One Legged One

by Richard L. Dieterle

The first incarnation of the chief of the devils, Herešgúnina, was called "One Legged One," since Earthmaker had created him with just one leg, and that was flat.1 Others say that Earthmaker, from his place atop the sky, made him as the first man. When he was finished, he set him by the sun at its zenith to dry, but the excessive heat caused one of his legs to crack and fall off. Yet others say that Earthmaker dropped him and the leg broke off when he hit the earth.2

Originally, he lived with his adopted sister in a hill after the fashion of Waterspirits. She was abducted by buffalo because she allowed herself to be fooled by Trickster while One Legged One was away looking for a wife. The buffalo squeezed her waist so thin by carrying her between their horns that One Legged One made her the spirit chief of the ants.3

It was One Legged One under the name Wareksankeka (< Wareksągéga, "He whose Upper Leg has been Cut [Off]."), who opposed Bladder, killing all of his brothers except the youngest, whom he whipped with a thorn bush.4 Bladder, whom Earthmaker created to overcome the evil spirits plaguing mankind, hunted down One Legged One and eventually killed him by smashing him to pieces with a single kick,5 or by pushing his body aside after beheading him. The youngest brother, who wounded One Legged One, turned out to be Morning Star.6 As was only known to a few, when Bladder pushed One Legged One's body to the side during their beheading context, his head became the solar disk, which continually rebounds from east to west.7

Links: Herešgúnina, Bladder, Morning Star, Earthmaker, The Sons of Earthmaker, Trickster, Buffalo Spirits, Frogs, Ants, Grasshoppers, Waterspirits, Moon, Cougars, Raccoons.

Stories: featuring One Legged One as a character: The Creation of Man (v. 2), The Woman Who Became an Ant, Bladder and His Brothers, The Green Man, cf. The Spirit of Gambling.


1 Paul Radin, "The Bladder," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #27: 1-61.

2 "The Morning Star, A Winnebago Legend," collected by Louis L. Meeker, Nov. 22, 1896 (National Anthropological Archives, 1405 Winnebago, A.D.S.); "The Morning Star," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 105.

3 Paul Radin, "The Woman Who Became an Ant," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #52.

4 Meeker, "The Morning Star"; Smith, loc. cit., 105.

5 Radin, "The Bladder," Notebook #27.

6 Meeker, "The Morning Star"; Smith, "The Morning Star," 105.

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