Earthmaker Creates the World and Gives Turtle and Hare Their Missions

collected from earlier sources by Katherine B. Judson (1914)

"When Earth-maker came to consciousness, he thought of the substance upon which he was sitting. He saw nothing anywhere. Therefore his tears flowed. He wept. But not long did he think of it. He took some of the substance upon which he was sitting; so he made a little piece of earth for our fathers. He cast this down from the high place on which he sat. Then he looked at what he had made. It had become something like our earth. Nothing grew upon it. Bare it was, but not quiet. It kept turning. 'How shall I make it become quiet?' thought Earth-maker. Then he took some grass from the substance he was sitting upon and cast it down upon the earth. Yet it was not quiet. (See Creation of the World, version 11b)

Then he made a man. When he had finished him, he called him 'Tortoise.' At the end of all his thinking, after he came to consciousness, he made the two-legged walkers. Then Earth-maker said to this man, 'The evil spirits are abroad to destroy all I have just created. Tortoise, I shall send you to bring order into the world.' Then Earth-maker gave him a knife. But when Tortoise cam to earth, he began to make war. He did not look after Earth-maker's creation. So Earth-maker took him back. (See The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, version 2b)

Then he sent Hare down to earth to restore order. He said, 'See, grandmother, I have done the work my father directed me to do. The lives of my uncles and aunts, the two-legged walkers, will be endless like mine.' His grandmother said, 'Grandson, how could you make the lives of your uncles and aunts endless like yours? How could you do something in a way Earth-maker had not intended it to be? Earth-maker could not make them thus.' Hare thought, 'My grandmother must be related to the evil spirits I have killed. She does not like what I have done, for she is saying that I killed the evil spirits.' Now grandmother heard him think. 'No, grandson, I am not thinking of that. I am saying that our father made death so there should not be a lack of food on earth. He made death to prevent overcrowding. He also made a spirit world in which they should live after death.' Hare did not like what she said. 'Grandmother surely does not like it,' he thought. 'She must be related to the evil spirits.' 'No, grandson, it is not so. But to quiet you, your uncles and aunts will live to be very old.' Then she spoke again, 'Now, grandson, stand up. The two-legged walkers shall follow me always. I shall follow you always. Therefore try to do what I tell you. Remember you are a man. Do not look back after you have started.' Then they started to go around the earth. 'Do not look back,' she said. 'I wonder why she says that,' thought Hare. Then he turned his head the least little bit to the left, and looked back to the place from which they had started. Instantly everything caved in. 'Oh, my! Oh, my!' exclaimed grandmother. 'Grandson, a man you are; but I thought you were a great man, so I greatly encouraged you. Now even if I wished to, I could not prevent death.' This she meant, so they say. Then they went around the earth, to the edge of the fire which encircles the earth. That way they went, so they say."1 (See The Necessity for Death, version 2b)

Variant collected by Lipkind in the Hocąk language ca. 1945.

(58) "Our Father came to know (to consciousness) while sitting on what, he didn't know. And he wept. He did not think long, he did not see anything. Nowhere was there anything, not a thing. He didn't know what he sat on. There, from what he sat on, he took something. Out of that which he took, there he made a little bit of this earth. That which he sat on, he sent below. After he looked at his own creation, this earth came like this. And nothing manifested itself. It was bare. And it was not still. This earth was turning. 'And if I do thus, it will get still,' he thought, and he did it with it. There he took a grass leaf from that in which he sat and he did it with it. He sent it to earth. Thus he did and when he looked on his own creation, it was not still. ... (See Creation of the World, version 11a)

Again he made one. When he (Earthmaker) finished him he called him "Turtle" (K'ec'ą́ñgega). (59) The two-legged walkers, having been created at the end of his thinking, were about to come to an end. "You are going to make the earth good, Turtle." Thus he said, and he caused him to have a knife. When he came to earth he made war. He did not look after the creation for him. And again because he did not look after things for him, he took his own (Turtle) right back. ... (See The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, version 2a)

There he went into the lodge. 'Now, O grandmother, I have accomplished the work for which my Father sent me. To make good the creation, all that he sent me for I have accomplished. My aunts and uncles will have a life like my own.' And, 'O grandson, how did you make it, and how could you make your uncles' lives like your own? It is not so.' 'Because our Father created it this way, thus it is. It is not good to do this way to him. My grandmother must be something to them, for this reason she must be saying that it is not good for her that I killed them for her,' he thought. (60) 'No grandson, not like this am I thinking, I am saying. O grandson, the body he created with its fall (death). Because they would make themselves fall short of food, for this reason he made them fall. Because they would crowd each other on this earth, he made death, that he made them have. And really Hare was thinking, 'It is not good for her because she is something to them, she is taking their part.' 'No, O grandson, it is not so. For a long time your heart ached and ached, nevertheless your uncles and aunts will at least have enough of life. They will surely reach old age,' she said to him. 'Now, O grandson, stand up. They will keep on following me, and I will keep on following you. O grandson, do it with all your might. You are a man. Do not look back.' As they were starting around, she was telling him not to look back. The reason why grandmother said it is because of what he had thought. Just a little to the left he looked back and then the place that they had come from suddenly caved in. 'O grandson, alas, you are a man — I urged upon you strongly something great. O grandson, even this I cannot take back.' It is said that she meant this fall, this death. As they went around, they went around the edge of the fire, it is said."2 (See the Necessity for Death, v. 2a)


1 Katharine B. Judson, Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes (Chicago: A. C. McClung, 1914), reprinted as Native American Legends of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2000) 31-32.
2 William Lipkind, Winnebago Grammar (New York: King's Crown Press, 1945) 58-61.