The Children of the Sun

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

This story is a shorter version of the waiką "The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head." In the latter story, the uncle is identified as Red Star (Bluehorn, the Evening Star) and his sister as Moon. The Twins are the familiar Ghost and Flesh, but are nowhere in the narrative named as such. The story is related in English, its original Hocąk text does not survive.

A man lived with his younger sister in an oval lodge. He was a great hunter and kept their racks full of venison and bear meat. He loved his sister very much and the first thing that he did every morning was to comb her hair. "Younger sister," said the man, "times are going to be hard, so take an offering and pray to the Tree Spirits for help." So she took some tobacco for the Tree Spirits, but everyone she went to declined her offering, saying, "Indeed it will be a hard struggle for you, granddaughter!" Finally, she entered a valley, and there at the edge of a swamp stood a short oak tree. She approached the tree and prayed to it, "Grandfather, I offer you tobacco and ask you for help." This time the Tree Spirit replied, "It is good," and smoked the tobacco. "Now this is what you must do," he said, "cut me down and take as much of my body as you can carry back to your lodge and burn it in the fire." She did as the Tree Spirit bade her, and her brother took the wood and burnt it, save for some pieces that he used to reinforce the railing around the fireplace.

When they completed the fireplace, a young man suddenly entered the lodge. The brother said to him, "So you've come, young man," to which he replied, "I have come, young man; and I am here to challenge you to a game, the game of inhaling our smoke." "It is good," replied the brother. They sat down opposite one another around the fireplace. Now the brother had knives inlaid in his arms from his wrists to his elbows on the backside of each of his forearms. The other man had his forearms wrapped, but as he unwound the wrapping, it was soon apparent that he too had knives on his arms in just the same pattern. They agreed that the challenger would go first. He took a couple of puffs from his pipe as a warm-up, then he drew in a powerful breath. The force of the suction raised the brother a little off the floor. The visitor again puffed a bit on his pipe, then took a really strong draw. This time the brother was raised up quite a bit. For a third time the challenger puffed on his pipe, then drew in a still more powerful breath. The brother was pulled by its force almost into a standing position. Now came the challenger's last turn, and he drew in a breath mightier than any before, yet the brother did not move so much as a hair, just sitting there like nothing had happened. Now it was the brother's turn. Three times he drew in the smoke, and each time the visitor bounced up higher. Then the fourth time the brother drew a mighty breath the force of which drew the challenger right into the fire. The brother leapt up and swung his many-bladed forearm down on the neck of his opponent, chopping off his head. Even though decapitated, the head gritted its teeth and its body writhed about violently. Quickly the brother grabbed an iron poker, and heated it red hot. He jammed the poker into the neck of the head. Only then did both halves of the man die. The brother burned the body and head to ashes.

The next morning the brother said, "Younger sister, things are going to be very difficult for us again, so go to the Tree Spirits and ask them to help us." Again she took tobacco and offered it to the Tree Spirits, but each one said he was powerless to help. Then she came to a large red oak, whom she addressed, saying, "Greetings, Grandfather. Here is an offering of tobacco — we ask that you give us what help you can." The spirit smoked the tobacco and said, "It is good, granddaughter. Now cut me down and haul away as much of my body as you can, and throw it into the fireplace of your lodge." So she hauled the wood back to the lodge where her brother threw it into the fireplace. No sooner had he done this than a young man appeared who looked just like the one he killed the day before. "So you have come," the brother said. "Indeed, I have come. Let's play the same game that was played yesterday," replied the challenger. Again they played the inhaling game, and once more the challenger was defeated and burned up.

The next morning the brother spoke to his sister, "Younger sister, the struggle before us today will be very difficult indeed. You will have to secure the help of the Tree Spirits if I am to survive." So she went out with a tobacco offering, yet none of the Tree Spirits would accept it, since they felt they could do nothing to ensure victory. Finally, she came to a basswood tree. The Tree Spirit accepted the offering and told her, "Indeed it will be very difficult, granddaughter; but take as much of my body as you can and burn it in your fireplace." This she did, and no sooner had they committed the wood to the flames than the man showed up again and challenged the brother to the same kind of duel. When the challenger reached his fourth turn, he inhaled with such force that he drew the brother right into the fire. The stranger leapt up and with a single blow from his spiked arm, he cut the brother's head off. He grabbed the head and ran out continually yelling his war whoop. The sister called out in grief, "Oh my older brother!" Yet his body was not dead, and kept writhing about, until she set him upright and he became quiet. He remained there just barely alive. In time she used up all the meat and had to dig for Indian potatoes.

When spring came the sister liked to sunbathe. One day when she was lying under the sun she experienced something and knew right away that she had become pregnant. In due course she gave birth to two boys, whom she and her brother loved very much. They too had knives on their arms just like their uncle, and when he felt them he was overjoyed. He was so devoted to his nephews that he carried them everywhere, and soon they meant more to him than his sister. She, of course, had to go out during the day to dig for potatoes, and in her absence the boys would always pick at the scabs about their uncle's neck, so that when she got back home, she found her brother soaked with his own blood. She was afraid to leave them behind, but she could find no way to avoid the dilemma.

The boys grew with extreme rapidity, and they were soon able to understand their uncle's sign language. He would tell them much and they would sign back to him. One day the boys told him in this manner that they were going to visit their father. The uncle signed back, "All right." Right then and there they said their farewells, and the two boys ascended to the heavens. They were able to do this because their mother had persuaded them to fast in the hope that by such means they could do something for their uncle. They headed directly towards their father in the sky, and eventually came upon a very large shaman's lodge that ran east and west. This was their father's lodge. All the great spirits of the higher heavens were gathered there together with the boys' father, since the structure doubled as their council lodge. The younger brother was not in the least reticent, and walked right up and set down next to his father. He said, "Father, we have come." "Yes, indeed, you have come," their father replied. Then the younger boy called his brother to come in and join them. They sat together in the council lodge of their father, the sun.

Someone shouted, "Here he comes!" Just then a man with a head dangling from his belt burst in through the side of the lodge. He showed no respect to the great spirits gathered there, who wept for shame. The sun told his children: "This one is the one who took the head of your uncle. He shows the spirits great disrespect and all of us combined can do nothing about it. It's not that he is that mighty by himself, it is only because he has the head of the foremost among us. As long as he is in motion, no one can overcome him. However, there is a small lake in the west where he stops briefly to take a drink. If you wish to avenge your uncle, it is there that you must attack him. The youngest brother jumped up and declared, "Let's go get him now!" but he was dissuaded from precipitous action by the spirits. So the two brothers started on their trek home. When they got there, they picked off the scabs from their uncle's neck and when they were done, they set out for the lake where they could ambush their uncle's assailant.

When they got to the lake, they decided to disguise themselves and hide in a forked tree that grew by the shore. They decided to test their abilities to conceal themselves. The older brother turned himself into a small gray snake with a red belly and stretched himself out along a limb of the tree. The younger brother came back and no sooner was the tree in sight, than he said, "Older brother, I thought you said that you were going to conceal yourself? Yet I see that you are in plain view." Then the older brother said, "I'll go away while you conceal yourself. When I return, I'll try to find you." The younger brother changed himself into a green caterpillar and hung upside down from the bottom of the leaf. When the older brother returned, he said, "I thought you were going to conceal yourself? Yet there you are, plain to see." So once again they switched roles. The older brother changed himself into a worm and insinuated himself into a crack in the bark. When the younger brother returned, he said, "It doesn't look to me like your hiding at all." This time when the younger brother concealed himself, he assumed the form of one of those small ridges that sometimes appear on a leaf, and there he sat until his older brother returned. This time his brother could not find him at all. Again they switched roles, and the older brother concealed himself the same way, and when his younger brother returned, he could not find him either. Thus they settled on that means of concealment.

The boys hid themselves in the forked tree. At the crack of dawn, just as the sun emerged over the horizon, they could hear the voice of the enemy spirit in the distance. "Here he comes," they said to one another. At the shore of the lake he stopped to drink and immediately the boys began to move towards him. The uncle's head saw them immediately as they began to move, but they gave him signs like those that their uncle's body understood, and the head therefore kept his silence. The younger brother rushed up and cut off the evil spirit's head, and took off running. Even though he was decapitated, he did not die, for the head's teeth chattered incessantly while his body whirled around blindly trying to strike back. In the confusion, the older brother was able to snatch his uncle's head from the belt of the spirit and to get away with it in hand. The younger brother got back first and set his uncle upright and held back the flap of the door. The older brother soon arrived and without hesitation, threw his uncle's head so that it landed perfectly on the neck of his body. Suddenly, the uncle was whole and restored completely to his former self. He was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude, and said, "Wonderful! Nephews, you have done a great thing, even I am not equal to you. How can I ever repay you for saving me?" The nephews replied, "That you are whole and sound like us is repayment enough." Then their mother returned from digging potatoes, and when she saw what had happened, she was overjoyed. "This is why I told you to fast," she said. Then the younger brother produced the head of the malefactor and said, "Here is the one who injured you!" The uncle took the head and danced with it. When he was done he gave a loud victory whoop, and all the spirits of the upper world, the lower world, and all those on earth heard it and rejoiced. Then he took an iron and heated it until it was red hot. Then he killed the head by shoving the hot iron up its throat and into its brain.

After a time the boys made an announcement: "We are going home now to our father in heaven. Mother, when your life on this earth is over, you too can join us there. Uncle, you are now master of your own destiny and may go wherever you please." And with this farewell they returned to the abode of Sun. They were the children of the sun because their mother had exposed herself to his light when she was digging for potatoes.1

Commentary. "comb her hair" — normally Hocąk women wore their hair in a bun at the back of their head. Hair, especially in males, could be metaphorically referred to as a "horn" (he), since the usual Siouan tonsure was a pair of braids that functioned as scalp locks. Her brother, who combs her hair is the Red Star (Evening Star) known as "Bluehorn" (Hecoga) because of his long blue hair. The Evening Star is called "Red Star" (Wiragošge Šuc) because he often appears low in the evening sky where he is immersed in the red hues of the setting sun. He follows after the sun as it sets. The blue hair that trails behind him could only be the blue sky, since at the appearence of Bluehorn the sky is often blue. When the moon approaches conjunction it forms a crescent, which is a figure with two "horns." It is at this time that she is near the Evening Star. When the bun at the back of her head is undone and her hair combed out, her hair ought, like that of her brother, to be the sky. He sits behind her as the sun sets and the sky turns black. Her hair is never said to be blue, so it must be assumed to be the standard black, as blondism was never established among the pre-Columbian Indians. So the unfurling of her hair from the undoing of her bun is the extention of the black sky behind her where her brother the Evening Star sits close by. This was said in the same sentence to be done "every morning." However, both Evening Star and Moon (ar)rise in the evening. So for them our evening is the beginning of their day, in effect, their morning.

"pray to the Tree Spirits" — the reason why Evening Star, and the moon associated with him, are close to Tree Spirits is that they are of low declination in the sky and quickly set into the trees of the typically wooded environment of the Wazija. Inasmuch as the difficulty ahead will involve a contest around a fire, trees will be called upon to release the fire stored in their bodies to make the flames propitious for Red Star.

"declined her offering" — this is because they thought themselves inferior to the power demanded from them.

"at the edge of a swamp stood a short oak tree" — that it dwells by a swamp and is short in stature are attributes designed to make it seem inferior in appearence. However, it is often the case that the last one approached, the one that looks the least respectible, is in fact the most powerful (see an example of this in an episode of "The Thunderbird"). In "The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head," this oak is said to be the first tree created by Earthmaker, and is therefore the Chief of Trees, showing once again that the last is first. (See the Commentary to "The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head.")

"the fireplace" — this is the sun. Even when the Evening Star is in the sky, it never strays too far from the sun. When it is in conjunction, it is sitting right next to the "fire."

"a young man suddenly entered the lodge" — this is Morning Star. In other stories, he is said to be the doppelgänger of Evening Star (Red Star, Bluehorn). The fireplace is the place where the sun is situated on earth. As the Morning Star comes into conjunction, it travels to the place where the sun resides, and specifically the fireplace where Evening Star is located in the same state of conjunction.

"opposite one another around the fireplace" — the situation that the Morning and Evening Stars find themselves in is mutual conjunction with the sun. This is why they are around the fireplace. The Morning Star always goes in front of the Sun, whereas the Evening Star always trails it, so they are on opposite sides of the Fire. That they are both at the fireplace shows that they are both in solar conjunction, and since Evening Star is victorious, this would be superior conjunction, at which Morning Star arrives after he has done much traveling (in the sky).

"which drew the challenger right into the fire" — this is a description of the complete solar conjunction of Morning Star during superior conjunction. The contest is divided into 8 parts. As it happens, 8 is the number of the Venus Cycle, since it takes 8 years for the Morning Star or the Evening Star to move from a particular position in the sky back to the position.

"iron poker" — in this story as well as the its longer variant, it is only identified as "an iron" (mąz). Nevertheless, it is clearly a long pointed object, and therefore seems to be a poker. A poker is a nąroxiwi, which appears to be (perhaps homonymously) from nąra-hoxiwi, itself from , "wood"; -ra, "the"; hoxiwi, "to cough." A poker, therefore, makes "the wood to cough." The role of a poker is to revitalize the fire by exposing the embers to the air. So the red iron would seem to be another image of the sun, since its heat seems to duplicate the effect of Morning Star landing in the fire (sun), but this time the final result is not decapitation, but death.

"into the neck of the head" — the text says only, "... and stuck it up in his neck and then only did he die, and his body died also" (p. 13). Clearly, he stuck the poker up into that part of the neck still attached to the head, since he adds that the body died "also." Cf. p. 54, where in a later episode it says, "Then he killed the man head. He heated an iron red hot and stuck it up his neck and it killed him." Just has the opponent simultaneously is beheaded and engulfed in the flames of the fire, so here the iron poker is simultaneously applying the heat of the fire to the open severed neck. Just as the heat of the iron and its color correspond to the fire, so the shape and target of the iron corresponds to that of the inlaid knives used to decapitate the opponent.

"burned the body and head to ashes" — this is the normal procedure for ridding the world of an avatar of a bad spirit. However, in this case it does not seem to work, as the identical spirit is recreated only to appear once again for the same struggle. This spirit is Morning Star. Evening Star has been on earth for some time and has a lodge with his own fire, a picture of his conjunction with the sun. Morning Star also finds conjunction with the sun, which is first expressed as his meeting up with Evening Star, then as his being drawn into the fire, then as having his head rammed through the neck with a red hot iron poker; and now as his being burned to ashes in the fire.

"red oak" — the various terms for oak seem to denote red oaks in particular. The term raxéweké, "oak, red oak," often shortened to raxéké, is virtually the same as raxewege, which apparently means "to conceal." At conjunction, when Morning Star seems to fall into the sun, it becomes concealed from view by virtue of being in the fire which mythologically is the solar fire of concealment, the fire of the red oak.

"once more" — this is the second contest. The first contest occurs when the Morning Star reaches conjunction with the sun, which in this allegory is showing up at the fireplace of Evening Star. The fireplace is the sun where Evening Star is dwelling himself. The result of the contest is that Morning Star disappears from the sky. The present contest, the second one, occurs at the end of the 50 days during which both stars are not seen in the sky. Evening Star is victorious again, and this time he is able to ascend into the sky. However, at the end of his ascendancy, when he comes again into conjunction, there he meets Morning Star once more at the "fire" (sun). There they have the exact same contest, but this time Evening Star loses. His loss is his absence from the sky. Only 8 days later, Morning Star appears in the heavens once more.


"a basswood tree" — called hįšgé in Hocąk. The suffix -ge is used to denote animals or plants, but the stem hįš is of unknown meaning. The wood donated by the basswood tree fails to help Evening Star, leading to the suspicion that it is implicated in his defeat. It is into this basswood fire that Red Star is sucked. A hint as to its symbolic significance in this context is seen in a handsome pun — if we divide the word's syllables as hį-šgé, it would mean, "hair too." This is a very tempting folk etymology, since basswood bark, because of its fibrous (ergo, hairlike) bark, is used to make rope. The connection between hair and rope is of particular relevance to the saga of Bluehorn. In "Bluehorn's Nephews," one of his sisters lulls her brother to sleep and while he is unaware, she creates four braids out of his long blue hair, and like four strands of rope, ties him to the quarters of his lodge. Then she calls for the Thunders to come and take him, and despite an heroic resistence, he is overcome because of his immobility. In that story, the blue hair has the same significance that it does here — it is the blue sky that trails behind Evening Star. The blue sky is also tied to the four quarters of the cosmos (the "lodge"), and cannot defend itself from the occlusion brought about by the storm clouds of the Thunders. The Thunders eat away at the body of Bluehorn. After Evening Star's previous (second) victory over Morning Star, he would have entered the phase in which he ascends into the sky. At the end of this phase, he comes into conjunction with the sun. At this time he is doomed to come down to ground, and once he does, he cannot any longer ascend into the sky, just as if he had been tied down by rope to the four quarters of the earth. Once again his sister supplies the means by which he is tied to earth and cannot move as he normally does. This time he is attacked and dismembered by Morning Star. He has fallen into the fire, the fire made of basswood (hįš-ge), which by pun, is "hair also" (hį-šge), a hair that ties him down so that he becomes immobile, thus inabling Morning Star to triumphantly take his place in the sky. For more on the basswood tree, see the Commentary to "Hare Kills Wildcat."

"he grabbed the head" — this is the head with blue hair that symbolizes the sky of the day. In accounts where the position of the head is indicated, it is placed behind his own. This would mean that the blue sky trails behind Morning Star now, since he first rises in the darkness, and as the sun is about to rise, the sky near the horizon, which is behind him in terms of the direction that he is going (towards the zenith as a rising star), is like his trailing hair; yet this is not his hair, but that of his captured brother's head. The head, of course, was actually seized while Evening Star was in the "fire," which is to say, in conjunction with the sun.

"yelling his war whoop" — in Hocąk symbology, sound stands for light. Hitherto, as Evening Star sojourned in the sky, Morning Star was "not heard from." Since his "running off" is a representation of his running across the sky, it coincides with his renewed appearence in the welkin. His appearence marks the first time in a long while that he is heard from, and since (as we now know) he is nearest earth, he is at his brightest. Therefore, when it comes to modeling his brightness in terms of sound, he is yelling.

"Indian potatoes" — the Apios americana Medikus, most commonly known as the "ground nut," and called do by the Hocągara. The supraterrestial part of the plant is a vine which produces wild beans, a legume whose contents look very much like peas and are usually cooked the same way. The "potatoes" grow on long subterranean rhizomes, underground branches that extend like networks and run for as much as 25 feet. The potatoes, which are white inside, are like miniature moons, and the network recalls the underground maze through which the Waterspirits, like the Moon's brother, travel. For more details on the Indian potato and sources, see the Commentary to "The Twins Retrieve Redstar's Head."

"sunbathe" — when the sister is sunbathing, she is away from the lodge. In terms of visible lunar astronomy, the sun has left the earth, where her lodge with Red Star is found, and has gone some distance off. When the moon does this, leaves both the earth and its conjunction with the sun, it eventually arrives at opposition to the sun, at which time it is full. The full moon is often bathed in the light of the sun, rising when it sets, and setting when it rises. The full moon is at its greatest expanse, and therefore most like a pregnant woman. Then she returns to earth, loses her girth, and comes into proximity to the sun, where the two "stars" of Mercury are found. Ex hypothesi, these are the Twins.

"to go out during the day to dig for potatoes" — going away from the lodge of Red Star is a description of the ascent of the moon to its full stage. When the moon sets, it "digs for potatoes," which supply the added girth and light to the moon which it mysteriously acquires during its diurnal absence underground after it sets and before it rises. When she is away, she also separates from the sun and therefore from the two Children of the Sun that are located so close to him and to Evening Star.

"blood" — Bluehorn is also known as the Red Star, a name given to the Evening Star because it is often seen in the red wash of the sunset. The essential substance of a star is light, and it is precisely light that effuses over his body at sunset to give rise to his appelation.

"they sat together in the council lodge of their father, the sun" — first one brother, then the next, comes into the council lodge. Sitting together with the sun is a description of conjunction. First one of the Mercuries, then the other, comes into superior or inferior conjunction with the sun. The Mercury synodic cycle is about 116 days. Inferior conjunction is 5 days, then after about 38 days of the matutine Mercury (morning star), it falls into superior conjunction of about 35 days, then the remaining 38 days are the vespertine Mercury (evening star).2 At such times both the matutine and vespertine Mercury are absent from the sky and have seemingly fallen into the (lodge of the) sun. Falling into the sun is also the destiny of both the moon, the stars on the ecliptic, and the planets (in superior conjunction only) of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

"a man with a head dangling from his belt burst in through the side of the lodge" — this is Morning Star carrying the head of Evening Star. The swiftness of his motion is not only the usual attribute of Morning Star, but in this case is meant to describe the rapidity of the mere 8 day inferior conjunction. In the superior conjunction, the Morning Star disappears and 50 days transpire before the Evening Star appears; in the inferior conjunction, only 8 days pass before the twin of Evening Star appears in the sky. So the two are together in the lodge of the Sun for only a brief period, and then pass from it.

"no respect" — having been with the Sun, the Morning Star breaks free and rises ahead of the master of the day. In ancient astrology, where the sun was identified with the king, Morning Star's presumptuous precedence was taken as a kind of disrespect. Therefore, the Morning Star or Lucifer, came to be identified with an evil spirit, an especially rebellious one (Satan), who in the end was destined to fall from his haughty perch above the sun back down to the earth and the fire of the sun that rises from there. The same sequence of events is here being described in Hocąk symbolism. In our story Morning Star shows this same disrespect to the Sun. (For more on the identity of Morning Star and Lucifer, see the discussion at "Morning Star").

"because he has the head of the foremost among us" — this seems to advance an odd theory to us, but one which reflects common sense to those restricted to naked eye astronomy. This is the notion that the Evening Star at times is in conjunction with the Morning Star. In the inferior conjunction, the Morning Star comes out of the Sun shortly after Evening Star falls into its fires, but when it emerges, it is at its greatest intensity of light (since, as we now know, Venus is closest to earth). This is a reflection of its greater power, a light and power augmented by the head of Evening Star. Since it is accepted that Evening Star falls into the sun, there is nothing to stop the conjecture that it also falls into the grasp of Morning Star who so quickly (8 days) emerges after Evening Star's conjunction with the sun. The capture of a head is, among humans, the capture of a soul. So Morning Star's capture of the head of Evening Star is the capture of the soul of Evening Star, which is his Light (Hąp), a metaphor for life. The rest of the body, which is his locomotor powers and his executive powers, is lost to him and remains on earth, which is a place that he also enters at conjunction. So it is quite natural for naked eye observes to think that Morning Star may have captured Evening Star and controls him just like one who takes the head of an enemy in battle.

"a small lake in the west" — the end of the reign of Morning Star over Evening Star ought to begin in the west, the land of endings, and the place where Evening Star first emerges from the sun. This "small" lake is actually the opposite. It is the Ocean Sea, which to the Hocągara is Te-ją, the "Encircling Lake."

"he stops briefly" — the only time that Morning Star appears to stop is when it comes into conjunction with the sun, at which time it also comes to earth and does not again rise into the sky. The edge of the world is the Ocean Sea, the Encirlcing Lake (Te-ją), and this is the site where Morning Star is coming down from the sky. It must be here that Evening Star separates from him and comes back into the sky whole and restored. This period takes time (the 50 days of superior conjunction), which is reflected in the long battle through which the Twins take control over the head of Evening Star. In the longer version of The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head (see the Commentary), the sun itself is depicted as a sandbar on which Morning Star comes to rest.

"a drink" — the fundamental idea here is that Morning Star comes into contact with the Ocean Sea at the edge of the world. The word te (Te Ją, "Encircling Lake" = "Ocean Sea") is regularly used to denote (freshwater) lakes. It seems clear that the Hocągara did not know that the Ocean Sea was salt water, since they really had no direct knowledge of it (see the Commentary to The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head for more on this contention). They believed, like the Greeks and others of the ancient Old World, that this peripheral body of water completely encirlced the earth. While we do not have the Hocąk text to this story, we do have the text to the expanded variant, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head. There he not only drinks, but dives (kųwųk) into the waters. These events expressed Morning Star's "coming to ground" — or in this case, water — when he stops his motion at conjunction.


"forked tree" — although we do not have the Hocąk text for this story, the word for a forked tree is ną-cak, from , "tree, wood, woods" and cak, "forked." However, cak also denotes the walnut and walnut tree, so ną cak could also mean "walnut tree." This is an allusion to the astronomical condition of the Twins. Since the Twins are together, they are in conjunction, under the hypothesis that they are the twin stars of Mercury. The walnut is found twinned inside a spherical husk, which when ripe, can turn yellowish. So this is like the twin matutine and vespertine stars of Mercury when they are in conjunction with the sun — twins embedded within the spherical, yellow sun. In The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, the brothers turn themselves into the hatakac (warmth, light beams) of the Sun, which preserves the idea that they are in some way hiding in the sun.

"the crack of dawn" — this is not meant to show that the actors in this allegory are in opposition to the sun, but rather that the sun is in a boundary condition, at once both above and below the earth. In The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head (see the Commentary), the sun is said to be present at noon, the time at which he is both ascending and descending. A contradiction implies anything, so something in a boundary condition, a contradictory condition reified, also implies anything. Therefore, the boundary condition is a state of affairs in which anything becomes possible.

"the voice" — in the symbol system, as already noted, sound represents light. His voice is in the distance, that is, it is faint. Thus his light is faint. The faintest magnitude of Morning Star comes just before superior conjunction, which is the event being allegorically described here.

"his silence" — silence symbolizes an absence of light. This is because Everning Star is in conjunction.

"chattered" — where sound = light, chattering ought to correspond to flickering or twinkling. Allegorically, this scene is set during the period in which Morning Star approaches superior conjunction. As it does so, it get closer and closer to the sun, and lower and lower in the horizon. Here the atmosphere can cause twinkling, indeed, Mercury was known to the Greeks, for instance, as the "Twinkler" for this reason.3 The word for chattering teeth is hira cacaš, where caš means "to click," and the reduplicated form cacaš means "to click repeatedly, to chatter." The word for teeth, hira, is a homonym that also means "to bathe, to be in water." Where the sunrise is seen over a lake, the Morning Star nearing superior conjunction will seem to fall into the lake. It was for this reason, as we saw above, that the Morning Star figure is said allegorically to dive into the water or to drink it.

"snatch his uncle's head" — because the twin stars of Mercury are so close to the sun, the arrival of the Morning Star of Venus for superior conjunction with the sun also occasion a close passage or even conjunction with the matutine Mercury. The Twins, allegorically speaking, are the first to get to Morning Star as it approches conjunction.

"sound like us" — given that sound = light, Evening Star has now emerged from what we now call "superior conjunction" and now looks like his nephews, that is a shining "star" near the sun and near the horizon. The whole period of superior conjunction for Venus is 50 days, so it took 50 days from the death of Morning Star to the restitution of Evening Star. This is reflected in the long battle and run of the Twins.

"a loud victory whoop" — another sound-for-light expression of the reemergence of the light of Evening Star in the night sky.

"he killed the head by shoving the hot iron up its throat" — the red hot iron represents the sun, and its contact with Morning Star is superior conjunction. When Evening Star begins to be seen in the night sky, it is weak in light compared to the period just before inferior conjunction. So Evening Star does not carry the "head" or light of the Morning Star with it out of superior conjunction the way that Morning Star apparently carries the "head" and light of the Evening Star with it out of inferior conjunction. Therefore, this myth expresses the idea that Morning Star is killed (by fire or hot iron, both symbols of the sun), then later resurrected (after inferior conjunction).

"they returned to the abode of Sun" — the two stars of Mercury, the Twins, are together at superior conjunction, which lasts for 35 of the 116 days of the Mercury cycle.

Comparative Material. The birth of the Ojibwe trickster figure, Wenebojo, is similar to the Twins. A young woman lived with her grandmother. They were the only two people on earth. One day the young woman was picking berries in the forest when a gust of wind blew up her skirt. It was the Sun that did this, and she was later found to be pregnant. In time she gave birth to triplets. The first of these was Wenebojo, who was fully human in appearance; the second was only quasi-human; the third was a stone.4

In world mythology, being impregnated by the rays of the sun is a common explanation for the birth of extraordinary heroes.5

For further parallels to this story elsewhere, see the Comparative Material to The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head.

Links: The Twins, Tree Spirits, Sun, Bluehorn (Evening Star), Gottschall, Rušewe, Rock Spirits.

Stories: with Bluehorn (Evening Star) as a character: Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Grandfather's Two Families, The Man with Two Heads, Sun and the Big Eater, The Green Man (?), Brave Man (?); mentioning the Twins: The Twins Cycle, The Man with Two Heads, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Two Boys, The Two Brothers, The Lost Blanket; about two brothers: The Two Children, The Twin Sisters, The Captive Boys, The Twins Cycle, The Two Brothers, The Two Boys, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, The Man with Two Heads, Bluehorn's Nephews, Snowshoe Strings, Sunset Point, The Old Man and the Giants, The Brown Squirrel, Esau was an Indian; about stars and other celestial bodies: The Dipper, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, The Seven Maidens, Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head, Turtle and the Witches, Sky Man, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The Star Husband, Grandfather's Two Families, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Origins of the Milky Way, The Fall of the Stars; mentioning trees or Tree Spirits: The Creation of the World, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Visit of the Wood Spirit, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Woman who Became a Walnut Tree, The Old Woman and the Maple Tree Spirit, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, The Pointing Man, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Trickster Loses His Meal, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 2), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Waruǧábᵉra, The Chief of the Heroka, The Red Man, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Blessing of the Bow, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Spirit of Gambling, Peace of Mind Regained, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, The Story of the Medicine Rite; mentioning oak: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Turtle's Warparty, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Waruǧábᵉra, The Creation Council, The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, Young Man Gambles Often, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), Sun and the Big Eater, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Roaster, Little Human Head, The Shaggy Man, Wears White Feather on His Head, Peace of Mind Regained, The Dipper (leaves); mentioning red oaks: Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Bladder and His Brothers, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Turtle's Warparty (v. 1), Trickster Gets Pregnant; mentioning basswood: Redhorn's Father, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 3), The Big Stone, The Fox-Hocąk War, Hare Burns His Buttocks, The King Bird, Hare Kills Wildcat, Turtle's Warparty, The Birth of the Twins, The Messengers of Hare, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store; mentioning teeth: The Animal who would Eat Men, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Two Boys, The Birth of the Twins, The Twins Disobey Their Father, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Dipper, Wolves and Humans, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, Partridge's Older Brother, The Brown Squirrel, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Shakes the Messenger, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, White Wolf, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth.

This story is a longer version of The Man with Two Heads and a shorter version of The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head.

The story of the visit of the doppelgänger is very similar to The Green Man.

Themes: humans pray to a tree in order to obtain needed wood: The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Blessing of the Bow; trees talk to people and give them advice: Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, The Old Woman and the Maple Tree Spirit, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I; a woman digs for Indian potatoes: The Lost Child, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head; two people look (almost) exactly alike: The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Green Man, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Redhorn's Father, Big Eagle Cave Mystery; men whose bodies are (partly) covered with pieces of flint: Bluehorn's Nephews, Hare Kills Flint, Hare Gets Swallowed, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka; violating the prohibitions laid down by an elder brother leads to disaster: White Wolf, Bladder and His Brothers (v. 3), The Green Man, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head; an evil spirit engages in a contest designed to knock his opponent into the air with fatal consequences: Bladder and His Brothers, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; a man uses flint growing out of his arm to kill (or behead) someone: The Man with Two Heads, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, The Man with Two Heads; head hunting: White Fisher, Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath, A Man's Revenge, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Young Man Gambles Often, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), The Dipper, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Porcupine and His Brothers, Turtle's Warparty, Ocean Duck, The Markings on the Moon, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Man with Two Heads, Brave Man, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Redhorn's Sons, Fighting Retreat, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Were-Grizzly, Winneconnee Origin Myth; a man continues to function without his head: The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 1a), The Red Man, White Fisher, The Chief of the Heroka; multiple births: The Birth of the Twins, The Twin Sisters, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Two Brothers; a severed head (in a fireplace) is not dead: The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Heną́ga and Star Girl; spirits meet in a council: The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Black and White Moons, Holy One and His Brother, The Creation Council, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), The Gift of Shooting, East Shakes the Messenger, The Descent of the Drum, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Boy who would be Immortal; spirits come together to pool their resources to give humans power over their enemies: Waruǧábᵉra, Maize Origin Myth; the youngest offspring is superior: The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Young Man Gambles Often, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Twins Cycle, The Two Boys, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Creation of the World (v. 12), The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Sun and the Big Eater, The Story of the Medicine Rite, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 4, 7), Snake Clan Origins, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, Snake Clan Origins, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth; a man goes about the heavens with a severed head in his possession: The Markings on the Moon, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads; a young man leaves his uncle and mother behind and goes off to visit the father he has never met in the spirit abode where he lives: The Shaggy Man, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head; a nephew avenges the quasi-death of his uncle: Waruǧábᵉra, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads, Bluehorn's Nephews; a man reunites the still living head and body of his relative: The Red Man, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads, The Chief of the Heroka; 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 Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster's Tail, Trickster Gets Pregnant, The Elks Skull, Trickster Soils the Princess, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Seven Maidens; someone changes himself into a snake in order to hide from enemies: Worúxega, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads; being unable to hide, despite a great effort: The Birth of the Twins, The Two Boys, Holy One and His Brother, The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2); two brothers transform themselves to conceal themselves from the view of the enemy from whom they would retrieve their relative's head: The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads; a man long abused by his enemy comes to dance with his enemy's head in his hand singing to himself as he does so: Wears White Feather on His Head; an heroic spirit recaptures a man's head or scalp and restores the victim's unity by throwing it exactly in its correct position on his body: Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Man with Two Heads; the severed head of an enemy chatters its teeth: Wears White Feather on His Head.


1 "The Children of the Sun," in Paul Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic. A Study in Comparative Literature, Part I (Basil: Ethnographical Museum, Basil Switzerland, 1954) 75-80. The original English translation is found in Paul Radin, "Hąpwira Hinįkwahira," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, ca. 1912) Notebook 12, 1-56. Apparently the story was obtained by Sam Blowsnake of the Thunderbird Clan from an anonymous older member of the tribe ca. 1912 (Ibid., 21).

2 Anthony F. Aveni, Skywatchers (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001) 87, Table 6.

3 Fred W. Price, The Planet Observer's Handbook, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) 75, 88.

4 Tom Badger, "The Wenebojo Origin Myth," trs. by Julia Badger, in Victor Barnouw, Wisconsin Chippewa Myths and Tales (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977) Stories 1-2, pp. 13-15.

5 See, for instance, the Kirgiz story on the birth of Jenghis Khan: Vasili Vasil'evich Radlov (W. Radloff), Proben der Volkslitteratur der Türkischen Stämme Süd-Sibiriens. 6 vols. (St. Petersburg: Commissionare der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1866-1907) 3:82-89. In a Siamese myth, the birth of Sommonocodon was from the rays of the sun: Gui Tachard, Second voyage du père Tachard et des jesuites envoyez par le Roy au royaume de Siam. Contenant diverses remarques d'histoire, de physique, de geographie, & d'astronomie. (Paris: Daniel Horthemels, 1689) 253-256. In the Indian epic story, Sūrya impregnates Kunti, who gives birth to Karṇa: Mahābhārata 3.299-310 (Ganguli). See also the impregnation of Danaë by Zeus in the form of a stream of gold (sunburst): Apollodorus, Library 2.4.1.