The Wąkpanįgᵋra

by Richard L. Dieterle

Among their diabolical contrivances, the Bad Spirits (Waxopinišišígera) created the Little Human Heads (Wąkpanį́gᵋra < wąk-pa-nįk-ra), "the calculation being for them to eat people."1 These little heads were completely bodiless and moved by rolling along. Once Hare visited them and was treated hospitably. However, on his second visit they tried to corner him so that they could eat him, but he managed to escape. They rolled after him, but when he crossed a stream, they fell in and drowned. Hare burned them up completely and pounded their bones into powder. When he dumped their powdered remains into the water, they became little "fast fish" who can do no more than nibble at people's ankles.2

The chief of these spirits, judging from his name, is Wąkpanįka, "Little Human Head." Once a group of four young women, who were out camping, encountered a human skull. They all disrespectfully kicked it around except the chief's daughter. He rolled after them, making a rattling sound as he went. At night, he reached their lodge where he entered through the smoke hole. There he devoured the three offenders, and forced the chief's daughter to marry him. One night, while he was taking a sweat bath, she had her doll engage him in conversation while she slipped away. Finally, he found her holed up in a cave. On the advice of the Lice Spirit, she rolled a special stone at him, a stone whose size multiplied as it tumbled, until it crushed Wąkpanįka flat. In order to annihilate this avatar, she burnt up the skull, but from the fire he ejected many desireable objects, which she wanted to keep. However, by casting them back into the fire, she succeeded in making Wąkpanįka vanish in the flames.3

Links: Hare, Lice.

Stories: about the Wąkpanįgera: Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Little Human Head; about bodiless heads: Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Little Human Head, The Red Man, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Chief of the Heroka; featuring Hare as a character: The Hare Cycle, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Green Man, The Red Man, Maize Origin Myth.

Themes: bodiless heads chase after someone: Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Little Human Head.


1 Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1, #2, p. 3, col. 2

2 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 100-102.

3 Paul Radin, "The Man's Head," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #51: 1-61 (English only); Winnebago V, #13: 1-21, 26-61, and Winnebago V, #10: 22-25. The last citation was from what had been an unidentified sylllabic text which proved to be the missing pages to Winnebago V, #13.