Trickster Soils the Princess
retold by Richard L. Dieterle
As Trickster was traveling about the countryside, he said, "Grandmother, I am tired, so make me a resting place." Soon he came to the summit of a knoll from which he could see a small village of oval lodges. He went into the first one that he came to, and there, unexpectedly, was his grandmother. "It is good, grandmother," he said, "as I am tired and would like to get some rest." She had put on a kettle of bear ribs and corn to boil for him. She dished the food out and Trickster ate an enormous amount of it. She said, "Grandson, I was thinking, you have gone about the earth a long time, long enough to have completed whatever you were attempting. You are the greatest spirit here and you have been trying to look out for the future of the people, but if they follow your example, it will not be good. You never stop traveling over the face of the earth, but they all live at home with their wives. But if they were to act as you do, it would do them no good. So, nephew, you should really get married." Trickster replied, "If you wish it, then I will; but where can I get married?" She said, "Nearby is a village where the chief has a beautiful daughter. You can marry her. I would prefer her for a granddaughter. This is why I brought it up." "If I could win her," said Trickster, "then I certainly would marry her. I would like to do as you say, but the problem is, what if I failed to win her?" "Now then," she said, "I will make sure you succeed by getting you properly prepared." She took out a black buffalo skin and decorated it with eagle feathers at all four corners. This was his robe. She made a quiver of white marten fur, and a tobacco pouch of black otter skin. His moccasins were of black fur, and she made a turban for him from red yarn. She gave him a well ornamented pipe. She painted him perfectly and gave him a wampum necklace of eight strands. He was young and handsome, looking about the age of a lad who is just old enough to wear a breech cloth. When she was through, she almost fell in love with him herself.
Trickster set out carrying a flat warclub. In the evening he came to the banks of a creek where a patch of artichokes had been washed clean by high water. Trickster sampled one. It was sweet and delicious. He sat there eating artichokes until he couldn't eat another. Not long afterwards, he came to a large village. He peeped into the first oval lodge that he came to at the edge of the village. There, unexpectedly, was an old woman who said, "Instead of just peeping in, why don't you come inside?" So he went in. "Don't sit down just yet," she said, "until I spread something for you." She put down a black fur robe and he sat down on that. She put something on to boil for him and when he was finished eating, someone entered and placed some wood on the woodpile. Four times someone entered to place wood on the pile, then they talked among one another outside. "Well," they said, "you pack wood like a daughter-in-law!" then they all laughed. "Oh dear, if the old woman had a grandson I would be doing this every day," they would say, and they would all laugh some more. One of them announced, "I'm going to warm my hands, as they are getting cold." She came all the way in, and there unexpectedly was a man. He was handsome and was smiling at her. She giggled, and slipped back outside. The others asked, "Why did you do that?" but she would not tell them anything. Another one entered the lodge, but she came out giggling too. She also would not say why she was acting so strangely. The third one too did the same, and came out giggling. Finally, the yųgiwi (princess) herself went inside and was a bit startled, but went right in and sat by the fire log where she warmed her hands. After awhile, she went back outside. As they went home, they would say, "I wonder what the handsome man is here for?" They went inside the chief's lodge and told everyone what they had seen.
In the center of the lodge, there was a gambling game in progress. Turtle, who was one of the gamblers, overheard them and said, "I'm quitting!" The others said, "Turtle, you act like you said something, but this game is too interesting!" "That's true," he said, "but I'm expecting my friend who said he would be coming about this time." He had heard what they had said at the other end of the lodge about a handsome stranger having come into the village. Someone told Turtle that the women said that the traveler was a handsome man, to which Turtle replied, "That must be him. He used to wear a buffalo robe ornamented with eagle feathers on each corner." Then the others told him that this is just what he had, Turtle said, "That should be him. He also used to wear a red yarn turban, with a black otter skin tobacco pouch, and a white marten quiver." The women said, "That's exactly right!" "Well," said Turtle, "since they say that my friend is here, then you womanly guys can have your bets back." He shoved all his winnings back into the middle and left. As he passed his own lodge he stepped in and said, "Old woman, my friend has arrived, so boil up a nice fat beaver tail." The woman was overjoyed, and said, "My brother-in-law has finally arrived." Then he went on and entered the old woman's lodge. Turtle said, "Well now, my friend, so you have finally gotten here. I expected you yesterday." Then Trickster said, "You are right, my friend, I should have been here yesterday, but I just now got in." After they talked awhile, Turtle said, "Well, my friend, the old woman should have something moistened up by now." So the two of them went to Turtle's place. Turtle's wife was very delighted to see him, and kept saying, "Oh my brother-in-law!" She dished out the beaver tail, which was very fat indeed. He ate it right up, since after all the sweets he had been eating, it tasted especially good to him." As soon as he was done, Turtle began talking about the women, and the princess in particular, as he knew what his friend was about. Turtle said, "Many young men are courting the princess and her friends, but even though I am old, they say that I'm the only one who can whisper in her ear. I'm not serious about it, of course — I just do it because I like to court women. I wouldn't marry any of them, as the old woman here takes good care of me." His wife spoke, "That is just what he has been doing, so I told him to go ahead and marry one of them, but he won't do it. I told him that because he is always fooling young women." Trickster would always express his approval of what they were saying.
Late that night, Turtle came by and said, "Now then, my friend, are we not going over to the lodge of the princesses tonight?" Trickster said, "All right!" They both went to the lodge but stood outside. Turtle said, "Now then, my friend, you had better go in first." Trickster replied, "Maybe you had better go in first, as you are better acquainted with them." "All right, then" he said, "I'll go on in." The four of them slept two by two with each pair sharing a pillow. They were lying on platforms. Turtle went in and laid beside the princess, and said, "My friend the traveler ..." and then laughed. She listened intently and waited impatiently for him to tell her something, as she expected that he was bringing her a message from the man in whom she was so intensely interested. But every time that Turtle would speak, he would say, "My friend the traveler ..." then he would burst out into laughter. Trickster could hear him inside laughing. This was Turtle's purpose, as he wanted his friend to believe that she was really taken more by Turtle than anyone else. However, the princess said, "What exactly are you trying to say?!" Then she lost all patience with him, and gave him a good kick and knocked him right off the platform. Turtle landed on the floor with a thud. As he came out, he laughed out loud. Turtle told him, "I hope I haven't injured myself. I was lying in bed with her, teasing her, when she began to tickle me. I was taken by surprise, and fell right off the platform. I couldn't stop laughing." "Is that so?" asked Trickster.
Then Trickster went in with a candle, and when he reached the princess, she blew the candle out. So he laid next to her. Late that night, they asked him to lay between the two of them, so he did. Just about daylight he began to fall asleep. Just then his guts let out a terrible roar. Then he defecated. "Oh my, said the women, he's had a passage. We don't want him to be embarrassed, so we had better change the bedding without waking him." But before they could do anything, he left another big load. "Oh no," they said, "he has done so much, we had better wake him up." So they woke him up, but just as his eyes opened, unexpectedly the voice of Turtle came from under the platform where he had been hiding to listen in: "Uh oh, the traveler has soiled the princess. The traveler is Trickster." Then Turtle ran down the center of the village yelling, "The princess has been soiled by the traveler, who is Trickster!" Of all the things that he had done in the past, not one of them had embarrassed Trickster, but this time he felt humiliated.
He was so ashamed he went straight back to his grandmother. He just lay there in his bed and would not eat. The reason that he felt so bad about it was that Turtle had done this to him on purpose. Turtle knew in advance that he was coming, that is why he exposed the artichoke patch and had a fat beaver tail fixed for him. He did all of this just so Trickster would suffer the effects of a laxative. And that is exactly what happened. Turtle did this out of jealousy, because he knew that Trickster would have succeeded in getting married. This is what made Trickster feel bad. Then the old woman said, "Grandson, why are you acting this way? You are one of the greatest ones created. I could also do something. So it is not right that you should make me feel sad." Trickster finally spoke and said, "Never before have I felt ashamed, but my own friend has made me feel this way." Then he told her everything that had happened. "Grandson," she said, "I knew it all along — this is why my heart is sore. You went out at my request and he knew of it, so he did this to me as well. It should not have been, as all creatures have abused you, but Turtle was one of the great ones created with you. He should not have done this to you, but he did. This is why my beast is sore. He is younger than you and therefore you are the greater. So he did not do right. Since he started it, we will try him. Therefore, grandson, we will put him to the test. The old woman you met at the edge of the village is my younger sister. She knows what has been done to us. Grandson, you must return there. Come over here and I will comb your hair." So he sat down in front of her and she combed his hair. As she combed his hair, he became transformed. Now he was a young maiden, just before her period. She was very beautiful indeed. She dressed "her" in the finest clothing so that she could have no rivals. Then she started to make a black work bag for her without completing it, and she packed this with her to the village.
Trickster set off again for the village that she had been to before. At the edge she found the oval lodge and peeped in. The old woman inside said, "Well granddaughter, don't just peep in, come on in and sit down. Let me spread something for you to sit on," and she put down a black robe for her. Then she sat down. The old woman boiled something up for her and dished it out. When she had finished eating, someone came in and set some wood on the wood pile. The women began talking outside. "She is making a black bag," said one of them. So they entered and struck up a conversation with her. They hit it off quite well and liked her very much. Then the four women left for their own lodge, and on the way they said, "Isn't she pretty? And what's more she is so good natured." The old woman's lodge was visited often by both young men and young women. All the while she continued working on her black bag.
One day Turtle noticed the steady stream of visitors and asked, "Why is everybody going to the old woman's lodge?" They said, "A beautiful woman is visiting there, and we are going over to see her." Turtle asked, "Does she seem to like any of the young men?" When he got home, Turtle put on his war clothes and went over to see the young lady. As he went along, the dancing bells on his leggings rang with his every step. Turtle barged right in, and when the woman looked up, she gave a little start. Turtle observed her reaction and thought she was surely smitten by him. He sat down opposite the entrance and began to talk in his usual loquacious style, so that she could not concentrate on her work. Whenever Turtle said something funny, she would laugh. Turtle could not get his fill of telling stories, and would often tell of his war exploits. Turtle noticed that she was laughing to herself, so he continued telling stories even as night fell. The old woman also could see that she was smitten by him, so she gave her a hard look, but this seemed to have no effect. Finally, she began to scold her. Even though it was well after dark, Turtle kept on telling of his war exploits. Finally, the old woman had to say to her, "Go to bed, as you will have to go home early in the morning." So she hung her work on the wall and crawled into bed. Turtle remained, and the girl peeped out at him. He would say, "Perhaps you are asleep, but I'll keep talking." Then she would turn in her bed to let him know that she was not asleep. So Turtle kept on. The old woman had had enough, so she scolded the young woman and told Turtle to leave. At last, Turtle left.
As he walked along, Turtle angrily said, "That homely old woman! No one has talked to me like that before. You'll give me your granddaughter for talking to me like that." He circled around and listened for the sounds coming from inside the old woman's lodge. When he heard the old woman snore, he snuck back into the lodge. He woke the young woman up, and she moved over to make room for him. There they lay together whispering. Turtle asked her to marry him, and she told him, "That would make me glad if you really mean it. One of my brothers was killed in a battle such as you described. My heart was very sore, and I thought if I could marry a brave man, maybe one of the people who did this would be made to pay with his life. Ever since I saw you I knew that if you asked me any such thing I would consent. This is why I am saying this." "Now then, woman," said Turtle, "you have spoken good words for yourself. Where they came from, I shall take one of them to be your slave." Then she threw her arms about him, and this pleased him to no end. Some of the young men were still about, and every now and then they would peep in to see if they could court the woman, but Turtle was laying there with her. Turtle began to get very close to her, but he was put off by the constant interruption of these men peeping in at them. All this made Turtle very uncomfortable, and he said, "I don't like this at all. They peep in too often. Let's go out someplace alone and lie together." She said, "All right."
They grabbed some bedding and snuck out to the wilderness. She made her bed there and began to undress, putting her cloths into a mantel that she had brought with her. She advised Turtle, "You should undress as well." "That's what I am about to do," he said. She took up his clothes and put them with her own in the mantel. The two of them lay down together. Then Turtle began to play around with her, trying to get on top of her; but the young woman said, "Please don't try to do that to me right off, as you will know me soon enough anyhow; and besides I am a virgin and I dread this. But after you stay with me awhile, and I get used to it, then you can do what you like, since you say you will marry me. But if I were to let you do this to me and you did not marry me, then it would not be good for me." Turtle replied, "But of course you are right about that. I have married you and that is that." She replied, "You won't die from want of it, as you say you will marry me and you will surely do it later." Turtle said, "You speak correctly." Then she put her arms around him and let him rest his head on her arm as a pillow. Then she put her leg over him, and ran her hands down his body. This made Turtle very tense indeed, so much so that he could hardly stand it. Still she would not let him do as he wanted. About daylight Turtle fell asleep and began snoring loudly. The girl stole away with all the clothes packed in her mantel. She left Turtle behind naked in his sleep. She returned to the old woman's place and put on her own clothes and left the mantel there. The old woman said, "Now then, grandson, he started this, so let him do what he will." She put his clothes in the black work bag and hid the bundle behind her.
When the sun was well up in the sky, Turtle awoke to find himself alone and completely naked. He looked all over for his clothes, but could not find them, so there he sat, naked and alone. Turtle called her by name, as during the night she had said her name was Mi Mi See See Xegwe. Turtle yelled, "Mi Mi See See Xegwe." He shouted that over and over again. So he went out farther looking for her. He thought she must have started out for the old woman's lodge so he went there looking for her. He pulled open the flap and confronted the old woman: "Where is Mi Mi See See Xegwe?" he demanded. "I don't know anybody by that name," she insisted. Turtle trudged off for his own lodge, still without a shred of clothing on. The young men knew perfectly well what had happened. "Hoho! There goes Turtle after a night in the wilderness!" they said, and they laughed heartily as Turtle walked past with his member swaying left and right. Everybody came out to watch, and they could not help but laugh. Of all the things that he had done in the past, not one of them had embarrassed Turtle, but this time he felt humiliated.1
Commentary. When Turtle visited the maiden Trickster, his behavior was extremely boorish, since it is considered very rude to talk to anyone while they are working.2
Unless a juxtaposition of syllables can be made to mean something, Trickster's female name, Mi Mi See See Xegwe, appears to be a nonsense name.
This story is a variant of Mink Soils the Princess.
Comparative Material. In a Blackfoot tale, Old Man comes to a village of Piegans, where he enters the chief's lodge. There he finds only a sleeping young woman, and sneaking up to her, he puts excrement on her skirt. She attempts to bribe him to remove it, but he only agrees when she offers him sex. However, Old Man's "lariat" (penis) is so long that it splits her in two.3
The Arapaho story is like that of the Blackfeet. Nih’āⁿçaⁿ (the trickster) put human excrement between two sleeping princesses. When the girls awoke, they accused one another. They told Nih’āⁿçaⁿ that if he did not say anything about the incident, they would let him sleep with them that night. He slept with the more beautiful of the two girls, but in deflowering her his immense penis created a great flow of blood.4
The Fox have an interesting parallel to the episode of Trickster's revenge. Turtle's insulted his gambling partner, Wisaka, so the latter made himself into a young maiden, calling himself "Doe Fawn." Turtle looked her up and took up with her in bed. He began to brag about his war exploits, so Doe Fawn told him to bring his warbundle as proof of his status as a warrior. This he did. The woman suggested that they get themselves a pillow, and she picked up his bundle for this purpose. Turtle wanted to tell tales, but Doe Fawn wanted sex. She was so persistent that Turtle had to mount her four times. By now Turtle had fallen into a sleep dead to the world, so Doe Fawn went out looking for a log, and brought back a nice rotten one. It was full of ants. This she laid right next to Turtle, grabbed his warbundle and took off.5 On the artichoke, MacTaggart says, "The artichoke puzzled me. I could find nothing to indicate its use as a laxative — by the Mesquakies [Fox] or by any other people. Yet when Wisaka boastfully ate the artichoke that sat in his path, he was soon overwhelmed by his own dung."6
Links: Trickster, Turtle.
Stories: 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, 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 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; 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, Morning Star and His Friend, Grandfather's Two Families, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, 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; featuring Turtle's Wife as a character: Turtle and the Merchant, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Redhorn's Father, The Nannyberry Picker; mentioning red yarn (as an offering to the spirits): The Elk's Skull, Ocean Duck, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married; in which defecation plays a role: Ocean Duck, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Mink Soils the Princess, Little Human Head.
In addition to this story being a variant of Mink Soils the Princess, the episode of Turtle's courtship is essentially identical with that of The Nannyberry Picker and The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee.
Themes: description of a courtship outfit: The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, Redhorn's Father, Trickster Gets Pregnant, The Dipper, The Nannyberry Picker; Trickster wants to have sex with a princess (yųgiwi): Trickster's Penis; artichokes are used as a laxative: Mink Soils the Princess; 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 Gets Pregnant, Wojijé; (three or) four young women, one of whom is a princess, encounter a suitor while they are bringing wood to an old woman's lodge: Redhorn's Father, Morning Star and His Friend, The Nannyberry Picker, The Two Boys, The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee; Turtle interrupts his gambling game to go meet friends that he says that he was expecting yesterday: Redhorn's Father, The Nannyberry Picker, Morning Star and His Friend; Turtle jingles as he walks from the small bells tied to his leggings: The Chief of the Heroka, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married; Turtle courts a chief's daughter with his friend, but is rebuffed by being pushed off her platform bed: The Nannyberry Picker, The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee; Trickster defecates uncontrollably after taking a natural laxative: Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb; someone soils a princess: Mink Soils the Princess; Trickster is the victim of a trick: The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, The Elk's Skull, A Mink Tricks Trickster, Trickster and the Honey, The Markings on the Moon, Trickster and the Eagle; a young man follows the detailed instructions of a wise woman and as a result succeeds in a difficult mission: Waruǧápara, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; 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, Trickster Gets Pregnant, The Elks Skull, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Seven Maidens; Trickster turns into a woman and goes courting: Trickster Gets Pregnant; Turtle agrees to avenge the losses of those who have petitioned his aid as a warrior: Redhorn Contests the Giants, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Turtle and the Witches; the wilderness as a lover's tryst: White Flower; 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, The Stone Heart, Snowshoe Strings, Heną́ga and the Star Girl, Sunset Point, Rainbow and Stone Arch; Trickster takes someone's clothes so that they are forced to return to their village naked: The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster.
1 Paul Radin, "The Trickster Soils the Princess," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #47: 1-80.
2 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 55 nt 19.
3 Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians, compiled and translated by Clark Wissler and D. C. Duvall (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995 ) Story 18, p. 34.
4 Adopted, "Nih’āⁿçaⁿ and the Two Maidens," in George A. Dorsey and Alfred L. Kroeger, Traditions of the Arapaho (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997 ) Story 37, p. 73.
5 Fred McTaggart, Wolf That I Am: In Search of the Red Earth People (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976) 85-89. A variant of this story is found in William Jones, Ethnography of the Fox Indians, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 125 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1939) 33-37.
6 McTaggart, Wolf That I Am, 181.