Bear Offers Himself as Food

Version 1

by Oliver LaMère

At a council of the great spirits, Bear agreed to offer himself as food to the humans, but in exchange for this favor, he wanted the spirits to banish daylight so that it would be forever dark. Bear proposed, "If a human wants bear meat, all he will have to do is sit in his lodge and reach outside, grab the bear sitting in the dark, and drag him in by his hair." But the spirits scoffed and said to Bear that he was of too violent a temper to be dragged around by the hair for very long. [1]

Version 2

translated by Richard L. Dieterle

From a Hocąk syllabic text of unknown provenance. The context of this story is the same as version 1 above: the animals are gathered together with Hare prosiding to see which of them will be eaten by human beings.

Hocąk Syllabic Text with Interlinear Transliteration and Translation

(139) Again then the bears asked him, "Will we be eaten?" Hare said, "He [a human] will find one only if he fasts," he said. "He need not fast. He sits. (140) If he is looking for one, it will be brought by hand through the partition from a storage pit by the door. For this reason, I will not proceed with this," he said. "It is not said that bears are of such a nature," Hare said. "If he was of such a nature, not by any medicine would he fall over dead by hand. Again, perhaps, when they got him they would not know a single thing about what to do." [2]

Comparative Material. The Fox have a tale in which Bear pronounces a prophesy that soon it will always be night. He says that it is because Sun will become angry at the world and burn it up, but Rabbit contradicts him and says that his real reason is that he wants to terrorize the world under cover of darkness. For this, Bear rips off Rabbit's long tail and that is why rabbits today have cotton tails. [3]

Links: Bear, Bear Spirits, Hare.

Stories: featuring Bear as a character: Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Woman Who Fought the Bear; mentioning (spirit) bears (other than were-bears): White Bear, Blue Bear, Black Bear, Red Bear, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Shaggy Man, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The Messengers of Hare, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Red Man, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Two Boys, Creation of the World (v. 5), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Brown Squirrel, Snowshoe Strings, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Spider's Eyes, Little Priest's Game, Little Priest, How He went out as a Soldier, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Trickster's Tail, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Warbundle Maker, cf. Fourth Universe.

Themes: bears prefer the pitch dark of night: The Woman Who Fought the Bear; dragging a bear to the kill by his hair: The Green Man, How the Thunders Met the Nights; obtaining meat by merely reaching out and having an animal come to hand: The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth; an animal volunteers to be food for humans: Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting; Bear is rejected because of his temper: The Spider's Eyes.


[1] Oliver LaMère and Harold B. Shinn, Winnebago Stories (New York, Chicago: Rand, McNally and Co., 1928) 87-89. Informant: Oliver LaMère of the Bear Clan.

[2] The Hare Cycle, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago V, #23: 139-140.

[3] William Jones, Ethnography of the Fox Indians, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 125 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1939) 42-44.