Owl Goes Hunting

by Jennifer A. Smith

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

There was an oval lodge by itself, and there lived Owl with Grandmother (Earth). In time Owl said, "Grandmother, now I am ready to go hunting. I will need to have some arrows." "Grandson, you may get arrows from your uncle's lodge, but be careful not to touch any of the medicines that are thereabout. If you use these medicines, it will be a bad thing. And when you go hunting, hunt only in the day. Do not hunt at night," she said. And so Owl went off to his uncle's lodge. When he arrived, no one was there, and his uncle was out hunting. So Owl looked around and saw that there were many powerful things within. He took down some arrows and thought to himself, "If I could only dip the points in just a little of my uncle's medicine, they would become very holy and powerful (wákącąk). Thus he thought, and he dipped the arrows in the medicine to make them holy. Then he thought, "How could such arrows miss their mark? With these arrows I can even hunt at night," he said to himself. Thus he went hunting after the sun set.

Soon he came upon an elk in the dark. He shot his arrow, and the elk immediately fell over dead. Owl was very pleased with himself. He went over to the elk and as he began to pull the arrow out, werikirakuni!, unexpectedly a great flash of light came from the arrow. It was so powerful that it blinded Owl. Now Owl could not see in the daylight. After the sun rose, it was all he could do to make it back to the lodge. There Grandmother said to him, "Grandson, you have not done right. You used your uncle's medicines, and now you will not be able to see in the daytime. Now you can hunt only in the darkness." This is why owls have ever since hunted only at night.1

Commentary. "your uncle's lodge" — In the Hare Cycle, Grandmother's uncles are almost invariably bad in some way, rather like the kindred of the Greek goddess Gaia (Earth). The unnamed uncle appears to be a warlock of some kind.

Links: Earth, Owls.

Stories: featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Grandmother's Gifts, 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, Hare Kills Flint, The Gift of Shooting, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?); featuring Owl as a character: The Spirit of Gambling; in which owls are mentioned: Crane and His Brothers, 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: Crane and His Brothers, 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, 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), The War of Indian Tribes against White Soldiers (little white bird) — see also Thunderbirds, and the sources cited there; mentioning blind people: A Raccoon Tricks Four Blind Men, Raccoon and the Blind Men, Hare Visits the Blind Men, The Raccoon Coat, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Roaster, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle.

Themes: acquiring a holy arrow: Hare Acquires His Arrows, Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head; someone kills an elk with an arrow that fires bolts of light: Hare Kills Sharp Elbow.


1 Jennifer A. Smith, "Why the Owl Hunts at Night," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 94.