Pretty Woman

by Richard L. Dieterle

Of the proper name of the Giantess called "Pretty Woman" nothing is as yet known. The woman called by this name is one of the wives of the great spirit, He who has Human Heads for Earrings, better known as Hešúcka, "Redhorn." He has the further odd attribute of being identical with both his own father and his own son in a mystical unity that we might also infer in the case of the Greek Demeter and her own daughter Persephone.1 Thus the Giantess known as Pretty Woman is sometimes said to be the mother of Redhorn,2 and sometimes his wife3 — but in all cases it is clearly the same woman.

She is a distinguished member of the tribe of Giants who go by the Hocąk name Wągerúcge, "Man Eaters." They were confronted by the great spirits who came to contest them in various sports, with the victors winning the right to kill those of their opponents who had been wagered on the outcome. The centerpiece of these Olympiads was the game of lacrosse. This game was played so that one player was matched particularly against another. Redhorn would always be matched against the best player on the other team, and this player was always a Giantess with red hair,4 although in some accounts her hair was orange ("red-yellowish"),5 or even yellow.6 Although a Giantess, she was of normal stature.7 She is a yųgiwi (or princess), the daughter of the Giant's chief. As far as her feelings for Redhorn were concerned, and to the great detriment of the Giants, it was love at first sight. She was particularly charmed by the miniature human heads that animate Redhorn's earlobes. They would wink, stick out their tongues, and generally make funny faces, which made her laugh and lose her concentration on the game. Consequently, the Giants lost at great cost to themselves, but although their team was killed as a result, Pretty Woman was spared and taken to wife by Redhorn.8

However, Pretty Woman's culinary preference presented a problem. Redhorn (under the name "Young Man") set before her two bowls of the best bear meat and ordered her to eat it, but she couldn't stomach it. She jumped up and dashed out the door, but as fleet of foot as she was, she fell under the mysterious power of never being able to gain any distance on the lodge. Finally she began vomiting, until at last she vomited up an ice cube. This had been the cause of her cannibalism, and once it was gone, she assumed a normal diet.9

Redhorn was already married to She who Wears a White Beaver Wrap, but she and Pretty Woman knew each other before hand.10 In time she bore Redhorn a child who looked exactly like his father, except that the miniature heads were located on the boy's nipples (or shoulders, as some say). Pretty Woman's co-wife, She who Wears a White Beaver Wrap, gave birth to Redhorn reincarnate, a child with red hair and heads on his earlobes. When the enemy killed Redhorn and his friends, these two children were spared. When they grew up they recaptured the heads of Redhorn and his colleagues. They asked Pretty Woman and her co-wife to sleep with Redhorn's head, but they said, "How can we? He is nothing but a skull." So the sons found other means to revive the dead men.11 In time Pretty Woman's son got married, but his brother remained a bachelor because of his great holiness.

A similar woman was a champion lacrosse player for the tribe of Giants who played against Wojijéga, the Meteor Spirit. She too was a princess, but her hair was yellow, her eyes were gray, and her complexion was pale white.12 She is obviously a lunar figure and ends up marrying Wojijéga, whose nature is solar. She seems clearly modeled on Pretty Woman, and might reflect another tradition on her life.

Pretty Woman as Dawn. Pretty Woman seems to be unusually good at the astronomical game lacrosse, which alone suggests that she ought to have some astronomical role. Redhorn's red hair can be shown to be the red glow of the sunrise. One of his most notable victories was his "harrowing of Hell" to borrow a Christian phrase. In one story, Redhorn is depicted with an actual horn mounted on his forehead. He takes this off and strikes the waters of the ocean with it, and they burst into flame, killing the evil spirits who were attacking him. This is the counterpart of the episode in which Redhorn is captured in the underworld by the Waterspirits who intend to eat him, but he breaks his bonds, grabs a fire brand, and sets them and their world aflame. These are the same. As an Orion star, Redhorn spends a brief time in the underworld (sets with the sun for 60 days or so), then rises with the sun triumphantly, as if resurrected from the dead. His rising with the sun occurs at sunrise when the waters are turned red from the reddish sun of the horizon. This is the "burning" of the waters, and since Waterspirits just are water, it is also the same as setting the Waterspirits and their domain on fire. Since the star of Orion when it rises with the sun is on the horizon or near it for some time thereafter, the red of the sun on the sky of the horizon becomes his "hair" (= horn). So what is Redhorn's other great victory? It would be his triumph over the greatest of the Man-Eater lacrosse players, who has red hair "just like Red Horn's hair." If we take "just like" literally, we would have to say that this is the reddish light of the sun in the sky near the horizon at sunrise. This naturally leads to the idea that she might be dawn, who is otherwise never mentioned in Hocąk mythology.

The Giants are North Spirits, the ice with which they are associated is mostly found in the northern climes. During the cold part of the year the sun moves north along the horizon until the winter solstice, when it reverses course. The dawn, needless to say, goes the same route. So from vernal equinox to the autumnal equinox, the dawn is a North Spirit. Orion, in 1750, heliacally rose at the equinoctial point (due east) almost exactly on the soltice. There and then it participates in the dawn. This is both his moment of triumph and his seduction. Since both Orion and the Dawn are intermingled, they have metaphorically mated or "married." He also takes dawn as a captive for the South, as this is near the summer solstice and before the autumnal equinox. The bitter cold associated with dawn, especially in the winter, is reflected in the block of ice that resides in her stomach. Once Redhorn takes her to wife, an event that occurs not long after the summer solstice, she is made to vomit up the ice that had made her a cannibal. It is this cold by which she killed people. After that she lived as one of Redhorn's tribe in the south and stopped eating people. Pretty Woman and White Beaverskin Wrap recognized each other as if from a past spirit life. Inasmuch as the moon (White Beaverskin Wrap) goes into conjunction with the sun, and in the process goes into conjunction with the dawn as well, they become happy co-wives. The eldest son of Redhorn is just a version of his own father, and can therefore be identified with the Belt Stars of Orion; the younger son has reoriented faces, either on his chest or on his shoulders. This probably refers to the three Sword Stars. After the Belt Stars mate with Dawn, then the Sword Stars come out of her womb.

Since Pretty Woman's athletic prowess seems to present her as something of an Amazon, we might think that she is a deity of something to be feared. As one of the Man-Eaters she does share in that unfortunate practice, but the Hocągara would not have considered that so terrible, since they themselves practiced cannibalism on their enemies. Of this she is cured in the end. Although she is for a time a cannibal, her beauty is accompanied by Aphrodisian qualities. She has a great sense of humor and easily falls in love.

Links: Redhorn, Sons of Redhorn, Turtle, Giants, The Meteor Spirit, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map, Gottschall.

Stories: featuring Pretty Woman (or a Giant princess with red or yellow hair): Redhorn's Sons (red hair), Redhorn Contests the Giants (red hair), Redhorn's Father (red hair), The Hocągara Contest the Giants (red-yellowish hair), The Roaster (yellow hair), Morning Star and His Friend; featuring Giants as characters: A Giant Visits His Daughter, Turtle and the Giant, The Stone Heart, Young Man Gambles Often, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Morning Star and His Friend, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Old Man and the Giants, Shakes the Earth, White Wolf, Redhorn's Father, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, The Roaster, Grandfather's Two Families, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Little Human Head, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Origins of the Milky Way, Ocean Duck, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Wears White Feather on His Head, cf. The Shaggy Man.

Themes: a being has red hair: Redhorn's Sons, Redhorn's Father, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (vv. 1 & 2), The Hocągara Contest the Giants, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Heną́ga and Star Girl, A Wife for Knowledge, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; a Giant (Wągerucge) princess has her game disturbed by her attraction to a hero: Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Roaster, Redhorn's Father.


1 Carl Kerényi, Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter (New York: Schocken Books, 1977 [1967]) 31-33.

2 W. C. McKern, "A Winnebago Myth," Yearbook, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, 9 (1929): 215-230.

3 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 123-129.

4 Ibid.; McKern, A Winnebago Myth, 215-230.

5 Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1, #3: p. 3 col. 1. Told by Little Decorah [picture], a member of the Thunderbird Clan.

6 Paul Radin, "The Roaster," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #2.

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

8 Radin, "Redhorn's Sons,"; Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 123-129. John Harrison, The Giant or The Morning Star, translated by Oliver LaMere, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago III, #11a, Story 8: 92-117.

9 McKern, A Winnebago Myth, 215-230.

10 Radin, "Redhorn's Sons," 9.

11 Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 131-132.

12 Radin, "The Roaster," Notebook #2.