The War among the Animals

by Jennifer A. Smith

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

After Earthmaker had created all the animals, he created man. Man was the puniest of all his creations, since he had neither sharp teeth, nor claws, nor a shell for protection. When they were first created, the animals used to hunt men. In those times, the animals lived as brothers and sisters in the same village in the center of the earth.

In time, one of the anmals started a quarrel among this brothers, and this soon degenerated into a civil war. The fighting among the animals was very bad. Soon, all the animals that were not killed fled to distant regions for safety. One only was left alone in the vast space at the center of the earth. This animal wandered about alone, wishing he were dead. It was this one who had started the fighting. He cried out to Earthmaker to pity him, but Earthmaker said, "Because you caused your brothers to kill one another, you shall roam the earth and you shall never grow large. Your brothers shall hunt you, but you shall not defend yourself, and you will not run away. Thus it ever shall be," said the Creator. The little animal agreed to abide by Earthmaker's decision, but he soon broke his promise and ran from his brothers the hawk and the eagle. Because they hunted one another, is why the animals were made the prey of humans. The little animal who started all the trouble is even today cursed to be hunted by his own brothers and sisters, the animals. For this reason, the mouse is always on the run, hiding and forever in want.1

Links: Mice, Earthmaker.

Stories: mentioning mice: Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Fable of the Mouse, Waruǧábᵉra, Hare Kills Wildcat, Ocean Duck, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hocąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hocągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow.

Themes: scattering of animals from their primordial village into permanent exile: Wolves and Humans, The Shaggy Man, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; animals that are not now carnivorous, in primordial times sought to eat human flesh: Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Animal who would Eat Men, The Two Boys; a small animal was once dangerous, but was rendered innocuous in primordial times: The Green Man (cricket), Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Two Boys.


1 Jennifer A. Smith, "The Greedy Ones," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 95.