Trickster Gets Pregnant (§9 of the Trickster Cycle)
told by an elder of the tribe in 1912
interlinear translation by John Baptiste
Hočąk-English Syllabic Interlinear Text
(186) After he went away from there, to his surprise there he suddenly met Little Fox. "Hohó, my little brother, here you are traveling here." "Hąhą'ą! here I am accustomed to be," Little Fox said. (187) As the ground is soon going to become hard, I am looking for someplace to live," said Little Fox. (188) "Hohó, my younger brother, you have spoken well, I am also thinking of that sort of thing," he said. When they would say, 'if two decide to live together there,' I always like to be one of them. So let's live there together," he said. (189) They went there together. They were looking for a place to live. There, as they were going along, they saw Blue Jay there. "Hohó, my younger brother, what are you doing going about here?" Trickster asked him. (190) "Older brother, I am looking for a little place to live in because the ground is also going to become hard. We are looking to take care of the same thing. 'That one with his younger brother is living with them,' they would say. (191) I would envy them. Let us live together. We also are looking to take care of the same thing," he said to him. (192) Again there together they went along when again there they saw a Hečgenįga (Nit, or Chipmunk). "Hohó my younger brother, again what are you doing going about?" they said to him. "Older brother, I am looking for a place to live," he said. (193) "My younger brother, we also are taking care of the same thing. Let us be together. When they say, 'If two decide to live there together,' I always like to be one of them. (194) Let us live together," Trickster said. (So the four of them set out together.)
And there it stood: a fork in the river where there were red oaks growing here and there. (195) It was a fine place. They said that there was a nice place to live. There they made themselves a lodge. And they began making preparations for the winter. (196) In the fall when things were about to ripen, they had all they wanted to eat. In the course of time, there was a deep snow. There had never been such as this. They had nothing to eat. (197) There the men were hungry. In the course of time, Trickster said, "My younger brothers, it will be very difficult. I'm thinking that if we do one thing, it will be good," he said. (198) "All right, our older brother means that whatever may be good, that sort of thing we'll do, otherwise someone of us will starve to death later on. (199) What should be done so that we may eat? The sort of thing that he means is good," they said. And he said, "Here lies a village. Good things are there. (200) One of the chief's sons is shooting many animals. He has not done it with a woman. Getting married is on his mind. (201) And so we can go there to him. I will make myself into a woman and marry him. There in peace we will be until spring." "Yes!" they said. They were all willing, so they said.
"An elk," they said. (202) An elk's liver (čačuga), that was the vulva. And yet again he used elk kidneys for breasts. Then thus he did and he put on a dress. Finally, they wrapped him in a skirt. (203) They had just those, and that is what he wore. There he was. He was a very pretty woman. And thus he did and he made himself pregnant by Little Fox. (204) And also he made himself pregnant with Blue Jay; also by Hečgenįga. He was made pregnant by all three of them.
And thus he did, and he went to the town. (205) There he went. He went to the end of the village where there lived an old woman. The old woman said, "My granddaughter, again what do you mean to do? (206) When you go traveling about you have some consideration, as it is not for nothing or for traveling alone that you go about," she said to her. Then she said, (207) "Grandmother, I come to court the chief's son," she said. "Hą, granddaughter, I will tell it," she said. Then she went outside. She said shouting, she said, (208) "Hoho! someone has come to court the chief's son," she would say. "Hąho, the old woman is saying something," they said. So they listened to her and, unexpectedly, she was saying that they have come to court the chief's son. (209) The chief said to his daughters, he said to them, "Hąho, that is the sort of thing she would be doing. My daughters, go get your sister-in-law," he said. (210) So they went after her. She was a very pretty woman. The chief's son liked her very much. Sure enough, right away they boiled for her bear ribs slit together with dried corn. (211) Right off, that was what she was being called to marriage for. Right away they put some before her. They cooled it for her and placed it before her. (212) She ate it up. And there she remained.
The chief's son was very happy over it. He was to become a father. (213) Not long after, right away, she gave birth to one. It was a boy. Yet again, she became pregnant with one right away. She had her children in rapid succession. (214) Yet again she had given birth to a boy. Then again the third one she finally gave birth to. Again it was a boy. The last born cried. (215) Now in the course of time, it would not stop. Now they went after an old woman there. She used to quiet them, but she could not stop him. (216) Finally now, this little child said in song:
|Tahuwe, tahuwe!||Tahuwe, tahuwe!|
|If only I could||Naixjį|
|A little piece of white cloud||Maxi sga nįkra nį́ge|
|I could play with!||Yašgačšeži!|
he said. Then they looked for holy ones inasmuch as it was a chief's son who said it. (217) Whatever happened, they must obtain that sort of thing for him. They tried to obtain for him a piece of a white cloud above. How to do it and obtain a piece of it? (218) Very much they did, but there finally, one of them did it. He made it snow. Then when the snow fell deep, after they gave him a piece of it (219) and he played with it, he stopped. Again in the course of time he said again in song, again he said the same,
|Tahuwe, tahuwe!||Tahuwe, tahuwe!|
|If only I could||Naixjį|
|A little piece of blue sky||Kera čo nįkra nį́ge|
|I could play with!||Yašgačšeži!|
he said. (220) Again they tried to find a piece of blue sky. They tried various things but were not able to get it. Again in the course of time, during the spring of the year, having given him a piece of blue (čo) grass, he stopped. (221) Again he said, "Green (čo) leaves," he said. The fourth time it was for ripe green (čo) corn. Then consequently, having given him some green corn, he stopped.
(222) Then one day they made steamed corn ("earth corn") there. The chief's wife teased her sister-in-law. He chased her around the steaming pit. (223) Finally, the chief's wife jumped over the pit and there the elk liver dropped. They shouted at her there, "It's the Trickster!" the men said. The chief's son was ashamed. (224) Then the other ran away from there in every direction. Little Fox, Blue Jay, and Nit all ran away.1
For a thorough analysis of this myth, see "Trickster's Pregnancy and the Seasons of Corn."
"Little Fox (Coyote?)"— Wašerekéniga is also the name given to Coyote in at least one story. Even in this corpus of stories, near the end of the cycle, the translator renders Wašerekéniga as "Coyote."
Hečgenįga (Nit, or Chipmunk) — Unfortunately, the word Hečgenįga is ambiguous between "chipmunk" and "nit." The translator prefers "nit."
A nit is a head louse. The University of Maine Pest Management Lab has the following to say on head lice: "The head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) is gray in color but tends to take on the hair color of the host. This insect pest is usually found on the lower back of the head and behind the ears. The female is about 1/16" to 1/8" long and flattened in shape; the male is a bit smaller. Hook-like claws are at the end of each of six legs to help anchor the louse to the hair shaft. Head lice do not jump or fly. A female head louse will live about 30 days on a host. During this period, she will deposit about 90 eggs, three a day. The grayish white, 1/16" long eggs are cemented to hair shafts next to the scalp. The eggs are called "nits" and hatch in about one week. The newly hatched lice (called "nymphs") molt three times in eight or nine days before becoming adults. The life cycle is completed in about 15 days. During this time, the nymphs, as well as the adults, feed with piercing and sucking mouthparts, injecting saliva to keep blood from clotting. If the lice are not disturbed, feeding may continue for extended periods, and the insects may excrete dark red feces onto the scalp."
"so the four of them set out together" — Trickster's friends, at least Little Fox and Blue Jay, have reputations as both bad spirits and as being tricky by nature. Blue Jay has been implicated in false blessings, once even impersonating Earthmaker himself. The foxes, as we know from a previous adventure in the cycle, once stole all of trickster's food, and left the bones behind to look as if nothing had been disturbed.
"to court the chief's son" — The courtship of the chief's son is as inverted as the sexual identity of Trickster himself: it is the man's role to initiate courtship, not the woman's.
"there she remained" — Trickster is playing the role of a berdache, a man who lives the life of a woman. The difference is that people believe that Trickster really is a woman; and Trickster, unlike a berdache, is compelled to this role not because he was ordained to it by the moon, but from a fear of hunger. The moon does have a connection to hunger: it is eaten up a little every night by the evil spirits until is disappears from the sky. Then it has to be created anew by Earthmaker. The berdache is believed to be superior in everything that a woman traditionally does, and Trickster has certainly fulfilled that role: he has given birth to three consecutive sons, a feat very difficult for any male.
Comparative Material. The Assiniboine trickster figure has a similar adventure, as summarized by Radin:
Sitcóⁿski travels in female garments, and is married by a young man. He pretends to give birth to a child, but actually packs a fox. When his trickery is exposed, he flees.2
This seems to be the same basic story, although a rather tamer version.
The distant Nez Perce have an interesting version of this story. Coyote and Fox were wandering around together. They had little luck in hunting and were now getting profoundly hungry. Coyote said, "We need to find someone who will feed us. I propose that we marry some good hunters, then we will be able to eat our fill." Fox wondered how they could do that, since they were both males. Coyote persuaded Fox that they should don women's clothing and he would take care of the rest. They went to where the two Wolf brothers lived. Coyote told them that their parents had betrothed them to the pair of them. The wolves were happy at this prospect, for they considered the two of them to be very comely. The wolves wanted to have sex right away, but Coyote said, "First you have to prove your worth by feeding us for four days. After doing this, then we can have sex." The wolves fed them with every meat imaginable, until they had become quite fat. When the fourth day arrived, the wolves were ready for action, but Coyote said, "First I have to answer a call of nature," and he went out. Instead, Coyote crept up upon the wolves' mother, and penetrated her while she slept. This woke her up, and she howled. When the wolf brothers heard her, they ran off to her rescue. Both Coyote and Fox made good their escape.3
Links: Trickster, Foxes, Little Fox, Blue Jay, Paradise Lost, Bird Spirits, Lice, Coyote, Earthmaker, The Sons of Earthmaker.
Links within the Trickster Cycle: §8. The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, §10. Trickster Visits His Family.
Stories: featuring Trickster as a character: The Trickster Cycle, Trickster's Warpath, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster Soils the Princess, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Elk's Skull, Trickster and the Plums, Trickster and the Mothers, The Markings on the Moon, The Spirit of Gambling, The Woman who Became an Ant, The Green Man, The Red Man, Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Trickster Loses His Meal, Trickster's Tail, A Mink Tricks Trickster, Trickster's Penis, Trickster Loses Most of His Penis, The Scenting Contest, The Bungling Host, Mink Soils the Princess, Trickster and the Children, Trickster and the Eagle, Trickster and the Geese, Trickster and the Dancers, Trickster and the Honey, Trickster's Adventures in the Ocean, The Pointing Man, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Trickster Visits His Family, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Petition to Earthmaker, Waruǧápara, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge; 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 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, 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, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), 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; featuring blue jays: Blue Jay, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega; in which Little Fox is a character: Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Little Fox and the Ghost, Little Fox Goes on the Warpath, The Scenting Contest; mentioning foxes: Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Little Fox and the Ghost, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Redhorn's Father, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Scenting Contest, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans (v. 3), Little Fox Goes on the Warpath, Holy One and His Brother; in which berdaches appear as characters: The Chief of the Heroka, Berdache Origin Myth; mentioning lice (and nits): Little Human Head, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Ocean Duck, Journey to Spiritland (v. 8); mentioning red oaks: The Children of the Sun, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Bladder and His Brothers, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Turtle's Warparty (v. 1); mentioning snow: Waruǧápara, The Glory of the Morning, Holy One and His Brother, Wolves and Humans, Grandfather's Two Families, The Four Steps of the Cougar, Redhorn's Father, The Old Man and the Giants, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Great Walker's Warpath, White Wolf, North Shakes His Gourd, The Fleetfooted Man, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, Witches, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, The Raccoon Coat, Silver Mound Cave, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married.
Themes: brothers meet by chance and decide to lodge together: Crane and His Brothers, Turtle's Warparty, Porcupine and His Brothers; a group of animals is preparing for the cold of winter by looking for a more suitable place to live: Trickster and the Geese, Porcupine and His Brothers; a great spirit changes his form in order to deceive someone: The Skunk Origin Myth (Turtle), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads, The Children of the Sun, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster's Tail, The Elks Skull, Trickster Soils the Princess, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Seven Maidens; Trickster turns into a woman and goes courting: Trickster Soils the Princess; a man assumes the role of a woman: Berdache Origin Myth, Old Man and Wears White Feather; description of a courtship outfit: The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, Redhorn's Father, Trickster Soils the Princess, The Dipper, The Nannyberry Picker; in the course of his travels, a man enters a lodge where he finds a grandmother who helps him: The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, Ocean Duck, Waruǧápara, Trickster Soils the Princess, Wojijé; a woman takes the initiative in courtship: The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Redhorn and His Brothers Marry, Old Man and Wears White Feather, (see also, Redhorn's Father).
Songs. Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 2), Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 3), Buffalo Dance Songs, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Returning, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Starting Out, Clan Song, Bear Clan, Song of the Youngest, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, The Four Songs of Hojanoka, Clan Songs—Deer Clan, Clan Songs—Wolf Clan, Clan Songs—Wonáǧire Wąkšik Clan, The Crawfish's Song, Duck Song, Farewell Songs, The Four Services Songs, Grandfather Sparrow's Rain Songs, Grizzly Bear Songs, Hare's Song to Grasshopper, Hare's Song to the Wągepanįgera, Hare's Song to Wildcat, Hawk's Song, Heroka Songs, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Little Fox's Death Song, Little Fox's Death Song (for the Warpath), Little Fox's Tail Song, Love Song I (female), Love Song II (female), Love Song III (female), The Mouse Song, Nightspirit Songs, The Quail's Song, Redman's Song, Slow Song of the Heroka, Soldier Dance Songs, Song for Calling the Buffalo, Song from the Water, Song from the Water (King Bird), The Song of Bluehorn's Sister, Hočąk Text — The Song of Sun Caught in a Net, The Song of the Boy Transformed into a Robin, Song of the Frog to Hare, Song of the Thunder Nestlings, The Song of Trickster's Baby, Song to Earthmaker, The Song to the Elephant, The Sun's Song to Hare, Three Warrior Songs, Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 1), Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 2), Turtle's Four Death Dance Songs, Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 1), Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 2), Twins, Ghost's Song (The Two Brothers), Twins, the Songs of Ghost and Flesh, Twins, Song of the Father-in-Law, Victory Song, Wailing Song, Warrior Song about Mąčosepka, What a Turtle Sang in His Sleep, Wolf-Teasing Song of the Deer Spirits. Songs in the McKern collection: Waking Songs (27, 55, 56, 57, 58) War Song: The Black Grizzly (312), War Song: Dream Song (312), War Song: White Cloud (313), James’ Horse (313), Little Priest Songs (309), Little Priest's Song (316), Chipmunk Game Song (73), Patriotic Songs from World War I (105, 106, 175), Grave Site Song: "Coming Down the Path" (45), Songs of the Stick Ceremony (53).
1 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 21-24. The original text is in "Wakdjukaga," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago V, #7: 186-224.
2 Radin, The Trickster, 102 #38. These tales are collected in R. H. Lowie, The Assiniboine, in The Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History (New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1909) 4:239-244.
3 Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz (edd.), American Indian Trickster Tales (New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998) 63-65.