Trickster Loses Most of His Penis (§18 of the Trickster Cycle)

translation based on the interlinear of Oliver LaMère

Hočąk Syllabic Text with an Interlinear Translation

(381) There as he was going about, there, unexpectedly, as he was going, something right by his side sang, saying,

(382) What are you packing Trickster?
It's your penis that you're packing!

"Howá!" he said. "What a bad one he is. Furthermore, what does this one mean to say? He himself has full knowledge of what I am carrying," he said. (383) Then again in a certain direction it said right by his side as he went along, again unexpectedly,

What are you packing Trickster?
A pair of his testicles!

he said. (384) "Howá! what thing is it that is saying this? He is watching me as I go around. I will pack my pack correctly," he said and he emptied it out. Then he overturned them. He placed them on his own back. Then he put his testicles next to his back. (385) Thus it was, and most unexpectedly again it was everywhere he went. Again, unexpectedly, it was right by his side:

What are you packing Trickster?
You are packing your testicles underneath!
You are packing your testicles underneath!

(386) "Howá! what a bad thing it is that teases me. He must have watched my pack," he said. Again he fixed his pack. He put the head of his penis on top. (387) Thus he did and quite unexpectedly he went forth. Again, unexpectedly, from his side,

What are you packing Trickster?
You are packing your penis.
Your penis head is on top,
Your penis head in on top!


(388) he said. "Howá! what is it that says this?" he said. He jumped towards it, but it ran away. "Ti ki ti ki ti ki ti ki," it said. It ran into a hollow tree. (389) It was a chipmunk that had done it. "You will die, you homely thing that said that. Hąhą́, my younger brother, you may attend to him as he has teased you for a long time," he said. At some point, he took out his penis. (390) Then this he used to probe the hollow log, but he could not reach the end of it. Again he took out more of it and probed again. Again he did not reach the end with it. (391) Again he took out some more and unwound it. Again he probed into it. Again he could not reach the end. So now he took out all that remained of it. (392) The box was emptied. Again he did it, he probed into it. Thus it was. He could not reach the end. So then he came there and he probed as far as he could, but still he could not reach it. (393) "Howá!" he said. When he took it out, unexpectedly, the penis was brought out a little short on the end. "Hohó! what a great injury he has done me. What a shame! (394) I'll teach you!" he said. He kicked the log to pieces. There he tramped the chipmunk flat. Unexpectedly, there it was in a pile, all gnawed up. (395) "Hohó, what an important instrument his has deprived me of. Hąhą́, what am I saying? I will make instruments for the people," he said. There the penis lay. He took up the part of the penis without the foreskin. (396) This one is what the people will ever call a 'arrowleaf'," he said. There in a lake nearby, there he threw it. Then again there he took one of the things gnawed off in the water and said, (397) "Henceforth, people will call these 'potatoes'," he said. Then he took one again and said, "This the people will call the 'turnip' henceforth," he said. (398) Then another one he took and said, "The people will ever call this 'artichoke'," he said. Then he took another one and said, "The people will ever call these 'ground beans'," he said. (399) Then he took another one and said, "These the people will ever call 'dog teeth'," he said. He took another one and said, "These also the people will ever call 'sharp claws'," he said. (400) He took another one and said, "This the people will ever call 'rice'," he said. He threw one into the water. Then there he took the end of the penis and said, (401) "This also the people will ever call 'water root'," he said. The square part he meant, the end. He meant what was left of the butt end of the penis, which was a little long.

(402) Then thus he did, and left his own box there. Just the way men's penises are now, his had become that way. That is why men's penises are so short. If Chipmunk had not gnawed to pieces this penis, (403) it is said that the first born would still be that way. The first borns would have to carry their penises on their back, it is said. If their penises were that way, it would not be good, so purposely, (404) Chipmunk was made to do it, it is said. That would not be good, so this is the reason why they did it to him.1

Commentary. "hollow log" — a ną-xopox in Hočąk. This is an allegorical symbol for the vaginal barrel and womb. The word for penis in Hočąk is re, and for sexual intercourse, the word is ju. This matches almost exactly the word rejų, which means "root, descendant." So a rejų is in origin a re-ju, penis-intercourse. The chipmunk in another myth becomes a figure of time, since it was agreed that the stripes on his back should dictate the number of months in a year (six dark, and six light). As it transpires in our present myth, the various parts of the penis each becomes a generative instrument, each acting like a seed that creates a plant in its own image. The penis generates descendants or "roots" over time, creating one root (descendant) at a time, rather than a litter as in many other animals. So it is through time that the penis as seeder operates sequentially to produce its "roots."

"I'll teach you" — the Hočąk is hirapéresikjanéną, which literally means, "you will know." The nearest idiom in English is "I'll teach you."

"tramped" — allied to the penis theme is the theme of wood. The generative penis takes on the rigidity of wood when erect. The Hočąk word for wood is . When Trickster shatters the wood it is of a piece with the dismemberment of his penis, and even the squashing of the chipmunk alludes to this theme, as in two sentences we get the syllable three times: xara xoxoǧše. Éja stastakjįže, Hečgenįka. The word nąstastakjį is expanded from the root stak, "to trample under foot." This is built from nąstak, "to step on someone's foot," with the infix -sta- being a reduplication of stak, which has the effect of expressing repetitive action; -kjį (~ -xjį) is an emphatic. The loss of the cylinder of wood is also the loss of the potency of the penis. The chipmunk, which represents time, is repeatedly trodden under foot until his time is up, literally and figuratively. In Hočąk symbolism, treading under foot is an expression of conquest. The Thunderbirds made the metaphorical "hills and valleys" (hierarchy) either by using the Thunderbird Warclub to strike the ground (as with lightning), or by trampling the ground with their feet. The action of Trickster's feet have vanquished the embodiment of time, which is to say, that Trickster has conquered time. What does this mean? As we see, the segmented parts of his penis are now the seeds or fetuses which are to be planted in water and the soil of the lake bed to yield up offspring of great benefit to society. Reproduction, here of the penis itself, is a paradigm for the reproduction of human beings. It is by reproduction that immortality and perpetuation of the race is achieved. In this is found the conquest of time, which is otherwise death and mortality, representing the conquest of life by Time.

"arrowleaf" — Hočąk sįpóro, mistranslated with the picturesque term of the XIXᵀᴴ century, "lily of the lake." On the matter of its identity, Radin is mistaken. Before him, Gilmore identified this plant as the arrowleaf (Sagittaria latifolia), also known as the wapato, and the duck potato. After him, Jipson, Saunders, and Miner identified it as the arrowleaf. This is reinforced by the cognate Omaha-Ponca word , of the same meaning. Its tubers, which taste like chestnuts, were eaten. In some respects they are strikingly phallic (see image below).

"lake" — the penis is a generative organ. The seed within it resides in "water." The seed within his sexual apparatus can be viewed as part of that organ, and when "thrown" or ejaculated, it still resides in the fluid. The fluid, however, sinks to the bottom of the womb, where it "takes root," and generates a new image of itself, in the allegory, expressed as a phallic looking plant. To the Hočągara, descendants are "roots" (rejų). Many of the plants have tubers that are phallic in appearance, and it is these which are the literal descendants or "roots" of Trickster's penis. The most common natural mirror is the surface of a lake, and the image seen in a lake is called a nąǧirak, the same word that means soul. The ghost (wanąǧi) which leaves the body at death, is also associated with water, since it is the seminal fluid into which it is introduced to create the complete life at conception. Consistent with the image-soul concept, the anthropomorphized Ghost is one of the Twins whose complement is Flesh. He, perhaps needless to say, dwells in the water and has to be induced by strong measures to join up with his twin Flesh on land among the human race. The hollow tree, we may recall, is a nąxopox, which sounds identical to ną-xop-pox, "sleeping () spirit (xop) hole (pox)," which works out well to describe the conception of the fetus which appears to sleep in the womb, the allegorical meaning of the hollow log. It is said of Ghost that his grandmother is a hollow tree stump, which, being upright, is often filled with water.

"potatoes" — Hočąk to, or "Indian potato," which actually denotes the groundnut, Apios americana Medikus. For the details on this plant, see the extensive commentary on it in The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head. When its tubers grow extensively they take on an elongated phallic shape and its beans are in a phallic shaped pod (see the picture below).

"turnip" — Hočąk tokéwehira, which means "the one of hunger." This is actually the prairie turnip, Pediomelum esculenta. See the extensive remarks on this plant in Orion Mythology. As can be seen from the picture below, its phallic character is exemplified by its root system.

"artichoke" — Hočąk pąxira, the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus). This is called pāge in Omaha-Ponca, and kisusit ("long tapering") by the Pawnee. As suggested by the Pawnee name, the tubers of this plant have a phallic shape (see below).

"ground beans" — Hočąk hónikmojára, the Falcata comosa. Called maka ta omnića, "beans of the ground" by the Dakota; hīthiabe by the Omaha-Ponca; atikuaru, "ground beans" by the Pawnee. "The pods produced from the petaliferous flowers on the upper leafy branches of the vine are 15 mm. to 20 mm. long and contain four or five dark, mottled, diminutive beans about the size of lentils. No attention is paid to these small aerial beans, but the large subterranean beans were eagerly sought as an article of food on account of their agreeable taste and nutritive value."2 It is in fact the aerial bean pods that are phallic (see below).

"dog teeth" — Hočąk šųk hira, whose identity is unknown. However, since teeth are elongated, especially those of the canine genera, it too probably looks phallic. Is this the Northern Clintonia (Clintonia borealis)? The friendship tribe of the Hočągara, the Menominee, have this to say about it, "My informant said this is the plant that the dog uses to poison his teeth, so that he can kill his prey. Should the dog bite a human, then it would be necessary to take the same herb and put it on the bite to draw out the poison."3 The Menominee name was not given. The Clintonia is illustrated below.

"sharp claws" — Hočąk wašak parasara, another unknown plant. If the claws refer to a feature of the plant, then their elongated character would also make them phallic.

"water root" — this makes nine offspring of his penis: (1) pond lily, (2) potatoes, (3) turnips, (4) artichokes, (5) ground beans, (6) dog teeth, (7) sharp claws, (8) rice, and (9) water root. The obvious reference is to the nine months of pregnancy. These came into being through the actions of Time (Chipmunk), and when the chipmunk was brought to an end, they had reached nine in number, as many as they would be, given the end of the time that brought them into being.

"the first born would still be that way" — this elongated penis is dysfunctional. Symbolically, since it was shortened by the symbol of time in order to replicate parts of itself, the gigantic penis represents an extravagant self-indulgence which is impotent. The size of the penis only superficially represents potency. Trickster sacrifices the superficial potency for a real power, the power of reproduction and the conquest of time itself (trampling of the chipmunk). The mutilation of the penis exemplifies the worldwide theme of the Mutilation Paradox, for which see below.

Images. Here are pictures of the various plants created from Tricksters dismembered penis.

Sįporo, arrowleaf tuber (Sagittaria latifolia) To, the Indian potato Tokewehira, the prairie turnip Pąxe, the Jerusalem artichoke

Hónikmojára, the ground bean Clintonia, Šųk hira, the dog tooth ?

Comparative Material. The Aztecs have an interesting parallel to this story.

(31) The corn which they ate was called "maize," which came to be this way: all the gods descended into a cavern, where one god named Pilzintecuhtli laid down with a goddess named Xochipilli [Xochiquetzal], from whom was born a god, called Cinteotl, who put himself under the ground, and from his hair came cotton; and from an ear came good (32) seed which they willingly eat, called huauhtzontli, and from the other one another; from the nose another seed, called chia, which is good to drink in summer time; from fingers came a fruit named camotl [sweet potato] which is good produce a lot like turnips; from his fingernails another sort of large maize, which is the form which they eat at present; and from the rest of his body came many other fruits, those which men cook and sow: and for this is this god beloved of the other gods and called Tlacopili which is to say "Beloved Lord."4

The Omaha have a very close version in their own trickster cycle.

Ictiuike ... resumed his wanderings. He stopped somewhere for the night, wrapped himself in his robe of raccoon skins, and lay down. Before he woke in the morning, his penis had become erect, carrying the robe up into the air. And the robe continued waving to and fro far above the head of Ictinike. At length Ictiuike awoke, and when he beheld the robe it gave him needless trouble. Just as he said, "Fie! this is the Buzzard! How can you possibly take your revenge on me? I am awake," the robe was coming down again very slowly. Then he recognized it. "Bother! how could I have been deceived by my own robe!" So he wrapped up his penis and journeyed on till he came suddenly upon a striped chipmunk. The latter said, "Tsi-tsi-tsi!" "Do not say that again," said Ictinike, but the chipmunk repeated the cry. "Whew! he really underrates me," said Ictiuike, enraged at the chipmunk, whom he chased into his retreat in the side of a bank. Then Ictinike deployed his penis, and it pushed into the opening until it touched an elf of various distinct colors. The part of his penis that had been long, it bit off. And so the end of his member intruded itself. Again the elfin creature of various distinct colors bit that part off, and he did not stop doing this. Then he said, "Tsi-tsi-tsi." "Naturally," said Ictinike, "he said, 'Tci, tci, tci!'" Then he withdrew his member out of the opening. He was surprised that so much had been bitten off so that only the smallest part remained. Therefore, through the opening he thrust his hand, and extracted a part of his member. As he threw it far to one side he exclaimed, "You shall be called, Hazi (ha, skin ; zi, yellow}." And grape-vines came out of the place where it had fallen. Again, he thrust his hand in and took out another piece, which he hurled aside, saying, "You shall be called, ʞande." And plum bushes (ʞande hi) sprang up from the ground where the piece had fallen. In like manner he accomplished the creation of all kinds of fruits and vegetables.5

In an Arapaho tale, Nih’āⁿçaⁿ (the trickster) tells his penis, which is of huge proportions, to snake its way into the teepee of the chief and insert itself into his daughter. The penis does as it is told, but it is so large that the girl bleeds profusely. When her parents light the fire, they see what is happening, and the chief gets a knife and chops Nih’āⁿçaⁿ's penis into pieces. That is why today the human penis is no longer than it is.6

A Gros Ventre tale replaces the chipmunk with a mouse. "Nix’aⁿt spots a woman sleeping on the opposite side of a river, so he requires that a mouse carry his penis to her. The mouse carries his penis off, but damages parts of it over rough ground, so that Nix’aⁿt's penis was torn inserting it into the vagina wounding itself, and he cried out."7

The Pomo of California have a trickster figure in Coyote who creates living things from his stomach. He burns the earth, then descends and eats the roasted meat of his victims, but this makes him thirsty. He foolishly drinks ocean water and becomes sick. He vomits up the contents of his stomach, and this forms Clear Lake. The meat in his stomachs becomes all the creatures the live in its waters.8

The Mutilation Paradox also seems to apply here. The paradox is that the symbolic function of the organ is not diminished by its loss, but rather augmented. The penis as it existed in Trickster's time was so unmanageable that it was difficult for it to function as a generative organ. The act of reducing it to a manageable size results in a great deal of generation, and the pieces of the penis now become a dozen plants. When the penis is mutilated, its function, generation, becomes augmented. The whole is an expression of sacrifice, in which people destroy something of value so that its function may be augmented. (For more on the Mutilation Paradox, see 1, 2.) This aspect of the myth corresponds nicely to the ancient Egyptian story of Osiris and Isis. Out of jealousy, Osiris was murdered by his brother Set and his confederates. Just to make certain that he would not be revived, Set cut him into 14 pieces and scattered him over all of Egypt. Isis found every piece of him save his penis, which had been eaten by a oxyrhinchus fish. She replaced the penis with one made of gold. Osiris became Lord of the Dead, and a source of fecundity of the Nile and all plant life. This power was symbolized in his green skin.

Creation from human dismemberment is a theme known among the Indo-Europeans. A set of myths follow a paradigm in which the two first people, called "Man" and "Twin," participate in the first sacrifice. Man kills Twin and creates from his body the entire physical world.9

The Trickster tale has some interesting points in common with the Pandora's Box myth of the Greeks, although some of these points are correlated by opposition:

Trickster's Box Pandora's Box

Trickster is the first man. Pandora is the first woman.

Trickster carries around something concealed in a box. Pandora owns something concealed in a box or jar.

It is a good thing, an "important instrument." It contains a host of ills.

Chipmunk knows what is inside. Pandora does not know what is inside.

It is a single It is a multiplicity

generative organ. of destructive and evil things.

Chipmunk teases Trickster about what is inside the box. Pandora herself was created by the gods to be a temptress and burden upon men.

Trickster succumbs to temptation Pandora succumbs to temptation

and opens the box so that his penis might attack Chipmunk. and opens the box to discover what is inside.

Chipmunk chews Trickster's penis into many pieces. A host of ills escape from the box.

Trickster flattens Chipmunk. Pandora clamps the lid back on the jar.

Only a small part of his generative organ remains, only one thing was left in the box: hope,

and this is what remains to men today. and this is all that remains for men today.

He takes the pieces of his dismembered penis and turns them into boons for mankind. This is the origin of the evils that plague mankind.

This was done so that the human generative organ would not be so unmanageable. This was done to avenge the theft of fire which made men overreach their proper bounds.10

In both cases we have primordial figures exceeding the bound of propriety and suffering a loss as a consequence. In one case it is for the better and a multiplicity of good things are created; but in the Greek story, the punishing consequence is a multiplicity of evil things.

Links: Trickster, The Sons of Earthmaker, Chipmunks.

Links within the Trickster Cycle: §17. A Mink Tricks Trickster, §19. The Scenting Contest.

Stories:featuring Trickster as a character: featuring Trickster as a character: The Trickster Cycle, Trickster Gets Pregnant, 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, 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 Trickster's penis: Trickster's Penis; mentioning chipmunks: Black and White Moons.

Themes: a voice, which appears to be disembodied, speaks to Trickster: Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb; animals insult Trickster as he sojourns on earth: Trickster's Warpath, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 4); someone talks to his own organs as though they were people: Trickster's Penis, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks; someone takes shelter in a hollow log (in order to escape enemies): Brave Man, The Man with Two Heads, The Shaggy Man, Redhorn's Father, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, The Thunder Charm; rodents gnaw on parts of people's bodies: Ocean Duck, Hare Kills Wildcat; because of what was done to the body of a primordial spirit, a human organ has the form and shape that it does today: Turtle's Warparty (testicles), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks (anus).


1 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 38-40. The original text is "Wakdjukaga," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, ca. 1912) Winnebago V, #7: 381-404.

2 Melvin Randolph Gilmore, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, Thirty-Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1911-12 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1919) 60-61, plate 18.

3 Huron H. Smith, "Ethnobotany of the Menomini Indians," Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, 4, #1 (Dec. 10, 1923): 1-174 [38, plate 14, fig. 3].

4 (31) Le blai quils mangent se appelle maïz, fut faict de cette sorte: les dieux descendirent touts en une caverne, où ung dieu nomé Pieciutentli se estoyt couché avec une déesse nomée Choquijceli, de la quelle nacquist ung dieu, dict Ciutentl, le quel se mit de soubs la terre, et de ses cheveux sortit le couton, et de ung eouill une fort bonne (32) semence quils mangent volountiers, nomée Sanctlhqez, de ľaultre un aultre, du nais ung aultre semence, nomée chia, qui est bonne à bouyre en temps de esté, des doigts sortit ung fruict nomé camotl qui est comme des naveaux fort bon fruict, des oungles aultre sorte de maïs large qui est le forment quils mangent à présent, et du reste du corps luy sortit beaucoup de aultres fruicts, les quels les hommes ceuillent et sement: et pour ce estoyt ce dieu aimé des aultres dieux e l'appelloint Tlacopili qui veult dire seigneur aimé. Edouard de Jonghe, "Histoyre du Mechique, manuscrit français inédit du XVIe siècle," Journal de la Société des Américanistes, Nouvelle Série, 2 (1905): 1-41 [31-32]. Alfredo López Austin, Tamoanchan, Tlalocan: Places of Mist. Trs. Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano and Thelma Ortiz de Montellano (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1997) 93-94.

5 Frank La Flèsche, "Ictinike and the Chipmunk," in Rev. James O. Dorsey, "¢egiha Texts," Contributions to North American Ethnology, 6 (1890): 551. Radin, The Trickster, 128, #11.

6 Cut Nose, "Nih’āⁿçaⁿ Diminishes the Penis," in George A. Dorsey and Alfred L. Kroeger, Traditions of the Arapaho (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997 [1903]) Story 31: 64, 483.

7 Nix’aⁿt cum feminam trans flumen dormientem videret, ab mure ut penem ad eam portaret petiit. Mus penem transportavit, sed terræ asperæ parti anteposuit, ita ut Nix’aⁿt penem vaginæ inserere cum vellet se læsit et clamavit. "6. Nix’aⁿt and the Mouse," in Alfred Louis Kroeber, Gros Ventre Myths and Tales, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History (New York: Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History, 1907) Volume 1, Part 3, p. 68.

8 S. A. Barrett, "A Composite Myth of the Pomo Indians," Journal of American Folk-lore, XIX (1906) 37. Summarized in A. L. Kroeber, "Indian Myths of South Central California," University of California Publications, American Archaeology and Ethnology, 4 (1907), #4: 169-250 [186 nt. 1].

9 Hermann Güntert, Der arische Weltkönig und Heiland: bedeutungsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur Indo-Iranischen Religionsgeschichte und Altertumskunde (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1923); Bruce Lincoln, Priest, Warriors, and Cattle: A Study in the Ecology of Religions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981) 75-77.

10 Hesiod, Work and Days 60-105; Theogony 570-616.