Little Children Spirits (Xonunįgᵋra)

by Richard L. Dieterle

The Little Children Spirits are a divine race very similar to the Heroka. They can be of lilliputian proportions and are said "to turn themselves into babies." When Morning Star descended to earth, he befriended one of these spirits. Visiting his friend's lodge, he found a baby who told him, "I am in the likeness of a little one (wa'unáñgere žesgésge xonúniñgìžą)." This was his friend. Morning Star gave his friend the four unerring arrows that had been given to him by four elders of the Heroka.1 As a result, the Little Children Spirits possess all the powers of the Heroka and can therefore hit anything at which they aim an arrow. They are governed by the youngest son of the Chief of the Heroka,2 who turns out to be one and the same as Redhorn's son.3 This younger Redhorn is also called Heroka.

The younger Redhorn/Heroka went to live in the village of the Little Children Spirits and it was there that he got married. When he met his wife, she had the form of an old woman, but when he proved his devotion to her by not giving up his suit, she transformed herself into someone young and beautiful. Age-shifting appears to be one of the powers of the Little Children Spirits. However, the Little Children Spirits had eaten all her previous suitors, having had in this task the help of their four "dogs" who dwelt at the four corners of the world. Heroka's mother-in-law sent him on a Bellerophonic mission to kill one of these "dogs" at a time on the supposition that they would in fact kill him instead. Nevertheless, each time Heroka was victorious. So the Little Children Spirits challenged him to wegodiwa, a game in which the Heroka and their allies had to sit on a cliff and hold on through four attempts to blow them off to their deaths. The wind was supplied by the mother-in-law's brothers, who would have been successful, were it not for the tenacity of Turtle who held the Heroka and their friends in position with his claws. The victorious Heroka dispatched the lot of them, except for Heroka's wife. In time, however, the Chief of the Heroka (Redhorn) brought all the Little Children Spirits back to life. Thus, they say, Redhorn is more powerful than the Little Children Spirits, but they in turn are a little more powerful than the Heroka.4

The Little Children Spirits live inside hills and are known to give special blessings to humans who seek them out. We have a very recent account of them from the son of someone who had been blessed by them:

There was a hill near our place called the Place Where They Keep Weapons. This hill was very high and it looked steep and rocky. It must have been a very holy place. There my father had lived. Within this hill lived the spirits that we call "Those who Cry like Babies." These spirits were supposed to have arrows and bows. There were supposed to be twenty of them in this hill. My father had control of these spirits. If he (my father) blessed a man he would do as follows: he would take his bow and arrows and holding them in both of his hands, take the man around the hill and then into the lodge (i.e., into the hill). There he and the man he wished to bless let their breath pass into the middle of the lodge. There stood a stone pillar and upon this stone pillar, at about an arm's length, he drew the pictures of different animals. My father had only one arrow, but that arrow was a holy one. Then my father danced around the stone pillar and sang some songs, and when he was finished he began to breathe upon the stone pillar; and, walking around it, he shot it. When he looked at it, he saw that the stone had turned into a deer with large horns. This deer fell dead at his feet. He repeated this a number of times and the little spirits who were following him breathed with him and said, 'Hocąk, whenever you wish to kill a deer with one horn, do as you have done here. Then offer tobacco to us and you will be able to obtain whatever you wish'."5

The magical breathing pattern, Ahahe ahahe, is also known as the "Heroka breathings."

Links: Heroka, Sons of Redhorn, Redhorn, Redman, Morning Star, Spirits, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.

Stories: featuring the Little Children Spirits as characters: Morning Star and His Friend, The Chief of the Heroka, Redhorn's Sons; featuring the Heroka as characters: The Chief of the Heroka, The Red Man, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Little Human Head, Morning Star and His Friend, The Claw Shooter, Redhorn's Sons, The Origins of the Milky Way; featuring lillliputian people: The Chief of the Heroka, Morning Star and His Friend, Iron Staff and His Companions, Little Brother Snares the Sun, The Red Man; featuring Morning Star as a character: Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head, Bladder and His Brothers, Grandfather's Two Families; mentioning Redhorn: The Redhorn Cycle, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Redhorn's Father, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Morning Star and His Friend, The Spirit of Gambling, The Green Man, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, cp. The Cosmic Ages of the Hocągara; featuring the sons of Redhorn as characters: The Redhorn Cycle, Redhorn's Sons, The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, Redhorn's Father.

Themes: someone strikes a post or pillar with a sharp instrument and a game animal falls out dead: The Bungling Host, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation.


1 The Giant or The Morning Star, by John Harrison, translated by Oliver LaMere, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago III, #11a, Story 8: 92-117 [98-99].

2 Paul Radin, "The Chief of the Heroka," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #33, 65-66.

3 Paul Radin, "Redhorn's Sons," Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3860 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1908-1913) Winnebago IV, #7, Story 7a.

4 Radin, "The Chief of the Heroka."

5 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 245-246.