The Race for the Chief's Daughter (§1 of the Redhorn Cycle)
retold by Richard L. Dieterle
There was a lodge in which ten brothers lived. All the brothers were great hunters except the youngest, who stayed at home, and although his brothers loved him, he was considered to be of no account. One day a man came who had a gourd rattle at his belt. He said, "Kunu (Eldest Son), I come to challenge you: tomorrow there will be a race, and whoever wins it will be awarded the chief's daughter in marriage." So the next day the brothers went forth to the race, but Kunu told the youngest to stay at home, as he had no chance to win anyway. When the brothers approached the crowd at the races, many of them hooted and said, "There's the one Kunu throws deer lungs at!" The brothers were annoyed to discover that the youngest had followed after them and was wearing a deerskin coat turned inside out so that the fur was on the outside. All the spirits were present: the Thunderbirds, the Bear and Deer Spirits, the Nights, and it was against such as these that the brothers would be racing.
Someone spotted Turtle strolling across the far side of the valley and yelled, "There's Turtle! Let's go get that troublemaker!" The race was on. When they reached the first hill, Turtle was seen on the next hill shaking his pipe at them. He was always just one hill ahead of them. When they reached the fourth hill, someone said, "Turtle is playing his usual tricks on us." And sure enough, they found a small red turtle trying to hide there. They took it and stomped it down into the mud and went on. They were running around the rim of the earth. The youngest brother was also in the race, but the spectators ridiculed him. Nevertheless, he soon began to pass each of his brothers in turn. Then he came upon the fastest group led by Black Hawk, Hummingbird [inset], and Eagle. He could not close the gap, so he took his bow and fired an arrow. The arrow streaked down beside the lead runners, where the brother suddenly appeared, for he had turned himself into his own arrow. They had raced to where the sun sets, and were now racing back. By now the youngest brother had built up a great lead, and was soon approaching the finish line. Then Turtle showed up unexpectedly at the finish line. He had turned back, but now he declared, "It was a close race, but I edged him out by a nose." The people hooted and scoffed at him: "Turtle, you're always starting arguments!" But Oval Turtle stepped up to the princess' platform and said, "Come on down, sister-in-law." She flatly refused, as no one there believed that Turtle had won the race. Turtle would not take "No" for an answer, and grabbed the chief's daughter by the wrist and dragged her off.
Not much later Kunu came across the finish line, and when he heard that Turtle had stolen the girl from his brother, he picked up his baldheaded warclub and set out after him. He found Turtle at his lodge, still holding onto the tearful girl. When Turtle would not surrender her, Kunu whacked him with the club, which made a thundering noise and knocked Turtle to the floor. As Kunu left with the princess, Turtle called after him, "Kunu, I am giving you this woman because I want to be friends with your little brother who won the race, and not out of fear of you!" However, when the woman was presented to the youngest brother, he said he was too young to marry, and offered the woman to the next oldest brother, each brother saying the same thing until the offer reached Kunu, who gladly took her to wife.
One day Kunu was dressing a deer he had killed and his wife picked up the lungs and threw them at the youngest brother. Kunu was surprised and asked her, "Why did you do such a thing?" She said, "They all say that you throw the deer lungs at him and that is why he is called "He who gets Hit with Deer Lungs," that is why I did it." Kunu said, "Don't ever do that. Once I told him to fast and he refused, so I tossed a deer lung to him. That's why he has that name." Then the youngest brother stood up and said, "The celestial spirits who made me never called me after deer lungs, to them I am 'He who has Human Heads as Earrings'. People on earth shall call me 'Redhorn'." Then he spit on his hands and ran his fingers over his ears, and unexpectedly there appeared on each of his earlobes a miniature head, and the heads laughed and winked and stuck out their tongues. Then Redhorn spit on his hands again and ran them through his hair, and his hair turned red and became very long. The second oldest brother said, "What a wonderful power you have, brother!" So Redhorn spat on his hands and ran them through his brother's hair, and it became yellow on one side. Then Haga, the third youngest brother, expressed his admiration, so Redhorn did the same to him which caused his hair to become very long. Then Redhorn said, "This is a special power, and I shall use it no more for anyone here."1
Commentary. "deer lungs" — it was believed that eating deer lungs would bestow upon one great fleetness of foot. Because Kunu thought that Redhorn was not going to get help from the spirits because he refused to fast, he did the next best thing: he gave him deer lungs to supply the kind of strength that he would need in a race. It may be added that Redhorn is also the personification of the arrow, and the arrow often strikes the deer's lungs; but more relevant is the fact that the arrow has great swiftness, so it is as if it had fed upon deer lungs.
"he had turned himself into his own arrow" — Redhorn is strongly associated with directionality and its symbol, the arrow. In this story he even assumes the form of an arrow. This is one of the reasons why Redhorn is said to be the Chief of the Heroka, a race of diminutive beings whose symbol is the bow and arrow, and who govern powers related to the hunt. The arrow can also represent the directionality of time as well as space, a role agreeable to it from the homonym mą, which in the Hočąk language means both 'arrow' and 'time.' Thus, Redhorn is the fastest of all the competitors in the race.
See the Commentary to Redhorn's Father.
Comparative Material. The Ioway have two stories that are parallel to the Hočąk. The first one shows some agreement with the beginning of the Redhorn Cycle. "There were once ten brothers, six of whom were good hunters, three poor hunters, while the last was the hero of this tale. The eldest boys all killed big game, and the other three killed only turkeys, raccoons, and skunks respectively. One day it was announced that there was to be a great race around the world, and the tenth boy told the three poor hunters to get boughs and make a sweat lodge. The boys did this, while the six who were good hunters jeered and laughed at them and made their own lodge. However after they had sweated, and the youngest brother had pulled at their hair till it was very long, then he too sweated and became handsome. He put on his best clothes, placed his human head earbobs in his ears, and came out. When the elder brothers saw how fine the younger ones looked, they became very jealous. On the day of the race all the brothers appeared at the appointed spot. The contest was to be against a party of giants who had mucus hanging from their noses and who always won. The whole tribe was to try against them on this occasion in hopes of wiping them out, for the people had lost many of their number through these giants, who always bet a life against a life. Human-head-earrings won the race, and slew the giants, in which he was assisted by two friends that he had made, Turtle and Blackhawk."2
The Ioway also tell a very similar story in connection with their Twins. In the following, the one called "Man in the Earring" is clearly the counterpart to Redhorn, also known as "He who Wears Human Heads as Earrings." "The Twins went off again, and presently they came to a village where there were three leading chiefs. These were Greda'he the Black Hawk, Ke'tonha the Snapping Turtle, and Wankistogre or Man-in-the-earring. They had a feast, and one of the chiefs announced that there would be a great race, and whoever won should be given his daughter as a prize. The course of the race was from one corner of the world to the other. Every creeping thing, every fowl of the air, Rain-Man, Thunder-Man, Lightning-Man, and Little God; they too were in it. The chief took one of the clan peace pipes and said, 'This pipe you all see. One of you will start carrying it, and whoever shall overtake him shall take and carry the pipe until someone else overhauls him and captures it. The one who completes the course and brings it back to me shall be the winner.' Turtle, who is unable to run very fast, saw the pipe and he went and made one just like it. He took it and circled and came running back with the false pipe and cried, 'I win the race, give me the woman.' 'No,' said the chief, 'wait till the others come in.' But Turtle said, 'No, I want her now.' However the chief would not let him have her, and finally the others came in and Wankistogre, the Man-in-the-earring, brought in the real pipe and won. He received the woman, and became the ruler of the people, but Turtle's trick was the start of the false peace pipes that some people still hold and call genuine Iowa clan peace pipes."3
In a Fox story, Turtle engages in the same kind of cheating. "There was this great big lake. And there was a Turtle. ... this race was planned. And the Turtle got together ahead of time with other turtle friends and set them up in certain key places along the line of the track. He set up these other turtles. And when the race started, the Deer was running on the ground and the Turtle was in the water. And every time the Deer would come to one of these selected places, one of the Turtle's friends would lift up his head. And the Deer would say, 'Oh, I am losing this race.' And then he would run faster. And he would come to the next place and there ahead of him a Turtle would pop up his head. And the Deer would think, 'I am losing this race.' And he would run even faster. And at every step along the line one of the Turtle's friends would lift up his head and the Deer would run even faster because he thought that he had lost the race. And at the end of the line, the first and the last Turtle popped up his head and won the race. The first and the last Turtle was the Turtle that was racing him and he was there all the time and didn't move but had just had his friends scattered around the water on the outside edge."4
Links: Redhorn, The Redhorn Cycle, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map, The Sons of Earthmaker, Turtle, Turtle Spirits, Heroka, Black Hawk, Black Hawks, Hummingbirds, Bird Spirits, Hawks, Eagle (I), Tobacco, Thunderbirds, Nightspirits, Bear Spirits, Deer Spirits, Gourd Rattles.
Links within the Redhorn Cycle: §2. Kunu's Warpath.
Stories: about Redhorn: The Redhorn Cycle, Redhorn's Sons, 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, The Spirit of Gambling, The Green Man, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, cp. The Cosmic Ages of the Hočągara; 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, 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 Nannyberry Picker, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Markings on the Moon (v. 2), 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; mentioning turtles (other than Turtle): Turtle's Warparty, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Redhorn Contests the Giants, Porcupine and His Brothers, Redhorn's Sons, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Healing Blessing, The Spider's Eyes, The Mesquaki Magician; mentioning Thunderbirds: The Thunderbird, Waruǧápara, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Thunderbird and White Horse, Bluehorn's Nephews, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (vv. 1, 2), The Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird, The Thunder Charm, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Story of the Thunder Names, The Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, Brave Man, Ocean Duck, Turtle's Warparty, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Quail Hunter, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Redhorn's Sons, The Dipper, The Stone that Became a Frog, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, The Spirit of Gambling, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Aračgéga's Blessings, Kunu's Warpath, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Glory of the Morning, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Big Stone, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Song to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way; mentioning Nightspirits: The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, The Big Stone, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Fourth Universe, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Ocean Duck, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Sun and the Big Eater; mentioning black hawks: Hawk Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), The Dipper, The Thunderbird, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Waruǧápara, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Morning Star and His Friend, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing; mentioning eagles: Eagle Clan Origin Myth, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), Pigeon Clan Origins, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Trickster and the Eagle, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Gift of Shooting, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite; featuring deer as characters: Deer Clan Origin Myth, Little Fox and the Ghost, Porcupine and His Brothers, Wolves and Humans, The Green Man, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Trickster's Tail, Fireman's Brother; mentioning (spirit) bears (other than were-bears): White Bear, Blue Bear, Black Bear, Red Bear, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Shaggy Man, Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The Messengers of Hare, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Red Man, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Two Boys, Creation of the World (v. 5), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Brown Squirrel, Snowshoe Strings, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Spider's Eyes, Little Priest's Game, Little Priest, How He went out as a Soldier, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, Trickster's Tail, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Warbundle Maker, cf. Fourth Universe; mentioning hummingbirds: The Dipper, The Thunderbird, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5); 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, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), 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 Healing Blessing (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 deer lungs: The Fleetfooted Man, A Man and His Three Dogs.
Themes: a large group of brothers (usually ten) live alone together: Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Quail Hunter, Bladder and His Brothers, Wojijé, The Spotted Grizzly Man; a challenger comes shaking a gourd rattle: Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Roaster, Grandfather's Two Families, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Redhorn Contests the Giants, White Wolf; a young man, who later turns out to be holy, is criticized by his elders for not conducting his puberty fast: Moiety Origin Myth, Origin of the Decorah Family; a holy young man is given an insulting name, but later makes known his true name (given to him by the spriits) in conjunction with a great feat: Moiety Origin Myth; racing around (the edge of) the world: Grandfather's Two Families, Elk, Pigeon Clan Origins, Origin of the Hočąk Chief; ; a spirit turns into an arrow and shoots himself from his own bow: Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins (v. 2), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head; a chief gives away his daughter as a prize for achievement: The Red Feather, The Chief of the Heroka, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse; a prize is claimed by someone who cheated in a race by doubling back before reaching the midway turn-around point: Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark; Turtle wrongfully tries to take the chief's daughter who has been given (as a prize) to someone else to marry: The Chief of the Heroka, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth; a hero wins a girl but decides to let one of his brothers marry her: The Raccoon Coat, Redhorn and His Brothers Marry, The Seduction of Redhorn's Son; marriage to a yųgiwi (princess): The Nannyberry Picker, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Big Stone, Partridge's Older Brother, Redhorn's Sons, The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, The Roaster, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, The Two Boys, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Shaggy Man, The Thunderbird, The Red Feather, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Birth of the Twins (v. 3), Trickster Visits His Family, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, Redhorn's Father, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Morning Star and His Friend, Thunderbird and White Horse, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Shakes the Earth, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga; the eldest and youngest brothers dominate: Bladder and His Brothers, Įčorúšika and His Brothers; the youngest offspring is superior: The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Young Man Gambles Often, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Twins Cycle, The Two Boys, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Children of the Sun, The Creation of the World (v. 12), Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Sun and the Big Eater, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 4, 7), Snake Clan Origins, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, Snake Clan Origins, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth; red as a symbolic color: The Journey to Spiritland (hill, willows, reeds, smoke, stones, haze), The Gottschall Head (mouth), The Chief of the Heroka (clouds, side of Forked Man), The Red Man (face, sky, body, hill), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (neck, nose, painted stone), Redhorn's Father (leggings, stone sphere, hair), The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father (hair, body paint, arrows), Wears White Feather on His Head (man), The Birth of the Twins (turkey bladder headdresses), The Two Boys (elk bladder headdresses), Trickster and the Mothers (sky), Rich Man, Boy, and Horse (sky), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Spirit), Bluehorn Rescues His Sister (buffalo head), Wazųka (buffalo head headdress), The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (horn), The Brown Squirrel (protruding horn), Bear Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Deer Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (stick at grave), Pigeon Clan Origins (Thunderbird lightning), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks (eyes), Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (scalp, woman's hair), The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy (hair), Redhorn Contests the Giants (hair), Redhorn's Sons (hair), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle (hair), A Wife for Knowledge (hair), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (hair), The Hočągara Contest the Giants (hair of Giantess), A Man and His Three Dogs (wolf hair), The Red Feather (plumage), The Man who was Blessed by the Sun (body of Sun), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (body of the Warrior Clan Chief), Red Bear, Eagle Clan Origin Myth (eagle), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (Waterspirit armpits), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Waterspirits), The Roaster (body paint), The Man who Defied Disease Giver (red spot on forehead), The Wild Rose (rose), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (warclub), Įčorúšika and His Brothers (ax & packing strap), Hare Kills Flint (flint), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head (edges of flint knives), The Nannyberry Picker (leggings), The Seduction of Redhorn's Son (cloth), Yųgiwi (blanket).
1 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 115-118.
2 Robert Small (Otoe, Wolf Clan), and Julia Small (Otoe), "6. Wąkx!istowi, the Man with the Human Head Earrings," Alanson Skinner, "Traditions of the Iowa Indians," The Journal of American Folklore, 38, #150 (October-December, 1925): 427-506 [456-457].
3 Robert Small (Otoe, Wolf Clan) and Julia Small (Otoe), "Dore and Wahredua," Alanson Skinner, "Traditions of the Iowa Indians," The Journal of American Folklore, 38, #150 (October-December, 1925): 427-506 [440-441].
4 Fred McTaggart, Wolf That I Am: In Search of the Red Earth People (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976) 76.