Crane and His Brothers

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

One day Crane encountered his younger brother, who suggested to him that they live together. Crane thought it would be a good idea, most especially because his brother was such a good hunter. One day some visitors showed up at their new dwelling and said, "Crane, I see that you are now living here and living pretty well at that." "Yes," replied Crane, "my brother kills much game and we eat very well." The visitors asked where they could build lodges nearby, to which Crane replied, "Anywhere at all, there is plenty of space around here." They asked, "What does your brother hunt mostly?" Crane told them, "Raccoons." This appealed to them greatly, so they slipped in and robbed Crane of all his meat. Soon after, Crane's brother came back with a fresh kill, so Crane went out to fetch water. On the way the visitors met him and asked him what he was fetching water for. He replied that his brother had been successful in the hunt. Upon hearing that, they went back and stole even that meat. So Crane and his younger brother spent a hungry night without their accustomed evening meal. The next morning the younger brother went out hunting and was again successful, but later the same thing happened once again, and they were beginning to feel weak from hunger. After they were robbed a third time, they resolved to find another place to live.


On his hunting expedition, the brother had seen a good place to move, so they decided to leave the next day. His younger brother went ahead, while Crane kept walking up and down the hill, making so many tracks it would be impossible to follow him. Yet when the visitors asked, Crane told them everything. When Crane arrived at their new homestead, his younger brother already had the meal prepared. Soon the visitors showed up again, and asked where they could build their lodges. Everything happened as before, only this time when they stole the meat, the visitors beat the younger brother almost to death. Crane declared, "This time they have gone too far. I had not punished them because I had taken pity on them." He marched right over to the visitors' lodge, and clubbed the first one he found sitting there, then he did the same to the next two, but the fourth one escaped through the smoke hole in the lodge roof. This last one escaped to a tree branch where he gave a hoot. Crane told him, "I have not killed you, for what would the world call a 'hoot owl' if I had? You shall be condemned always to flee from people, and the only time that you will eat is when you have killed a mouse." Crane returned home and told his younger brother, "I have done wrong. The Creator did not create me for this purpose. I have killed my younger brothers. It is not good that we should live together after this." The younger brother was a screech owl. The two of them parted company and have never lived together since.1

Links: Crane, Owl, Bird Spirits, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.

Stories: featuring cranes as characters: How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spirit of Gambling, Bladder and His Brothers (v. 1), Wears White Feather on His Head, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Story of the Medicine Rite; in which owls are mentioned: Owl Goes Hunting, The Spirit of Gambling, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Glory of the Morning, The Chief of the Heroka, Partridge's Older Brother, Waruǧábᵉra, Wears White Feather on His Head, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, The Green Man; about Bird Spirits: The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Owl Goes Hunting, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hocąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (kaǧi, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧábᵉra, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth (black hawk, kaǧi), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (eagle), The Gift of Shooting (eagle), Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (buzzards), The Shaggy Man (kaǧi), The Healing Blessing (kaǧi), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (kaǧi), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įcorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Story of the Medicine Rite (loons, cranes, turkeys), The Fleetfooted Man, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds.

Themes: brothers meet by chance and decide to lodge together: Trickster Gets Pregnant, Turtle's Warparty, Porcupine and His Brothers; a Bird Spirit escapes his pursuers through the smoke hole of his lodge: The Markings on the Moon; someone kills his own kinsman: The Chief of the Heroka (wife), The Red Man (wife), Worúxega (wife), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (wife), Bluehorn's Nephews (mother), The Green Man (mother), Waruǧábᵉra (mother), Partridge's Older Brother (sister), The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother (sister), The Were-Grizzly (sister), White Wolf (brother), The Diving Contest (brother), The Twins Get into Hot Water (grandfather), The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter (daughter), The Birth of the Twins (daughter-in-law), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle (daughter-in-law), Snowshoe Strings (father-in-law); the fruit of the hunt is stolen: Porcupine and His Brothers, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Old Man and Wears White Feather, White Wolf, The Brown Squirrel; a spirit avenges the ill treatment meted out to his younger brother: Porcupine and His Brothers; a schism develops between one clique of brothers and the oldest and youngest pair: Įcohorucika and His Brothers; someone tries to throw an adversary off his track by making countless tracks leading everywhere: The Green Man, Hare Kills Wildcat (v. 2).


1 Paul Radin, "The Crane," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #48.