Ants (Takąškéra)

by Richard L. Dieterle

The spirit chief of the ants is female. Originally she was a human yųgiwi (princess) who was chased by a mysterious demon. She escaped to the asylum of One Legged One, an avatar of Herešgúnina, and lived with him as a sister. One day he left to look for a wife, and Trickster arrived in his place. Trickster induced her to call the buffalo on promise that he would shoot them, but when the herd arrived, Trickster fled. The buffalo abducted her, carrying her between their horns. This squeezed her waist until it was as narrow as an ant's. So when One Legged One returned and retrieved her from the buffalo, he appointed her to be queen over the race of ants. This association suggests that ants may be thought of as the buffalo among insects.1

The first ant was very tall and walked upright with the aid of a cane. He was arrogant and as he walked he sang, "Who is my equal?" One day he smashed Hare into the mud with his cane, so Hare pulled up a cedar tree and did the same to him. As a result, the tall man broke into a thousand tiny pieces which are the ants we see today. Because ants were originally boastful and trampled upon others, they are now small and close to the earth where everyone can now trample upon them.2 Others say that Hare crushed the Ant Man with the tallest tree in the world, Wazicąk ("Great Pine") which he uprooted from its moorings at the edge of the earth. When Hare crushed him, he devolved into a hoard of flying ants. Hare proclaimed, "You can never again kill anything. And you little ants will have to creep on the ground, but sometimes you may fly."3

Red Ant, on the other hand, understood well the folly of arrogance and greed. Once Trickster offered to help him gather honey, but his motive was to take it all for himself. When they reached the hive, Red Ant told Trickster to stick his head into the combs with the predictable result. While all the bees were chasing Trickster over the countryside, Red Ant painlessly helped himself to the honey.4

Links: Buffalo Spirits, One Legged One, Herešgúnina, Hare, Trickster.

Stories: mentioning ants: The Woman Who Became an Ant, Trickster and the Honey, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Hare Burns His Buttocks, The Markings on the Moon (v. 2); about buffaloes and Buffalo Spirits: Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, White Fisher, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Bluehorn's Nephews, Redhorn's Father, The Woman who became an Ant, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Buffalo's Walk, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Creation of the World (v. 3), The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Red Feather, Wazųka, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, Holy One and His Brother, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Story of the Medicine Rite, Black Otter's Warpath; featuring Trickster as a character: The Trickster Cycle, Trickster Soils the Princess, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster and the Eagle, Trickster and the Honey, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Markings on the Moon, The Woman who Became an Ant, The Spirit of Gambling, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Red Man, Waruǧábᵉra; featuring Hare as a character: The Hare Cycle, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Red Man; featuring Herešgúnina (and One Legged One) as a character: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Woman Who Became an Ant, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Šųgepaga, The Spirit of Gambling, Bladder and His Brothers; see also: Black and White Moons, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara.


1 Paul Radin, "The Woman Who Became an Ant," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #532.
2 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 102-103.
3 Glenn Welker, "Some Adventures of the Little Hare," at
4 Pat Smith Medina, The Trickster and Red Ant, in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 36.