Hare Kills a Man with a Cane (§8 of the Hare Cycle)

Version 1 (from the Published Hare Cycle)

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

While Hare was wandering about he chanced upon a very tall man with a slender waist who walked with a long cane. Hare thought he looked so fragile that he could simply blow him over with a puff of air. He tried four times but failed. Finally the man noticed a small white thing by the path, so he stamped it into the ground with the tip of his cane. Grandmother came looking for Hare since he was overdue, and she inquired of her brother as to his whereabouts, and was directed to where he had smashed Hare with his cane. She found him and took him up by the arm and scolded him severely. The next day Hare started out for his grandfather's place, but he enlarged himself greatly and pulled a cedar tree [inset] out by the roots to use as his cane. Then, unexpectedly, the tall being came along singing:

  Who is my equal?
Who is my equal?

Hare came towards him singing exactly the same song himself. The tall being was taken aback and said, "I've never met my equal until now." However, Hare took his cedar log cane and smashed the tall being into the earth, shattering him into a myriad of small pieces. "Since you have abused the humans," Hare decreed, "you shall henceforth live so close to the earth that people will trample upon you." The tall being was actually a giant ant1

Version 2 (§3 of the Russell Hare Cycle)

narrated by Jacob Russell

translated by Richard L. Dieterle

Jacob Russell, 1912

Hočąk-English Interlinear Text

(49) The next morning he again started off. A man was there. "Well, I'm going to sit down and look around. Which one will it be? I am going back with a cane. They will kill him. Hare will not return there. Little nephew, why are you doing it? (51) He is not returning. I will go and look around." There the man arrived. "Little nephew, you will not do it." "Little uncle, I am coming back with a little something, a cane." Perhaps it was he who had looked at him. There he was dead. He took his man. He took him back away with him. He did something for him. He began scratching him with a stone. He came alive. "Grandmother, he will live." (53) "Yes, but now he is gone." He (Hare) made for himself a cane from two pine trees. He went and arrived there. "Okay, I will do it. I too usually go home with a cane." Now then, the man went home with a cane. He killed him. "Now then, it will be good. Grandmother, I killed him. He killed many of my uncles and little aunts. Therefore, I killed him. Grandmother, what do you wish to do?" (55) "My dear little grandson, it is good. You have done good for you little uncles and aunts. Humans will be left alone." "Grandmother, you have said it, I have done well."2

Version 3

"La-ga-ka-nan-shke [Ragákąnąšgé] was a monster shaped like a flying ant, with a big body and legs, but very, very small in the middle. He lived behind a hill and never came out. But he carried a great tree and pounded with it on the ground while he sang a song, and when the elk and other animals came near he threw down his tree upon them and killed them. This ant-man was scarcely thicker at the waist than a hair. Wash-ching-geka [Wašjįgega] thought that he could blow him in two, so he blew—'Soo! soo!' But instead of blowing La-ga-ka-nan-shke in two, Wash-ching-geka himself got killed, for the ant man threw his tree and crushed the Little Hare. When La-ga-ka-nan-shke lifted up his tree he found only a very small and flattened thing. He picked it up by the ears. 'No good to eat,' he thought, so he threw the Little Hare away.

That evening when Wash-ching-geka did not come home his grandmother said, 'My little nephew is killed.' For though Wash-ching-geka ran over the whole earth in the daytime, he always came back at night; so when he did not return his grandmother knew that he had been killed. Next morning she rose up and ate and girt her dress above her knees so that she could run faster, and she took an elk-horn club of Wash-ching-geka's and started out to find him. The old grandmother could run fast like Wash-ching-geka, and she ran over the whole earth till she heard the noise of the huge ant-man pounding and singing. La-ga-ka-nan-shke lifted up his tree to throw it on her, but the grandmother said, 'Brother, better not do that!' So he stayed his hand and talked with her. Said the grandmother: 'Brother, I fear my little nephew has been killed. Perhaps he came here and annoyed you and you killed him.' Said the ant-man, 'Well sister what kind of nephew was it, big or little?' 'Oh,' she said, 'very little.' Then said he: 'Well, sister, maybe I did kill him. I killed something very small yesterday. It was no good for eating, so I threw it away. Go you down there and look at it. Maybe it was the little nephew.' So the grandmother went down and looked, and there lay the Little Hare. Then she said: 'Brother, it was my little nephew you killed yesterday. He is here now, dead.' Then she picked tip the Little Hare by the ears and said, 'You sleep here too long; wake up and go to work!' She threw him to one side, and just as he touched the ground he jumped and ran a little, as hares do, and sat up and said, 'Grandmother, I was asleep here, and you wakened me.' 'No, nephew,' said the grandmother, 'you were not asleep. You were killed by the grandfather that walks and walks up there on the hill. You came here yesterday and annoyed him, and he killed you. I made you alive again.' The Little Hare said: 'Oh, that is so. I remember now. I will go to see him again and set that right.' So the Hare went home with his grandmother.

Next morning after he had eaten he started out. La-ga-ka-nan-shke had a big fir-tree, so the Little Hare went away to the very edge of the earth where the biggest pine trees grow, and there he spoke to Wa-zi-chunk, the tallest tree in the world. 'Big tree,' said he, 'I have come for you; I am going to use you. I will pull you out of the ground, but when I have finished with you I will set you back again.' So he laid hold of the tree and pulled it out, and then went to the place where he had been killed. He climbed the hill at one end; La-ga-ka-nan-shke was at the other end, and he began to sing and pound with his tree. Wash-ching-geka did the same, and they danced towards each other, singing and pounding. But soon the big ant-man walked slower and could hardly keep on his feet, because the Hare made the ground shake with the pounding of the tallest tree in the world. La-ga-ka-nan-shke came slowly, growing more and more frightened, and at last when they were close to each other he cried out, 'Ka-lo-quaw!' And the Hare answered, 'Ka-lo-quaw!' The Little Hare heard where the ant-man was, and he took his tall tree and crushed the monster—'Boom!' and a swarm of flying ants came out of the monster's body. And the wise grandmother, far away, when she heard the noise of that blow, cried, 'Oh, little nephew has killed his grandfather!' Then Wash-ching-geka said, 'You big flying ant can never kill anything more, and you little ants will have to creep on the ground, but sometimes you may fly.' And then he carried the tali tree to the edge of the earth and set it back in its place."3

Commentary. "ragákąnąšgé" — this is the standard word for ant.

"Wa-zi-chunk" — for Wazičąk, "Great Pine." This would be one of the trees that Earthmaker originally planted from heaven.

Meanings. The ant episode begins exactly like Hare's first encounter with a human in Hare Acquires His Arrows. The tall being is powerful because he can use his cane to operate at a distance. The cane is an instrument of both mobility, since it aids in walking, and balance, since it helps keep the person upright. The sudden action at a distance is a form of extreme mobility which is reflected in the mobility that humans and the tall being possess in compensation for their fragility. This compensation creates a balance that is also reflected in Hare's inability to blow him over. The ant is tall to reflect his boastfulness, which is a form of ascribing stature to oneself. He declares his absolute superiority, but the relativity of stature is soon pressed upon him physically. The cane, a tool of balance, is used to make Hare smaller than he really is, which is a form of social and physical imbalance. The cane as an instrument of mobility is here used to bring Hare too promiscuously close to the earth, even though he is a great spirit whose power is independent of his size. The cane's base is an artificial foot. The symbolism of pressing down the earth with the foot is seen in the myth in which the Thunderbirds create hills and valleys by stamping the earth with their feet. This is a symbol of the creation of hierarchy through conquest, of suppression and elevation. So the ant actualizes the symbolism of conquest and superiority by use of his seventh artificial leg. The number seven is symbolic of the Centre in a system in which the four directions are supplemented by up and down. The Centre is the position of power and command. Hare creates a great cane whose up and down dimensions dwarf those of the ant; but Hare has four legs, the cane being his fifth. In the conventional system of the four quarters, the fifth is the Centre, the up and down dimension being neglected. With is own giant cane symbolic in its own right of the Centre, Hare truly make the up and down dimensions of the ant a thing of no importance. As the true Centre, Hare unites the moieties in himself, but they must be kept in balance: not too close to Earth (intimacy), not too close to Fire or Sun. Hare reverses the extremes, using a cane of cedar, a tree whose leaves are used in purification. The imbalance, which is a form of impurity,4 is retributively rectified by an instrument that is at once a purifier and a restorer of balance. The ant, although it has legs like canes, is drastically restricted in its mobility and now lacks the power to use them for denigration. For the symbolism of the cane in the Medicine Rite, see the commentary to "The Journey to Spiritland." 

Links: Hare, Earth, Ants, Tree Spirits, The Sons of Earthmaker.

Links within the Published Hare Cycle: §7. Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, §9. Hare Burns His Buttocks.

Links within the Russell Hare Cycle: §2. Hare Gets Swallowed, Version 2, §4. Hare Burns His Buttocks, Version 3.

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 Flint, 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 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; mentioning ants: The Woman Who Became an Ant, Trickster and the Honey, The Markings on the Moon (v. 2); featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Owl Goes Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, 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 Steals the Fish, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Kills Flint, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?); mentioning canes: Iron Staff and His Companions, The Seven Maidens, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath; mentioning red cedar (juniper, waxšúč): The Journey to Spiritland (vv. 4, 5) (used to ascend to Spiritland), The Seer (sacrificial knife), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (sacrificial knife), Redhorn's Sons (coronet of Thunders, lodge), Aračgéga's Blessings (coronet of Thunders), The Twins Disobey Their Father (trees found on cliffs of Thunders), Partridge's Older Brother (smoke fatal to evil spirit), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (purifying smoke), The Creation Council (purifying smoke), The Dipper (incense), Sun and the Big Eater (arrow), The Brown Squirrel (arrow).

Themes: failing to blow a fragile creature over with a puff of air: Hare Acquires His Arrows; an unseen creature hisses (blows puffs of air) at someone: Wears White Feather on His Head, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Brown Squirrel, The Dipper; an evil spirit is smashed to pieces by a club: The Red Man, Waruǧábᵉra, Hare Kills Flint, The Big Stone; a human turns into a (spirit) animal: How the Thunders Met the Nights (Thunderbird), Waruǧábᵉra (Thunderbird), The Dipper (hummingbird), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (blackhawk, owl), Elk Clan Origin Myth (elk), Young Man Gambles Often (elk), Sun and the Big Eater (horse), The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Were-Grizzly, Partridge's Older Brother (bear), The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother (bear), Porcupine and His Brothers (bear), The Shaggy Man (bear), The Roaster (bear), Wazųka (bear), The Spotted Grizzly Man (bear), Brass and Red Bear Boy (bear, buffalo), White Wolf (dog, wolf), Worúxega (wolf, bird, snake), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (buffalo), The Brown Squirrel (squirrel), The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), The Fleetfooted Man (otter, bird), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (otter), The Diving Contest (Waterspirit), The Woman who Married a Snake (snake, Waterspirit), The Omahas who turned into Snakes (four-legged snakes), The Twins Get into Hot Water (v. 3) (alligators), Snowshoe Strings (a frog), How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (v. 3) (earthworms), The Woman Who Became an Ant; as a punishment, a spirit decrees that someone be transformed into an animal: The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), The Brown Squirrel (squirrel), How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (v. 3) (worm), Old Man and Wears White Feather (owl), Brass and Red Bear Boy (grizzly), Waruǧábᵉra (owl), The Chief of the Heroka (owl); a being is able to enlarge himself: Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Canine Warrior; when a bad spirit is killed, his body disintegrates into a myriad of insects: The Green Man (crickets).


1 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 102-103. Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) §12, pp. 74-75. 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: 59-65.

2 Jacob Russell, Stories from the Hare Cycle, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3893 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago III, #14: 49-55. Phonetic text only.

3 Natalie Curtis Burlin, The Indians' Book: an Offering by the American Indians of Indian Lore, Musical and Narrative, to Form a Record of the Songs and Legends of Their Race (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1907) 251-253.

4 Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966) 29-40.