The Hill that Devoured Men and Animals

In the early days there was a great hill that used to open and shot like a pair of jaws and devour men and animals. The hill would open in the middle and the sides would fall back till they lay flat upon the ground, and all the land looked like good smooth prairie. Then herds of elk and deer and buffalo would come to graze, and when the place was full the jaws of the hill would close, and, crack! all the animals would be crushed and killed. This hill killed so much game that the Earth-Maker feared that all the people would starve. So he sent his son, Wash-ching-geka [Wašjįgega], to destroy the hill. When the Little Hare came there the hill opened and all the ground was smooth; and Wash-ching-geka made himself like a small stone and lay quite still. Then the elk and deer and buffalo came to graze, but as soon as the mouth began to close on them, see! Wash-ching-geka quickly changed himself into a great stone, and so, when the hill shut on him, hoo! the jaws were broken all to pieces. The hill lay shattered and never could devour men or animals any more."1

Commentary. This story is very similar to "Hare Gets Swallowed," although it is different enough to warrant an independent status. The stories of Hare are usually allegories about the excessive behavior of classes of people (such as clans) and how Hare curbed these excesses. It would be an interesting conjecture to think that the hill represents the great mounds of the Mississippian civilization (Cahokia, Aztlan). These often had human sacrifices interred at their summits. Little stones (arrows, knives, axes) were used to kill them, so Hare kills the hill itself with a stone that fits its proportions. However, this can only remain an interesting possibility as a meaning to this story.

Comparative Material. This parallel, which is blended with the story of the hero who is swallowed by the monster, comes from the related Osage people. "There was once a village by a hill. The hill was eating up everything all the buffalo and deer and horses. Finally there was a boy in the village, who said, 'I will kill that hill.' His mother said, 'You leave him alone, for he eats buffalo and deer, as well as men.' But the boy said, 'I will kill him anyhow.' He got his knife and sharpened it. He went out to the hill, and said to it, 'Now eat me; you have eaten lots of men.' The hill said, 'What! Will a boy like vou say that to me! I will eat you, sure enough!' So the hill ate the boy. As soon as the boy was inside of the hill he cut the hill's heart, and the hill wondered how such a boy could make him sick; he thought he must be mad. After a while, the hill died. The boy came out, and 'I have killed — sure said, him, enough.' So — everything that was inside of the hill came out buffalo, deer, turkeys — and all went into the woods. The chief of the village said he must have a council and do something for the boy, in return for what he had done for the people. So they held a council meeting, and they decided to let the boy have the chief's daughter. He invited all the chiefs to come and take dinner with him."2

Links: Hare.

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, 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.

Themes: being swallowed whole: Hare Gets Swallowed, The Great Fish, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Bungling Host, The Dipper.


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) 248.

2 "34. The Boy who Killed the Hill," in George A. Dorsey, "Traditions of the Osage," Field Columbian Musem, Anthropological Series, 7, #1 (Feb., 1904): 42.