Hare Kills Wildcat (§11 of the Hare Cycle)

trs. by Oliver LaMère

There is no surviving Hočąk text, so the next best thing is to quote the translation of the lost original by Oliver LaMère. In the following, mistakes in grammar and punctuation have been corrected and standard usage employed.

(77) Then said Hare, "Grandmother, I am going to where they get rope-grass, (78) where my uncles used to get rope grass." "Yes, grandson, you may go," she said, so he went until he came to a big ravine. On up the ravine he went. He knew that someone was there before him so he sang as he went, saying,

If one of my uncles is at the rope-grass getting place,
I will combat him!

he said in song. The one that was there heard and asked, "Hare, what did you say?" So Hare answered and said, (79) "I said this —

If one of my uncles is at the rope-grass place,
I will play with him!

is what I said." "No Hare, you did not say that, you said, 'I will combat him'." "No," said Hare," I did not say that, I said I would play with him." "No," said the other, "you said, 'I will combat him', you big-eyed, big-eared, big-footed thing." "No," said Hare, "I did not say that (80), I said I would play with him, you homely bob-tailed, ring-eyed thing you," said Hare. "You will die for this," said the other, and chased after him. When Hare was nearly caught, he would jump aside and the other would miss him. When Hare was just about tired out, he came to a hole in the ground, in which he went and escaped. (81) "Oh you hare, you have saved yourself," he was told.

Then the other talked to him and said, "Hare, when you crawl into a hollow tree, how do they get you out?" "Well," said Hare, "when they get some of Grandmother's reed matting and smoke me with it, I always come out," he answered. "Well," said the other, "you stay here and don't come out (82), as I will go after some reed matting." "Sure," said Hare, "where else would I go? I will remain right here." So the other went. As soon as he went, Hare came out and went to some oak trees. There he got four acorns and brought them to the hole and put them in, then he said to one of the acorns, "If he talks to you, you must answer," and he taught it what to say. Then he got (83) himself a forked stick and hid himself nearby.

Finally, the other came back and said, "Hare, are you still here?" "Yes," came the answer from within. "Where else could I go? I am still here yet, as you told me to remain here," said one of the acorns. Then the other stuffed the hole with the matting and lit it. It began to burn and he stood in wait for Hare to come out. After awhile (84), one of the acorns burst in the hole and made a loud report. "Then," said the one outside, "one of the Hare's eyes has burst." After awhile there was another report. "The other eye has burst," he said. Then after a bit, there was another report from within. "One of Hare's testicles has burst," he said. After awhile another report was made from within. "The other side has burst," said the one outside. (85) Then Hare taking his forked stick and sneaking up behind him, placed the fork over his neck and pushed his head into the fire and burnt him to death. Then Hare got some basswood bark and tied it with the bark. He carried it home.

When he got home, he said, "Grandmother, we will have some soup as I have brought a wildcat that I killed." (86) "Oh grandson, I am glad of it," she said. And they both singed it and dressed it nicely. Hare took some blood and threw it on his grandmother's legs and said to her, "Grandmother, you are having your menses, you will kill my war weapons," he shouted, so she looked and the blood was flowing down her legs. "Oh dear, I must have killed my grandson's (87) war weapons," she said and went out. After she got out aways, she shouted back, "Grandson, where will I make my house?" He shouted back, a little farther yet, you can make your house." But instead of going farther, she came nearer the house and said in a low voice, "Where?" He shouted back, "A little farther." The fourth time she came right up to the tent and almost in a whisper she said, "Where?" (88) "There!" he shouted back, so she made her tent there.

Then said Hare, "Grandmother, we were just about to have some meat, but it is now impossible for you, so I will not eat any of it either. I will give a feast with it," he said. Then he went out and shouted, "Come all, as you are invited to feast." After awhile, he let on as though some had come and he began talking, but (89) he was only feigning it all. He would change his voice and talk, but he was only fooling his grandmother that he might have the meat alone. When the meat was cooked, he made a long feasts speech and ate the meat up all alone and said, "Grandmother, a great number came, and an old man said he was coming over to court you grandmother, and I told (90) he may, so I wish you would let him as we are all alone and it does not look right, besides people will talk about us if we stay here all alone all our lives." So she said, "All right grandson, if that is your desire, it shall be as you wish." Then he said again, "Grandmother, you will know him when he comes as he only has one eye," he said.

Then when night came, (91) Hare took out one of his eyes, and leaving it outside, then at night went over and stayed all night stayed all night. Early in the morning, he left and came home. When he got home, he looked for his eye and had great trouble in finding it, and the mice had gnawed on it. In the morning he told his grandmother that she could come in as he had eaten all the wildcat and was all he wanted her away for.1

Commentary. "where they get rope-grass" — in the Radin Notebook version of the story, Oliver LaMère mentions in a note about rope-grass, "a grass called ho.sa. [hosa] meaning [']of grass they make rope out of['.]"2 However, the prefix ho- actually means "the place where, the time when" and the "grass" here referred to by the word sa is a kind of reed (see below). So hosa is actually translated by the phrase, "where they get rope-grass." Radin's informant is describing sa as "rope-grass" when he actually should mean "mat-reeds." The word often used for ordinary grass is xąwį, which is extremely general, and can refer to most any plant other than trees and bushes. Most rope of good quality was made from basswood bark (see below).

"I will play" — "I will fight" is hakizakjaneną, and "I will play" is hašgaičaneną. They are probably close enough to be mistaken for one another at a distance. Those who are conquered and taken prisoner are the object of another sort of "play" as it is called in Hočąk. Those who are burned at the stake are "made to play (šgač) with fire," as the Hočąk expression has it. Hare intends to play with him in just this sense. As things develop, Wildcat is indeed burned at the end of a forked stake and thus made to "play" with fire. In the end, "I will play" comes to mean exactly the same thing as "I will fight."

"reed matting" — reed (sa) would be considered a kind of xąwį ("grass"). However, a mat is made in a way opposite to rope. The individual strands cross one another at right angles in a mat, whereas in rope they cross each other in parallel. The mat forms, therefore, a series of crosses; the rope a series of loops. The cross is symbolic of the center, as in the ("Greek") cross of Earthmaker, which is emblematic of his centrality as a point of origin, especially in time as the Creator. The series of parallel crossing loops is what the Lakota call a kapemni (cp. the discussion of kapemni in "The Double Helix"). The kapemni is in some ways the opposite of the cross, since it is thought of as in motion, its twisting representing the communication of power from one cosmic level to another. The linguistic material on reeds can be summarized in a table:

ničamukera mat Thomas J. George, Winnebago Vocabulary, 4989 Winnebago (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, 1885).
sa a reed mat made of fine meshes Mary Carolyn Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago: An Analysis and Reference Grammar of the Radin Lexical File (Ph.D. Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, December 14, 1968 [69-14,947]) .
Sa a warbundle cover made by a woman at her first menses Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.
sa reeds William Lipkind, Winnebago Grammar (New York: King's Crown Press, 1945).
sa round reed used for mats Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]).
sa to be covered with; together with Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.
sa to strike, to stick in Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.
woven reed mat; rug Kenneth L. Miner, Winnebago Field Lexicon (Kansas City: University of Kansas, June 1984).
Sa Warbundle “Young Man Gambles Often (Hočįčįwaki'ųk'ega),” in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago V, #22: 1-173.
są́ vulva Miner, Winnebago Field Lexicon.
sasgara white mat [cf. sga, white] Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.
wači reed Šųkjąkega (Wolf), in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Winnebago V, #19 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) 1-40.
waxsá reed Miner, Winnebago Field Lexicon.
wiči flat cornered reed used for lodges Radin, The Winnebago Tribe.
wičí cattail mat Miner, Winnebago Field Lexicon.
wičí grass for tents James Owen Dorsey, Winnebago-English Vocabulary and Winnebago Verbal Notes, 4800 Dorsey Papers: Winnebago (3.3.2) 321 [old no. 1226] (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, 1888) 82 pp.
wiči coverings of the lodge Sam Blowsnake, Waretcáwera, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, ca. 1908) Winnebago V, #11: 1-54.
wičíhu cattail plant Miner, Winnebago Field Lexicon.
wičipé lodge mats; where mats of a teepee are tied together. The height of the teepee is described as being as high as the wičipé. Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.
wičíra cattail (the flag) (lodge covers) Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877).
wičičinįk reed lodge Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.
xoharawa cane, reeds Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data .
xoxawa bush Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.
xoxáwa cane Dorsey, Winnebago-English Vocabulary and Winnebago Verbal Notes.
xoxáwa reeds Dorsey, Winnebago-English Vocabulary and Winnebago Verbal Notes; Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.
xoxáwajaį̀ja in the reeds John Harrison, The Giant or The Morning Star, translated by Oliver LaMere, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago III, #11a, Story 8: 92-117.
xoxawaija bush Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago.

There seem to be two basic kinds of mats, the ones made of cattails, the wičí, which are used primarily for lodge coverings; and the one used for floor mats, the sa. The reeds may be the same and they could be given different names merely because of their different functions. The cattails are of interest since they are used as fuel in burning enemy prisoners to death or for burning their dead bodies (for this, see The Roaster, Redhorn's Father, Grandfather's Two Families). This is the fate of Wildcat himself. Of even greater interest is the sa mat. Later on, the blood of the burnt (or rather cooked) Wildcat is sprinkled on Grandmother, and it becomes the first menstruation of the female sex. So Wildcat blood is the original menstrual blood. So it is a very pertinent pun that is formed by the meaning of as "vulva." The word sa (as in Sak'iną, "Warbundle bearer," and Sák’ere, "Warbundle") denotes the reed mat covering of the warbundle which is made by a girl who is experiencing her first period. The odd choice of covering may have more to do with the enemy than those to whom it belongs. It seems odd because contact with menstrual pollution causes the death of the war weapons; however, the warbundle does not contain any such armaments, instead it contains various holy objects, objects of power, that must be unaffected by such contact. These object give added power over the enemy including in some cases immunity from their weapons. The fetishes are not merely powerful in themselves, but are emblematic of the power conferred by spirits upon those who possess these artifacts. Perhaps, then, the sa that covers the warbundle is designed to kill the enemy's war weapons.

"four acorns" — the acorns are the seeds of the oak. The oak is the tree upon which the founders of the Thunder Clan and its kin first settled, and there the ancestor of the Thunder Clan made the first fire. It is this tree that is most often struck by lightning. So the acorns are the seeds of the Thunder tree. Sexually, seed (semen) drops from the tree (penis) onto the ground (which is female) and there generates roots (descendants). The word for roots, rejų in Hočąk, also means "descendants." By homonym, re means "penis" and ju (the /u/ is not nasalized) happens to mean, "to have sexual intercourse." The acorns are homologized to Hare's two eyes and two testicles. The testicles, in the present context are self-explanatory, containing the seed, as they do, of Hare. Hare himself, as founder of the Medicine Rite, and author of its Light-and-Life (Hąp), is the embodiment of Hąp. Lightning is one of Hąp's manifestations. Therefore, Hare's seed is also akin to the Thunder seed, and is properly homologized to the acorn. The eyes are also interesting. In world mythology they are often homologized to the testicles; but in Hočąk the homonyms associated with them are particularly conducive to such an identity. The full word for "eye" is hišjasu, where hišja means "face" (and secondarily "eye"), and su means "seed." So the eyes, hišjasu, are the "seeds of the face." The Thunders shoot their lightning from their eyes. The "seeds" of the face of Hare, the embodiment of Hąp, can themselves be thought of as thunder seeds. By homonym, jąp not only means "lightning," but "to look, glance, focus the eyes, blink" (Marino), and "power of sight; both eyes taken together" (Miner). So in the mythology of the Thunderbirds, the blinking of the eyes in the expression of the power of their sight, is one and the same as lightning — jąp. So Hare's "face seeds" contain the "power of sight" (jąp), which is the power of lightning, and when the fire is present with them, they naturally generate thunder itself as they pop.

"forked stick" — probably another alloform of lightning (jąp). The word for a forked tree or stick is ča, which has some assonance with the word for lightning. The forked stick resonates particularly well with the acorn "eyes" that are secreted in the hole, both being associated with jąp.

"pushed his head into the fire" — the forked stick represents lightning, the war weapon of the Thunders. As such, in the context of menstruation, it ought to be the metaphorical "war weapon" of Hare, his penis. On the other hand, the forked stick represents women, especially with respect to their cleft. In The Green Man, Big Bellied One says to Green Man, who has had his wife stolen, "Younger brother! Women are considered the same as that many forked sticks";3 and again, "there are plenty of forked trees."4 So the forked stick in this context can represent the unity of the male and the female genitals. The hole in the ground is also the hole in Earth. So thrusting the forked stick into Grandmother's hole is another image of intercourse. A third image is the presence there of the acorn seed, which is identified with the eyes and testicles of Hare. All this is repeated again in the succeeding episode when Hare disguises himself as the one-eyed man (a phallic image?) and has intercourse with Grandmother. The intercourse leads to no issue since Grandmother is having her period, which was caused when Hare splashed the cooked wildcat blood on her legs. So the wildcat cooking in the earth-hole is the same as the vagina during menstruation. There is no issue in either case, since menstruation "kills" the "war weapon" (the potence of the phallus). The burning of Grandmother's mat together with the four acorns is another image of this impotence, as the mat is the menstrual object, the very thing that Wildcat himself becomes. Hare does make Wildcat "play with fire," an expression used humorously to describe the burning alive of enemy warriors. Later this image is repeated in a variant form — Hare alone eats Wildcat, a ritual form of cannibalism, since Wildcat is his own uncle. This form of cannibalism was often practiced. The Hočąk warriors, for instance, ate the chiefs of the Ottawa who came to make peace. This itself is isomorphic to adoption, since the two choices pertaining to the fate of captives is either the enaction of vengeance or of adoption. Both are forms of internalization. Cooking is an image of civilizing, of making the wild and alien into something domesticated. The internalizing is replacing, and adoption is a substitute replacement for lost warriors, yet revenge is also a substitute replacement for the lost warrior in that his loss to the tribe is replaced by an equal loss to the enemy. Killing an enemy in warfare is pictured as swallowing him, as we see in the Fast Eating Contest (Warujosagi). Just as the Thunder seeds are "killed" in the fire, so Wildcat joins them in death from the same fiery cause, the fate of all captives not adopted. So in the myth, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Bear eats all the Thunder seed (acorns), all those captives which would have been adopted into the Thunder Clan had not Bear been so greedy. However, Hare replaces them with the biological counterpart to the end product of cooking — dung. Killing the wildcat, the formidable enemy, is a trade-off: the Thunder seed that he potentially represents is sacrificed in order to capture and kill him. So it is with Bear: he is killed through the sacrifice of Thunder seed (acorns) and by means of a thunder weapon (an arrow), just as Wildcat is killed by another image of the same thunder weapon, the forked stick.

"basswood bark" — in America the basswood tree is also known as the "linden," not to be confused with the European tree of the same name. It is from the bark of this tree (hįšgé ružap) that rope is ordinarily made. The uncooked fiber is called hįšge-sake, "basswood pith" (Marino, s.v.). This shows that the fiber used to make rope was processed by cooking, rather like meat, and in this case, like the wildcat. However, here the basswood is used "raw." The term wakirikírik is defined by Miner (s.v.) as "slippery elm; the sub-layer of basswood bark used for healing," showing that the bark was also used in medicine (in connection with bandages?). The basswood bark used in tying lodge poles was known as hįškéxųč.5

"you will kill my war weapons" — LaMère comments, "War bundles are always kept away from women having menses as they are holy and it would make them unclean and lose power to be around such women. And any other thing that is sacred, is kept away from them."6 During menstruation a woman is infertile, so if a man courts her during this period, he cannot impregnate her. Thus sex with her at this time is without consequence, because her menstrual blood mysteriously destroys the potency of the man's "weapon." The "original" menstrual blood is that of the wildcat (bobcat/lynx), and it renders Earth infertile. The bobcat has an eye that has a circle around it, and is thus like the moon. But it is the mouth of the wildcat that is peculiarly lunar like the menstrual cycle, with a dental formula of 2 x 3/3, 1/1, 2/2, 1/1 = 28, the number of light days in a moon.7

"she came nearer the house" — Grandmother is now "under the moon." Astronomically, as the moon approaches conjunction with the sun, it also appears to approach conjunction with the earth (Grandmother). It rises lower and lower in the sky and for briefer periods of time, until it does not rise at all. As Hąp, "Light and Life," Hare plays the role of the sun. In Hočąk symbolism, sound = light, so at first Grandmother shouts at a good distance, just like the full moon, very far from the sun, will shine its brightest. However, as the moon comes closer and closer to the earth, and as the moon comes ever closer to the sun, its brightness "quiets" itself, and the moon has only a whisper of light as though it were far away, when in fact it is ever closer to the house of the sun. It is here, where the sun "sleeps" when it sets and before it rises, and when the moon and earth reside beside it, that defines a time as well. This is the crepuscular period in which the wildcat does its hunting.

"stayed all night" — as a hunter, the wildcat is crepuscular, that is, it hunts at twilight, both of the rising and the setting sun, or in other words, when the sun lies with the earth. This is what Hare does when he lies with Grandmother Earth. When Hare eats the wildcat by himself, he takes within himself its nature. Grandmother is with the moon, which is laid upon the earth (Grandmother's body) apart from Hare's other (solar) eye. There it is gnawed by mice, thus getting its mottled appearance. The sun's power expresses itself when it is risen and can fertilize the earth with its Light-and-Life (Hąp), synonymous terms in the Medicine Rite of which Hare is the presiding deity. Inasmuch as the menstrual blood destroys life, it follows that it destroys light as well. It is an infertile time of near-darkness when the sun lies upon the earth that the wildcat spills blood. The menstruating woman is neither infertile, since menstruation signals that time in life when women are fertile, nor is she fertile, for during the period of menstruation she cannot be impregnated. Thus a menstruating woman exists in a strange twilight between light-and-life and death-and-darkness: her period is a short span of infertility within a larger period of fertility. It is this twilight under which the wildcat hunts.

"the mice had gnawed on it" — during the whole period, here collapsed into a single day, mice gnaw upon the other eye that Hare has left upon earth. As we saw in The Black and White Moons, it is the eating of the moon by the evil spirits that causes the lunar cycle to come to completion. So when the mice nibble on the moon, it expresses the passing of time, the time when Grandmother Earth is under the moon (menstruating). Mice, the frequent victims of wildcats, are also creatures of the boundary. Mice are neither tame (like dogs), nor are they wholly wild, since they are in and out of the dwellings of humans gnawing at their food. They are neither too close to humans, nor are they too far away. So a menstruating woman is neither too close to the domestic habitation, nor is she too far away. It is in the dark that mice are able to eat the food of man with impunity, but when the sun is up, they must desist. So a menstruating woman may consume the seed of men during the menstrual period without dire consequences, but may not do so when that period is over. When the mice are through eating the white light, then the menstrual period is over: women are through with their lovers when their period is over. Men then cease to be wildcats and return to their own balanced nature. (See also the Commentary in "The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head.") The idea expressed here that the eye that Hare left on the ground is the moon has been confirmed in a source of which I had been ignorant. Meeker reports,

Many things are told of the mice eating the Rabbit's eye and the expedients by which he tried to regain possession of the lost member. One account makes him get the eye of another animal. The initiated know that the eye of the Rabbit is the moon, and that the figure we see on the face of the full moon is the reflection of the Rabbit in his own eye, as we see ourselves reflected in the eye of a friend if we look closely.8

Comparative Material: Among the Menominee we have a version in which Hare is the victim. This version is labeled as "Winnebago," but the word Pesheu is Menominee (cf., bizhiw(ag), the Anishinaabe term for the lynx). "Identified with [Wild Cat Mound] is the Indian story of Rabbit, who, meeting Wild Cat one day, made a derisive remark concerning his wrinkled face. Wild Cat, after considering this remark, felt deeply insulted and went to seek revenge. Rabbit was a lively fellow and running about made so many trails that Wild Cat became confused and Rabbit reached his hole in safety. But Rabbit was not satisfied with having outwitted his enemy. He started out again, singing a song as he went, and Wild Cat, who was waiting for him behind a bush, grabbed him, saying, 'You should have known enough to let well enough alone.' That was the end of Rabbit."9 It goes on to say, "Wild Cat Mound, a few miles north of Merrimac, a town on the bank of the Wisconsin River in Sauk County, is a most picturesque elevation because of its dome-shaped form and the circles of ground pine and cedar trees which dot its slopes and crest. The highway passes near it. This mound the Winnebago called Pesheu, a wild cat."10 As we see from Dorothy Brown's commentary directly above, the mound and even its name are considered Hočąk. However, this is not a story about the Hare, as the rabbit in the story is killed in the end, a fate incompatible with the mission of the greater Hare.

The wildcat episode has a fairly good parallel among the Navaho Coyote stories. One day, while walking in the forest, Coyote spotted Hare and began to chase him. Hare dove down a hole. So Coyote called down to Hare and said, "I know how to get you out, I'll go get some weeds and stuff them down the hole. Then I'll set them on fire. That will smoke you out." Hare said, "You'll never get me out that way. I like weeds, and before you can set them on fire, I will eat them up." Coyote said, "What if I get milkweed?" Hare replied, "I like to eat that too." "Well, then," said Coyote, "what if I get foxtail grass?" And Hare said, "I like to eat that too." "What about rabbit bush?" asked Coyote, but Hare insisted that he particularly liked that. "In that case," said Coyote, "I'll get some piñon pitch, I bet you won't like that." "You're right," said Hare, "that will kill me." So Coyote went off and prepared piñon pitch. This he stuck down into the hole and lit it on fire. "Come closer and blow on the fire a bit harder," demanded Hare. So Coyote leaned over and blew harder on the flames. "I'm almost dead," gasped Hare, "so come just a little closer and blow on the flames." Coyote was so close that he had to shut his eyes to blow on the fire. As he was doing this, Hare turned around and kicked the pitch with all his might. The flaming mass landed square in Coyote's face, and while Coyote was struggling with his burning face, Hare ran away laughing.11

The Gros Ventre version is almost exactly that of the Navaho. The first part is omitted here (click here for the first part of the story). Coyote rejoiced that he had thought of a plan for getting the hare. He hurried and brought all the gum he could carry and placed it at the door of Hare's house and set fire to it. In a short time the gum boiled like hot grease, and Hare cried, "Now I know I shall die! What shall I do?" Yet all the time he knew what he would do. But Coyote was glad Hare was afraid. After a while Hare called, "The fire is entering my house," and Coyote answered, "'Blow it out!" But Coyote drew nearer and blew with all his might to blow the flame into Hare's house. Hare cried, "You are so close you are blowing the fire on me and I will soon be burned." Coyote was so happy that he drew closer and blew harder, and drew still closer so that his face was very close to Hare's face. Then Hare suddenly threw the boiling gum into Coyote's face and escaped from his house. It took Coyote a long time to remove the gum from his face, and he felt very sorrowful. He said, "I am very, very stupid."12

Some of the themes of the mice and the hidden eye are found in this Gros Ventre trickster story. "Nix’aⁿt met a Bird that was sending its eyes into a tree. Then he cried, and begged the Bird, until at last it gave him the power. It told him, 'You must do this only when it is necessary.' Nix’aⁿt went off. He tried his new power, and his eyes successfully left him and returned to him. After a time they remained in a tree. He could not get them back. Then he cried. A Mouse came to him, and Nix’aⁿt asked it to lend him its eyes. The Mouse lent him its eyes, and Nix’aⁿt was able to find his own. Gut his own eyes had already shrivelled on the tree. He soaked them in water until they swelled. Then he put them back in his head."13

The use of disguise to commit incest is explored in another Gros Ventre myth. Nix’aⁿt told his wife to prepare for his death. He said that they could expect a visit from a one-eyed man called One-Eyed Owl, who wore a white clay patch over his right eye. She was to give him their two daughters in marriage. Shortly thereafter it seemed that he died, so they buried him on a tree. However, after four days he descended and made himself up to look like One-Eyed Owl. When he showed up in this guise his wife and two daughters were completely deceived. That night and for some time thereafter, he slept with his two daughters. In time his old appearance began to show through, and one of his daughters thought the man looked like her father, and told her mother of her suspicions. One night she looked in on him and saw that it was indeed Nix’aⁿt. She shouted, "Ah! is that how you die, Nix’aⁿt, to marry your daughters?" She grabbed her club, but by then he had run off.14

In the Kickapoo variant, Hare's opponent is a lynx, essentially the same as a wildcat. While Hare was walking along he chanced upon Lynx. Hare feared for his life, so he complemented Lynx: "You are truly a handsome man, I would have thought you would have been married by now. There are plenty of good women where I came from," he said. Lynx passed on by, and began to cross a log bridge over a creek. He looked down and saw someone else with a hairy face. This so frightened him that he took off running. Finally, he figured out that he was seeing his own image. "So, that rabbit was being ironic and insulting me," he said to himself. When next Lynx encountered Hare, the latter was scrambling up into a hollow tree with a couple of acorns in his hands. Lynx invited Hare outside for a chat, but he was too clever to fall for that ruse. So Lynx got some kindling material. He lit it on fire and pushed it into the hole. First one acorn exploded, and Hare said, "I've lost an eye!" Then another one exploded, then Hare yelled, "I've lost my other eye!" Then Hare jumped out kicking the fire so that it burned Lynx. Hare then made a clean getaway.15

The menstrual myth among the Omaha is the cadenza to their counterpart of Bear Visits His Grandfather Bear. In a version of this latter myth, the black bears are so powerful that they actually kill Hare, who has to be revived by his grandmother. There it is the blood of the black bear rather than the wildcat that Hare throws upon his grandmother. The Hočągara draw some connection between the menstruation and the grizzly bear in The Woman Who Fought the Bear. The Omaha make no mention of the wildcat episode, nor do they relate a story of how Hare changed into a one-eyed old man.16

The Oto have a version, rather remote, of the episode in which Hare removes his eye. In this story, Hare lives in the woods with his grandmother. One day at noon he ran off. As he walked through the woods, they seemed to whisper to him. This made him walk all the faster. Then he heard them say, "That rabbit is a fast runner," which made him very proud. He decided then to play a trick on his grandmother. He removed one of his eyes and hid it in a plum bush; then he visited his grandmother. He looked very rugged, and inasmuch as he presented himself as a chief, she showed him considerable deference. On another occasion he repeated the charade, and just before he left, the old woman gave the "chief" a dish of berries. However, Hare tarried far too long eating the berries and pretending to his grandmother that he was a visiting dignitary. By the time he got back to his eye in the plum bush, it had grown cold. Not only that, but it had turned pink, and when he put it back in his eye socket, it pained him. Although his grandmother's herbs took away his pain, the second eye joined the first in turning pink. Thus it is that white rabbits even to this day have pink eyes.17

In another Oto story, Hare is replaced by Mink, who enacts the initial part of the Hočąk story. "One winter night a heavy storm arose; the cold was severe, snow piled up in deep drifts, and the river froze solid. All the animals were cold and very hungry, except Mink, who had a snug warm home under the ice and plenty of fish for food. Mink was singing to himself when Bobcat heard him and came up to the hole in the ice. Bobcat was curious to know why Mink was so happy and singing. He asked, 'Little Mink, what are you singing about?' The saucy Mink, knowing that Bobcat could not get through the hole in the ice, answered: 'I am singing about you; just singing about you.' Bobcat was very curious, so he asked, 'What are you singing about me?' He was very proud of his sleek fine fur and liked to be flattered. Saucy little Mink started his song again: I am singing about your short bobtail, I am singing about your angry green eyes, I am singing about your long front legs, I am singing about your big flat paws. That made Bobcat very angry, and he fairly hissed: 'Ooooooh! I shall kill you for that!' And he went for the hole in the ice, but could not break through. Mink watched from beneath, laughing to himself, waiting until Bobcat should go away. Then he caught many fish and put them on top of the ice. But Bobcat was still watching from a distance, and he rushed to catch Mink, who dived through the hole and was safe. Mink called out from below: 'Do not kill me, Bobcat. This is my home here; if you are hungry, come here and I shall feed you fish, but do not kill me.' Bobcat ate the fish and left without saying a word. Mink knew that Bobcat had a grudge to pay for the song and that he might catch him some time, so he planned until he finally thought of a way to play a trick on Bobcat. He dug himself a hole on dry land - dug very deep, and made the other end open under water. He now had two holes. After working he went to sleep in his dry hole. Bobcat happened to come along that way and smelled Mink. He thought to himself: 'Oho! Now I have caught you, smart little Mink. I shall dig you out; then we shall see what kind of a song you will sing.' Bobcat dug and dug. Mink awoke when he heard the claws scratching and the dirt thrown up. He knew who was after him, but he only laughed to himself and commenced to sing again: Old Bobtail, you can not get me; Old Green Eyes, you can not get me; Old Long Legs, you can not get me; Old Big Paws, you can not get me. That made Bobcat angrier and angrier, and he dug faster and faster; but when he got close, little Mink slid under the water and swam away, still laughing at Bobtail."18

To the episode in which the mice gnaw the Hare's hidden eye, cf. the Ioway story about the Twins, in which they had had their eyes sealed with wax. In exchange for some grain, the rats and mice gnawed the wax off so that the Twins could see again.19

The episode in which Hare fools his grandmother in order to eat the feast himself has a good match in an Osage story. "Grasshopper had killed about fourteen; so he said to his grandmother, 'Let us cook these Turkeys; and invite all the chiefs.' Then he told his grandmother to go behind the tipi, while he stood in the door with a long stick to push the door with. Then he began to say, 'Hello, chief, take a seat.' Then he went in by himself, and, after eating all the Turkeys, he told the old woman to come and drink up the soup. He told her that the chiefs had eaten a very big dinner. Then the old woman said, 'I am very glad that they ate heartily'."20

The neighboring Anishinaabe tell a somewhat similar tale of their Hare figure, Manabozho. Manabozho lived with his grandmother, Noko. He was making preparations to go on the warpath, so his grandmother suggested to him that he ought to fast. In fact, she even showed him the best place to sit. This was just far enough away to be out of voice range. Manabozho was suspicious of Noko's motives. So he went out but a short distance, and she said, "Go farther out." Instead he came closer to the lodge, but made his voice sound distant. "Is this far enough?" he asked. She replied, "No, farther." Just the same, he came closer. There he stayed, watching the lodge. Then he saw an old bear come into the lodge and play the role of Noko's paramour. This angered Manabozho, so he took a small torch and snuck up on them. He set the bear's hind fur on fire, and the bear ran away into the night aflame. Then Manabozho ran back to where he had been fasting, and yelled, "Noko, is it time for me to return?" She said, "Yes, you can come back now."21

As part of their own Hare Cycle, the Gosiute have a very brief parallel. "Then Cottontail went on his way and came back toward the west. When he was returning he killed a Woodchuck by smothering it with smoke. The Woodchuck girls were making fun of Cottontail so he killed them."22

In the Norse Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson we have an interesting parallel to the story of the one-eyed Hare, who hides one of his eyes under a bush. "But under the second root [of Yggdrasil], which extends to the frost-giants, is the well of Mimer, wherein knowledge and wisdom are concealed. The owner of the well hight Mimer. He is full of wisdom, for he drinks from the well with the Gjallar-horn. Alfather once came there and asked for a drink from the well, but he did not get it before he left one of his eyes as a pledge. So it is said in the Vala's Prophecy:

Well know I, Óðinn, Where you hid your eye:
In the crystal-clear Well of Mimer.
Mead drinks Mimer Every morning
From Valfaðer's pledge. Know you yet or not?"23

The fire-in-the-water found in Mimir's Well is in many ways similar to the Hočąk Hąp ("Light and Life") which is the source not only of vitality but of wisdom.

The Wildcat myth bears some interesting parallels to a set of Indo-European myths studied by Georges Dumézil,24 a good exemplar of which is the Norse myth of The Binding of the Fenris Wolf.25 The Æsir try twice to bind the feet of the giant and dangerous Fenris Wolf. The third time they create Gleipnir, a bond made of non-entities. Assured that this bond will work where all others have failed, they must now find a way to coax the wolf into submitting to having it placed around his legs. So the god Týr steps forward and pledges to the wolf that there is no trickery involved in placing the bond around his legs — it is only designed as a demonstration of his prowess in the breaking of it. So to guarantee his pledge, he puts his right hand into the mouth of the Fenris Wolf, but when the wolf discovers that he is bound fast, he bites Týr's hand off. Nevertheless, the gods are able to cast the wolf into a pit where he is imprisoned to the end of the cosmic age. The bond is like Grandmother's mat in the Hočąk story, and the acorns — the Thunder seed identified with the eyes and testicles of Hare — are like the hand sacrificed by Týr. Both sacrifices are effected by the use of a lie designed to trap and neutralize a formidable enemy. Dumézil calls this the "Noble Lie" in the Indo-European context, but in the Hočąk matrix, nobility is not the point. Fenris is cast into a pit, like Wildcat, and outcast, in a way more radical than Grandmother, who has only a touch of Wildcat to her. Fenris represents the varg, the metaphorical wolf, the outcast from civil society who, like an actual wolf, can be killed on sight. Grandmother mediates between the extreme of the Norse varg or outlaw, and the model citizen: she is exiled within, rather than without. She is semi-wild, semi-domestic, like the mouse.

Concerning the sun and moon as the eyes of deities, Pettazzoni has collected a wide range of examples.

According to the Masai, Ngai sees with them at night, but in the daytime the sun is his eye. More commonly the daily and nightly vision are divided between the two great eyes of heaven, i.e., the two larger luminaries, the sun by day and the moon by night. For the Tlinkit on the north-west Pacific coast of North America, sun and moon are "the eyes of the sky," and the same idea is found in the Polynesian mythology, sun and moon being thought of as the eyes either of the sky (New Zealand) or of a supreme sky-god. The Samoyed sky-god Num has the sun and moon for eyes, the sun being his good and the moon his bad eye. Among the Batek (Semang of Pahang on the peninsula of Malacca), the sun is the right and the moon the left eye of the sky-god Keto. The idea is already found in ancient Egypt, where the old sky-god Horus has the sun and moon for eyes and Amun, god of the weather-sky, has the sun for his right, the moon for his left eye, while the wind is the breath issuing from his nostrils. In the Japanese cosmogonic myth of Izanangi and Izanami, who are the ancient cosmic pair, Father Sky and Mother Earth, the water with which Izanagi washes his left eye gives birth to Amaterasu the sun-goddess, and that with which he washes his right eye to Tsuki-Yomi, god of the moon, while that in which he washes his nose produces Susanowo, god of the storm-wind. The same motif is found again in the Chinese myth of P’anku, founded upon the idea that the elements and the constituent parts of the universe are the members or organs of a gigantic primaeval being, such as P’anku is, whose eyes become the sun and moon (left and right eye respectively). Such also is the Vedic Purusha, from whose eye the sun is born, from his mind the moon, from his breath the wind (Vayu), and so on (Ṛg-Veda x, 90, I3), also Brahman in the Atharva-Veda (v, 10, 7, 33) and Prajāpati in the Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa (vii, 1, 2, 7), whose eyes are the sun and moon. In Orphism also we find the idea of the sun and moon being the eyes of Zeus, that is of the universe, of which the sky is the head.26

Links: Hare, Earth, Wildcats (Bobcats), Moon, Mice, The Sons of Earthmaker.

Links within the Hare Cycle: §10. Hare Gets Swallowed, §12. Hare and the Dangerous Frog.

Stories: featuring Hare as a character: The Hare Cycle, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Necessity for Death, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Messengers of Hare, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Kills Flint, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, The Hill that Devoured Men and Animals, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Grandmother's Gifts, Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Red Man, Maize Origin Myth, Hare Steals the Fish, The Animal who would Eat Men, The Gift of Shooting, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Petition to Earthmaker; featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Grandmother's Gifts, Owl Goes Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Necessity for Death, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Steals the Fish, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Kills Flint, The Gift of Shooting, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?); in which wildcats (bobcats) are characters: The Choke Cherry Wild Cat, The Chief of the Heroka, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Silver Mound Cave, Old Man and Wears White Feather; mentioning mice: The War among the Animals, Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Fable of the Mouse, Waruǧápara, Ocean Duck, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket; mentioning basswood: The Children of the Sun, Redhorn's Father, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 3), The Big Stone, The Fox-Hočąk War, Hare Burns His Buttocks, The King Bird, Turtle's Warparty, The Birth of the Twins, The Messengers of Hare, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store; dealing with menstrual pollution: The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Roaster, The Red Man, Bluehorn's Nephews; 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, Grandfather's Two Families, Berdache Origin Myth (v. 1), Turtle and the Giant.

Themes: someone makes an insulting remark to an animal, then pretends he said something else that sounds similar: Trickster and the Mothers, Holy One and His Brother; finding refuge in a hole in the ground: White Fisher, Little Fox and the Ghost, The Boy and the Jack Rabbit, Redhorn's Sons; someone tricks an enemy into a hole in order to kill and eat him: Trickster and the Mothers; someone stuffs dry grass down the opening of a hole in which a person is trapped, then lights it on fire: Trickster and the Mothers; a person endows an inanimate object with the power of speech and orders it to speak for him/her while he/she escapes: Little Human Head (a doll), Ocean Duck (an arrow), cf. Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear (piles of dung); a wildcat who frightened someone later dies at his hands: The Choke Cherry Wildcat; someone tries to throw an adversary off his track by making countless tracks leading everywhere: Crane and His Brothers, The Green Man; rodents gnaw on parts of people's bodies: Trickster Loses Most of His Penis, Ocean Duck; an organ of the body is removed and left somewhere (for safekeeping): Ocean Duck (heart), The Stone Heart (heart); The Raccoon Coat (heart), The Green Man (heart); intimate contact with women during their menses: The Roaster, Young Man Gambles Often; incest: The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Snowshoe Strings.

Songs. Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 2), Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 3), Buffalo Dance Songs, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Returning, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Starting Out, Clan Song, Bear Clan, Song of the Youngest, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, The Four Songs of Hojanoka, Clan Songs—Deer Clan, Clan Songs—Wolf Clan, Clan Songs—Wonáǧire Wąkšik Clan, The Crawfish's Song, Duck Song, Farewell Songs, The Four Services Songs, Grandfather Sparrow's Rain Songs, Grizzly Bear Songs, Hare's Song to Grasshopper, Hare's Song to the Wągepanįgera, Hare's Song to Wildcat, Hawk's Song, Heroka Songs, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Little Fox's Death Song, Little Fox's Death Song (for the Warpath), Little Fox's Tail Song, Love Song I (female), Love Song II (female), Love Song III (female), The Mouse Song, Nightspirit Songs, The Quail's Song, Redman's Song, Slow Song of the Heroka, Soldier Dance Songs, Song for Calling the Buffalo, Song from the Water, Song from the Water (King Bird), The Song of Bluehorn's Sister, Hočąk Text — The Song of Sun Caught in a Net, The Song of the Boy Transformed into a Robin, Song of the Frog to Hare, Song of the Thunder Nestlings, The Song of Trickster's Baby, Song to Earthmaker, The Song to the Elephant, The Sun's Song to Hare, Three Warrior Songs, Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 1), Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 2), Turtle's Four Death Dance Songs, Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 1), Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 2), Twins, Ghost's Song (The Two Brothers), Twins, the Songs of Ghost and Flesh, Twins, Song of the Father-in-Law, Victory Song, Wailing Song, Warrior Song about Mąčosepka, What a Turtle Sang in His Sleep, Wolf-Teasing Song of the Deer Spirits. Songs in the McKern collection: Waking Songs (27, 55, 56, 57, 58) War Song: The Black Grizzly (312), War Song: Dream Song (312), War Song: White Cloud (313), James’ Horse (313), Little Priest Songs (309), Little Priest's Song (316), Chipmunk Game Song (73), Patriotic Songs from World War I (105, 106, 175), Grave Site Song: "Coming Down the Path" (45), Songs of the Stick Ceremony (53).


1 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 104-106. Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) §5, pp. 78-80. Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3851 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago IV, #1: 77-91.

2 Radin, Winnebago IV, #1: 77 verso.

3 Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #535: 52.

4 Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, #55: 56.

5 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 56.

6 Radin, Winnebago IV, #1: 85 verso.

7 Chet M. McCord and James E. Cardoza, 'Bobcat and Lynx', chapter 39 of Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Economics, ed. Joseph A. Chapman and George A. Feldhamer (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1982) 731.

8 Louis L. Meeker, “Siouan Mythological Tales,” Journal of American Folklore, 14 (1901): 161-164.

9 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Indian Legends of Historic and Scenic Wisconsin, Wisconsin Folklore Booklets (Madison: 194-) 64.

10 D. M. Brown, Indian Legends of Historic and Scenic Wisconsin, 64.

11 Navajo Coyote Tales, collected by William Morgan, adapted in English by Hildegard Thompson (Santa Fe: Ancient City Press, 1988) 3-8. "Anything but Piñon Pitch," in Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz (edd.), American Indian Trickster Tales (New York: Penguin-Putnam, Inc., 1998) 48-49.

12 Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest, compiled and edited by Katharine Berry Judson (1912).

13 "11. Nix’aⁿt Loses His Eyes," in Alfred Louis Kroeber, Gros Ventre Myths and Tales, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History (New York: Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History, 1907) Volume 1, Part 3, p. 70.

14 "15c. With his Daughters," in Kroeber, Gros Ventre Myths and Tales, 73-74.

15 Kickapoo Tales, collected by William Jones, trs. by Truman Michelson. Publications of the American Ethnological Society (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1915) IX: 22-23.

16 Roger Welsch, Omaha Tribal Myths and Trickster Tales (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1981) 35-36.

17 Bernice G. Anderson, Indian Sleep Man Tales: Authentic Legends of the Otoe Tribe (Caldwell, Idaho: the Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1940) 23-26.

18 Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian (Norwood: The Plimpton Press, 1930) 19: 176-177.

19 Robert Small (Otoe, Wolf Clan) and Julia Small (Otoe), "Dore and Wahredua," Alanson Skinner, "Traditions of the Iowa Indians," The Journal of American Folklore, 38, #150 (October-December, 1925): 427-506 [439-440].

20 "2. The Grasshopper and the Dancing Turkeys," in George A. Dorsey, "Traditions of the Osage," Field Columbian Musem, Anthropological Series, 7, #1 (Feb., 1904): 10.

21 "Manabozho, or the Great Incarnation of the North," in Henry R. Schoolcraft, Schoolcraft's Indian Legends, ed. Mentor L. Williams (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1991 [1956]) 71.

22 Commodore, "Cottontail Shoots the Sun," in Anne M. Smith, Shoshone Tales (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1993 [1939]) 22.

23 Gylfaginning 7. Georges Dumézil, "Le Borgne and Le Manchot: The State of the Problem," in Gerald James Larson, C. Scott Littleton, and Jaan Puhvel (edd.), Myth in Indo-European Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974) 17-28; Georges Dumézil, Mythe et épopée (Paris: 1968) 3:267-281.

24 Georges Dumézil, Gods of the Ancient Northmen, ed. and trs. by Einar Haugen (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973) 42-53.

25 Gylfaginning 25, 34.

26 Raffaele Pettazzoni, "On the Attributes of God," Numen, 2, ##1-2 (Jan.-May, 1950): 1-27 [9].