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Today we remain in West Africa and take a tale from the Yoruba people. It is entitled:
AKITI THE HUNTER – A Yoruba tale from West Africa
A FAMOUS hunter and wrestler named Akiti boasted that he was stronger than any other man or animal. He had easily overcome a giant, a leopard, a lion, a wolf, and a boa-constrictor, and as nobody else opposed his claim, he called himself “the King of the forest.”
Wherever he went, he sang his triumphant wrestling-song, and everyone feared and respected him. But he had forgotten the Elephant, who is a very wise animal and knows many charms. One day the Elephant challenged him and declared that he had no right to call himself “King,” as the Elephant himself was the monarch of the forest and could not be defeated.
Akiti thereupon flung his spear at his enemy, but because of the Elephant’s charm, the weapon glanced off his hide and did him no harm. Akiti next tried his bow and poisoned arrows, and his hunting-knife, but still without effect.
However, the hunter also possessed a charm, and by using it, he changed himself into a lion and flew at the Elephant, but the Elephant flung him off. Next he became a serpent, but he could not succeed in crushing the Elephant to death.
At last he changed himself into a fly, and flew into the Elephant’s large flapping ear. He went right down inside until he came to the heart, and then he changed himself into a man again and cut up the heart with his hunting-knife. At last the Elephant fell dead, and Akiti stepped out of his body in triumph, for he was now without question “the King of the forest.”
From Yoruba Legends
ISBN – 978-1-907256-33-2
NOTE: The Yoruba people are descendants from a variety of West African communities. They are united by Geography, History, Religion and most importantly their Language. Many years ago, before African slavery, the Yoruba people inhabited an area which stretched, along the coast of West Africa, all the way inward and down to Angola in South West Africa.
Today we journey far to the South – to West Africa for an Anansi Story.
THERE were once upon a time three sisters and a brother. The sisters were all proud, and one was very beautiful, and she did not like her little brother, “because,” she said, “he was dirty.” Now, this beautiful sister was to be married, and the brother begged their mother not to let her marry, as he was sure the man would kill her, for he knew his house was full of bones. So the mother told her daughter, but she would not believe it, and said, “she wouldn’t listen to anything that such a dirty little scrub said,” and so she was married.
Now, it was agreed that one sister was to remain with her mother, and the other was to go with the bride, and so they set out on their way. When they got to the beach, the husband picked up a beautiful tortoise-shell comb, which he gave to his bride. Then they got into his boat and rowed away over the sea, and when they reached their home, they were so surprised to see their little brother, for the comb had turned into their brother. They were not at all glad to see him, and the husband thought to himself he would kill him without telling his wife. When night came the boy told the husband that at home his mother always put him to sleep in the blacksmith’s shop, and so the husband said he should sleep in the smithy.
In the middle of the night the man got up, intending to kill them all, and went to his shop to get his irons ready, but the boy jumped up as soon as he went in, and he said, “Boy, what is the matter with you?” So the boy said, when he was at home his mother always gave him two bags of gold to put his head on. Then the man said, he should have them, and went and fetched him two bags of gold, and told him to go to sleep.
But the boy said, “Now, mind, when you hear me snore I’m not asleep, but when I am not snoring then I’m asleep.” Then the boy went to sleep and began to snore, and as long as the man heard the snoring, he blew his bellows; but as soon as the snoring stopped, the man took his irons out of the fire, and the boy jumped up.
Then the man said, “Why, what’s the matter? why can’t you sleep?”
The boy said, “No; for at home my mother always gave me four bags of money to lie upon.”
Well, the man said he should have them, and brought four bags of money. Then the boy told him again the same thing about his snoring, and the man bade him go to sleep, and he began to snore, and the man to blow his bellows until the snoring stopped. Then the man took out his irons again, and the boy jumped up, and the man dropped the irons, saying, “Why, what’s the matter now that you can’t sleep?”
The boy said, “At home my mother always gave me two bushels of corn.”
So the man said he should have the corn, and went and brought it, and told him to go to sleep. Then the boy snored, and the man blew his bellows till the snoring stopped, when he again took out his irons, and the boy jumped tip, and the man said, “Why, what’s it now?”
The boy said, “At home my mother always goes to the river with a sieve to bring me some water.”
So the man said, “Very well, I will go, but I have a cock here, and before I go I must speak to it.”
Then the man told the cock if he saw any one moving in the house he must crow; that the cock promised to do, and the man set off.
Now when the boy thought the man was gone far away, he got up, and gave the cock some of the corn; then he woke up his sisters and showed them all the bones the man had in the house, and they were very frightened. Then he took the two bags of gold on his shoulders, and told his sisters to follow him. He took them to the bay, and put them into the boat with the bags of gold, and left them whilst he went back for the four bags of money. When he was leaving the house he emptied the bags of corn to the cook, who was so busy eating, he forgot to crow, until they had got quite away.
When the man returned home and could not find them in the house, he went to the river, where he found his boat gone, and so he had no way of going after them. When they landed at their own place the boy turned the boat over and stove it in, so that it was of no use any more; and he took his sisters home, and told their mother all that had happened, and his sisters loved him, and they lived very happily together ever afterwards, and do so still if they are not dead.
NOTE: ANANZI or Ahnansi (Ah-nahn-see) “the trickster” is a cunning and intelligent spider and is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore. The Anansi tales are believed to have originated in the Ashanti tribe in Ghana. (The word Anansi is Akan and means, simply, spider.) They later spread to other Akan groups and then to the West Indies, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles. On Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire he is known as Nanzi, and his wife as Shi Maria.
He is also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse, and Anancy; and in the Southern United States he has evolved into Aunt Nancy. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man. The story of Anansi is akin to the Coyote or Raven the trickster found in many Native American cultures.
From Ananzi Stories by Sir George Webbe Dasent
THE Ojibways were a great nation whom the fairies loved. Their land was the home of many spirits, and as long as they lived on the shores of the great lakes the woods in that country were full of fairies. Some of them dwelt in the moss at the roots or on the trunks of trees. Others hid beneath the mushrooms and toadstools. Some changed themselves into bright-winged butterflies or tinier insects with shining wings. This they did that they might be near the children they loved and play with them where they could see and be seen.
But there were also evil spirits in the land. These burrowed in the ground, gnawed at the roots of the loveliest flowers and destroyed them. They breathed upon the corn and blighted it. They listened whenever they heard men talking, and carried the news to those with whom it would make most mischief.
It is because of these wicked fairies that the Indian must be silent in the woods and must not whisper confidences in the camp unless he is sure the spirits are fast asleep under the white blanket of the snow.
The Ojibways looked well after the interests of the good spirits. They shielded the flowers and stepped carefully aside when moss or flower was in their path. They brushed no moss from the trees, and they never snared the sunbeams, for on them thousands of fairies came down from the sky. When the chase was over they sat in the doorways of their wigwams smoking, and as they watched the blue circles drift and fade into the darkness of the evening, they listened to the voices of the fairies and the insects’ hum and the thousand tiny noises that night always brings.
One night as they were listening they saw a bright light shining in the top of the tallest trees. It was a star brighter than all the others, and it seemed very near the earth. When they went close to the tree they found that it was really caught in the topmost branches.
The wise men of the tribe were summoned and for three nights they sat about the council fire, but they came to no conclusion about the beautiful star. At last one of the young warriors went to them and told them that the truth had come to him in a dream.
While asleep the west wind had lifted the curtains of his wigwam and the light of the star fell full upon him. Suddenly a beautiful maiden stood at his side. She smiled upon him, and as he gazed speechless she told him that her home was in the star and that in wandering over all the earth she had seen no land so fair as the land of the Ojibways. Its flowers, its sweet-voiced birds, its rivers, its beautiful lakes, the mountains clothed in green, these had charmed her, and she wished to be no more a wanderer. If they would welcome her she would make her home among them, and she asked them to choose a place in which she might dwell.
The council were greatly pleased; but they could not agree upon what was best to offer the Star Maiden, so they decided to ask her to choose for herself.
She searched first among the flowers of the prairie. There she found the fairies’ ring, where the little spirits danced on moonlight nights. “Here,” thought she, “I will rest.” But as she swung herself backwards and forwards on the stem of a lovely blossom, she heard a terrible noise and fled in great fear. A vast herd of buffaloes came and took possession of the fairies’ ring, where they rolled over one another, and bellowed so they could be heard far on the trail. No gentle star maiden could choose such a resting-place.
She next sought the mountain rose. It was cool and pleasant, the moss was soft to her dainty feet, and she could talk to the spirits she loved, whose homes were in the stars. But the mountain was steep, and huge rocks hid from her view the nation that she loved.
She was almost in despair, when one day as she looked down from the edge of the wild rose leaf she saw a white flower with a heart of gold shining on the waters of the lake below her. As she looked a canoe steered by the young warrior who had told her wishes to his people, shot past, and his strong, brown hand brushed the edge of the flower.
“That is the home for me,” she cried, and half-skipping, half-flying down the side of the mountain, she quickly made her way to the flower and hid herself in its bosom. There she could watch the stars as well as when she looked upward from the cup of the mountain rose; there she could talk to the star spirits, for they bathed in the clear lake; and best of all, there she could watch the people whom she loved, for their canoes were always upon the water.
From American Indian Fairy Tales
Once upon a time, long, long ago, there were two brothers, the one rich and the other poor. When Christmas Eve came, the poor one had not a bite in the house, either of meat or bread; so he went to his brother, and begged him, in God’s name, to give him something for Christmas Day. It was by no means the first time that the brother had been forced to give something to him, and he was not better pleased at being asked now than he generally was.
“If you will do what I ask you, you shall have a whole ham,” said he. The poor one immediately thanked him, and promised this.
“Well, here is the ham, and now you must go straight to Dead Man’s Hall,” said the rich brother, throwing the ham to him.
“Well, I will do what I have promised,” said the other, and he took the ham and set off. He went on and on for the livelong day, and at nightfall he came to a place where there was a bright light.
“I have no doubt this is the place,” thought the man with the ham.
An old man with a long white beard was standing in the outhouse, chopping Yule logs.
“Good-evening,” said the man with the ham.
“Good-evening to you. Where are you going at this late hour?” said the man.
“I am going to Dead Man’s Hall, if only I am on the right track,” answered the poor man.
“Oh! yes, you are right enough, for it is here,” said the old man. “When you get inside they will all want to buy your ham, for they don’t get much meat to eat there; but you must not sell it unless you can get the hand-mill which stands behind the door for it. When you come out again I will teach you how to stop the hand-mill, which is useful for almost everything.”
So the man with the ham thanked the other for his good advice, and rapped at the door.
When he got in, everything happened just as the old man had said it would: all the people, great and small, came round him like ants on an ant-hill, and each tried to outbid the other for the ham.
“By rights my old woman and I ought to have it for our Christmas dinner, but, since you have set your hearts upon it, I must just give it up to you,” said the man. “But, if I sell it, I will have the hand-mill which is standing there behind the door.”
At first they would not hear to this, and haggled and bargained with the man, but he stuck to what he had said, and the people were forced to give him the hand-mill. When the man came out again into the yard, he asked the old wood-cutter how he was to stop the hand-mill, and when he had learned that, he thanked him and set off home with all the speed he could, but did not get there until after the clock had struck twelve on Christmas Eve.
“Where in the world have you been?” said the old woman. “Here I have sat waiting hour after hour, and have not even two sticks to lay across each other under the Christmas porridge-pot.”
“Oh! I could not come before; I had something of importance to see about, and a long way to go, too; but now you shall just see!” said the man, and then he set the hand-mill on the table, and bade it first grind light, then a table-cloth, and then meat, and beer, and everything else that was good for a Christmas Eve’s supper; and the mill ground all that he ordered. “Bless me!” said the old woman as one thing after another appeared; and she wanted to know where her husband had got the mill from, but he would not tell her that.
“Never mind where I got it; you can see that it is a good one, and the water that turns it will never freeze,” said the man. So he ground meat and drink, and all kinds of good things, to last all Christmas-tide, and on the third day he invited all his friends to come to a feast.
Now when the rich brother saw all that there was at the banquet and in the house, he was both vexed and angry, for he grudged everything his brother had. “On Christmas Eve he was so poor that he came to me and begged for a trifle, for God’s sake, and now he gives a feast as if he were both a count and a king!” thought he. “But, for heaven’s sake, tell me where you got your riches from,” said he to his brother.
“From behind the door,” said he who owned the mill, for he did not choose to satisfy his brother on that point; but later in the evening, when he had taken a drop too much, he could not refrain from telling how he had come by the hand-mill. “There you see what has brought me all my wealth!” said he, and brought out the mill, and made it grind first one thing and then another. When the brother saw that, he insisted on having the mill, and after a great deal of persuasion got it; but he had to give three hundred dollars for it, and the poor brother was to keep it till the haymaking was over, for he thought: “If I keep it as long as that, I can make it grind meat and drink that will last many a long year.” During that time you may imagine that the mill did not grow rusty, and when hay-harvest came the rich brother got it, but the other had taken good care not to teach him how to stop it. It was evening when the rich man got the mill home, and in the morning he bade the old woman go out and spread the hay after the mowers, and he would attend to the house himself that day, he said.
So, when dinner-time drew near, he set the mill on the kitchen-table, and said: “Grind herrings and milk pottage, and do it both quickly and well.”
So the mill began to grind herrings and milk pottage, and first all the dishes and tubs were filled, and then it came out all over the kitchen-floor. The man twisted and turned it, and did all he could to make the mill stop, but, howsoever he turned it and screwed it, the mill went on grinding, and in a short time the pottage rose so high that the man was like to be drowned. So he threw open the parlour door, but it was not long before the mill had ground the parlour full too, and it was with difficulty and danger that the man could go through the stream of pottage and get hold of the door-latch. When he got the door open, he did not stay long in the room, but ran out, and the herrings and pottage came after him, and it streamed out over both farm and field. Now the old woman, who was out spreading the hay, began to think dinner was long in coming, and said to the women and the mowers: “Though the master does not call us home, we may as well go. It may be that he finds he is not good at making pottage and I should do well to help him.” So they began to straggle homeward, but when they had got a little way up the hill they met the herrings and pottage and bread, all pouring forth and winding about one over the other, and the man himself in front of the flood. “Would to heaven that each of you had a hundred stomachs! Take care that you are not drowned in the pottage!” he cried as he went by them as if Mischief were at his heels, down to where his brother dwelt. Then he begged him, for God’s sake, to take the mill back again, and that in an instant, for, said he: “If it grind one hour more the whole district will be destroyed by herrings and pottage.” But the brother would not take it until the other paid him three hundred dollars, and that he was obliged to do. Now the poor brother had both the money and the mill again. So it was not long before he had a farmhouse much finer than that in which his brother lived, but the mill ground him so much money that he covered it with plates of gold; and the farmhouse lay close by the sea-shore, so it shone and glittered far out to sea. Everyone who sailed by there now had to be put in to visit the rich man in the gold farmhouse, and everyone wanted to see the wonderful mill, for the report of it spread far and wide, and there was no one who had not heard tell of it.
After a long, long time came also a skipper who wished to see the mill. He asked if it could make salt. “Yes, it could make salt,” said he who owned it, and when the skipper heard that, he wished with all his might and main to have the mill, let it cost what it might, for, he thought, if he had it, he would get off having to sail far away over the perilous sea for freights of salt. At first the man would not hear of parting with it, but the skipper begged and prayed, and at last the man sold it to him, and got many, many thousand dollars for it. When the skipper had got the mill on his back he did not stay there long, for he was so afraid that the man would change his mind, and he had no time to ask how he was to stop it grinding, but got on board his ship as fast as he could.
When he had gone a little way out to sea he took the mill on deck. “Grind salt, and grind both quickly and well,” said the skipper. So the mill began to grind salt, till it spouted out like water, and when the skipper had got the ship filled he wanted to stop the mill, but whichsoever way he turned it, and how muchsoever he tried, it went on grinding, and the heap of salt grew higher and higher, until at last the ship sank. There lies the mill at the bottom of the sea, and still, day by day, it grinds on; and that is why the sea is salt.
From The Blue Fairy Book
A MAN in buckskins sat upon the top of a little hillock. The setting sun shone bright upon a strong bow in his hand. His face was turned toward the round camp ground at the foot of the hill. He had walked a long journey hither. He was waiting for the chieftain’s men to spy him.
Soon four strong men ran forth from the center wigwam toward the hillock, where sat the man with the long bow.
“He is the avenger come to shoot the red eagle,” cried the runners to each other as they bent forward swinging their elbows together.
They reached the side of the stranger, but he did not heed them. Proud and silent he gazed upon the cone-shaped wigwams beneath him. Spreading a handsomely decorated buffalo robe before the man, two of the warriors lifted him by each shoulder and placed him gently on it. Then the four men took, each, a corner of the blanket and carried the stranger, with long proud steps, toward the chieftain’s teepee.
Ready to greet the stranger, the tall chieftain stood at the entrance way. “How, you are the avenger with the magic arrow!” said he, extending to him a smooth soft hand.
“How, great chieftain!” replied the man, holding long the chieftain’s hand. Entering the teepee, the chieftain motioned the young man to the right side of the doorway, while he sat down opposite him with a center fire burning between them. Wordless, like a bashful Indian maid, the avenger ate in silence the food set before him on the ground in front of his crossed shins. When he had finished his meal he handed the empty bowl to the chieftain’s wife, saying, “Mother-in-law, here is your dish!”
“Han, my son!” answered the woman, taking the bowl.
With the magic arrow in his quiver the stranger felt not in the least too presuming in addressing the woman as his mother- in-law.
Complaining of fatigue, he covered his face with his blanket and soon within the chieftain’s teepee he lay fast asleep.
“The young man is not handsome after all!” whispered the woman in her husband’s ear.
“Ah, but after he has killed the red eagle he will seem handsome enough!” answered the chieftain.
That night the star men in their burial procession in the sky reached the low northern horizon, before the center fires within the teepees had flickered out. The ringing laughter which had floated up through the smoke lapels was now hushed, and only the distant howling of wolves broke the quiet of the village. But the lull between midnight and dawn was short indeed. Very early the oval-shaped door- flaps were thrust aside and many brown faces peered out of the wigwams toward the top of the highest bluff.
Now the sun rose up out of the east. The red painted avenger stood ready within the camp ground for the flying of the red eagle. He appeared, that terrible bird! He hovered over the round village as if he could pounce down upon it and devour the whole tribe.
When the first arrow shot up into the sky the anxious watchers thrust a hand quickly over their half-uttered “hinnu!” The second and the third arrows flew upward but missed by a wide space the red eagle soaring with lazy indifference over the little man with the long bow. All his arrows he spent in vain. “Ah! my blanket brushed my elbow and shifted the course of my arrow!” said the stranger as the people gathered around him.
During this happening, a woman on horseback halted her pony at the chieftain’s teepee. It was no other than the young woman who cut loose the tree- bound captive!
While she told the story the chieftain listened with downcast face. “I passed him on my way. He is near!” she ended.
Indignant at the bold impostor, the wrathful eyes of the chieftain snapped fire like red cinders in the night time. His lips were closed. At length to the woman he said: “How, you have done me a good deed.” Then with quick decision he gave command to a fleet horseman to meet the avenger. “Clothe him in these my best buckskins,” said he, pointing to a bundle within the wigwam.
In the meanwhile strong men seized Iktomi and dragged him by his long hair to the hilltop. There upon a mock-pillared grave they bound him hand and feet. Grown-ups and children sneered and hooted at Iktomi’s disgrace. For a half-day he lay there, the laughing-stock of the people. Upon the arrival of the real avenger, Iktomi was released and chased away beyond the outer limits of the camp ground.
On the following morning at daybreak, peeped the people out of half-open door- flaps.
There again in the midst of the large camp ground was a man in beaded buckskins. In his hand was a strong bow and red-tipped arrow. Again the big red eagle appeared on the edge of the bluff. He plumed his feathers and flapped his huge wings.
The young man crouched low to the ground. He placed the arrow on the bow, drawing a poisoned flint for the eagle.
The bird rose into the air. He moved his outspread wings one, two, three times and lo! the eagle tumbled from the great height and fell heavily to the earth. An arrow stuck in his breast! He was dead!
So quick was the hand of the avenger, so sure his sight, that no one had seen the arrow fly from his long bent bow.
In awe and amazement the village was dumb. And when the avenger, plucking a red eagle feather, placed it in his black hair, a loud shout of the people went up to the sky. Then hither and thither ran singing men and women making a great feast for the avenger.
Thus he won the beautiful Indian princess who never tired of telling to her children the story of the big red eagle.
From “Old Indian Legends” an Iktomi Legend of the Dakotas told by Zitkala Sa
AUTUMN nights on the upper Missouri river in Montana are indescribably beautiful, and under their spell imagination is a constant companion to him who lives in wilderness, lending strange, weird echoes to the voice of man or wolf, and unnatural shapes in shadow to commonplace forms.
The moon had not yet climbed the distant mountain range to look down on the humbler lands when I started for War Eagle’s lodge; and dimming the stars in its course, the milky-way stretched across the jewelled sky. “The wolf’s trail,” the Indians call this filmy streak that foretells fair weather, and to-night it promised much, for it seemed plainer and brighter than ever before.
“How — how!” greeted War Eagle, making the sign for me to be seated near him, as I entered his lodge. Then he passed me his pipe and together we smoked until the children came.
Entering quietly, they seated themselves in exactly the same positions they had occupied on the previous evenings, and patiently waited in silence. Finally War Eagle laid the pipe away and said: “Ho! Little Buffalo Calf, throw a big stick on the fire and I will tell you why the Kingfisher wears a war-bonnet.”
The boy did as he was bidden. The sparks jumped toward the smoke-hole and the blaze lighted up the lodge until it was bright as daytime, when War Eagle continued:
“You have often seen Kingfisher at his fishing along the rivers, I know; and you have heard him laugh in his queer way, for he laughs a good deal when he flies. That same laugh nearly cost him his life once, as you will see. I am sure none could see the Kingfisher without noticing his great head-dress, but not many know how he came by it because it happened so long ago that most men have forgotten.
“It was one day in the winter-time when Old-man and the Wolf were hunting. The snow covered the land and ice was on all of the rivers. It was so cold that Old-man wrapped his robe close about himself and his breath showed white in the air. Of course the Wolf was not cold; wolves never get cold as men do. Both Old-man and the Wolf were hungry for they had travelled far and had killed no meat. Old-man was complaining and grumbling, for his heart is not very good. It is never well to grumble when we are doing our best, because it will do no good and makes us weak in our hearts. When our hearts are weak our heads sicken and our strength goes away. Yes, it is bad to grumble.
“When the sun was getting low Old-man and the Wolf came to a great river. On the ice that covered the water, they saw four fat Otters playing.
“‘There is meat,’ said the Wolf; ‘wait here and I will try to catch one of those fellows.’
“‘No! — No!’ cried Old-man, ‘do not run after the Otter on the ice, because there are air-holes in all ice that covers rivers, and you may fall in the water and die.’ Old-man didn’t care much if the Wolf did drown. He was afraid to be left alone and hungry in the snow — that was all.
“‘Ho!’ said the Wolf, ‘I am swift of foot and my teeth are white and sharp. What chance has an Otter against me? Yes, I will go,’ and he did.
“Away ran the Otters with the Wolf after them, while Old-man stood on the bank and shivered with fright and cold. Of course the Wolf was faster than the Otter, but he was running on the ice, remember, and slipping a good deal. Nearer and nearer ran the Wolf. In fact he was just about to seize an Otter, when SPLASH! — into an air-hole all the Otters went. Ho ! the Wolf was going so fast he couldn’t stop, and SWOW! into the airhole he went like a badger after mice, and the current carried him under the ice. The Otters knew that hole was there. That was their country and they were running to reach that same hole all the time, but the Wolf didn’t know that.
“Old-man saw it all and began to cry and wail as women do. Ho! but he made a great fuss. He ran along the bank of the river, stumbling in the snowdrifts, and crying like a woman whose child is dead; but it was because he didn’t want to be left in that country alone that he cried — not because he loved his brother, the Wolf. On and on he ran until he came to a place where the water was too swift to freeze, and there he waited and watched for the Wolf to come out from under the ice, crying and wailing and making an awful noise, for a man.
“Well — right there is where the thing happened. You see, Kingfisher can’t fish through the ice and he knows it, too; so he always finds places like the one Old-man found. He was there that day, sitting on the limb of a birch-tree, watching for fishes, and when Old-man came near to Kingfisher’s tree, crying like an old woman, it tickled the Fisher so much that he laughed that queer, chattering laugh.
“Old-man heard him and — Ho! but he was angry. He looked about to see who was laughing at him and that made Kingfisher laugh again, longer and louder than before. This time Old-man saw him and SWOW! he threw his war-club at Kingfisher; tried to kill the bird for laughing. Kingfisher ducked so quickly that Old-man’s club just grazed the feathers on his head, making them stand up straight.
“‘There,’ said Old-man, ‘I’ll teach you to laugh at me when I’m sad. Your feathers are standing up on the top of your head now and they will stay that way, too. As long as you live you must wear a head-dress, to pay for your laughing, and all your children must do the same.
“This was long, long ago, but the Kingfishers have not forgotten, and they all wear war-bonnets, and always will as long as there are Kingfishers.
“Now I will say good night, and when the sun sleeps again I will tell you another story. Ho!”
From “Indian Why Stories”
Today we journey to the American Sout West, to Arizona and the Hopi people. Our tale comes from the Mesas and is tale 26 in the book “Traditions of the Hopi” which contains 100 Hopi folk tales and legends. It is titled:
THE PÖ’OKONGS AND THE BÁLÖLÖOKONG (1)
Alíksai! In Mishóngnovi where now are the ruins, the people lived, and there lived a family consisting of a father, mother, a youth, and a maiden. One day at noon the latter went after water to Toríva. There was a great deal of water in the spring at that time. As she was dipping out the water it began to move and a Bálölöokong came out. He at once began to draw the maiden with strong inhalations towards him, embraced her, and disappeared with her into the water. Her mother was waiting for her to return, but she did not come. When she did not return the mother began to worry and said she would go and look for her. Following her tracks and not meeting her on the way, she went down to the spring. There she hunted for her tracks but only found them descending to the water. The jug was standing there, but the daughter could not be found, so she finally picked up the jug and the old blanket in which the jug had been carried and went home. “I have found the tracks,” she said to her husband, “but they simply lead to the edge of the water, and cannot find our child anywhere.” “Oh!” the father replied; so the father bestirred himself and made a ball and an arrow: to the latter he tied some blue-bird feathers. These he took to the house of Pöokónghoya and his younger brother Balö’ongahoya, who lived somewhat higher up, north of the village.
When he arrived at their house the two youths were romping about. “Be quiet,” their grandmother, Spider Woman, said, “be quiet, somebody has come here.” So they were quiet. “Sit down, sit down,” she said to the man, and then set some hurúshiki 2 before him, of which he ate. It was just a small ball, but as he ate from it it kept increasing again. When he was done she said to him, “Now why do you come? What is the matter?” “Yes,” he said, “yes, yesterday our daughter went after water and she did not return. Her foot tracks only lead to the edge of the stream, and now I came here, as you have a strong heart, and thought that may be you could do something for us.” Hereupon he handed two bows to the youths and an eagle nakwákwosi, which he had also prepared, to Spider Woman. They were all happy over these things. “Askwalí,” she said, “yes, these, my youths, know about it, for they have seen it. Bálölöokong dragged your daughter into the water, and to-morrow we will bestir ourselves and we shall go there. Now, you go back and invite your friends and you must also go to work making nakwákwosis.” Spider Woman also instructed him that they should then dress up the brother of the maiden.
So he went home, invited his friends, and they made many nakwákwosis which they placed into a handsome tray. Early the next morning Spider Woman and the two youths repaired to the village. When they had arrived there they dressed up the brother of the lost maiden, putting a kilt, sash, bunch of breath feathers, numerous strands of beads, and ear pendants on him. He took a ball in his right hand, and the taláwayi (a stick with two eagle feathers and a string of horse hair attached to it) in his left hand. The father took the tray with prayer-offerings, and the chief of the village also went along. Spider Woman told the young man not to be afraid. While the Pö’okong and his younger brother would sing at the spring he should dance, and if the Bálölöokong pitied them and would come out With his sister, he should not be afraid and he should not cry, but should grab his sister and then strike the Bálölöokong with the tonípi (a club with a stone attached to it), which the Pö’okongs had handed to him.
When they had arrived at the spring they stood there. “Now we are ready,” the young man said. Hereupon the Pö’okongs sing the following song:
|Slowly:||Aha’naha vuyuna ha
Aha’naha yuyuna ha
Aha’naha yuyuna ha hahahaia
|Fast:||Ahainahai vuyuna ha
Ahainahai vuyuna ha
Ahainahai vuyuna ha hahahaina.
|(Words are all archaic)|
While they were singing the young man was shaking his ball and holding the taláwayi in his left arm, dancing at the edge of the spring to the time of the singing. All at once the water began to move and the Bálölöokong came out holding the maiden in his left arm. She was still nicely dressed, having her turquoise ear-pendants still in her ears. “My elder brother,” she said, to her brother, “take me. ”Yes, you go nearer now, and have a big heart, but do not cry,” Spider Woman urged him. So he approached the edge of the spring and reached for his sister. But as he did so he began to cry and immediately the Bálölöokong disappeared in the water with the maiden. “Oh!” they all said. “Now let us try it again,” Spider Woman suggested. “Let us try, it once more, but you must not be afraid; you must have a big heart; you must not cry. I did not tell you you must do this way, but have a big heart this time.” And now they were ready again.
As they were singing the same song that they had sung before, the young man again shaking his ball and dancing at the edge of the water, the water again began to move and the Bálölöokong once more came out, again holding the mána in his left arm. ”Now go nearer, close to the edge,” Spider Woman urged him, “do not be afraid now” So he danced slowly to the edge of the water and again his sister reached out her hands towards him and said: “My elder brother, take me.” So when he was still dancing he held out his hand, grasped the maiden and struck the Bálölöokong on the head with the club. Immediately the serpent released the maiden and only his skin was floating on the water like a sack. “Thanks the maiden said, “thanks! You were slow in taking me, you cried.” Hereupon he drew her out of the water. “Thanks!” Spider Woman said, “thanks that you were not too late.” Hereupon they put other clothes on the maiden and laid a pûhu of red feathers for her on the path. 3 The tray with all the nakwákwosis they threw into the spring for the maiden, because with this price they had purchased the mána back from the water serpent. And they threw the prayer-offerings into the spring that nothing further should befall the mána.
They then returned to the village, but it seems that Bálölöokong just left his skin and slipped back into the water when he was struck, because he is still there and is occasionally seen by women, and whoever sees him becomes sick. Only lately, the narrator continued, he was seen by a woman, Corn-Ear (Káö), but the women that have seen him say that he now is just small. One time he was also seen by a man. Sometimes those who see him get sick, because he is dangerous.
After they had returned to the village Spider Woman and the two Pö’okongs returned to their house. And so that way they were in time to save the mána.
1 Told by Sik’áhpiki (Shupaúlavi).
2 Prepared of corn-meal and water and sometimes formed into balls.
3 A pû’hu (road or path) consists of one or more small feathers–usually eagle feathers-to the stub end of which are fastened a single and a twisted string. These feathers are placed near springs, in front of shrines, altars, on paths and near graves, as paths for clouds, spirits, deities, etc., Whom the Hopi wish to follow the paths.
From “Traditions of the Hopi” collated and edited by H R Voth (1905)
Everybody knows that though the fairies live hundreds of years they do sometimes die, and especially as they are obliged to pass one day in every week under the form of some animal, when of course they are liable to accident. It was in this way that death once overtook the Queen of the Fairies, and it became necessary to call a general assembly to elect a new sovereign. After much discussion, it appeared that the choice lay between two fairies, one called Surcantine and the other Paridamie; and their claims were so equal that it was impossible without injustice to prefer one to the other. Under these circumstances it was unanimously decided that whichever of the two could show to the world the greatest wonder should be Queen; but it was to be a special kind of wonder, no moving of mountains or any such common fairy tricks would do. Surcantine, therefore, resolved that she would bring up a Prince whom nothing could make constant. While Paridamie decided to display to admiring mortals a Princess so charming that no one could see her without falling in love with her. They were allowed to take their own time, and meanwhile the four oldest fairies were to attend to the affairs of the kingdom.
Now Paridamie had for a long time been very friendly with King Bardondon, who was a most accomplished Prince, and whose court was the model of what a court should be. His Queen, Balanice, was also charming; indeed it is rare to find a husband and wife so perfectly of one mind about everything. They had one little daughter, whom they had named ‘Rosanella,’ because she had a little pink rose printed upon her white throat. From her earliest infancy she had shown the most astonishing intelligence, and the courtiers knew her smart sayings by heart, and repeated them on all occasions. In the middle of the night following the assembly of fairies, Queen Balanice woke up with a shriek, and when her maids of honour ran to see what was the matter, they found she had had a frightful dream.
‘I thought,’ said she, ‘that my little daughter had changed into a bouquet of roses, and that as I held it in my hand a bird swooped down suddenly and snatched it from me and carried it away.’
‘Let some one run and see that all is well with the Princess,’ she added.
So they ran; but what was their dismay when they found that the cradle was empty; and though they sought high and low, not a trace of Rosanella could they discover. The Queen was inconsolable, and so, indeed, was the King, only being a man he did not say quite so much about his feelings. He presently proposed to Balanice that they should spend a few days at one of their palaces in the country; and to this she willingly agreed, since her grief made the gaiety of the capital distasteful to her. One lovely summer evening, as they sat together on a shady lawn shaped like a star, from which radiated twelve splendid avenues of trees, the Queen looked round and saw a charming peasant-girl approaching by each path, and what was still more singular was that everyone carried something in a basket which appeared to occupy her whole attention. As each drew near she laid her basket at Balanice’s feet, saying:
‘Charming Queen, may this be some slight consolation to you in your unhappiness!’
The Queen hastily opened the baskets, and found in each a lovely baby-girl, about the same age as the little Princess for whom she sorrowed so deeply. At first the sight of them renewed her grief; but presently their charms so gained upon her that she forgot her melancholy in providing them with nursery-maids, cradle-rockers, and ladies-in-waiting, and in sending hither and thither for swings and dolls and tops, and bushels of the finest sweetmeats.
Oddly enough, every baby had upon its throat a tiny pink rose. The Queen found it so difficult to decide on suitable names for all of them, that until she could settle the matter she chose a special colour for everyone, by which it was known, so that when they were all together they looked like nothing so much as a nosegay of gay flowers. As they grew older it became evident that though they were all remarkably intelligent, and profited equally by the education they received, yet they differed one from another in disposition, so much so that they gradually ceased to be known as ‘Pearl,’ or ‘Primrose,’ or whatever might have been their colour, and the Queen instead would say:
‘Where is my Sweet?’ or ‘my Beautiful,’ or ‘my Gay.’
Of course, with all these charms they had lovers by the dozen. Not only in their own court, but princes from afar, who were constantly arriving, attracted by the reports which were spread abroad; but these lovely girls, the first Maids of Honour, were as discreet as they were beautiful, and favoured no one.
But let us return to Surcantine. She had fixed upon the son of a king who was cousin to Bardondon, to bring up as her fickle Prince. She had before, at his christening, given him all the graces of mind and body that a prince could possibly require; but now she redoubled her efforts, and spared no pains in adding every imaginable charm and fascination. So that whether he happened to be cross or amiable, splendidly or simply attired, serious or frivolous, he was always perfectly irresistible! In truth, he was a charming young fellow, since the Fairy had given him the best heart in the world as well as the best head, and had left nothing to be desired but—constancy. For it cannot be denied that Prince Mirliflor was a desperate flirt, and as fickle as the wind; so much so, that by the time he arrived at his eighteenth birthday there was not a heart left for him to conquer in his father’s kingdom—they were all his own, and he was tired of everyone! Things were in this state when he was invited to visit the court of his father’s cousin, King Bardondon.
Imagine his feelings when he arrived and was presented at once to twelve of the loveliest creatures in the world, and his embarrassment was heightened by the fact that they all liked him as much as he liked each one of them, so that things came to such a pass that he was never happy a single instant without them. For could he not whisper soft speeches to Sweet, and laugh with Joy, while he looked at Beauty? And in his more serious moments what could be pleasanter than to talk to Grave upon some shady lawn, while he held the hand of Loving in his own, and all the others lingered near in sympathetic silence? For the first time in his life he really loved, though the object of his devotion was not one person, but twelve, to whom he was equally attached, and even Surcantine was deceived into thinking that this was indeed the height of inconstancy. But Paridamie said not a word.
In vain did Prince Mirliflor’s father write commanding him to return, and proposing for him one good match after another. Nothing in the world could tear him from his twelve enchantresses.
One day the Queen gave a large garden-party, and just as the guests were all assembled, and Prince Mirliflor was as usual dividing his attentions between the twelve beauties, a humming of bees was heard. The Rose-maidens, fearing their stings, uttered little shrieks, and fled all together to a distance from the rest of the company. Immediately, to the horror of all who were looking on, the bees pursued them, and, growing suddenly to an enormous size, pounced each upon a maiden and carried her off into the air, and in an instant they were all lost to view. This amazing occurrence plunged the whole court into the deepest affliction, and Prince Mirliflor, after giving way to the most violent grief at first, fell gradually into a state of such deep dejection that it was feared if nothing could rouse him he would certainly die. Surcantine came in all haste to see what she could do for her darling, but he rejected with scorn all the portraits of lovely princesses which she offered him for his collection. In short, it was evident that he was in a bad way, and the Fairy was at her wits’ end. One day, as he wandered about absorbed in melancholy reflections, he heard sudden shouts and exclamations of amazement, and if he had taken the trouble to look up he could not have helped being as astonished as everyone else, for through the air a chariot of crystal was slowly approaching which glittered in the sunshine. Six lovely maidens with shining wings drew it by rose-coloured ribbons, while a whole flight of others, equally beautiful, were holding long garlands of roses crossed above it, so as to form a complete canopy. In it sat the Fairy Paridamie, and by her side a Princess whose beauty positively dazzled all who saw her. At the foot of the great staircase they descended, and proceeded to the Queen’s apartments, though everyone had run together to see this marvel, till it was quite difficult to make a way through the crowd; and exclamations of wonder rose on all sides at the loveliness of the strange Princess. ‘Great Queen,’ said Paridamie, ‘permit me to restore to you your daughter Rosanella, whom I stole out of her cradle.’
After the first transports of joy were over the Queen said to Paridamie:
‘But my twelve lovely ones, are they lost to me forever? Shall I never see them again?’
But Paridamie only said:
‘Very soon you will cease to miss them!’ in a tone that evidently meant ‘Don’t ask me any more questions.’ And then mounting again into her chariot she swiftly disappeared.
The news of his beautiful cousin’s arrival was soon carried to the Prince, but he had hardly the heart to go and see her. However, it became absolutely necessary that he should pay his respects, and he had scarcely been five minutes in her presence before it seemed to him that she combined in her own charming person all the gifts and graces which had so attracted him in the twelve Rose-maidens whose loss he had so truly mourned; and after all it is really more satisfactory to make love to one person at a time. So it came to pass that before he knew where he was he was entreating his lovely cousin to marry him, and the moment the words had left his lips, Paridamie appeared, smiling and triumphant, in the chariot of the Queen of the Fairies, for by that time they had all heard of her success, and declared her to have earned the kingdom. She had to give a full account of how she had stolen Rosanella from her cradle, and divided her character into twelve parts, that each might charm Prince Mirliflor, and when once more united might cure him of his inconstancy once and for ever.
And as one more proof of the fascination of the whole Rosanella, I may tell you that even the defeated Surcantine sent her a wedding gift, and was present at the ceremony which took place as soon as the guests could arrive. Prince Mirliflor was constant for the rest of his life. And indeed
who would not have been in his place? As for Rosanella, she loved him as much as all the twelve beauties put together, so they reigned in peace and happiness to the end of their long lives.
By the Comte de Caylus.
From “The Green Fairy Book” collated and edited by Andrew Lang
In the north, it is said, there were many first people. One house was full of people, and they went hunting. One man went off and did not return by night. Then next day his brother went to look for him. And he went off, going along the ridge; and in the morning, again he had not come back. Then again someone went to look for him; and he, not returning, they ceased (going off).
“I don’t know what is the trouble! I again (also) will go and look for him,” said one. And he, in the morning, after he had had his breakfast and made ready his bow, went off. And he did not return. “What can be the trouble?” said one. “Do you go and look for him, taking good care.” Then (another) went.
Again he did not come back. “They are trying to destroy us,” they said; and again one went to search, and did not return at night. Then, “You must be careful,” said his father. Again one went off, and did not return at night. The people were half gone.
“Do the best you can, live through it,” said he. “Whatever can be the trouble? I will go and see,” he said. “If I do not get back, do the best you can, ye people. What can be the trouble? While we are out hunting for food, for game, (someone) I don’t know who it is, sees us, and troubles us. What man can it be?” he said.
So he went off, and did not return. Another one went off afterwards, and he also did not return. Then the old man said, “I will go last. Do you go first,” said he. So the last and only one left alive went. And at night again he was not apparent. Then again the old man went. “Do ye stay,” said he. “Don’t let the child run about.” So (the latter) and his elder sister staid there. The old man did not come back. Then they two remained there alone. “You must remain without crawling outside,” said she. “What is it that is destroying us people? Do you know “Do not go out! You must play about close by here, not going far away,” said she. Then be replied, “Very well.”
Then she said, “Bring some wood!” and he went to bring it. By and by he brought some back. He carried a large piece, although he was small, he carried a large piece. She sent him again. “You must not carry a large piece! It might hurt you,” she said.
Then he went for wood. “Do not go far,” she said. But he went a little farther, and brought back a very large, very pitchy (log). “Didn’t I tell you not to carry (such a large one)?” said she. “You might hurt yourself in the chest. That is what I told you,” she said.
He had big eyes, they say; and, “Although (I am) small, I am going to see,” he thought. “What, I wonder, does this!” he said. “Look here, my sister! I want to go and look.”–“I have told you not to say such things,” she said. Next morning she sent him to get wood, and he went. He brought back a pitch stump, a whole one. Then, “I wonder how it is that carrying such loads . . .,” thought his sister. “Although he is indeed very small, (yet) he carries great loads,” she thought.
Next morning he went off. He went, going along the ridge, and came to a great flat place. And human bones were many there. Standing there, he looked all about. By and by a man approached. “What are you doing?” said he. “Nothing,” (the boy) replied. “Do you want to fight?” said he. “Yes,” said the boy. Thereupon they two wrestled, and the boy killed Lizard-Man.
Thereupon he returned, and arrived at the house. He bathed in warm water, and then spoke. “I am going off above,” said he. “You must remain, you must stay here. Rising from here, I shall go over up to the Above-Valley; and when I reach there, I will thunder,” said he. “I shall roar, and you shall hear me.”
Whereupon, having finished speaking to his sister, he started and went off. And a while after he had gone, it thundered. He was roaring, they say. He it was who was to be the Thunder-Man. His sister recognized him again. At that time he said, “I shall have my country there. You must remain here. Meanwhile I shall be continually travelling about in the Above-Valley.” So he spoke. That is all. “There are many squinting women gathering tules.” 1
1 This is a common way of ending a tale. The sentence has no application to the rest of the story.
From “Maidu Texts” – Maidu folklore and legends
The Maidu are an American Indian tribe who traditionally live in the central Sierra Nevada of California, to the north of Yosemite.
Today we head back to the west coast of the USA. But first a stopover in New Zealand, also known as the land of the long white cloud, or Aotearoa (ay-oh-tee-ah-roh-ah) in the Maori language.
Our tale today hails from Maori folklore and is titled “The Art of Netting Learned by Kahukura from the Fairies”. It translates into Maori as “Ko Te Korero Mo Nga Patupaiarehe”
ONCE upon a time, a man of the name of Kahukura wished to pay a visit to Rangiaowhia, a place lying far to the northward, near the country of the tribe called Te Rarawa. Whilst he lived at his own village, he was continually haunted by a desire to visit that place. At length he started on his journey, and reached Rangiaowhia, and as he was on his road, be passed a place where some people had been cleaning mackerel, and he saw the inside of the fish lying all about the sand on the sea-shore: surprised at this, he looked about at the marks, and said to himself: ‘Oh, this must have been done by some of the people of the district.’ But when he came to look a little more narrowly at the footmarks, he saw that the people who had been fishing had made them in the night-time, not that morning, nor in the day; and he said to himself: ‘These are no mortals who have been fishing here–spirits must have done this; had they been men, some of the reeds and grass which they sat on in their canoe would have been lying about.’ He felt quite sure from several circumstances, that spirits or fairies had been there; and after observing everything well, he returned to the house where he was stopping. He, however, held fast in his heart what he had seen, as something very striking to tell all his friends in every direction, and as likely to be the means of gaining knowledge which might enable him to find out something new.
So that night he returned to the place where he had observed all these things, and just as he reached the spot, back had come the fairies too, to haul their net for mackerel; and some of them were shouting out: ‘The net here! the net here!’ Then a canoe paddled off to fetch the other in which the net was laid, and as they dropped the net into the water, they began to cry out: ‘Drop the net in the sea at Rangiaowhia, and haul it at Mamaku.’ These words were sung out by the fairies, as an encouragement in their work and from the joy of their hearts at their sport in fishing.
As the fairies were dragging the net to the shore, Kahukura managed to mix amongst them, and hauled away at the rope; he happened to be a very fair man, so that his skin was almost as white as that of these fairies, and from that cause he was not observed by them. As the net came close in to the shore, the fairies began to cheer and shout: ‘Go out into the sea some of you, in front of the rocks, lest the nets should be entangled at Tawatawauia by Teweteweuia’, for that was the name of a rugged rock standing out from the sandy shore; the main body of the fairies kept hauling at the net, and Kahukura pulled away in the midst of them.
When the first fish reached the shore, thrown up in the ripple driven before the net as they hauled it in, the fairies had not yet remarked Kahukura, for he was almost as fair as they were. It was just at the very first peep of dawn that the fish were all landed, and the fairies ran hastily to pick them up from the sand, and to haul the net up on the beach. They did not act with their fish as men do, dividing them into separate loads for each, but everyone took up what fish he liked, and ran a twig through their gills, and as they strung the fish, they continued calling out: ‘Make haste, run here, all of you, and finish the work before the sun rises.’
Kahukura kept on stringing his fish with the rest of them. He had only a very short string, and, making a slip-knot at the end of it, when he had covered the string with fish, he lifted them up, but had hardly raised them from the ground when the slip-knot gave way from the weight of the fish, and off they fell; then some of the fairies ran good-naturedly to help him to string his fish again, and one of them tied the knot at the end of the string for him, but the fairy had hardly gone after knotting it, before Kahukura had unfastened it, and again tied a slip-knot at the end; then he began stringing his fish again, and when he had got a great many on, up he lifted them, and off they slipped as before. This trick he repeated several times, and delayed the fairies in their work by getting them to knot his string for him, and put his fish on it. At last full daylight broke, so that there was light enough to distinguish a man’s face, and the fairies saw that Kahukura was a man; then they dispersed in confusion, leaving their fish and their net, and abandoning their canoes, which were nothing but stems of the flax. In a moment the fairies started for their own abodes; in their hurry, as has just been said, they abandoned their net, which was made of rushes; and off the good people fled as fast as they could go. Now was first discovered the stitch for netting a net, for they left theirs with Kahukura, and it became a pattern for him. He thus taught his children to make nets, and by them the Maori race were made acquainted with that art, which they have now known from very remote times.
From “Polynesian Mythology Ancient Traditional History Of The New Zealanders” (Maori Folklore and Legends) by Sir George Grey