Thunderbird and White Horse
narrated by Rufus Tiver
Hočąk-English Interlinear Text
(1) And one time long ago people were afraid of birds where they lived, as eagles used to carry them off. Thus it was. Around there a boy went hunting. He came to a clearing and then he became uneasy there but he was thinking that they could not carry him off. Thus he thought. "That small clearing I will try to cross," he thought. And so thus he ran across the clearing. (2) It was small but he arrived in the center. And then something came from above. He knew it, so he looked around above. There an eagle came right near, so then he dropped to the ground. Just as he got down, that bird then caught hold of both his legs and so he flew away with him. He went back above. When he took him up above the first time, then he saw all the waters. He saw them when he carried him high. (3) Then it became small the higher [he went] the farther from the clouds it became. Thus he did. On this side of the clouds he came to the edge of a bluff. When he took him there, there was a big nest. And there were little birds, four of them were there in the nest. When he got there, then that bird again came to the ground.
So there he sat and he was thinking over and over again, "Now this time if I go away somewhere I could see a being not of the same body as I. It would not be one of the spirits that are known. One of them he would be." (4) So there he was sitting yet thinking to himself. From below him on the bluff a door opened. It became an old man. There he came out and furthermore that old man said, "Grandson, I have blessed you, and so the way that you're going to do, I'm going to tell you." He didn't think only of that sort of thing. Before this time they did that way. They are doing it to poor people. And [he said], "At this time I have blessed you. (5) There are four birds. Kill the other three. When you do it, peel the skin from the fourth which is the largest. And that you'll get into. Use the bowstring when you do it, placing the bow on each side of the wings. And let your legs hang down from the very edge of the bluff and jump down. Do not get scared — your relatives are very good. There you will reach back." So these things are what he said to him. (6)
All the little birds he killed, after which he threw them on the ground. He peeled the skin off just one very large one. That being done, he put it on. When he finished putting the bow on, he stretched his wings. That being done, he used the bowstring to tie it onto his breast criss-cross. Then he did what he had been told —:he came to the very edge of the bluff and sat down letting his legs hang down for a very long time. He hated to do it. (7) When he started to jump, then again he didn't do it. So this time, then, he thought, "If they bless me, they said," so now he jumped down and did not fall fast, and then he flew carefully. As he did it, at that moment by mistake he turned with the wind and then he went very fast. He came near to striking the bluff and so then he came very near to some. He was going to turn it very slowly. Then he flew round and round in order to be slow. And thus he would go. (8) So easily towards earth he began to come. "I'm going to fly very slowly," he said as he did it. "I will come to the spot where they took me from. There I will land," he said. This woman would be crying and groaning, but it would be this one's body. And then the crying one untied the bird skin. In it he will go elsewhere where it will be his body. "Mother, you must stop this, for I have come back," he said. Again [he said, "You must make it stronger."] (9)
Again the next time very near he was. He would show the bird skin. "They took me captive above and they told me to do this sort of thing, so I did. And then you must go back to the lodge. They must sweep the lodge out and you must put some of the kettles on the fire. And when I get there, I will tell you what I did when I came back. And once the woman has finished crying, you will leave (?) the lodge."
When she got there, she told her husband, "My son, who was dead, has returned. (10) And so the lodge he told me to come to, (...) the lodge, there we placed some kettles. And someone must tell the people if many would gather. And then he'll tell a story," [s]he said. "What he did I take to the above," he thought. And so then, thus he would think. And now when they sent the people to call him, right now they would come and stand and there he would tell all what he did and took back from above and again how he got back. (11) And they said that they thought the man was smart.
At that time they used to say that they would do something to get arrowheads for the buffalo hunt. That day they were going to do this. An old woman would say that her grandson will go with them. They will make him poor, she would say. They owned only a white horse. The old woman used to ride it. She used to make the horse carry material for the tent. Her grandson used to walk there, (12) and so they would camp someplace. At some time he would come to a place where there were buffalo. The boy would water the white horse. The boy, the old woman's grandson, went himself leading the white horse. And he was poor. Everyone used to mock him. When hunting they knocked out the eyes of that white horse. That little boy would return crying to the old woman. "Say, grandson, why do you cry and tremble?" she would say. And he would say, "They knocked the eyes out of the white horse, (13) and so he stops." Thus they had already done it, nevertheless, he would cry a long time and that white horse pitied him. So he cried himself to sleep. At night that white horse began to speak. He heard it, then, "Friend, you cried for me so I'll tell you something, and of all the horses in the land, no one is equal to me, and furthermore, I bless you. I am chief (of the white horses). As we are going along, we will camp four times, (14a) and the leader is going to say, 'We'll see buffalo there. One will be a very white buffalo. To whomever kills him, the princess will be given,' he'll say. Soon, however, you will kill that very white buffalo. If they give that woman to you, do not accept her as it is the hide that they're after, that is why they are saying it. Thus, for this thing (hide) one hunts. You will tell them, 'I am not able to marry,' and that will be. One technique of painting you'll use on me. (14b) On each side of my hips, you'll use green paint and again on each side of my shoulder blades you'll do the same thing, and you'll tie there a single eagle tail feather near its base, and again one you'll tie on the headpiece of the bridle. That being done, never let anyone else ride me. When we see the buffalo, we'll make a dash for them. In the center the white one there he'll be, but don't bother your heart (15) about where he will be going — only you will be going that way, however many fast horses as there are. They are thinking that they cannot get together. And you will kill him. Then we'll come back. They will say, "One will come. They will give you the princess," they will say. But do not accept her. You will tell them something: 'I'm not old enough to marry a woman.' They're saying that because they're after the white buffalo hide. You will tell the grandmother to give it to them. (16) And again in the future they will have a big battle. And again they will place the princess up as the prize. 'If someone kills the one who has the Nąjíjererá (a valuable stick with feathers attached), this one will marry the princess,' thus they will say. And when the battle comes to be, it will be like what we did before. This we will do. The one who has the banner [the Nąžížererá], when he approaches you will also approach. He'll use a spear. You will spear him around the side of the heart. And then they will say, Gu-u-u! (17) The ones opposite will say, 'It is quitting time,' they'll say. And once again they will give you the princess. But do not accept her. And when you have finished the third time, it will be the biggest battle. And then they will say again that the two very fastest horses will be the prizes. They will put one in the center. He who will cut the head off [the enemy], he will be given the very fastest horses, they will say. (18) And then four times they will be in this middle and then four times the light will reach there. In the morning they will get ready and then about noon when they give a (vocal) sign, immediately they'll run and the horses will immediately try to get ahead of each other. 'He is the old woman's grandson,' they will say."
The things that they talked about — the one with the banner came. (19) Every time on his side when he came near to his side one he would kill and run back so if they shot at him they would never hit him. And then again they would start coming on this side, one he would kill. When he was going back, the old woman's grandson would approach him in the midst. When he went, he shot him. He would approach him. Thus he did. He cut off the head. And so, Gu!, they would say, and then they would quit the battle. And both of the swiftest horses they would give to him.
(20) And so when they got back again a woman they would give him. And then he would get married. And the two swift horses he gave away to his two brothers-in-law. They would own one each. And now the fourth time again they were going to fight. And still the other would fight right now. His brother-in-law was one. His brother-in-law said, "Brother-in-law, let me borrow the horse," and the old woman's grandson would say, (21) "Brother-in-law, there is nothing that I cannot do," he said. His wife would say, "It won't matter if he likes to ride him," that woman would say, "so let him do it. He will arrive there, but it won't be right. I have said it," she said. Then he went back in. He took something. And then he would lie under something and a little after he went away. And a little while later there would be the noise of the whoop. "The old woman's grandson has been killed," they would say. And so then the old woman heard it and would cry, "My grandson!" (22) Where he lived, there she would go. When she got to this place the grandson there would lie down. "My tiny grandson was killed, that is why I came." When she said that, he would say, ""It wasn't me who was killed, [but] one of my brothers-in-law did [get killed]."
So the next morning he went to see the horse. He was killed at the spot where he thought. So there he's going. There he arrived. There out on an open prairie it was lying, (23) and when he saw it he would cry, "Hoho, my horse," he would say. He said, "Hello my friend, I've been waiting for you. Friend, what I've told you, some you did not do for me. I just want you to see me and then I'm going. That is why I have been waiting for you," he said. Then would get up on his feet and then crouch (?) himself towards the west. He would go towards it. Thus he did. He whinnied. He would start to run, and even before he got very far, he ran away. And then he would disappear. There was a hill, to go towards he would do. Now when he got there, or just about there, inside this hill they whinnied. Thus they made noise, he would think. They say of the white hill that it really existed. That's all.1
Commentary. The Spirit Horse was apparently killed and thus taken away from the boy because, as the spirit puts it, "What I've told you, some you did not do for me [jágu hinįgera hąke hínągíš'ųnisge hisge]." Apparently one of these things was accepting the woman that was offered to him as a wife, but more particularly, allowing someone else (his brother-in-law) to mount the horse that he alone was privileged to ride.
Comparative Material. The Ioway have a version that is very close in some respects to Part II of this story. One day an orphan was out with his friend, the chief's son. The latter had lost heavily at gambling, so he asked the orphan to go back to his lodge and fetch some more goods so that he could continue to play. So the orphan went to his friend's lodge, but there his wife tried to seduce him. As he struggled to free himself from her, the chief's son walked in. The woman accused the orphan of trying to seduce her, which made her husband angry and indignant. So the chief moved the village and ordered the orphan and his daughter-in-law to stay behind in a mud walled lodge. Since they were ostracised together, the woman tried to persuade him to sleep with her, but he steadfastly refused. One day he encountered a wretched looking horse by the river, but when he rode the animal, he discovered that he was the swiftest that he had ever mounted. In time people came to the village. They called the orphan "Thrown Away." They began to gamble with him in horse racing, and soon the young man had one an entire herd of horses and most of their possessions. He went buffalo hunting thereafter, and soon his meat racks were full. All this while, he never touched his friend's woman. When the people returned they were surprised to see them alive, let alone in possession of so much meat and such a grand herd of horses, some say numbering near 600 head. When his friend returned, the Thrown Away said, "I never have touched your wife. Here she is just as you left her. And I shall give you all these racks of meat and 50 horses as well," he said. So his friend discovered that the orphan had been true, so he gave his friend another woman to be his wife. Now the horse that had brought the orphan such good fortune had come to him in a dream and told him that no one else could ride him without severe consequences. It chanced that one day the village was attacked, and the orphan's brother-in-law mounted this horse and charged the enemy. He was killed, and the horse was mortally wounded and even scalped. The horse upbraided the orphan for not obeying his command, and told him that he would now be leaving him. He ordered Thrown Away to take him to the lake. When the horse reached the water, he dove in. In time he came up, and was completely healed. Then the horse galloped off into the sky, never to be seen again.2
For a Pawnee version of Part II, see The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse.
Links: Thunderbirds, Horses.
Stories: 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, 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, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Redhorn's Sons, The Dipper, The Stone that Became a Frog, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, 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; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird 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, 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 (blackbirds, 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 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, 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 Journey to Spiritland (v. 4); mentioning horses: The Big Eater, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Sun and the Big Eater, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights, Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, James’ Horse, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Boy who Flew, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, They Owe a Bullet, The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2); mentioning white buffalo: Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Brass and Red Bear Boy, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse; about fasting blessings: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Difficult Blessing, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Seer, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Holy Song, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Blessing of Šokeboka, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Sweetened Drink Song, Ancient Blessing.
The first episode of this story is a variant of The Boy who Flew; the second part is a variant of The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse.
Themes: being carried (off) by a bird: The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Boy who Flew, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Old Man and the Giants; someone is abducted and led off into captivity: The Captive Boys, A Man's Revenge, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Lost Child, Wears White Feather on His Head, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Bladder and His Brothers, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Green Man, Brave Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Šųgepaga, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, Wolves and Humans, The Woman Who Became an Ant, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), The Boy who Flew, Testing the Slave; a doorway is unexpectedly found in the side of a hill which serves as a lodge for a powerful spirit: Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Shaggy Man, Bluehorn's Nephews, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister; a prisoner escapes by killing (some of) his captor(s): Wears White Feather on His Head, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Boy who Flew, Hare Gets Swallowed, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, The Captive Boys; wearing the skin of a spirit bird: Holy One and His Brother, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Boy who Flew, The Lost Blanket; something is of a (symbolic) pure white color: White Bear, Deer Spirits, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), White Flower, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Fleetfooted Man, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Worúxega, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket (white spirits), Skunk Origin Myth, He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Messengers of Hare, The Brown Squirrel, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Bladder and His Brothers, White Thunder's Warpath, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Dipper, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Creation of the World (v. 12), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Descent of the Drum, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), The Diving Contest, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Grandmother's Gifts, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Completion Song Origin, North Shakes His Gourd, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Peace of Mind Regained; a spirit is quoted as he gives someone a blessing: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Completion Song Origin, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Difficult Blessing, The Blessing of Šokeboka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bow Meets Disease Giver, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Sunset Point, The Rounded Wood Origin Myth, A Peyote Vision, The Healing Blessing; a chief offers his daughter in marriage in exchange for the hide of a very rare and beautiful animal: The Red Feather, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse; a chief gives away his daughter as a prize for achievement: The Red Feather, The Chief of the Heroka, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth; marriage to a yųgiwi (princess): The Nannyberry Picker, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, 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, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Shakes the Earth, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga; spirits bless someone with the right to kill a man ("give him a man"): White Thunder's Warpath, Šųgepaga, A Man's Revenge, Great Walker's Warpath, The Masaxe War, Little Fox and the Ghost; 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, The Markings on the Moon, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, The Man with Two Heads, Brave Man, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Redhorn's Sons, Fighting Retreat, The Children of the Sun, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Were-Grizzly, Winneconnee Origin Myth; uttering the sacred syllable gu brings a battle to an end: The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Wazųka, The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), White Fisher.
1 Rufus Tiver, "The Story of Thunderbird and White Horse," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1909?) #17: 1-24.
2 "3. Bétēingē, or Thrown Away," in Alanson Skinner, "Traditions of the Iowa Indians," The Journal of American Folklore, 38, #150 (October-December, 1925): 427-506 [446-448].