The Markings on the Moon

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


Version 1. There were once two young men who lived in the same village. One was the chief's son, and people called him "Shell Spitter"; the other lived with his grandmother and was named "Auk." Every time the chief's son spat, a shell came out of his mouth. When this happened, people would struggle for the shells, but Auk was the least of them in prowess, and always came away empty handed. One day Shell Spitter went courting in a neighboring village where he met two beautiful young women. He did not at first take them back with him, but left them instructions to follow him four days later. They were to go to the river's edge and they would see on the opposite bank a young man fishing, and they were to call his name and he would ferry them across. His name was "Auk." When the appointed time came, the sisters went to the river bank and hailed the man across the way, yelling, "Auk!" But he did not respond, so they tried another name that had been given them, and cried out, "Fish Skinner!" Yet he still did not respond. Finally the sisters thought it was their betrothed himself that waited there, so they called out, "Shell Spitter!" When the Auk heard himself addressed by that name, he took the shells from his necklace and put them in his mouth. When he reached the other side and the sisters asked him if he were the Shell Spitter, he convinced them by spitting out the shells. So Auk lived quite contented with the sisters as his wives.

  The painting at left shows four varieties of auklets, from left to right: Ancient Murrelet (male and female), Least Auklet, Crested Auklet, and the Rhinoceros Auklet.1

One night he went out to see if he could capture some of the shells that the chief's son was spitting out, and despite stern warnings that they stay behind, the two sisters secretly trailed him. They were amused to discover that he could not keep a single shell: every shell that he got hold of, was wrestled from him by the other men. Later that night, the girls put rotten logs in their bed places, and snuck off to join Shell Spitter. For four nights thereafter, Auk showed up before the lodge of Shell Spitter and demanded the return of the youngest sister as his wife, but Shell Splitter kept both women for himself. That night Auk came back with a knife and beheaded all three of them. He put one head in his belt and the other two he held in his hands. He ran back to his grandmother's and told her that he was going to flee to the moon. By the time the victim's relatives arrived, the grandmother had also turned into a bird and escaped by flying through the hole at the top of the lodge.

Then Shell Spitter's brother-in-law showed up and it was none other than Trickster (Wakjąkaga). Trickster began to sing at the moon:

Come down,
Come down.

Auk descended a bit towards earth. Trickster sang again,

Don't anyone shoot him,
but let's burn him up!
Don't anyone shoot him,
but let's burn him up!

Auk descended almost within Trickster's grasp, but as he was about to be captured, Auk squirted bird excrement so hard into Trickster's face that it knocked him over backwards. As the Auk flew away, not one of the shower of arrows touched him, and he assumed the place that he holds even to this day on the face of the moon, with two heads in his hands and one in his belt. Because the curlew [inset] is his grandmother, this bird always looks up at the moon and gains for itself the sobriqué, "Moon Looker."2


Version 2

told by Reuben David St. Cyr

translation based on the interlinear of Albert S. Gatschet


Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


"Once there was a round lodge in which lived a man and his wife. Two daughters lived with them, and the man always went hunting every day. In time the girls became older and were in the habit of fasting daily. Once the younger one said, "I dreamt of Shell Spitter (Wáxoxge-hišóga)," she said. The other one said that she too dreamed of him. They immediately made moccasins and traveled somewhere. As they were running on to the village they came to a great body of water, and they sat down after that, and looked around, and sitting there in the midst of the lake was someone going about in a boat. There he was, and it was Šią́gega. "Let's hail him," they said, so they did so, but it seemed that he did not hear them, and he pretended that he did not hear them. Whereupon they said, "Surely he does not hear us. Let us instead call Shell Spitter by name," they said. "Shell Spitter, come after us so that we can cross." He came. He had a few shells as ear ornaments, and broke them off and put them in his mouth. He came and they got into the dugout. Pretty soon afterwards he spat, and when he spit he spat shells. The girls wrestled with each other to get them. When they landed, he took them to his grandmother's house.

The girls sat down there. In the evening somebody came running and peeped into the lodge and said, "Šiągénigra, Shell Spitter, is getting ready to spit, you should come to pound in a mortar." But they did not answer him. A crier came again and said, "When he did not come, they said, 'Shell Spitter, they want you to spit,' they say instead," he said. Again a messenger came and said, "Shell Spitter, they want you to spit, they are saying." "Ho! (All right)," he said.

He started out and the lodge was full of people they say. After he left, the girls snuck out and went there too. They snuck up to the lodge and peeped in unseen, and there their husband were sitting, pounding away in the mortar. He was sitting there all white. "It must be Shell Spitter," the girls said. Not long afterwards, he began spitting, and he spat out lots of shells, and the people there rushed about grabbing them. The husband of the girls rushed about too, but he could obtain for them but one shell. Then he returned home. Two pieces of rotten wood the girls took back with them and put in their respective beds. Then the two of them went back. Shell Spitter spit something more, but after he finished, the people went home.

The girls entered the tent, and where Shell Spitter lay, they went and laid down. When Šiągega got home, he lay between the two rotten logs which were infested with ants. The ants bit him, pinching him as he lay there; and he became infuriated and said, "You're pinching me!" Then he elbowed one of the logs. They bit him some more. Then he threw off the covers, and there were two rotten logs. He was furious. Immediately he got up and as he wept he got out his knife and began to sharpen it. At dawn he stuck his knife in his belt and went to the chief's house to avenge himself. When he got to the chief's lodge there were his two wives with Shell Spitter lying between them. He cut open the necks of all three of them, put the heads in his belt, and went into hiding.

At dawn the chief said, "Try to wake yourself up," but no one stirred. He went to wake them up, but all three lay there in their blood. When it became known, everyone took a hand in hunting him. They found him, but they grabbed at him in vain as he went skyward. They all said, "Go get Turtle." When Turtle arrived, he began tossing, but Šiągega now appeared very small up above, so they said, "He will get him down." He began to come nearer and nearer, and when he came just above the lodge, they all tried to shoot him with arrows, but Turtle forbid them. Pretty soon he arrived within arm reach, Turtle tried in vain to get a grip on his leg, but he defecated on Turtle's face. After doing that he returned skyward. To his grandmother he said, they say, "This moon I am giving back," he said. Then they tried to shoot him, but in vain. Then he disappeared above. That is why we now see a person in the moon. They say that it is Šiągega.3


Commentary. In version 2, the name Šiąge means "berdache," although today it has insulting connotations. The name Šiągenigra means "the Little Berdache." The berdache is someone who has been blessed by the Moon, a blessing which entails that he assume the role of a woman completely.

The auk, of course, is not native to the Wazija — it is found very far north in arctic and sub-arctic regions. Nevertheless, the Hočągara were not only well traveled, but very knowledgeable of many things far distant from their own land.

One "code" of this myth can be understood in the astronomical terms in which it is presented. The auk is associated with the body of the moon, so we can expect him to play a lunar role. The auk has been selected for this role because it has the colors of the moon: black, white, and gray. Trickster, who wants Auk to come down so that he can be burned up, corresponds to the sun. As the moon gradually comes into conjunction with the sun, it comes physically closer to it in the sky, until finally the moon seems to disappear as if it had fallen into the fire of the sun and been burned up. However, it reëmerges, showing that it has escaped the clutches of the sun. Nevertheless, as it gets closer and closer to the sun every night of its waning cycle, it loses more and more of its white light, until finally, when it is closest of all to the sun, it is as if all its white light has been squeezed from it. In the story, this is expressed by Auk squirting guano in the face of Trickster (the sun), then making good his escape. Not a single arrow hits Auk in his flight away from the Trickster (the sun). The arrows that never hit their mark seem to correspond to the shells that Auk is never able to capture. The whole presents a riddle: What small, shiny, white objects seem to fly through the air after dark, but are never captured by the moon? This has one obvious answer: the stars of the firmament. They are like white shells that arise as from the ocean that rings the world (the source of literal shells), and so seem to be associated with water, represented here as spittle. These "shells" begin to appear and move only with the onset of darkness. What seems to spit them out — Shell Spitter — is the firmament, the night sky. When the moon seems to collide with a star, the star soon reappears on the other side of the moon, making it look as if it had passed through it. The story represents the process allegorically: Auk is never able to capture a single such shell — they always slip through his grasp. In the other image, the "arrows" which are also stars, equally fail to hit Auk, but always miss him.

Who are the two women? Shell Spitter, identical with the firmament, marries them, which is to say that they cohabit. We are told that Trickster, here playing the role of Sun, is Shell Spitter's brother-in-law. This makes it likely that the two sisters who later become Shell Spitter's wives, are Trickster's sisters. When Shell Spitter goes to their village to arrange the marriage, they do not follow him directly. Here they are with Trickster, that is with the sun. So when they are with the sun, they are not with the firmament. This condition describes exactly the phenomenon of conjunction as it applies to what we now recognize as the inner planets. This would make the two sisters the morning and evening stars, who, when they are with the sun, do not appear in the night sky. However, when they leave the sun's village, they both reappear together. When Auk, that is the moon, is near the ocean surrounding the earth, here described as a river (like the Greek Okeanos), he too is in conjunction with the sun and is no longer evident in the firmament (Shell Spitter's village). Being the luna silens he is dark, and because he is dark, he cannot be discriminated from the dark night (Shell Spitter). To convince them that he is Shell Spitter (the firmament), he spits shells. However, unlike Shell Spitter, the shells do not originate in his own body — he must swallow them. So when the moon moves over a star ("shell") it engulfs it; but as the moon passes over the star, it "spits" it back out. These "shells" are from his "necklace," i. e., the stars surrounding him. This process is like skinning fish, whose shiny scales are like the shells. Hence, another name for Auk is "Fish Skinner." Once they are convinced of Auk's identity, they follow him back to his village (the firmament's place). This allegorically describes the process of the morning and evening stars following the moon when they return to the firmament after conjunction with the sun.

The process of liberation from solar conjunction is then recast in new imagery. Starting with conjunction, the morning star, evening star, and moon all rest in the same place next to the fire (sun) in their own lodge, and not in the lodge of the firmament. There they sleep as people sleep by the fire in the darkness, invisible to anyone outside. When the moon is in this same state of conjunction, it too lies by the fire place and therefore cohabits, however briefly, with the two stars who are lying by the same fire. The story goes on to homologize the two (stellar) sisters to two rotten logs which they leave behind them (therefore as counterparts). The tree analogy is very interesting. When the two stars are in the firmament and no longer in conjunction with the sun, they are like growing trees. They start (seemingly) below the earth like seeds, and very slowly begin to emerge above ground. As they leave the sun, they grow higher and higher in the sky, until at opposition they are like a tree that has reached its highest growth. After this apogee, they fall into decline, returning to the earth (and water) like a fallen tree. They disappear below the ocean and are conjoined with the sun in the Other World, in a state akin to death. When organic matter is conjoined both with wetness and solar heat, the result is rotting. So when the stars are conjoined with both ocean and sun they become, therefore, like rotting logs. When they rise again into the firmament, they leave this condition behind them, a relation represented in the myth in a literal form. Once having left the rotten behind, they abide with the firmament.

In the climactic scene, Auk leaves his fire place (solar conjunction) and for four nights demands the youngest of the sisters as his wife. The first born sister every night is the evening star — only later in the night does the morning star rise. Therefore, the morning star is the younger sister. When the moon leaves its lodge fire (sun) for the first few days, it is very close to the sun in the morning sky. Therefore, it is also very close to the morning star. A similar pattern does not consistently develop for the evening star. This is why Auk asks for the younger sister as his wife, which is a more modest request since elder sisters are accounted the greater. Nevertheless, Shell Spitter is greedy and keeps them both, although we soon learn that greed is the precursor to downfall when Auk takes all their heads. What this means is that the moon has gained control over the souls of all three, since anyone who takes an enemy's head or scalp gains control over his soul,as we see in rituals in which veterans offer the souls they have thus taken as guides to the dead who are departing to Spiritland. This shows the moon to be the most powerful, even more than the two brightest stars and the firmament as a whole, because its light is the greatest of all nocturnal bodies. Yet it has this control for only about half its time. For the other half, the moon becomes weaker until finally nothing can be seen of it. Thus, after Auk takes the heads and controls his opponents, he returns to his lodge fire (solar conjunction) and then disappears. However, his grandmother leaves the lodge fire through the smoke hole, another representation of the renewal of the cycle. Audubon, in the picture of the curlew shown above, captures for us the essence of its lunar associations: its beak with its mouth open for song, is an image of the crescent moon that escapes from the fire place of the sun. The moon with the auk visible on its face is her descendant, her grandson in the story. It is only her offspring, the full moon with the auk's image on it that is truly the "Sun of Night" (Hąbewira). Just as the sun defines east and west, so the full moon is a map showing the morning star on one side and the evening star on the other, with the firmament tucked in its belt, inasmuch as the firmament surrounding the moon is on its belt (another image of the necklace above).


Comparative Material. The closely related Oto have a very similar story. In their version Shell Spitter is replaced by an evil chief who takes the single wife of the hero, Running Antelope. When the young man demands his wife back, the chief chases after him, firing poison arrows as he goes. The hero comes to the bank of a lake, and prays for help from the Waterspirits. When he jumps into the lake, the Waterspirits shoot him to the moon atop a great geyser. He is the man in the moon. The chief later saw the image of the young man in the water, and thinking it real, plunged in only to be drowned by the Waterspirits.4

The Gros Ventres have a good parallel in which the protagonist, the false groom, ends up going not to a celestial world, but to a subterranean refuge. There were two girls, sisters. The older sister said, "We will go to look for Shell-Spitter." There was a man who was poor and who lived alone with his old mother. He was the Loon and his mother was Badger-Woman. He heard that two girls were looking for Shell-Spitter. He went to the children of the camp, and took their shells away from them. The girls arrived, and asked for Shell-Spitter's tent. It was shown them, and they went to it. There stood the Loon. "What are you girls looking for?" he said. "We are looking for Shell-Spitter." "I am he." "Let us see you spit shells." He had filled his mouth with shells, and now spit them out. The two girls stooped, and hastily picked them up, each trying to snatch them before the other. Then he took them to his tent. His tent was old and poor. His mother was gray-headed. He said to them, "I have another tent. It is fine and large. I have brought you here because there is more room to sleep." The girls went inside. Soon some one called to the Loon, "Come over! they are making the sun-dance!" "Oh!" he said. "Now I have to sit in the middle again, and give away presents. I am tired of it. For once they ought to get some one else. I am to sit on the chief's bed in the middle of the lodge." He told his mother, "Do not let these women go out." Then he went out, and the old woman guarded the door. When she was asleep, one of the girls said, "I will go out to look." She stepped over the old woman, and went to the dance-lodge. Looking in, she saw the people dancing on the Loon's rump. On the bed in the middle sat a fine man. Whenever he spit, he spit shells. The ground all around him was covered with them. Then the girl went back, and called to her sister, "Come out! They are dancing on this man; but the one who spits shells sits in the middle of the lodge." Then they both went to the lodge. They went inside and sat down behind Shell-Spitter. Then the man on the ground, on whom the people were dancing, saw them. He jumped up. He killed Shell-Spitter, and ran out. He said to his mother, "I told you to watch, and not to let those women out." Then he told her, "Dig a hole quickly!" She quickly dug a hole inside the tent. He entered it, and then she followed him. The people came, but could do nothing. When they stopped trying to shoot, Badger-Woman came out of the hole, singing in ridicule of Shell-Spitter's death. Before the people could reach her she dropped into the hole again. She did this repeatedly.5

The rotten log motif appears in a Fox myth. Turtle insulted a man named "Wisaka," who turned himself into a beautiful woman and seduced Turtle. Turtle mounted "her" so many times that he finally fell into exhaustion. Wisaka then went out and got a rotten log full of ants and placed it where he had lain. Turtle woke up hugging the log, but Wisaka had by then absconded with Turtle's warbundle.6

This Ottawa myth, quoted in full from Juliette Kinzie's Wau Bun, is striking similar to the Hočąk story except for the very end. There was a young man named Shee-shee-banze (the Little Duck) paddling his canoe along the shore of the lake. Two girls came down to the edge of the water, and, seeing him, the elder said to the younger, “Let us call to him to take us a sail.” It must be remarked that in all Indian stories where two or more sisters are the dramatis personae, the elder is invariably represented as silly, ridiculous, and disgusting–the younger, as wise and beautiful. In the present case the younger remonstrated. “Oh, no,” said she, “let us not do such a thing. What will he think of us?” But the other persevered, and called to him, “Ho! come and take us into your canoe.” The young man obeyed, and, approaching the shore, he took them with him into the canoe. “Who are you?” asked the elder sister. “I am Way-gee-mar-kin,” replied he, “the great chief.” This Way-gee-mar-kin was something of a fairy, for when surrounded by his followers, and wishing to confer favors on them, he had a habit of coughing slightly, when there would fly forth from his mouth quantities of silver brooches, ear-bobs, and other ornaments, for which it was the custom of his people to scramble, each striving, as in more civilized life, to get more than his share. Accordingly, the elder sister said, “If you are Way-gee-mar-kin, let us see you cough.” Shee-shee-banze had a few of these silver ornaments which he had got by scrambling, and which he kept stowed away in the sides of his mouth in case of emergency. So he gave some spasmodic coughs and brought forth a few, which the girl eagerly seized. After a time, as they paddled along, a fine noble elk came forth from the forest, and approached the water to drink. “What is that?” asked the spokeswoman; for the younger sister sat silent and modest all the time. “It is my dog that I hunt with.” “Call him to us, that I may see him.” Shee-shee-banze called, but the elk turned and fled into the woods. “He does not seem to obey you, however.” “No; it is because you inspire him with disgust, and therefore he flies from you.” Soon a bear made his appearance by the water’s edge. “What is that?” “One of my servants.” Again he was requested to call him, and, as the call was disregarded, the same reason as before was assigned. Their excursion was at length ended. There had been a little magic in it, for although the young girls had supposed themselves to be in a canoe, there was, in reality, no canoe at all. They only imagined it to have been so. Now, Shee-shee-banze lived with his grandmother, and to her lodge he conducted his young friends. They stood outside while he went in. “Grandmother,” said he, “I have brought you two young girls, who will be your daughters-in-law. Invite them into your lodge.” Upon this, the old woman called, “Ho! come in,” and they entered. They were made welcome and treated to the best of everything. In the mean time, the real Way-gee-mar-kin, the great chief, made preparations for a grand feast. When he was sending his messenger out with the invitations, he said to him, “Be very particular to bid Shee-shee-banze to the feast, for, as he is the smallest and meanest person in the tribe, you must use double ceremony with him, or he will be apt to think himself slighted.” Shee-shee-banze was sitting in his lodge with his new friends, when the messenger arrived. “Ho! Shee-shee-banze,” cried he, “you are invited to a great feast that Way-gee-mar-kin is to give to-night, to all his subjects.” But Shee-shee-banze took no notice of the invitation. He only whistled, and pretended not to hear. The messenger repeated his words, then, finding that no attention was paid to them, he went his way. The young girls looked at each other, during the scene, greatly astonished. At length the elder spoke. “What does this mean?” said she. “Why does he call you Shee-shee-banze, and invite you to visit Way-gee-mar-kin?” “Oh,” said Shee-shee-banze, “it is one of my followers that always likes to be a little impudent. I am obliged to put up with it sometimes, but you observed that I treated him with silent contempt.” The messenger returned to the chief, and reported the manner in which the invitation had been received. “Oh,” said the good-natured chief, “it is because he feels that he is poor and insignificant. Go back again–call him by my name, and make a flourishing speech to him.” The messenger fulfilled his mission as he was bid. “Way-gee-mar-kin,” said he, pompously, “a great feast is to be given to-night, and I am sent most respectfully to solicit the honor of your company!” “Did I not tell you?” said Shee-shee-banze to the maidens Then, nodding with careless condescension, he added, “Tell them I’ll come.” At night, Shee-shee-banze dressed himself in his very best paint, feathers, and ornaments–but before his departure he took his grandmother aside. “Be sure,” said he, “that you watch these young people closely until I come back. Shut up your lodge tight, tight. Let no one come in or go out, and, above all things, do not go to sleep.” These orders given, he went his way. The grandmother tried her best to keep awake, but finding herself growing more and more sleepy, as the night wore on, she took a strong cord and laced across the mat which hung before the entrance to the lodge, as the Indians lace up the mouths of their bags, then, having seen all things secure and the girls quiet in bed, she lay down and soon fell into a comfortable sleep. The young girls, in the mean while, were dying with curiosity to know what had become of Shee-shee-banze, and as soon as they were sure the old lady was asleep, they prepared to follow him and see what was going on. Fearing, however, that the grandmother might awake and discover their absence, they took two logs of wood, and, putting them under the blanket, so disposed them as to present the appearance of persons sleeping quietly. They then cut the cords that fastened the door, and, guided by the sounds of the music, the dancing, and the merry-making, they soon found their way to the dwelling of Way-gee-mar-kin. When they entered, they saw the chief seated on a throne, surrounded by light and splendor. Everything was joy and amusement. Crowds of courtiers were in the apartment, all dressed in the most brilliant array. The strangers looked around for their friend Shee-shee-banze, but he was nowhere to be seen. Now and then the chief would cough, when a shower of silver ornaments and precious things would fly in all directions, and instantly a scramble would commence among the company, to gather them up and appropriate them. As they thus rushed forward, the brides-elect saw their poor little friend crowded up into a corner, where nobody took any notice of him, except to push him aside, or step on him whenever he was in the way. He uttered piteous little squeaks as one and another would thus maltreat him, but he was too busy taking care of himself to perceive that those whom he had left snug at home in the lodge were witnesses of all that was going on. At length the signal was given for the company to retire, all but the two young damsels, upon whom Way-gee-mar-kin had set his eye, and to whom he had sent, by one of his assistants, great offers to induce them to remain with him and become his wives. Poor Shee-shee-banze returned to his lodge, but what was his consternation to find the door open! “Ho! grandmother,” cried he, “is this the way you keep watch?” The old woman started up. “There are my daughters-in-law,” said she, pointing to the two logs of wood. Shee-shee-banze threw himself on the ground between them. His back was broken by coming so violently in contact with them, but that he did not mind–he thought only of revenge, and the recovery of his sweethearts. He waited but to get some powerful poison and prepare it, and then he stole softly back to the wigwam of Way-gee-mar-kin. All was silent, and he crept in without making the slightest noise. There lay the chief, with a young girl on each side of him. They were all sound asleep, the chief lying on his back, with his mouth wide open. Before he was aware of it, the poison was down his throat, and Shee-shee-banze had retreated quietly to his own lodge. The next morning the cry went through the village that Way-gee-mar-kin had been found dead in his bed. Of course it was attributed to over-indulgence at the feast. All was grief and lamentation. “Let us go and tell poor Shee-shee-banze,” said one, “he was so fond of Way-gee-mar-kin.” They found him sitting on a bank, fishing. He had been up at peep of day, to make preparation for receiving the intelligence. He had caught two or three fish, and, extracting their bladders, had filled them with blood, and tied them under his arm. When the friends of Way-gee-mar-kin saw him, they called out to him,– “Oh! Shee-shee-banze–your friend, Way-gee-mar-kin, is dead!” With a gesture of despair, Shee-shee-banze drew his knife and plunged it–not into his heart, but into the bladders filled with blood that he had prepared. As he fell, apparently lifeless, to the ground, the messengers began to reproach themselves: “Oh! why did we tell him so suddenly? We might have known he would not survive it. Poor Shee-shee-banze! he loved Way-gee-mar-kin so.” To their great surprise, the day after the funeral, Shee-shee-banze came walking towards the wigwam of the dead chief. As he walked, he sang, or rather chaunted to a monotonous strain, the following: –

  “Way-gee-mar-kin is dead, is dead,
  I know who killed him.
  I guess it was I – I guess it was I.”

All the village was aroused. Everybody flew in pursuit of the murderer, but he evaded them, and escaped to a place of safety. Soon after, he again made his appearance, mincing as he walked, and singing to the same strain as before, –

  “If you wish to take and punish me,
  Let the widows come and catch me.”

It seemed a good idea, and the young women were recommended to go and entice the culprit into the village, so that the friends of the deceased could lay hold of him. They went forth on their errand. Shee-shee-banze would suffer them to approach, then he would dance off a little–now he would allow them to come quite near; anon he would retreat a little before them, all the time singing,

  “Come, pretty widows, come and catch me.”

Thus he decoyed them on, occasionally using honeyed words and flattering speeches, until he had gained their consent to return with him to his lodge, and take up their abode with him. The friends of the murdered chief were scandalized at such inconstancy, and resolved to punish all three, as soon as they could catch them. They surrounded his lodge with cries and threatenings, but Shee-shee-banze and his two brides had contrived to elude their vigilance and gain his canoe, which lay in the river, close at hand. Hardly were they on board when their escape was discovered. The whole troop flew after them. Some plunged into the stream, and seized the canoe. In the struggle it was upset, but immediately on touching the water, whether from the magical properties of the canoe, or the necromantic skill of the grandmother, they were transformed into ducks, and flew quacking away. Since that time the water-fowl of this species are always found in companies of three – two females and a male.7

The rotten log episode also appears in a Kickapoo story about Rabbit and Lynx. Rabbit knew that Lynx was coming along the way, so he quickly created a couple of beautiful women. Rabbit transformed himself into an old man, and hailed Lynx when he came down the trail. After engaging him in conversation, he asked Lynx if he might not want to marry one of his daughters. Lynx thought this was a great idea, so Rabbit escorted one of his women over to where Lynx lived. That night he was married, and the next morning when he woke up, there next to him was nothing but a rotten log. Then he knew it must have been Rabbit that set him up. Again Rabbit transformed himself, and offered the other woman as the daughter of the chief. Again Lynx spent the night with her, only to wake up itching. "She must have lice," he thought to himself; but when he rolled over, he found that there was nothing there but a rotten log covered with ants. Then he vowed that he would surely kill Rabbit.8

The Karok and Yurok tell a similar story. There were two beautiful girls that would never participate in the dance. Coyote hit upon a great idea that would induce them to join in. He captured a cricket and a songbird, and putting one behind each ear, he began to dance. As he danced, he moved his lips as though the melodious sounds were coming from him. The girls thought it was the most beautiful music that they had ever heard and soon joined Coyote in the dance. After everyone else had left, Coyote found himself alone with the girls. They laid down to sleep, with Coyote in the middle. During the night Coyote snored and moved restlessly about, yet the girls could hear the singing sounds. They soon discovered the bird and cricket behind his ears, so they hemmed Coyote in with two logs where they had lain. Coyote woke up and found himself squeezed between two logs and the girls long gone.9

The story is also known in the Creek nation. Two pretty young women had heard of someone named "Bead Spitter" by reputation. They determined to set out to find him. They told Rabbit of their plan, but he persuaded them to stay the night with him. He slept with one of the girls. Early in the morning Rabbit disappeared only to reappear sometime later after they had awakened. He walked into the house and once inside he spit out a whole mouthful of beads. The girls quickly gathered them up and strung them into a necklace. Soon afterwards, however, Rabbit got a visit from an angry buzzard mother. "You stole my children's beads and did them great injury!" she declared. The girls promptly dropped the beads on the floor and left. In time they came to Ground Squirrel's place. He told them that the person they were looking for was Turkey Killer. "As you get near his place you will begin to see turkey feathers on the trail. As you get closer, there will be more and more of them, and when they are piled as high as your head, you are there," said Ground Squirrel. So they stayed the night at Ground Squirrel's. While they slept, he ate out the center of their dumplings. The next day they set out again and followed the trail of ever deepening feathers until they arrived at Turkey Killer's house. They asked about Bead Spitter, and Turkey Killer said, "I am he, but I can't supply any beads until tomorrow." The next day they arose and Turkey Killer asked them if anything wrongful had been done to them on their way there, but they responded that nothing had. So he gave both of them sieves and told them to go fetch water with them. When they returned, one of the girls had no water in her sieve, and he knew she had not told him the truth. He told the girl to sift, and the water turned into beads. He let both girls string the beads, but he kept only the honest one as his wife.10

Some of the incidents of this story are found in a Gosiute Coyote myth. Coyote has lost his eyes, but can smell two girls across the river. He called out to then asking who they were, but they answered only that they were girls ("Girls" is the name of a tribe). When they asked Coyote who he was, he replied that his brothers called him "young man." Coyote nearly drowned trying to show them a ford. They herded buffalo to him which he shot at blindly, killing one by sheer luck. That night, Coyote had sex with both girls. The girls smelled something rotten, but Coyote told them ti was a bunch of sheep which he had killed some time ago. While Coyote was sleeping, the girls removed the rag that he had over his eyes, and discovered that his eye socks were full of maggots. So they took his head and rested it on an anthill, and propped his legs up on the body of the buffalo. When Coyote woke up, the girls were gone. As he sat up, he bumped his head on a log. He followed their scent trail, but the girls threw a rattle that they were carrying down a ravine, and when Coyote followed it he broke his leg in the descent.11

The Dakota have a similar myth about Bead Spitter (Wamnuḣa-itaġośa). There was a wondrous boy called "Boy Beloved" who could spit out beads of every color, so perfect in form that people collected them all and made necklaces out of them. One day Heart Killer wish to marry him, but she was joined by two spirit women who also wished to be his bride. They were called "Two Women." So the three of them set out to marry Boy Beloved. That night, Two Women told Heart Killer that whoever had a bark dish full of rice set in quill work resting by her head would be destined to have Boy Beloved as her husband. The next morning such a dish was found by Heart Killer. As they went on, they came to a large lake. A man in a large boat came towards them, and when he landed, Two Women said, "We have come to marry Bead Spitter." "I do not know of anyone of that name," he said, but then spit out a bunch of beads that he had hidden in his mouth. Two Women collected them up, then told Heart Killer that she could not come along. As she stood there alone and heart broken, another man came up in a canoe. This canoe shined, since it was made of metal, and the man within, who was the real Bead Spitter, was splendidly attired. She told him her story, and he said, "Come home with me," but he did not reveal his identity. Two Women had gone off with an imposter named "Teal Duck," who lived with his grandmother. Not long afterward, the caller came by and said, "Teal Duck, Bead Spitter calls you to a feast." Teal Duck said to the women that it was a mysterious thing, and that they could not attend. However, his wives followed anyway. When they got there they peeped into the tent and saw that the people there were dancing on Teal Duck's back. When he realized that his wives were watching, he jumped up and began dancing around, saying, "I too will dance on the teal duck's back." Because people danced on his back, teal ducks to this day have no fat there. Two Women took one blanket full of bees, and another full of ants, and placed them where they had slept, then they went to Boy Beloved's tent, and threw out Heart Killer and lay down on either side of her man. When Teal Duck returned, he lifted each blanket in turn, and was stung by bees and bitten by ants. Teal Duck went to the tent of Boy Beloved, and said, "Elder brother, give me the younger one," but there was no reply, so Teal Duck went back home. A man called "Sharp Grass," returned that night, and when he found Boy Beloved sleeping with Two Women, he cut off his head. When the people discovered him decapitated, they went to Teal Duck's teepee, but his grandmother had put him on top of it, and when the mob arrived, she escaped in the form of a little brown heron (snipe). When Boy Beloved's mother saw Teal Duck on high holding the head of her son, she shouted angrily at him, but someone inside the teepee said, "Indeed, and was it not I who did this thing?" So they called Uŋktomi and asked him who could have said this. "They say that I'm a fool, yet you don't understand this. It is the one in the tent who said this," replied Uŋktomi. So they tore apart the teepee, and discovered Sharp Grass with a bloody knife standing next to Teal Duck. The two of them escaped to the moon. So when the moon is full, the two of them can be seen there, with Teal Duck holding the head of Bead Spitter.12


Links: Moon, Trickster, Turtle, Bird Spirits, Sun, Morning Star, Ants.


Stories: pertaining to the Moon: Black and White Moons, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, Hare Kills Wildcat, Grandfather's Two Families, Berdache Origin Myth (v. 1), Turtle and the Giant; featuring Trickster as a character: The Trickster Cycle, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster's Warpath, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster Soils the Princess, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Elk's Skull, Trickster and the Mothers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Woman who Became an Ant, The Green Man, The Red Man, Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Trickster Loses His Meal, Trickster's Tail, A Mink Tricks Trickster, Trickster's Penis, Trickster Loses Most of His Penis, The Scenting Contest, The Bungling Host, Mink Soils the Princess, Trickster and the Children, Trickster and the Eagle, Trickster and the Geese, Trickster and the Dancers, Trickster and the Honey, Trickster's Adventures in the Ocean, The Pointing Man, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Trickster Visits His Family, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Petition to Earthmaker, Waruǧápara, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge; 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, Grandfather's Two Families, 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 Mulberry Picker, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, 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; about two sisters: The Twin Sisters, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Old Man and the Giants, The Dipper, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Owl Goes Hunting, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (kaǧi, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧápara, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Creation Council, He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (eagle), The Gift of Shooting (eagle), Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (buzzards), The Shaggy Man (kaǧi), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (kaǧi), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įčorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Fleetfooted Man, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds; mentioning ants: Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, The Woman Who Became an Ant, Trickster and the Honey; mentioning shells: The Gift of Shooting, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Wild Rose, Young Man Gambles Often (wampum), Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2) (wampum), Wolves and Humans (oyster), Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Lost Child, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 2), Turtle's Warparty, The Lost Blanket (mussel), The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads (crab); mentioning wampum (shell currency): The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Young Man Gambles Often, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), Little Human Head, Turtle and the Giant, Snowshoe Strings, The Chief of the Heroka, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 2), Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka.


Themes: someone excretes shells (or wampum): The Human Head; two girls dream (have a fasting vision) of a particular spirit: Old Man and Wears White Feather; someone tries to deceive a woman into thinking that he is her husband: How the Thunders Met the Nights; a woman is forbidden to join her husband when he goes off to a place kept secret from her: The Chief of the Heroka, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Man who Defied Disease Giver, cf. The Sky Man; a man forbids his female relative from looking at him when he is engaged in a secret activity, but she cannot resist the temptation and does it anyway to his detriment: The Man who Defied Disease Giver, Redhorn's Father; head hunting: White Fisher, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, A Man's Revenge, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Young Man Gambles Often, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), The Dipper, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Porcupine and His Brothers, Turtle's Warparty, Ocean Duck, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Man with Two Heads, Brave Man, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Redhorn's Sons, Fighting Retreat, The Children of the Sun, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Were-Grizzly, Winneconnee Origin Myth; polygamy: Bladder and His Brothers (v. 2), The Spotted Grizzly Man, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Green Man, Wazųka, Bluehorn's Nephews, Redhorn's Sons, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Gets Swallowed, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Spirit of Gambling; a greedy person who wants far more than his share is punished by being left with nothing: The Greedy Woman, The Brown Squirrel, Trickster and the Honey; people turn into birds: Waruǧápara (owl, Thunderbird), Worúxega (eagle), The Thunderbird (black hawk, hummingbird), The Dipper (black hawk, hummingbird), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), The Hočąk Arrival Myth (ravens), The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (turkey), The Quail Hunter (partridge), The Fox-Hočąk War (goose), The Fleetfooted Man (water fowl?), The Boy Who Became a Robin (robin); a young man turns into a bird and flies off through the smoke hole in his lodge: The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I; a Bird Spirit escapes his pursuers through the smoke hole of his lodge: Crane and His Brothers; in order to save his own life, a bird(-man) flies away through the smoke hole of a lodge: Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I; leaving for the heavens by rising up through the smoke hole of a lodge: The Chief of the Heroka; a man goes about the heavens with a severed head in his possession: The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads, The Children of the Sun; a leader orders his men to capture their enemy so that they can torture him with fire: The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), Turtle's Warparty, The Markings on the Moon; Trickster is the victim of a trick: Trickster Soils the Princess, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, The Elk's Skull, A Mink Tricks Trickster, Trickster and the Honey, Trickster and the Eagle.


Notes

1 John James Audubon, The Birds of America (New York: The

2 Paul Radin, "The Auk," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #46: 1-22; Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3860 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago IV, #7d: 1-5; Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3854 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago IV, #9.

3 Albert Samuel Gatschet, Linguistic and Ethnological Material on the Winnebago, Manuscript 1989-a (Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives, 1889, 1890-1891) 16-24. Informant: Reuben David St. Cyr.

4 Bernice G. Anderson, Indian Sleep Man Tales: Authentic Legends of the Otoe Tribe (Caldwell, Idaho: the Caxton Printers,

5 Watches All, "28. Shell-Spitter," in Alfred Louis Kroeber, Gros Ventre Myths and Tales, Anthropological Papers of American Museum of Natural History (New York: Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History, 1907) Volume 1, Part 3, p. 108.

6 Fred McTaggart, Wolf That I Am: In Search of the Red Earth People (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976) 85-89.

7 Juliette Augusta McGill Kinzie, Wau-Bun, The "Early Day" in the North-west (Chicago & New York: Rand, McNally & company, 1901 [1856]) 377-386.

8 Kickapoo Tales, collected by William Jones, trs. by Truman Michelson. Publications of the American Ethnological Society (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1915) IX:23-25.

9 Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz (edd.), American Indian Trickster Tales (New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998) 65-66.

10 "2. Bead-Spitter and Thrown-Away," in John Reed Swanton, Myths and Tales of the Southeastern Indians, Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 88 (1929): 2-7.

11 Commodore, "Cottontail Shoots the Sun," in Anne M. Smith, Shoshone Tales (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1993 [1939]) 18-20.

12 Stephen Return Riggs, Dakota Grammar: with Texts and Ethnography, in Contributions to North American Ethnology, Vol. 9 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, 1893) 144-147 (interlinear Dakota-English text), 148-150 (English translation).