Grandfather's Two Families

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


An old couple had ten sons who were consummate hunters. Their skill was so great that full racks of their meat ran in rows as far as the eye could see. One day a terrible hunger came over the father, so that every time he finished eating, he seemed all the more famished. They boiled whole kettles of meat for him, and he ate it all and drank the soup, yet nothing sated him. In time the meat racks were empty, and despite their prowess, the sons could not keep their father fed. One day the oldest son said to the others, "I am beginning to fear father. It is like he is becoming another person. Next he may eat us." So that night, the sons slipped out of the village to escape their now ravenous father. However, the next night one of the sons returned and quietly awoke his mother to give her some meat. After he left, she did not eat it all, but woke her husband and gave him some of the food. The old man realized now what had happened and that his sons had deserted him. It made his heart sore to think that his sons would not share the bounty of the hunt with him, so the old man wandered off to die. As he was walking, he reached a creek. By then his anger waxed hot. He resolved that his sons should die, so he took a handful of snow and cast it in the direction that he had come. No sooner had the snow scattered in the wind that it began to snow, and back in the village a blizzard raged.

As the old man walked along the stream, he could see something under the ice. He cracked the ice with his cane, and quite unexpectedly, he found bear entrails. These he ate. He left the creek and there, unexpectedly, was a road, and in this road were tracks made by hunters. So he followed the tracks back to their source in a lodge. He entered within but no one was inside. There was a big kettle cooking that contained nothing but buffalo tongues. As always, he was very hungry, but out of politeness, he touched none of the food. Finally, a man entered the lodge and set his pack down. He was impressed with the old man's restraint, so he dished out the food, saying, "Grandfather, eat as much as you can, for my brothers will bring more." Now the oldest brother had packed a bear, and soon after came the second oldest carrying buffalo meat. Each brother returned in the order of his birth: the third brother had an elk, and the fourth had a black deer, the fifth had venison, the sixth had a marten, the seventh had a beaver, the eighth had an otter, and the ninth had a raccoon. Each of the brothers hunted only the animal that he himself brought back. The old man, as usual, ate everything that was brought before him. The oldest brother had an idea: he would hunt a bear, declare a Bear Feast, then allow the old man to be the only one to participate. Maybe then he would feel better. So it was done, and just as the eldest brother had thought, so it proved to be: the old man felt at least a little better. This was done four times in succession, and the fourth time the old man felt very much better.

Then one day while the brothers were out hunting, a stranger came walking up to the lodge, his gourd rattling with every step. He boldly came in, and said, "I am here to challenge your grandsons to a game." "I will tell them," said the old man, but when the brothers returned, he had forgotten all about it. The next day, the visitor returned, and repeated his challenge, but again the old man forgot about it. The third time that the man came, he pulled out a warclub and swung it at the old man's head, but he ducked and the club hit with such force that it left a pit in the lodge floor. The challenger warned him, "Don't forget, or next time I will kill you!" When the eldest son returned, the old man announced that he had something important to tell him, but all the other brothers should be present. So each brother called the other, until the youngest of the hunters arrived. When the last of them came, he knocked over trees a he ran, but his brothers yelled, "slow down." When he did, he slipped, and when he fell the wind suddenly became calm. Then the old man told them all what had happened, but he said, "The youngest brother must also be told." This last brother lived behind a partition, and never went out to hunt. He was very holy, and spent much time fasting. As they gathered around the youngest, footsteps could be heard as someone approached the lodge. It was Turtle. Turtle said, "I heard that there was to be a game. How are they going to compete?" The old man replied, "It will be a race, and I will judge who among us will run the best against them." The eldest said that he had his speed from long-legged bears, but the old man replied, "They are not runners." And each brother said that he got his speed from the animal he always hunted, but each time the grandfather replied that such an animal was not a good runner. However, the ninth brother said, "Grandfather, the Red Star blessed me with speed." The old man replied, "This is very good, yet it is not the best possible." Then the youngest one of all said, "Grandfather, I have been blessed with speed by Morning Star." The old man replied, "This is the best of all. This is what I was looking for." Turtle said, "Grandfather and I were always the fastest. I could beat him in short distance runs, but he usually won over a long course. So Grandfather and I shall race against them, since we are the fastest."

Then they heard the gourd rattle as the challenger approached. He was carrying a screed pipe. He offered it to the eldest brother first, but he refused, and the same offer was refused by each brother in turn. Turtle said, "I know exactly what you came for: you want us to go on a retaliation raid with you as reinforcements." "No, that's not it at all," replied the visitor in an agitated tone of voice. "Well," said Turtle, "it's plain to see that you came to play a gambling game, so we will clear a place here in the lodge for the action." "No, that's not right either," said the visitor. "Turtle, you confuse everything!" Turtle persuaded the challenger to put up lives as a wager on the outcome of the race, and this was accepted. Then they smoked on it. When the visitor returned to his people, he told them that there used to be just ten, but with Turtle and an old fat man among them, they now numbered twelve. These people were Giants, and they coveted the fat man, for they planned to eat the people that they won in the wager. The Giants showed up at the race field and gave a war hoop, but the brothers were silent. The Giants said, "Pick your fastest runners," and Turtle replied, "That would be me and grandpa." The Giants scoffed, and told Turtle that he was confusing everything. The Giants struck a baldheaded warclub into the ground to mark the start and finish line, since they were going to race to a distant point and back again. However, as the race was to begin, Turtle ducked out, saying, "No, I think it would be better if grandfather ran this race alone, since he is just a little faster than me." Two of the Giants with the longest legs were chosen to run for their side. They took off running, and before long, the Giants had crossed four hills before grandfather had made it up just one of them. The brothers felt that all was lost. After grandfather struggled to the top of the first hill with the aid of his cane, he took off his pack and a necklace from which was suspended a large leather disc. He detached this disc and as it rolled down the hill it made a great whirring noise. Soon the old man had passed the Giants and was headed back. He returned to where he left his pack, then very leisurely walked to the finish line, just barely beating his competitors. The Giants thought that perhaps grandfather had simply doubled back before reaching the midway point, but before they could ask their own runners whether the old man had actually beaten them, Turtle jumped up and killed them. The old man sprinkled the dead Giants with cattails, and burned them up. The Giants challenged them a second and a third time, but things went exactly as they had before, with Turtle killing the Giants before they could get a word out. The fourth contest went as the others had, and by now almost all the Giants had been bet and lost. However, this time the Giants' runners were able to speak, and confessed that they had been beaten by the fat old man. The Giants who had been wagered were killed by Turtle, and grandfather burned their bodies until nothing was left but bones.

The Giants left, but Turtle realized that they were going to try to escape, so he spoke to grandfather and said, "The Giants have taken flight, so let's chase after them." Nevertheless, it was the youngest brother who joined Turtle in chasing the Giants. They found the Giants' village abandoned, but they could clearly see the four different paths by which its inhabitants had fled. Turtle and the youngest brother went down each path and killed everyone on it. However, on the fourth path they found only an old man carrying on his back a little boy and a little girl. Turtle decided to spare them: "The Creator saw fit to create you, therefore your race shall not be completely extinguished. You did wrong in eating humans, but now you will eat something else and live beyond the ocean." Then he forced them to eat grass, and afterwards grabbed them and pitched them across the sea. The younger brother and Turtle parted ways after that, each going back to his own home.

Grandfather assembled everyone and told them, "Now I will go off to another place where I shall live ever after. I ate all the food of my first family, and they became disgusted with me. The Creator did not make me for that purpose." Then grandfather went back to his old village carrying a sack of Giants' bones with him. He took the bones and pounded them into powder, and spread it over the whole village. Much noise was heard as far away as the village of the brothers, so that they became fearful that the Giants had returned in force. In fact, the inhabitants of the old village had come back to life, the old man's wife and his ten sons as well. The old man, Grandfather, was in fact Sun, and his wife was Moon. The ten young men whom he raised in his first family, were not brothers at all. They were ten children who were the only survivors of a village that was massacred by the Giants. Sun had taken pity on them, and had come to earth to raise them to adulthood. The eight eldest brothers of the second village, however, each turned into the kind of animal that he always hunted. The two youngest turned into stars: the ninth brother became Red Star (the Evening Star), and the youngest and most holy, became Morning Star (Wiragošge Xetera, "The Great Star").1


Commentary. Grandfather, we are told, is the sun and his wife is the moon. The last two brothers are Red Star (Bluehorn = Evening Star) and Morning Star. The others are spirits that correspond to the animals that they hunt. In Bladder and His Brothers, Morning Star and his brothers map onto the Hočąk clans, which they are said to have founded. Let us see how this alignment works out in order of rank (by holiness or power):

Brother: Animal/Spirit: Clan:
10 Morning Star (Thunderbird)
9 raccoon/Red Star Wolf
1 bear Bear
2 buffalo Buffalo
3 elk Elk
4 black deer Deer
5 deer Deer
6 marten Bird ?
7 beaver Waterspirit
8 otter Fish ?

In Bladder and His Brothers, Morning Star is associated with the Thunderbird Clan. Raccoons are associated with fish, but Red Star is the same as Bluehorn, and Bluehorn is a Waterspirit. Nevertheless, the next to the last of the brothers in that story is the founder of the Wolf Clan. On the other hand, beavers are normally Waterspirit counterparts: when Thunderbirds hunt them, they always refer to Waterspirits as "beavers." The Snake Clan is missing, and marten has no counterpart, but there is no evidence for or against their mutual association. Thus, while there is some correspondence between the brothers and the Hočąk clans, it is not straightforward.


Comparative Material. In a Kickapoo tale, a man suddenly loses his ability to kill game, so his wife secretly meets with a bear in the wilderness and obtains bear meat from him. However, she gives it to her son, but instructs him not to tell his father that they have eaten. One day, despite her instructions, the boy hides meat in his mouth, then feeds it to his father. His father now realizes what has been going on and eventually kills his wife.2


Links: Sun, Morning Star, Bluehorn (Red Star), Moon, Celestial Spirits, Turtle, Giants, Raccoons, The Twins, Redhorn, Gourd Rattles.


Stories: featuring Sun as a character: Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The Children of the Sun, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Hare Burns His Buttocks, The Birth of the Twins, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Origins of the Milky Way; pertaining to the Moon: The Markings on the Moon, Black and White Moons, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, Hare Kills Wildcat, Berdache Origin Myth (v. 1), Turtle and the Giant; featuring Turtle as a character: The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Turtle's Warparty, Turtle and the Giant, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Turtle and the Merchant, Redhorn's Father, Redhorn's Sons, Turtle and the Witches, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster Soils the Princess, Morning Star and His Friend, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Kunu's Warpath, Redhorn Contests the Giants, Redhorn and His Brothers Marry, The Skunk Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Porcupine and His Brothers, The Creation of Man, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee, The Chief of the Heroka, The Spirit of Gambling, The Nannyberry Picker, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Markings on the Moon (v. 2), The Green Man, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way; with Bluehorn (Evening Star) as a character: Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Children of the Sun, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Man with Two Heads, Sun and the Big Eater, The Green Man (?), Brave Man (?); featuring Morning Star as a character: Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head, Bladder and His Brothers, The Origins of the Milky Way; about stars and other celestial bodies: The Dipper, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Seven Maidens, Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head, Turtle and the Witches, Sky Man, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The Star Husband, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Children of the Sun, The Origins of the Milky Way, The Fall of the Stars, featuring Giants as characters: A Giant Visits His Daughter, Turtle and the Giant, The Stone Heart, Young Man Gambles Often, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Morning Star and His Friend, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Old Man and the Giants, Shakes the Earth, White Wolf, Redhorn's Father, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, The Roaster, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Little Human Head, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Origins of the Milky Way, Ocean Duck, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Wears White Feather on His Head, cf. The Shaggy Man; having characters who are fat: Sun and the Big Eater, The Green Man; mentioning martens: Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), The Dipper; mentioning bear entrails: The Shaggy Man, Kaǧiga and Lone Man, The Brown Squirrel; mentioning snow: Waruǧápara, The Glory of the Morning, Holy One and His Brother, Wolves and Humans, The Four Steps of the Cougar, Redhorn's Father, The Old Man and the Giants, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Great Walker's Warpath, White Wolf, North Shakes His Gourd, The Fleetfooted Man, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, Witches, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, The Raccoon Coat, Silver Mound Cave, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married; mentioning feasts: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (Chief Feast), The Creation Council (Eagle Feast), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (Eagle Feast), Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth (Waterspirit Feast), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (Mąką́wohą, Waną́čĕrehí), Bear Clan Origin Myth (Bear Feast), The Woman Who Fought the Bear (Bear Feast), Wolf Clan Origin Myth (Wolf Feast), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth (Buffalo Feast), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Feast), Buffalo Dance Origin Myth (Buffalo Feast), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (Buffalo Feast), The Blessing of Šokeboka (Feast to the Buffalo Tail), Snake Clan Origins (Snake Feast), Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief (Snake Feast), Rattlesnake Ledge (Snake Feast), The Thunderbird (for the granting of a war weapon), Turtle's Warparty (War Weapons Feast, Warpath Feast), Porcupine and His Brothers (War Weapons Feast), Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega) (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), White Thunder's Warpath (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Fox-Hočąk War (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), Šųgepaga (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (Warbundle Feast, Warpath Feast), Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (Warpath Feast), Kunu's Warpath (Warpath Feast), Trickster's Warpath (Warpath Feast), The Masaxe War (Warpath Feast), Redhorn's Sons (Warpath Feast, Fast-Breaking Feast), The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits (Fast-Breaking Feast), The Chief of the Heroka (Sick Offering Feast), The Dipper (Sick Offering Feast, Warclub Feast), The Four Slumbers Origin Myth (Four Slumbers Feast), The Journey to Spiritland (Four Slumbers Feast), The First Snakes (Snake Feast), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (unspecified), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts (unnamed); mentioning the Ocean Sea (Te Ją): Trickster's Adventures in the Ocean, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 1), Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster and the Children, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Wears White Feather on His Head, White Wolf, How the Thunders Met the Nights (Mąznį’ąbᵋra), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3), Wolf Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), Redhorn's Sons, Sun and the Big Eater, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father (sea), The Dipper (sea), The Thunderbird (a very wide river), Wojijé, The Twins Get into Hot Water (v. 1), Redhorn's Father, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Berdache Origin Myth, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Morning Star and His Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed.


Themes: spirits come to earth in order to rescue humanity from enemies who threaten their existence: The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Bladder and His Brothers, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hare Cycle, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Raccoon Coat, Redhorn's Sons, The Redhorn Cycle, The Roaster, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Spirit of Gambling, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Trickster Cycle, Wojijé, Redhorn's Father, Turtle and the Merchant; the human incarnation of the sun eats enormous amounts of food: Sun and the Big Eater; gluttony: The Big Eater, Sun and the Big Eater, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear; someone is rejected by at least one member of his family: Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The King Bird, Kaǧiga and Lone Man, Moiety Origin Myth, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter; someone eats so much that his closest relatives flee from him (to avoid starvation): Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater; a (grand)father abandons his family: The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee, The Two Boys, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The Birth of the Twins, The Two Brothers, Trickster Visits His Family; a man flees until he reaches a lodge belonging to ten brothers with whom he then lives: Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater; a man is adopted into a family who live in a distant village: Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, Moiety Origin Myth, Origin of the Decorah Family, The Captive Boys; hunters kill so much game that they can only pack the tongues: The Twins Visit Their Father's Village, The Roaster, The Nannyberry Picker, Redhorn's Father; each member of a group of brothers specializes in the hunting of just one kind of game animal: The Quail Hunter, The Brown Squirrel; a group of brothers return from the hunt in the order of their birth: Sun and the Big Eater, The Quail Hunter, The Old Man and His Four Dogs; a challenger comes shaking a gourd rattle: Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Roaster, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Redhorn Contests the Giants, White Wolf; an old man is told by a Giant that his grandsons are challenged to a contest, but he keeps forgetting to tell them until the Giants (attempt to) club him, then he remembers by repeating it all day long: Sun and the Big Eater, Bladder and His Brothers; contests with the Giants: Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Redhorn's Father, White Wolf, The Roaster, Young Man Gambles Often, Little Human Head, Redhorn Contests the Giants, Redhorn's Sons, Morning Star and His Friend, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, The Old Man and the Giants, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Shakes the Earth, The Origins of the Milky Way, The Shaggy Man; anthropophagy and cannibalism: A Giant Visits His Daughter, Turtle and the Giant, The Witch Men's Desert, The Were-Grizzly, The Roaster, Redhorn's Father, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Lost Blanket, Young Man Gambles Often, White Wolf, The Shaggy Man, The Twins Get into Hot Water, Partridge's Older Brother, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hočąk War, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Morning Star and His Friend, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Seven Maidens, Šųgepaga, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Shakes the Earth, The Stone Heart, Thunder Cloud is Blessed; racing around the edge of the world: Origin of the Hočąk Chief, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; an old man has a disc shaped object which when rolled makes him the fastest man in any race: Sun and the Big Eater; a spirit has so much speed that he tears down trees trying to come to a stop: Sun and the Big Eater; Morning Star is a fast runner: Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2); an old man wins a race: Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater; the bodies of Giants wagered in a game, are burned up using cattail floss as fuel: The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Roaster, Redhorn's Father; warriors following the scattered tracks of enemies, go down one track, kill all they followed, then go down each of the other tracks in turn until they have made casualties of all the enemy: Redhorn's Sons, Young Man Gambles Often; good people (and spirits) completely annihilate a race of bad spirits except for two, whom they allow to live (so that they do not undo the work of the Creator): Sun and the Big Eater, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Redhorn's Father, Morning Star and His Friend, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; ground up bones of evil spirits are used to resurrrect their victims: Partridge's Older Brother, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother; someone is, or becomes, a star: The Seven Maidens, The Dipper, Morning Star and His Friend, Turtle and the Witches, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Star Husband; some of a group of brothers are Stellar Spirits and others are animals: Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, "Morning Star (Wiragocge Xetera)," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook 8: 1-93.

2 Kickapoo Tales, collected by William Jones, trs. by Truman Michelson. Publications of the American Ethnological Society (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1915) IX:67-72.