Iron Staff and His Companions

narrated by Philip Longtail (Sįcserecka), Buffalo Clan
translation from the interlinear text of Rev. James Owen Dorsey

Reproduced with the kind permission of the
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Philip Longtail

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

"There stood a village. It is said that it had always stood there. In this village lived the chief. It was a strong village, one rich in everything. The chief had a single small boy, and when the boy grew large, he was very strong indeed. The boy, who was just about their size, abused the villagers, and as he grew he would go around the village. In time he had grown to full manhood, and at that time the people said that they were afraid of him. Then his father told him not to abuse them, but at length the chief's son only became worse. Once when he arrived home he commanded them to work iron into a staff for him. They made one for him, so he tried it, using it often and suddenly, it is said. His father spoke to him and said to him that he ought to go away somewhere. And the chief said, "Yes."

In the morning when he took his only staff, the youth started out. And as he was going along, he heard something and he stood still as he listened. Soon a man was coming there pulling out stumps. And that man, he was afraid of him. Soon he was coming straight at him. When the other man got there, he said, "Ho, my friend," and the other one said, "Ho!" Iron Staff said, "Let us be friends." The other replied that it sounded good to him, and thus the two of them spoke. They said that they would be together, after which they started out. As they were going along they heard something. The two of them looked around where they were standing, and there in a little while a man was coming, hauling a hill by pulling it. As the two stood there, the man came straight towards them. The two of them called out to him and the man stopped in his tracks, and this man said, "Let us be friends," he said. The other two said, "All right." They talked among themselves and said that they might all live together, and so they started off. In a very little while unexpectedly they reached a house made of logs. "Perhaps we will live here," they said. They entered this house made entirely of logs.

In the morning they said that He who Makes the Cliffs Meet would stay to take care of the house. The others went off to hunt. While they went off hunting, suddenly a small man entered. He had a very long beard. The little man said, "Why are you staying in the house?" But the other one said, "Just for nothing," he said. This little man became angry and they began to fight each other. He was thrown outdoors; but even then he kept coming back again. All day long they fought each other, and in the morning He who Makes the Cliffs Meet at last was worn out. And in the morning when the young men came back, he did not tell them of the day long fight.

The next morning He who Pulls up Stumps stayed to take care of the house. Soon the little man came along, and there the other one was sitting. Then they began to fight each other. They fought all day long. The other men returned, but he did not tell them about it.

The next morning Iron Staff stayed to take care of the house. Again the little man showed up. Iron Staff said, "What have you come to do?" There they began to fight each other, and Iron Staff began to do something. When he seized the little man by his beard and cast him outdoors, he secretly looked him over. Soon he got back up. After that he left, but Iron Staff followed him. Shortly thereafter, the little man arrived at a hole in the ground and entered into it. Iron Staff also arrived there and entered. He continued following him. Finally, they reached a patch of earth. When Iron Staff came up he saw a house off in the distance. This house glittered. The dwarf reached it and entered there, but Iron Staff turned back. He returned to where he had come from.

When he returned, the young men were sitting there occupying themselves, and he told them that he would go again. They went with him, and soon they arrived, and unexpectedly they reached a hole in the ground. Iron Staff said that they should go for a lariat. They left and soon the two returned. Then they cut down a forked tree and put posts up on both sides of the hole in the ground. When they did so, they took one tree and laid it horizontally, and there they tied the lariat. When they did so, they tied a piece of skin to it. And when they got it ready, and when Iron Staff sat in it, he went beneath the earth and went forth. He had told them that they should pull it up when he shook the lariat frequently. He arrived down in the earth, and when he saw a house in the distance, he went that way. When he arrived, the little man was there. As soon as he arrived, they began to fight one another. When he knocked him down and threw him outside, he stood back up and looked at the door hole. And the little man was doing it: he took out a small box inside of which was a small bottle, and when he took it out, he rubbed it over his whole body. Then he immediately stood up. When Iron Staff finally entered in, he knocked him over. When he did that, he took the bottle and went upstairs. There he found three women. He took them with him and set the house on fire. He returned with the women. When he came back to the spot that he left, he shook the lariat often. When he set the women in it, he notified the men. When he did so, he waited for the lariat. He waited a long time for it. Finally, he got tired of waiting. The young men above forgot him. Iron Staff went back the way he had come long ago. When Iron Staff finally reached the place, those he had for friends were fighting very hard to take the women from each other. Iron Staff said, "He almost knocked over those two, pretty near." They took the three women as wives.

If Iron Staff had not killed the little man with his own hands, then the women would have gone off, so they say. They say that the little man was a bad spirit. Therefore, they say that Iron Staff did something good for the women. After that, they all separated and went their own way. They say that the three men did something good for the people.

This is the end."1

Commentary. The story subtly, but clearly, shows that Iron Staff had been made chief by the time his father asked him to leave his native village. Of course, Iron Staff is a spirit who happens to have been born in that village in human form because he had chosen to descend to earth and help rescue the humans from the evil spirit that was plaguing them, as we learn from the end of the story.

Links: cf. Heroka, Little Children Spirits; and perhaps Iron Spirits.

Stories: featuring lilliputian people: The Chief of the Heroka, Morning Star and His Friend, The Red Man; mentioning canes: Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, The Seven Maidens, Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath.

Other stories in the Longtail/Dorsey set: I. Watequka and His Brothers; II. The Captive Boys; III. The Man who Visited the Upper and Lower Worlds; IV. The Fatal House; V. The Two Brothers; VII. Rich Man, Boy, and Horse; VIII. The Man with Two Heads.

Themes: a chief's young son bullies everyone to the embarrassment of his father: The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear; a powerful man becomes tyrannical: Wazųka, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Manawa Village Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister; a house is made of logs: The Fatal House, Hog's Adventures; someone gets into a fight but says nothing about it to his lodge mates: Porcupine and His Brothers; (removing a tent pole and) entering another world through a hole in the ground: Įcohorucika and His Brothers, The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Redhorn's Sons; people chase one another underground: Įcorúšika and His Brothers, The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Redhorn's Sons; good spirits rescue women held by an evil spirit: Hare Gets Swallowed, The Spirit of Gambling, The Green Man, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Brass and Red Bear Boy; men fight one another over women: The Green Man, A Man's Revenge, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister.


1 Philip Longtail (Sįcserecka), Buffalo Clan, "Iron Staff and His Companions," text with interlinear translation by James Owen Dorsey, 4800 Dorsey Papers: Winnebago 3.3.2 (Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, October and November, 1893) VI.1-13.