The Lame Friend
narrated by John Hazen Hill (Xetenišaraga, "Wren")
|John Hazen Hill|
Hočąk-English Interlinear Text
This story was told by Wren
(1) When the Hočągara were situated by the Wisconsin River, there two men were friends and one man was lame, one was but the other one was not that way. Thus they always remained. They were raised together. Therefore, assuredly they always fasted. They would be doing it together. They were men who had just grown up. They had not yet touched women. Thus these two used to be. One day one of them said to the other, "But my friend, let us go to the riverbank. There you and I can cut some red willows as what little I had is gone, my friend," he said to him. So they did it and went there to cut red willows. They were shouted at and rushed upon. They were but two, and although one man was killed, they fought back. One of them was killed. The other one alone stood astride his friend and the one man struggled mightily there. Some he shot to death. Finally, the man was killed, but he thought that he was still alive. All the while, he talked to his friend. They had been killed in war, therefore inasmuch as they had been killed outright, they did not exist save in spirit alone. Therefore, for this reason they were able to talk to one another. Those two said, "What are we to do? Shall we try to go back? How can those who are thus go back whence they had come? Shall we therefore go to some other place, a spirit home?" those two said. "And if we did not go through to our home, they would like us, and so let us go somewhere else," one of them said. So thus they went away from there to some other place. Thus they did.
Finally, that evening, there sat an oval lodge. There they saw it. So they went towards it. This one, an old man who was there, said to them, (2) "My grandsons, it is good that you have come," he said. They had some tobacco, so they filled one of the pipes and they handed it to the old man, but he would not take it. "One of my older brothers who is on the way, however, is better able to help you than I," he said to them. At least there he let them sleep overnight, but the next morning, again they started out. They traveled all day long. Then in the evening, there again one oval lodge was there. Again there they entered it. Again this one was an old man. He said, "My grandson, it is good that you have come." One of the pipes he held towards him and he placed it before him, but again he would not take it. And he said to them, "My old brother ahead of me, however, he is one who can help you to anything that you may be going for," he said to them. And so again this one let them sleep overnight, and in the morning they started out again. For the third time, again all day they traveled. Late in the evening when again they came to a lodge there, there again they entered it. They went and entered it. Again what the others had said, he said the same as they had said to them. Again he did not smoke their tobacco. So for the fourth time they started. It seemed that this time they would arrive. They had never eaten a single thing. Therefore, they were now very weak. Then just about sundown, just then they again reached a lodge. Sitting there was a very old man who said, "Hąháo, my grandsons, finally you have arrived. Long ago I have expected you to do this. As you would come here, therefore here along the road it lies," he said to them. Then they filled the pipe and they extended it to the old man. He took it and smoked it. Then the hearts of the men felt good. This was the first time the pipe had been smoked. (3) Now he hurriedly took a few puffs and returned it to them. And they also smoked it. When they were through, they ate. There was dried corn and he made boiled bear ribs. The men consumed a great deal of food, as they had gone a long time without eating a single thing. They were very hungry. Now then, he said to them, "Well my grandsons, never for as long as Earthmaker has put us here, has a human, one of the two-legged walkers, ever come here. You are the first ones to have come here. And Earthmaker himself also put you in his thoughts," he said to them. "Here sits Earthmaker and tomorrow you shall go there. And if he approves of you, he will smoke tobacco with you. And he will talk to you. There he will tell you what he thinks of you, but also I have told you what I think of you," he said to them.
Then the next morning, he started out. Well, as these two went along, there sat an oval lodge. It was a likely looking lodge. They said that it must be it and they went towards it. When they arrived, there was one of the door keepers. They said to him, "We thought that this is Earthmaker's lodge maybe, so we have come here," they said to him. "That it is, and you may go in if you have come for anything," he said to them. So they entered and there was a man seated dressed in very white material, and he had white wings, and his eyes something like live iron. "You humans, you two-legged walkers, have come, have you?" he said to them. They extended the pipe towards him. He took it and smoked it. And when he was through, he handed it back and said to them, "Well, it was with great difficulty that you reached me so you can do whatever you like." He said to them, therefore, that they could return to the people in four days. They would, they said. So they stayed for four days and (4) then finally they started back to the earth. They traveled for four days, and although they had definitely arrived back at the same places, there were not one of the lodges that had been there before. Thus they did. Then having gone back to where they were killed, they saw the bodies. Finally, then they knew. Having sat down there, finally they wept. And their bodies were not whole. They had gone back to their spirit home and they now had control over their own souls. Therefore they said that they would live again among the people there, the two of them said. There they were again in women's wombs and there again they were born over again. Thus this is meant when they say, 'persons lived over gain.' In this way the people used to tell of these two men in the past accounts of the Hočągara. These two friends were situated among the various spirits (waxopíni), as they liked their lives there among the humans, the two-legged walkers. Therefore, two times in succession they lived as human beings. Thus the old men said when they told stories. As it happened long ago, therefore they do not remember their names.1
Commentary. This poignant story is a worak, that is, it is taken as something that actually happened in relatively recent times.
In world mythology lameness is associated with being earth-born, so the lame friend probably represents the Lower or Earth Moiety, and the other friend the Upper or Bird Moiety.
The worak serves as a paradigm showing what happens to those who are killed in action but are not present at their own wake, and indeed do not even realize that they are dead. Earthmaker has even provided for such as these by stationing spirit guides just for them along the Road of Life and Death. It also teaches that even the lame may be spirits in human guise unbeknownst even to themselves.
Links: Earthmaker, Ghosts, Spirits, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.
Stories:about two male friends: Wazųka, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Morning Star and His Friend, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Worúxega, The Fleetfooted Man, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Tobacco Man and Married Man, Mighty Thunder; about journeys to and from Spiritland: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Journey to Spiritland, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Sunset Point, Two Roads to Spiritland, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Holy One and His Brother, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Foolish Hunter, Waruǧábᵉra, The Thunderbird, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, White Wolf, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Two Brothers, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Petition to Earthmaker, Wears White Feather on His Head, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man Whose Wife was Captured; mentioning ghosts: The Journey to Spiritland, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Holy One and His Brother, Worúxega, Little Human Head, Little Fox and the Ghost, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Hare Steals the Fish, The Difficult Blessing, A Man's Revenge, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Two Roads to Spiritland, Sunset Point, The Message the Fireballs Brought; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; mentioning willows: The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), Holy One and His Brother, Partridge's Older Brother, and cp. also Tree Spirits; mentioning live iron: How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Lost Blanket, The Raccoon Coat, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head; set on the Wisconsin River (Nįkúse Xųnųnį́gᵋra): Turtle and the Merchant, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Chief of the Heroka, The King Bird, Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšučka, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake (v. 1), The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e.
Themes: two boys (or young men) out cutting wood are attacked: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds; descriptions of human warfare: Black Otter's Warpath, Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Warbundle Maker, The First Fox and Sauk War, Great Walker's Medicine, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Wazųka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Fox-Hočąk War, Great Walker's Warpath, White Fisher, White Thunder's Warpath, The Osage Massacre, A Man's Revenge, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, They Owe a Bullet, The Spanish Fight, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), Tobacco Man and Married Man, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšučka; two friends are both killed in action: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Wazųka; visiting Earthmaker: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Petition to Earthmaker, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins; four spirit beings help those who travel to Spiritland: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Petition to Earthmaker; men who are killed by an enemy warparty do not realize that they are dead: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, a man who has been killed sees his own dead body: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth (full version), The Man Whose Wife was Captured; two friends who are killed in action are reborn in their own village: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth.
1 John Hazen Hill (Xetenišaraga), "The Lame Friend," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Notebook 66, Story 7: 1-4. [Typed Winnebago, handwritten interlinear translation.]