Hare Visits the Blind Men
"Wash-ching-geka [Wašjįgega] lived with his grandmother while doing his works. His grandmother was the earth, and she was very wise. She cooked for the Little Hare and nourished him and took care of him. Now among the other evil things then in the world were eight blind men who lived in a wood; they went about with the help of long cords and spread webs among the trees, in which they caught people and killed them. One day when the blind men were cooking their dinner of bear's meat, Wash-ching-geka went in among them. There was a piece of meat for each. Now the men could not see Wash-ching-geka, and he stepped softly to the pot and took out one portion of meat. When the blind men began to eat they quarrelled with one another over the missing portion, because each one thought another had taken his meat. As they were quarrelling, Wash-ching-geka slapped one of them, and then that one slapped his neighbor, and he slapped the next, and so they all fell to fighting. Meanwhile, Wash-ching-geka ran home to his wise grandmother and took counsel with her. Next day he went again to the blind men, and while they were cooking he took out the meat and put poison on it. So the blind men ate of the poisoned meat and were killed. They would never again spread webs among the trees to destroy the people. And now when they were dead, behold Wash-ching-geka saw that really they were spiders."1
Commentary. "eight blind men" — a spider has eight legs, and in another story about spiders, they are said to have eight eyes. So the selection of eight as their number may reflect the eight-fold nature intrinsic to spiders. Using cords to connect one locale to another is a technique to allow blind people to go from their lodge to a source of water, etc. So when a web is transposed into a human context it suggests to the audience that those who use such guidelines must be blind. It is also true that spiders hardly need eyes to hunt, as the kinesthetic sensation is the guide to the situation of their prey.
"bear's meat" — the Thunderbirds call bears "crickets" (q.v.). Crickets therefore are the bears among insects, so it should be possible to call crickets "bears." So when spiders are transposed into the more macro world of the human scale, their insect food is similarly transposed.
"poisoned" — many spiders kill by use of poison, so there is an element justice in applying such a method for killing spiders themselves. The irony, however, is that having killed their victims with poison, they proceed to eat them poison and all. So all such spider food is poisonous.
Comparative Material. ...
Links: Hare, Earth, Spiders.
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, Hare Kills Wildcat, 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 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; mentioning spiders: The Spider's Eyes, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), Descent of the Drum (v. 1), Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 1), East Shakes the Messenger; 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, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Kills Wildcat, 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 (?); mentioning blind people: A Raccoon Tricks Four Blind Men, Raccoon and the Blind Men, The Raccoon Coat, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Roaster, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Owl Goes Hunting; mentioning poisons: The Creation of Evil, The Island Weight Songs, The Seer, The Shaggy Man, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 3), Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), Ocean Duck, The Diving Contest, A Wife for Knowledge, Great Walker's Medicine (antidote).
Themes: a spirit tricks men into fighting one another: A Raccoon Tricks Four Blind Men, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Raccoon and the Blind Men.
1 Natalie Curtis Burlin, The Indians' Book: an Offering by the American Indians of Indian Lore, Musical and Narrative, to Form a Record of the Songs and Legends of Their Race (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1907) 247.