; Carol Kerényi, The Heroes of the Greeks (London: Thames and Hudson, 1959) 83-84.
11 Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.22.1-28; Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975) §61: 228-231.