Hare Kills Flint (§3 of the Hare Cycle)
retold by Richard L. Dieterle
Version 1. Hare set out for his other grandfather's place to get arrowheads. Again he enlarged himself and came singing. When his grandfather Flint saw him, he said, "You are a great spirit so I will offer you a very valuable flint from my wrist." However, Hare jumped closer to him and yelled, "Heeyee!" Flint became uneasy, and tried again to placate Hare: "I shall give you this very valuable piece of flint from my ankle." In fact the pieces from his wrists and ankles was the least valuable flint he had. Hare leapt at him yelling, "Heeyee! heeyee!" and Flint ran for his life. Every time Hare hit him with his club flint would break off, and soon flint was scattered all over the earth. Finally, Hare killed him. He went back and picked up arrowheads. The best were blue and those from his stomach were white; the rest were red or black. When Hare got home, he told his grandmother that he had scattered Flint's body over the face of the earth. She was outraged: "You ugly, big-eyed, varmint, you've killed my brother!" "Well," replied Hare, "If you don't like that I'll get my club and scatter you over the face of the earth too." "Actually, grandson," she said, "I was only joking. In fact, it's a good thing since he was withholding arrowheads from your uncles." With their new arrowheads, Hare's arrows were terrifying, and whenever he squeezed one the lodge would shine with lightning.1
This version of the story is not free-standing, but is an episode in the larger myth "The Red Man." Flint beheaded the Red Man (Redhorn) and placed the still living head in his fireplace that he might suffer indefinitely. However, his son married the daughter of Red Man, and she discovered the head in the fireplace. They ultimately rescued and restored Red Man to his prior condition with the help of Hare and Trickster. This second version of the myth occurs when Hare confronts "Grandfather" (as Flint is called here), and exacts retribution.
Version 2. "(50) 'Now then, my friends, let me attend to him myself,' said the Hare, as the two men were the Hare and the Trickster. 'Now then, let us go over,' (51) they said. So they went there. And the old man said, 'Ah, you have come,' said he. 'Yes, we have come,' said they. 'I knew that you were going to do this. If you have anything to say about my object to break embers on, it will do no good, as he has committed a crime, (52) and I mean to keep him there until he dies,' he said. 'Now then, that is what we came for, and the Creator did not create you for this cause. You have gotten hold of a Great One and if you insist on doing it, you will die,' said the Hare. 'Ah, Hare, you have not changed my mind in the least.' And then the Hare arose up and the first thing he (53) killed [was] the alligators, and then he struck the old man and flint stone flew in every direction, and the old man ran out and he followed him up and every time he struck him the flint would fly. Thus he did to him and he scattered (54) him all over the earth. That is why flint is all over the earth. Finally, he got him exhausted, and he began to walk to one side. 'Oh my!' he said. There he struck him a hard blow and it rang out as of striking steel, as he was steel. (55) He was the King [of] Steel, that was why he thought no one could kill him, but he did it to him."2
Commentary. "flint was scattered all over the earth" — Flint is a Rock Spirit with flint points up and down his arms and legs and apparently everywhere else. When Hare strikes him he disintegrates into flint arrowheads which are scattered everywhere. Bluehorn, the Twins, and their enemy (Herešgúnina or Morning Star), are said to have flint knives running down their arms.
"picked up arrowheads" — the Hočągara generally used snapping turtle claws for arrowheads, but they say that whenever they did use stone points, it was only with arrowheads that they found rather than manufactured themselves. This notion is also found among the Lakota. "The Lakotas commonly say that the stone arrow points were found on the prairies, and that they were made by the spiders (iktomi)."3
"the best were blue" — the flint of the color čo (blue or green) is said to be the best. This is interesting since the Chief of the Black Rock Spirits is Green Man (Wąk-čo-ga), who is identical with Bluehorn.
"those from his stomach were white" — The colors of his flint fragments match the color code of the four directions.
The arrows in the diagram reflect the ritual path, which is withershins, as if turning back time. The blue flint corresponds to the east, the place of the rising sun, the place of beginnings. The other flint colors match the cardinal directions with which the four primordial bears are identified. The white arrowhead is associated with the north, but it is said to have come from his stomach. The north is the land of cold, so this associates the white flint with ice and snow, the probable reason for making the north direction white. Flint is also like the Giants who hail from the north, since the cause of their cannibalism is the ball of ice that resides in their stomachs.
"Great One" — in Hočąk, Xetera, "the Great Ones." Usually the Great Ones are eight in number, and Red Man (Redhorn) is one of them.
"steel" — this description, given the fact that steel is a recent invention, cannot have been of any antiquity. In earlier times, Flint was probably just that, a Rock Spirit and nothing else.
Comparative Material: There is a brief but striking Navaho parallel. The giant Yeitso is covered from neck to toe in flint knives. The Twins kill and scalp (or behead) him. Then they take the flint and scatter it in the four directions for the use of the human race. The giant's four flint knives were black, blue, yellow, and white.4
There is also a Cherokee counterpart to this story. They too have a character named "Flint" (Tawískala). Rabbit decided to go out and visit Flint, who lived in the mountains. When Rabbit arrived and greeted Flint, he expected that Flint would invite him inside, but Flint never offered the slightest hospitality, so Rabbit invited Flint to come to his place at the broom grass land and share a meal with him. So the two set out for Rabbit's home. When they arrived, Rabbit made a fire out in the grass, and proceeded to make a mallet and a stake. Flint wondered what he was about, but Rabbit said that he just wanted to keep busy. They had a good meal, and when Flint was asleep, Rabbit snuck up on him and struck him a hard blow with the stake and mallet. The result was a loud explosion, and Rabbit ran for his hole. Flint had been scattered all over creation, as it is now. However, when Rabbit stuck his head up to see if it was all clear, a piece of debris fell from the sky and cut his upper lip. Thus rabbits are even to the present day.5
The distant Nez Perce also have a remote parallel. Fox and Coyote were living together. One day Flint killed all five of Coyote's sons, leaving him alone in the world. Meanwhile, Fox had secured an arrowhead from Flint. Whenever Fox's son-in-law would kill a deer, Fox would rush over and retrieve the arrowhead, which his son-in-law kept in a secret place. Coyote noticed this, and one day grabbed the meat from Fox. Despite Fox's protests, Coyote cooked it and began eating, only at one point he bit into the flint arrowhead. Then Coyote realized that Flint had passed by, and demanded of Fox to know where he was. When Fox told him, Coyote began to stalk Flint. Finally, he caught up to him. Coyote kept hitting him with large rocks until a crack began to appear in his flint body. After pummeling him constantly, Flint finally broke in two and expired. As Coyote went along with his kill in his pack, he noticed that it was getting rotten in places, so he cut off these pieces and scattered them by the trail. These are the pieces of flint still found today along the trail in Oregon.6
The neighboring Menominee also have a parallel story. Manabush is one of four brothers, the last of which is Chakenapok. "The fourth son, Chakenapok, the man of flint or firestone, was a cruel villain. In coming into the world he caused the death of his mother. When he reached manhood, Manabush resolved to avenge the death of his mother. He pursued Chakenapok all over the earth. After several encounters he destroyed him. All of the fragments which he broke from his body became rocks. His entrails became vines and took root in all of the forests. The flint stones scattered over the earth and indicate where the struggles between the brothers took place."7
This Dakota story also recalls that of Hare's visit to his grandfather Bear (q.v.). "The Rabbit and his grandmother were in dire straits, because the rabbit was out of arrows. The fall hunt would soon be on and his quiver was all but empty. Arrow sticks he could cut in plenty, but he had nothing with which to make arrowheads. 'You must make some flint arrowheads,' said his grandmother. 'Then you will be able to kill game.' 'Where shall I get the flint?' asked the rabbit. 'From the old bear chief,' said his old grandmother. For at that time all the flint in the world was in the bear's body. So the rabbit set out for the village of the Bears. It was winter time and the lodges of the bears were set under the shelter of a hill where the cold wind would not blow on them and where they had shelter among the trees and bushes. He came at one end of the village to a hut where lived an old woman. He pushed open the door and entered. Everybody who came for flint always stopped there because it was the first lodge on the edge of the village. Strangers were therefore not unusual in the old woman's hut, and she welcomed the rabbit. She gave him a seat and at night he lay with his feet to the fire. The next morning the rabbit went to the lodge of the bear chief. They sat together awhile and smoked. At last the bear chief spoke. 'What do you want, my grandson?' 'I have come for some flint to make arrows,' answered the rabbit. The bear chief grunted, and laid aside his pipe. Leaning back he pulled off his robe and, sure enough, one half of his body was flesh and the other half hard flint. 'Bring a stone hammer and give it to our guest,' he bade his wife. Then as the rabbit took the hammer he said: 'Do not strike too hard.' 'Grandfather, I shall be careful,' said the rabbit. With a stroke he struck off a little flake of flint from the bear's body. 'Ni-sko-ke-cha? So big?' he asked. 'Harder, grandson; strike off bigger pieces,' said the bear. The rabbit struck a little harder. 'Ni-sko-ke-cha? So big?' he asked. The bear grew impatient. 'No, no, strike off bigger pieces. I can't be here all day. Tanka kaksa wo! Break off a big piece.' The rabbit struck again--hard! 'Ni-sko-ke-cha?' he cried, as the hammer fell. But even as he spoke the bear's body broke in two, the flesh part fell away and only the flint part remained. Like a flash the rabbit darted out of the hut. There was a great outcry in the village. Open mouthed, all the bears gave chase. But as he ran the rabbit cried: 'Wa-hin-han-yo (snow, snow) Ota-po, Ota-po — lots more, lots more,' and a great storm of snow swept down from the sky. The rabbit, light of foot, bounded over the top of the snow. The bears sunk in and floundered about helpless. Seeing this, the rabbit turned back and killed them one by one with his club. That is why we now have so few bears."8
The following is an Aztec parallel, where the disintegration of Flint's counterpart, Obsidian Butterfly (Itzpapalotl) occurs in her funeral pyre. Her body is also partly covered in flint.
Then those spirits, the Xiuhteteuctin [Fire Lords] hear him, and they go to get the woman, Itzpapalotl. Mimich leads the way. And when they get her, they burn her. And then they all shined forth: first, the blue flint shined. Second, the white flint shined. They took the white one and wrapped it up. Third, the yellow flint shined. They didn't take it, they just looked at it. Fourth, the red flint shined. And again they didn't take it. Fifth, the black flint shined. Again they didn't take it. But Mixcoatl made the white flint his spirit power, and when they had wrapped it up, he backpacked it.9
Here the valuable flint is not blue but white, and it is collected not for an arrowhead, but as the sole contents of a Warbundle.
Links: Hare, Flint, Earth, The Sons of Earthmaker, Rock Spirits.
Links within the Hare Cycle: §2. Hare and the Grasshoppers, §4. Hare Kills Sharp Elbow.
Stories: featuring Hare as a character: The Hare Cycle, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Necessity for Death, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare Kills Wildcat, The Messengers of Hare, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, The Hill that Devoured Men and Animals, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Grandmother's Gifts, Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Red Man, Maize Origin Myth, Hare Steals the Fish, The Animal who would Eat Men, The Gift of Shooting, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Petition to Earthmaker; about Flint: Wears White Feather on His Head, The Red Man, Chief of the Heroka, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons; featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Grandmother's Gifts, Owl Goes Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Kills Wildcat, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Necessity for Death, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Steals the Fish, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, The Gift of Shooting, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?); mentioning Rock Spirits: The Big Stone, The Green Man, The Creation of the World, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Seer, The Roaster, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, A Woman Turns into a Rock, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle.
Themes: men whose bodies are (partly) covered with pieces of flint: Bluehorn's Nephews, Hare Gets Swallowed, The Children of the Sun, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka; an evil spirit is smashed to pieces by a club: The Red Man, Waruǧábᵉra, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, The Big Stone; striking of an enemy whose body scatters over the face of the earth as a shower of stones: Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Big Stone; a class sorts into the four colors: blue, white, red, and black: Pigeon Clan Origins, Bear Spirits, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 7), Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Eagle Clan Origin Myth; red as a symbolic color: The Journey to Spiritland (hill, willows, reeds, smoke, stones, haze), The Gottschall Head (mouth), The Chief of the Heroka (clouds, side of Forked Man), The Red Man (face, sky, body, hill), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (neck, nose, painted stone), Redhorn's Father (leggings, stone sphere, hair), The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father (hair, body paint, arrows), Wears White Feather on His Head (man), The Birth of the Twins (turkey bladder headdresses), The Two Boys (elk bladder headdresses), Trickster and the Mothers (sky), Rich Man, Boy, and Horse (sky), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Spirit), Bluehorn Rescues His Sister (buffalo head), Wazųka (buffalo head headdress), The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (horn), The Brown Squirrel (protruding horn), Bear Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Deer Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (stick at grave), Pigeon Clan Origins (Thunderbird lightning), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks (eyes), Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (scalp, woman's hair), The Race for the Chief's Daughter (hair), The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy (hair), Redhorn Contests the Giants (hair), Redhorn's Sons (hair), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle (hair), A Wife for Knowledge (hair), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (hair), The Hočągara Contest the Giants (hair of Giantess), A Man and His Three Dogs (wolf hair), The Red Feather (plumage), The Man who was Blessed by the Sun (body of Sun), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (body of the Warrior Clan Chief), Red Bear, Eagle Clan Origin Myth (eagle), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (Waterspirit armpits), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Waterspirits), The Roaster (body paint), The Man who Defied Disease Giver (red spot on forehead), The Wild Rose (rose), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (warclub), Įčorúšika and His Brothers (ax & packing strap), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head (edges of flint knives), The Nannyberry Picker (leggings), The Seduction of Redhorn's Son (cloth), Yųgiwi (blanket).
1 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 93-98. Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) §6, pp. 66-67. The original Hočąk text is missing, but the English translation of Oliver LaMère is preserved in Paul Radin, "The Hare Cycle," Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3851 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago IV, #1: 17-22.
2 Paul Radin, "The Red Man," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook 6: 1-72 [50-55].
3 Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian: Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States, and Alaska, ed. by Frederick Webb Hodge. 20 vv. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1907-1930) 3.26; The Sixth Grandfather, Black Elk's Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, ed. Raymond J. DeMallie (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984) 311 nt 6.
4 Aileen O'Bryan, Navaho Indian Myths (New York: Dover Publications, 1993 ) 84. These stories were collected by the author in 1928 from Old Man Buffalo Grass.
5 "Flint Visits the Rabbit," in James Mooney, History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (Asheville, North Carolina: Bright Mountain Books, 1992 [1891/1900]) Story 25: 274-275.
6 Deward E. Walker, jr., in collaboration with Daniel N. Matthews, Nez Perce Coyote Tales: the Myth Cycle (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998) 19-21.
7 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Manabush: Menomini Tales, Wisconsin Folklore Booklets (Madison: 1948) 3.
8 "The Rabbit and the Bear with the Flint Body," in Marie L. McLaughlin, Myths and Legends of the Sioux (Bismarck, North Dakota: Bismarck Tribune Company, 1916) §2.
9 Leyenda de los Soles, 80:7-80:16.