The Stone Heart

by Nahum Hersom (b. ca. 1918) and Chief Whirling Thunder

collected by Marcine Quenzer
and reprinted with her permission


Indians of Today
Whirling Thunder

Prologue by Nahum Hersom. "Here is a story that is in a way unbelievable. I found a stone heart, when I was about 14 years old along the lake shore of Long Lake, Wisc. (Winnebago Country) which is near Wild Rose, Wisc. As a boy, I had the run of the country so I roamed everywhere and found many things of interest. (I even had a horse tooth necklace I wore.) And brought home any birds turtles, and odd shaped branches to make things out of.

As I said, I found this heart shaped stone and showed it to my mother who had been a nurse and she named the places where the various blood vessels would be connected.

When I was 18 years old [ca. 1936], I was helping teach Indian arts and crafts in the Chicago Park system under Chief Whirling Thunder [Wakąjágiwįxka]. One day he, told this story:"

"On long winter nights when the story tellers held their audiences entranced by their stories and legends, it is told that a long time ago before even the oldest of the tribe was born, that there lived far to the north of Wisconsin, up near where it is always cold, a tribe of giants known as Wong-a-Rouskah-Podarouúhuh-Poruh-Wah-Roughe-a-ga, or "those who eat people and have hearts of stone." They were so cruel that it was said they even had ice in their stomachs. When ever the giants appeared among the Winnebagos some people would disappear never to return.

It has been told that one day a long time ago one of these giants, a young man came into Winnebago country, in his wanderings as he was about to cross a stream he noticed that on the other bank was a beautiful Indian maiden. He was so struck by her beauty that he sat on the stream bank and watched her as she drew water from the stream. When she looked up and saw him, her first impulse was to run to the village and warn her people, but since he did not chase her, she took the water and walked to her chee wondering why this giant wasn't fierce and cruel like those she had heard about. Every day there after she would see him watching her as she went about her duties, and soon lost her fear of him

The day came when she realized that she was in love with him, but since he had a heart of stone they could never become man and wife. That night she went out onto a hill top and prayed to the Great Spirit, to cast out his heart of stone and give him one of flesh and blood with all the human feelings of love, warmth, compassion, and patience.

The Great Spirit [Earthmaker] heard her prayers, and in his great wisdom and love, cast out the stone heart and gave him one of flesh and blood, so they could live as man and wife."1

Epilogue by Nahum Hersom. "A legend is a traditional story, part fact and part fiction, and perhaps as in this Winnebago Indian legend, fact and fiction, aren't very far apart, for here is a stone heart.

After the story was over I told him I had the stone heart. Since this was a legend, he didn't believe it, so he came to my house and I showed it to him.

I found the heart in 1932 and have had it all these years and have told the story to many school children an in camps where I told and taught Indian Lore and crafts. And over the years I have learned that the legends told often have a vein of truth running through them. I have had several people who said they could feel energy or tingling in their hands while holding the heart."

Commentary. "Wong-a-Rouskah-Podarouúhuh-Poruh-Wah-Roughe-a-ga" — a rather garbled name, but the first part can clearly be made out: Wągarucka, "Man-Eaters or Giants." The rest is garbled beyond recognition, but the last part might contain waruges, "to have nothing." The usual words for stone and heart are ini and nącge, respectively.

"chee" — phonetic for ci, "lodge."

Links: Giants, Earthmaker.

Stories: featuring Giants as characters: A Giant Visits His Daughter, Turtle and the Giant, 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; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hocąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hocągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; about Earthmaker blessing or rescuing a person: The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Waruǧábᵉra, The Seven Maidens, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins.

Themes: anthropophagy and cannibalism: A Giant Visits His Daughter, Turtle and the Giant, The Witch Men's Desert, The Were-Grizzly, Grandfather's Two Families, The Roaster, Redhorn's Father, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Lost Blanket, Young Man Gambles Often, White Wolf, The Shaggy Man, The Twins Get into Hot Water, Partridge's Older Brother, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hocąk War, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, Morning Star and His Friend, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Seven Maidens, Šųgepaga, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Shakes the Earth, Thunder Cloud is Blessed; the Hocągara encounter Giants: The Hocągara Contest the Giants; a suitor rendezvouses with a young woman at a spring where she draws water: The Wild Rose, Wazųka; frustrated love: White Flower, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Twin Sisters, The Phantom Woman, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Partridge's Older Brother, Snowshoe Strings, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Trickster Soils the Princess, Sunset Point, The Message the Fireballs Brought, Rainbow and Stone Arch; an organ of the body is removed and left somewhere (for safekeeping): Ocean Duck (heart), The Raccoon Coat (heart), The Green Man (heart), Hare Kills Wildcat (an eye); Giants have ice in the pit of their stomachs: Young Man Gambles Often, Redhorn's Father; marriage to a Giant: A Giant Visits His Daughter, Young Man Gambles Often, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Roaster, Redhorn's Sons, Redhorn's Father, White Wolf.


1 Nahum Hersom, "The Stone Heart," in Marcine Quenzer, Winnebago Native American Legend.