Trickster's Penis (§7 of the Trickster Cycle)

translation based on the interlinear of John Baptiste

Hocąk Syllabic Text with an English Interlinear Translation


(151) And again he went on. (152) He came to a very fine piece of land there. There he sat down. He felt sleepy, so again he laid down. There he slept. (153) After awhile, when he woke up, he awoke when he was lying flat on his back. When he looked up, unexpectedly, something was floating there. He said, "Hohó, this thing that they have hoisted up is the chief's banner. (154) The people must be having a big feast, as they have hoisted the chief's flag," he said. Thus saying, as he was about to sit up, unexpectedly, his blanket was missing. (155) Unexpectedly, it was his own blanket. There it was. When his penis erected, that blanket he had sprung up, and thus it was doing. (156) He said, "My younger brother, you will lose the little blanket. Fetch it back for me," he said, and he took hold of his penis. As he did this, it became soft and fell. He put his penis in a box there. (157) He kept on coiling it up, putting it into the box. Finally, he reached the end. There he found his blanket.

Then he carried the box on his back, and on he went. (158) In time he came to a lake there. Unexpectedly, women were bathing on the other side. The princess was with her friends. And he said, (159) "Hąhą́, pretty soon I'll have sex here," he said. And this is what he did. He took his penis out of the box. And he said to it, "My younger brother, you are going for your princess. (160) The princess' friends are lookouts, so lodge there really well in the princess," he said, and he let it go. (161) When it went, it slid over the surface of the water. "Šišiši my younger brother, come back, you'll scare them away," he said. Then he did this. He put a stone around its neck. (162) And again he sent it. So it sunk, and got all the way to the bottom. Again he took a stone, and a smaller one he put around its neck. Again he sent it, and it went along making waves. (163) "Again, younger brother, come back, you will drive them away," he said. And again for the fourth time, he put a weight around the neck that was just about right. (164) Then he sent it. And then it went. And then in time it went directly for her. This time it went. This time it touched the princess and all her friends, and (165) they cried out and jumped out, but the princess was the last one. She lodged herself on the bank, but there it lodged in her really well. (166) Her friends came to her there, and tried to pull it out, but they failed. There they could not budge the thing. All of the men who were strong tried, but (167) they could not budge the thing. Finally, they gave up.

Then they said, "The old woman knows many things. Go after her," they said. (168) They went and got her. They brought her, and she stood by there. "Waną́, it's Kunuga," she said. When the princess is knocking ashes out of her pipe, all of you are bothering her," she said. And she did this. (169) The old woman owned an awl, and she took it out. And she straddled Trickster's penis. And she used an awl to repeatedly stab his penis as she sat, and (170) singing loudly, she said,

Kunu ne ninegi,   Kunu, if it is you;
Šorojere,   Pull it out,
Šorojere!   Pull it out!

she was saying. While she was doing this, it suddenly sprang up. The old woman was thrown a great distance. (171) Unexpectedly, across the lake, Trickster laughed out loud. "Homely, nasty old woman that she is, I tried to have sex, but you have made it bad," he was saying.1

Commentary. The story of Trickster's legendary penis is continued in Trickster Loses His Penis.

"the chief's banner" — the Hocąk chief's lodge functioned as a veritable cornucopia. As an honor to the chief, who stood for peace and reconciliation, people donated all sorts of valuables as well as game. These items were not used to enrich the chief, but were distributed among the poor. In the social welfare system, those who could not hunt were able to eat out of the public largesse found in the chief's lodge. That the chief's emblem should hang from a phallus expresses his unique role in re-production.

"my younger brother" — he is addressing his own penis. He often addresses his body parts as though they were independent beings who were merely relatives of his. His mission was to bring order to society by teaching men how to live. This involves hierarchy; but Trickster gives his own body parts more independence than is compatible for personhood. Like societies that are not held together by the centripetal force of hierarchy, his unity of personhood has a tendency to disintegrate, as we saw in the story in which his two hands end up fighting one another (q.v.).

"a box" — Trickster's penis is so long that he keeps it in a box which he packs on his back. Since Trickster himself is the cause of so many accidental and incidental creations, he himself is appropriately identified with the male generative organ. Sex may be conducted for purposes other than procreation, and almost all cultures consider it sufficiently shameful to ban it in public. In pursuing often clandestine or prurient purposes, the frequent result is the most profound sort of creation. In many ways the basic function of the penis sums up the nature of Trickster himself. Therefore, his highly phallic nature is well expressed in his impossibly long penis.

Northern Water Snake

"coiling" — the Hocąk here is girix, kirix, kiríǧ, "to coil" (< ríx, "to coil something"). Dorsey defined kiríǧ as "coiled up, as a snake." This is the word used for the coiling of a serpent, as confirmed in the Snake Clan name, K’irixminąk’a (kirix-minąk-ka), "Sits Coiled Up." Trickster's phallus is like a serpent not only because it typically rests in a coiled position, but like a Water Moccasin, it can wend its way through the water. The famous and poisonous Water Moccasin is never found in Wisconsin, but that state is home to the non-venomous Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon). The association of Trickster's super-penis with a water snake seems appropriate, since the organ itself is chiefly a conduit for fluids, either urine or semen. The native water snake can be connected in an odd way with defloration: its saliva is an anticoagulant, and coupled with its habit of biting repeatedly, it generally produces a fair measure of bleeding, as with defloration. As a stealth hunter, this Wisconsin snake displays its basic affinities to the trickster nature.

"princess" — the Hocąk word is hų́giwį́, often in the variant form yų́giwį́, which comes from hųk-, "chief"; hi-, a prefix indicating a kinship term; and -wį, an old suffix denoting females. It's basic meaning is, "chief's woman." It is used most commonly for his daughter, but may also denote his wife. John Baptiste consistently translates it as "queen." However, the context, a young woman with her friends, suggests the daughter, rather than the wife, of the chief, and therefore the standard translation "princess" is more appropriate. Given this, we may understand the episode as a kind of defloration.

"a stone" — in order for his flaccid penis to succeed in this mission, it will have to acquire something of the nature of a stone (hardness), but clearly not in this way.

"Kunuga" — this is a birth order name denoting the first born male. Trickster, as the first such being created by Earthmaker, is generally known by the name Kunuga.

Wiga and Redbird
Shown with Long Pipes

"knocking ashes out of her pipe" — the Hocąk is gijó (variant giju), which Baptiste translates as, "having sexual intercourse." Nowadays, the word means, "to shake something out," and metaphorically, "to beat someone up" (Helmbrecht & Lehmann). However, its fundamental meaning in the past has been, "to knock ashes out of a pipe" (Marino-Radin), a meaning which we see exemplified in a story (q.v.). The princess' vaginal barrel is compared here to a pipe bowl, and the attempt to rid herself of the enormous penis' head is compared to someone knocking the side of a pipe to rid it of its ashes. The calumets, especially some of those used by the Hocągara, had extremely long stems in proportion to their bowls, making them a better analogue to Trickster's organ than ordinary modern pipes. The standard word for pipe was tanihu, tani denoting tobacco, and hu whose basic meaning is "stem." However, the full meaning of hu includes, "plant, tree, bush, stalk, long bone, vine (bean, pea), and leg (from the hip down)." The image of the repeated pounding of the "head" of the tobacco-hu, the metaphor for Trickster's penis, is the image of sexual intercourse, whose usual object is to knock the seminal fluid out of the "pipe." Ashes are its opposite: they are the ultimate in dryness, although both ashes and seminal fluid are each excreted from their respective "hu." Water is the natural abode of the ghost, as we see with Little Ghost who always flees to his water-world lake home. The reason why Ghost lives in water before he enters the domestic world, is because souls entering into the world through birth must first dwell in the seminal fluid. On the other hand, ashes are the substance which ghosts fear the most, and throwing ashes is the sure way to repel any apparition. The analogy between Trickster's semen and ash sums up his inadequacy for his mission: he is fleeing the domesticity of the ordered life that he was to have instituted for the carefree life seen in promiscuous sex. His semen, the productive seed of ordered life which he was suppose to have spread, is instead infertile ash. It is ash when spread on the face that evokes in the minds of the spirits the inadequacy of the human condition, its mortality. This is also the sterility of Trickster's lifestyle that forms the basis for his own failure and his recall by Earthmaker.

"she used an awl to repeatedly stab his penis" — this is an image of sexual intercourse, the awl (wok) being the penis, and her repeated penetrations mimicking its actions in intercourse. The handle of the bone awl was called a hu (Dorsey), just like a pipe stem. The word wok also denotes roots (or perhaps a kind of root) (Marino-Radin), and the standard word for root, rejų́, is a homonym also denoting descendants. However, the penetration of offspring (wok = rejų́, the souls of those to be born) into Trickster's "stem" (hu) is precisely what drives Trickster's penis from its reproductive position. The conventional life which he was to establish is precisely that life from which he flees.

"the old woman was thrown a great distance" — amusingly enough, it is the old woman who is ejaculated by Trickster's suddenly erect penis. She is, in keeping with the oppositions that we have encountered so far, the antithesis of the successful product of ejaculation (a baby). Instead of ejaculating the soul-beloved fluid, he instead ejaculates the "ashes," the dried, soul-averse body whence the ghost is soon to depart. The journey of this aged soul is to the Above World, here made quite literal.

Comparative Material. The Ponca trickster cycle has a very close parallel to the first episode of this story. Radin summarizes it as, "Ictinike wakes up to find his robe at end of penis erectus."2

The second episode has some resemblance to a Blackfoot trickster tale. Old Man saw a female beaver asleep on the opposite bank of a river, so he called Muskrat to tow his "lariat" (penis) across the river and implant it in her. The muskrat had a hard time navigating with this burden, as the river's current was strong. Old Man kept criticizing Muskrat, until at last Muskrat became angry. So he took the head of the lariat and embedded it in a thicket of thorns. Muskrat gave the signal, and Old Man thrust hard and ended up plowing a trail through the thorns.3

The Gros Ventre embed this tale within the story of the Elk's Skull (q.v.). Nix’aⁿt got his head caught inside an elk's skull and fell into a river. The current carried him down to where some young women were bathing. They thought that he was a water monster (bax’aaⁿ), but he spoke to them and reassured them that they could take him ashore. So two women pulled him to shore by his horns. As soon as he was safe, he immediately penetrated one of the girls. The people ran back to their villages and called to the mother of the girl, "Someone is deflowering your daughter!" She ran there with a hammer, and when she got there, she struck him on the backside. "If you want to kill me," said Nix’aⁿt, "then hit me hard on the head." So she struck him there and the skull broke off, allowing Nix’aⁿt to run away.4

The Chiricahua Apache tale is similar, but does not feature water. Coyote want to have intercourse with one of the beautiful prairie dog women, so he had Gopher dig a hole under one of them. He ran his penis through the gopher holes until it came out under one of them and lodged just where he wanted it. When the woman realized what was happening, she took a rock and struck the end of his penis. That is why the foreskin goes back, they say.5

The very distant Shasta people have a good parallel. Once Coyote saw two girls walking down the path and wondered how he could have sex with them, so he changed himself into a salmon and plunged into the adjacent stream. The girls dove into the stream to catch the salmon, but while they were in there Coyote lodged himself into one of them. When they got out, Coyote laughed at them. Later Coyote saw some girls on the other side of the river, so he changed his penis into a long plant and sent it swimming across the river. It emerged on the other side and penetrated one of the girls. Later the girl turned around and saw the long plant lying on the ground nearby, so she hit it with her digger, whereupon Coyote let out a howl from the other side of the river. This made the girls angry, and they said, "That old Coyote has played a trick on us."6

Links: Trickster, The Sons of Earthmaker.

Links within the Trickster Cycle: §6. Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, §8. The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster.

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 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 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, Waruǧábᵉra, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge; about Trickster's penis: Trickster Loses Most of His Penis.

Themes: Trickster wants to have sex with a princess (yųgiwi): Trickster Soils the Princess; someone talks to his own organs as though they were people: Trickster Loses Most of His Penis, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks; a man's organ acts as though it had a will of its own: Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt.


1 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 18-20. Original text is found in John Baptiste (trs.), "Wakdjukaga," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, ca. 1912) Winnebago V, #7: 151-171.

2 Radin, The Trickster, 129, #12; 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 Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians, compiled and translated by Clark Wissler and D. C. Duvall (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995 [1908]) Story 21, p. 36.

4 "7. Nix’aⁿt and the Mice's Sun-dance," 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: 68-69.

5 Morris Edward Opler, Myths and Tales of the Chiricahua Apache Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994 [1942]) 53-54.

6 "Coyote's Amorous Adventures," in Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz (edd.), American Indian Trickster Tales (New York: Penguin-Putnam, Inc., 1998) 55-56. Essentially the same story is said to be Athabascan in Erdoes and Ortiz (edd.), American Indian Trickster Tales, 69-71.