Trickster's Adventures in the Ocean (§4 of the Trickster Cycle)
Translation Based on the Interlinear of John Baptiste
Hočąk Syllabic Interlinear Text with English Translation
(71) There he remained in the water. Thus it was. He did not know where he could find the bank. Thus he did not go towards any particular place. (72) Unexpectedly, as he was going along there, there it was, a fish moving about. Trickster said, "Hohó my younger brother, you have always been clever. (73) I have no idea where the bank is. I never saw the bank at all, brother" he said. Thus he went on again. There again he unexpectedly saw a catfish. (74) Again he said, "Brother, you have always been clever. I do not know where the bank is. Tell me," he said. (75) Catfish said, "No, brother, I have never come anywhere near the bank," he said. Thus it was. Again he went on. There again in the course of time as he went along, unexpectedly, it was the muskie (muskellunge). (76) "Hohó, brother, you have always been something. I don't know where the bank is. Tell me," he said. "Hehé brother, never, no never, have I come anywhere near the bank," it was said to Trickster. (77) Thus it was. Again he went on. As he was going, there, unexpectedly, he saw a spoonbill fish. "Hohó brother, you are always clever. (78) Tell me where the bank is. I don't know." "Hehé brother, no I never came near it," he said. Thus it was. Again he went on. (79) Unexpectedly, he and a yellow catfish saw each other there. "Hohó brother, you are someone from which nothing is hidden. I do not know the bank, tell me where it is," he said. (80) "Hehé brother, never, no never, have I come near it," he said. Thus it was. Again he went on. As he was going along, unexpectedly, he met up with a sturgeon there. (81) "Hohó my little younger brother, you are always clever. I am lost from the bank, tell me where it is." Hehé, my dear brother, no, never ever have I come near the bank," he said. (82) They said that he saw every species of fish, all of them. He enqired of all of them: the catfish, the garfish, the buffalo fish, the horsefish, the sucker fish, (83) the howirege fish, the butterfly fish, the šįčak, the sheephead, the bass, the bluegill (sunfish?), the eel, and the bullhead. Every species of fish, all of them, he met. (84) Finally, there these whitefish, surprisingly, were going about in a great school. "Hohó, my younger brothers, nothing is unknown to you. (85) Tell me, where is the bank to be, as I do not know?" "Koté, my older brother, this is the bank right here. It is just where we are," they said to him. (86) When he got there, right where they were, he emerged onto the bank. "Hohó my younger brothers, you have my gratitude."
There he was going along the edge of Encirlcing Lake. He was hungry. (87) He quickly made a pail for himself, a clay pail. Thus he did, and again he went along the edge of the lake (de). The man was covetous. He wanted very much to kill one of the fish. (88) Should one of them run, he would start after it, but they would always get away from him. Again one ran very near there. He acted quickly there, and at the very place it started from, (89) he dipped into the water. Thus he did, and, "Hohó, I will make this into soup for myself," he said. He built a fire. There he boiled the water. (90) He had boiled it and he drank his own. "Hohó, such a fine soup, the meat must prove to be something very delicious." There again he went on. Where a fish started from, there he would dip into the water, (91) and he would make soup for himself. Doing thus, he filled himself. He made his stomach shine. And there a horsefish (red-finned fish) had drifted to the bank. (92) "Hohó my younger brother, the breath must be gone from you. Here it is dead," he said. "Somewhere good I shall lay him away. Who will lay him out well for me?" he asked. He took it and went with it to the bank. (93) He dug a grave there and buried it. And thus he did.1
Commentary. "every species of fish" — most of these fish, at least, are fresh water varieties. Since the Hočąk live far from the ocean, they do not realize the general incompatibility of salt and fresh water fish ecologies.
"Encirling Lake" — the Hočąk is teją, with te meaning "lake," and ją meaning, "to wrap around, to curl around." This is because the ocean was viewed, as it was almost universally in prescientific times, as a body of water that surrounds the earth, as with the Greek Okeanos.
"must prove to be" — what has happened is that Trickster scooped up the water where the fish had been, boiled it, and drank it as soup. Having had the "soup," he now wonders how much better the meat will prove to be.
"stomach shine" — his stomach was so distended that it shined in the sunlight.
"buried it" — he is not burying it in order to hide and preserve it for later use; he is placing it in a grave as though it were a human and not the meat that he had craved to eat.
Links: Trickster, Fish Spirits, The Sons of Earthmaker.
Links within the Trickster Cycle: §3. Trickster and the Children, §5. The Pointing Man.
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 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, 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 (spirit) fish as characters: The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Were-Fish, The Greedy Woman, Wolves and Humans, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, The Great Fish, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The King Bird, Fish Clan Origins, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads; mentioning the Ocean Sea (Te Ją): Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 1), Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster and the Children, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Wears White Feather on His Head, White Wolf, How the Thunders Met the Nights (Mąznį’ąbᵋra), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3), Wolf Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), Redhorn's Sons, Grandfather's Two Families, Sun and the Big Eater, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father (sea), The Dipper (sea), The Thunderbird (a very wide river), Wojijé, The Twins Get into Hot Water (v. 1), Redhorn's Father, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Berdache Origin Myth, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Morning Star and His Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed.
Themes: talking fish: The Greedy Woman, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, Redhorn's Father; a man asks several fish in succession to direct him to something: Redhorn's Father.
1 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 11-13. The original text is in John Baptiste (trs.), "Wakdjukaga," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, ca. 1912) Winnebago V, #7: 71-93.