Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride (§21 of the Trickster Cycle)
told by an elder of the tribe in 1912
translation based upon the interlinear of Oliver LaMère
Hočąk Syllabic Interlinear Text
(548) It is said that this village owned horses, they say. They owned two of them. (549) Also it is said that in the village Little Fox was a son-in-law. At the village, Little Fox also wanted to do something. He wished to play a trick on Trickster. (550) But the latter discovered it. He did not like it. "Korá! many times he did things that I disliked, but I overlooked it. Again he wishes to do something to me, but how I will hitch something to him," he said.
(551) Then he did it. He went out into the wilderness. There these horses that were owned, they would always be at a place near the village. (552) He went to look for them. He found one of them there. Then he did this: he put it to sleep. After he was fast asleep and he was sure of it, there was Mouse, so he went after her. "Here is a dead animal. (553) Go to Little Fox and say to him, 'My dear grandson, here is a dead animal. I couldn't move it. Just near the village, that's how far out it is. (554) Pull it to one side, and we alone shall dress it,' you may say to him," he said. Mouse was very willing, so she ran. (555) She went there to Little Fox. "My grandson, you are very strong. Here near the village is a dead animal. (556) Somewhere to the side I wish to tend to it. I cannot move it, therefore I came to tell you, as you are the only one that I feel for," she said. Little Fox was very delighted. (557) So there they went. And this one, Trickster, ran back. He ran back to the village and was waiting for them.
There Mouse did thus. (558) She tied together the tails of Little Fox and the horse. She tied them very tightly. Little Fox said, "I am strong. I will pull it," he said. (559) This kind I am used to pulling. Elk, deer — ho! — they are called. That is what it is," he said. "Hąho! all is ready. You may pull it," she said to him. "Ho!" he said. When he tried to pull it, he woke it up. (560) It was frightened. It got up and when it saw an animal fastened to its tail, it became frightened. It ran away. He dragged Little Fox like a branch. (561) He ran to the village. Right away, Trickster shouted at him. He shouted very loudly, "Look at Little Fox, the son-in-law, he is doing something. (562) Look at him," he said. All of them ran out. There, unexpectedly, he was bouncing up and down, tied to the horse's tail. Finally, it went back there to the one who owned it. (563) There they caught it. There they untied him. His mouth just quivered as he sat there. He was very ashamed. He didn't even go back to his own lodge. Now from there he went away somewhere and that was the last of him. (564) He had a wife and many children, but he left them all there. Therefore, since then he has never again been among the people. (565) Secondly, anywhere they saw him, he would feel ashamed. Therefore, if one is seen someplace, his mouth would twitch as he sits. For he is ashamed of this same thing, (566) even to this day.1
Commentary. Trickster's previous encounter with Little Fox is recounted in The Scenting Contest.
Comparative Material. The Ponca trickster cycle has a very similar version of this same story, here summarized by Radin: "Coyote ties Ictinike to a sleeping colt who wakes and kicks him. Afterward Ictinike succeeds in pulling off Coyote's tail." In the Ponca version, their trickster is initially outdone by Coyote.2
The Omaha also have a version of this story featuring Iktinike, their Trickster. One day Iktinike ran across Coyote who was standing by a horse that was stretched out along the ground. "Greetings elder brother," said Coyote, "if you can give me a hand, we can haul this dead horse off and have a feast." Iktinike was quick to agree. He even agreed to have his hands tied to the horses tail to help him pull it. "Now pull really hard," urged Coyote, but when Iktinike gave it a good yank, the horse suddenly jumped up and took off running. He dragged Iktinike through brambles and thorns until his was pretty badly cut up. Finally the rope broke and Iktinike lay on the ground exhausted from the ordeal. Coyote on the other hand, could not stop laughing.3
There is a very interesting Chickasaw parallel. "The Fox and the Wolf were friends. One time they agreed to go hunting. The Fox went off in one direction, and so did the Wolf in another direction. The Fox traveled in a circle, and by and by ran across the Wolf. He asked him what luck he had had. The Wolf told him that he had met with a Dog, and asked the Dog why he liked to stay around human beings. Said the Dog, 'I like them because they defend me.' Then he asked the Dog how they defended him. Said he, 'Look behind that tree!' Now, there stood a man with a gun. Then the Wolf was terrified, ran off, and forgot about hunting until he met the Fox. Now, the Fox told what luck he had had. He had had good luck. He told the Wolf that he found a dead horse; but the horse was lying very near a road, and he was afraid to tackle him alone. He told the Wolf, however, that if he would help him carry the horse off, they would have a feast. The Wolf agreed, and they went to where the dead horse was. They stopped near by. The Wolf wouldn't believe the horse was dead. He told the Fox to bring him a handful of hair. The Fox brought him a handful of hair, and the Wolf smelled it. Said he, 'Yes, he's been dead quite awhile.' So now the Wolf and Fox consulted how to carry the dead horse away. The Wolf allowed the Fox to tie his tail to the dead horse's tail, and the Fox took hold of his head to pull him off. When the Wolf was securely tied to the horse's tail, the Fox went over to his place near the head to get hold. Then suddenly he scratched the horse on the nose; and being, in truth, only asleep, the horse woke up, and dashed away, dragging the Wolf. Then the Fox shouted to the Wolf, 'Hurrah for me, my friend!' but the Wolf cried in despair, 'How can I hurrah, when I'm up in the air?'"4
The Creek have a version of the story. "The Rabbit and the Coyote were great friends. One time when the Rabbit was traveling along he saw a colt lying asleep in the road. He went on and came to the Coyote and said, 'I see something good for you to eat over there. If you wish I will drag him out of the road to a place where you can make a feast off of him, while I go and get my own food.' The Coyote said, 'All right,' so they went along to the place where the colt was lying. Then Rabbit said, 'I am not strong enough so I will tie his tail to yours and help you by pushing.' Then Rabbit tied their tails carefully so as not to awaken the colt, took the colt by the ears, and began lifting him. Upon this the colt woke up and started to run off, dragging the Coyote after him. The Coyote struggled frantically, but all he could do was scratch on the ground with his claws. Rabbit shouted after him, 'Pull with all your might.' 'How can anyone pull with all his might,' answered Coyote, 'when he is not standing on the ground?' By and by, however, the Coyote got loose, and then Rabbit had to run to cover."5
Much the same tale appears among the trickster stories of the Chiricahua Apaches. Coyote sees a bunch of cowboys roping horses with the lariat tied to their wastes. He attempts to do the same thing, tying the rope securely around his waste. He lassos a horse, but the horse takes off running and drags Coyote behind him with his tail flying in the air. The cowboys chase after them, but all they find are parts of Coyote's body strewn all over the landscape. One cowboy says, "The rest of Coyote must still be hanging on to that horse."6
A Pueblo story bears some interesting points of convergence with our own tale, although it is also similar to "Trickster's Tail" (q.v.). One day the trickster Coyote ran into Señor Long Ears, a donkey. The beast was burdened with a great load of cheese which made Coyote's mouth water. He asked Long Ears if he might hitch a ride on his back across the river. Long Ears generously consented, but while they were traveling, Coyote ate all his cheese. By the time Long Ears realized what had happened, Coyote was long gone. The donkey's master gave him a terrible beating and told him to get Coyote at all costs. So Long Ears came up to Coyote's place and fell over nearby as if dead. Coyote's eldest son ran out and saw the beast lying there, and ran back to tell the whole family of their good fortune. One of his children asked for the animal's heart, so Coyote stuck his head down the donkey's gullet, only to be suddenly clamped in the animal's teeth. He was stuck in Long Ear's mouth, and the donkey wasted no time in running him back to his master. The master vented his anger by tearing off all of Coyote's hair, exclaiming, "This will make a nice rug!" Coyote ran off, but even his own wife did not recognize him. She said he only looked something like a coyote, but he was hairless and pink like a pig. Coyote was so ashamed that he never left his den until his hair grew back.7
A German tale turns out to be a very good parallel. "A peasant had a faithful horse which had grown old and could do no more work, so his master no longer wanted to give him anything to eat and said, 'I can certainly make no more use of you, but still I mean well by you, and if you prove yourself still strong enough to bring me a lion here, I will maintain you. But for now get out of my stable.' And with that he chased him into the open field. The horse was sad, and went to the forest to seek a little protection there from the weather. There the fox met him and said, 'Why do you hang your head so, and go about all alone?' 'Alas,' replied the horse, 'greed and loyalty do not dwell together in one house. My master has forgotten what services I have performed for him for so many years, and because I can no longer plow well, he will give me no more food, and has driven me out.' 'Without giving you a chance?' asked the fox. 'The chance was a bad one. He said, if I were still strong enough to bring him a lion, he would keep me, but he well knows that I cannot do that.' The fox said, 'I will help you. Just lie down, stretch out as if you were dead, and do not stir.' The horse did what the fox asked, and then the fox went to the lion, who had his den not far off, and said, 'A dead horse is lying out there. Just come with me, and you can have a rich meal.' The lion went with him, and when they were both standing by the horse the fox said, 'After all, it is not very comfortable for you here — I tell you what — I will fasten it to you by the tail, and then you can drag it into your cave and eat it in peace.' This advice pleased the lion. He positioned himself, and in order that the fox might tie the horse fast to him, he kept completely quiet. But the fox tied the lion's legs together with the horse's tail, and twisted and fastened everything so well and so strongly that no amount of strength could pull it loose. When he had finished his work, he tapped the horse on the shoulder and said, 'Pull, white horse, pull!' Then up sprang the horse at once, and pulled the lion away with him. The lion began to roar so that all the birds in the forest flew up in terror, but the horse let him roar, and drew him and dragged him across the field to his master's door. When the master saw the lion, he was of a better mind, and said to the horse, 'You shall stay with me and fare well.' And he gave him plenty to eat until he died."8
From central Africa we have an interesting Zande version. Hare was about to get married, so he had to prepare a large field so that he could use it for planting, otherwise he could not support a family. Since Hare was extremely lazy, he was in a quandary on how to get it done, so he hatched a likely scheme. He went to Hippo and told him, "If you are as powerful as you say, let's see if you can drag me at the end of a rope." Hippo consented, and Hare tied a rope to him. Then he said, "Now you use all your might just when you see the rope pulled taut." Then Hare proposed the same challenge to Elephant, who was also game; only Hare tied the other end of the same rope to him, so that he and Hippo were tied together. Eventually, the rope was pulled taut, and a titanic tug of war began in which the two of them, each thinking his pride was in jeopardy from a mere rabbit, dragged one another across a vast landscape, pulling up everything in sight. So now Hare could get married, because he had a field cleared for planting.9
Trickster's ability to put a horse to sleep as by a charm recalls the tale of the Greek trickster figure Hermes, who caused Argos Panoptes ("All Eyes") to fall asleep.10
This also bears some resemblance to a Mundurucu story given elsewhere.
Links: Trickster, The Sons of Earthmaker, Little Fox, Horses, Mice.
Links within the Trickster Cycle: §20. Mink Soils the Princess;.§22. Trickster Concludes His Mission.
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 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 Mothers, The Markings on the Moon, The Spirit of Gambling, The Woman who Became an Ant, The Green Man, The Red Man, 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; in which Little Fox is a character: Little Fox and the Ghost, Little Fox Goes on the Warpath, The Scenting Contest, Trickster Gets Pregnant; mentioning foxes: Little Fox and the Ghost, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Redhorn's Father, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Scenting Contest, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans (v. 3), Little Fox Goes on the Warpath, Holy One and His Brother; mentioning mice: The War among the Animals, Fable of the Mouse, Waruǧápara, Hare Kills Wildcat, Ocean Duck, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket; mentioning horses: The Big Eater, Thunderbird and White Horse, 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, 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).
Themes: someone is charmed to sleep: Brave Man; Trickster fools Little Fox: The Scenting Contest; an animal spirit was so shamed while living in a human village, that he ever after led a solitary life away from the haunts of men: Mink Soils the Princess.
1 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 50-52.
2 Radin, The Trickster, 128, #10. The Ponca trickster cycle is found in James Owen Dorsey, ¢egiha Texts, in Contributions to North American Ethnology (Washington, D. C.: 1890) vol. 6.
3 "Tit for Tat," in Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz (edd.), American Indian Trickster Tales (New York: Penguin-Putnam, Inc., 1998) 112.
4 Josiah Mikey (Chickasaw), "The Fox and the Wolf," in F. G. Speck, Notes and Queries, Journal of American Folk-Lore, 26, #102 (1913): 292.
5 "71. Rabbit Fools Coyote," in John Reed Swanton, Myths and Tales of the Southeastern Indians, Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 88 (1929): 63-64.
6 Morris Edward Opler, Myths and Tales of the Chiricahua Apache Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994 ) 72 (e).
7 "Long Ears Outsmarts Coyote," in Erdoes and Ortiz (edd.), American Indian Trickster Tales, 41-43.
8 Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Der Fuchs und das Pferd, Kinder und Hausmärchen, vol. 2 (1815), no. 46. In later editions this tale is number 132. Translated by Margaret Hunt (1885). Translation revised and corrected by D. L. Ashliman. The Grimms' source: the von Haxthausen family.
9 Linda Frederick-Malanson, "Three African Trickster Myths/Tales — Primary Style," from the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Website.
10 H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Greek Mythology (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1959) 271.