Native American Legends
A man and his three dogs
A Winnebago (Hotcâk) Legend
This story tells of a certain village where there lived a family
of three: a man, his wife, and his mother-in-law. The man had three
dogs: a hound, a white dog, and a rat dog. He was very fond of these
dogs and used to cut up their meat before he prepared his own. The
white dog used to accompany him on the hunt, while the two others
stayed at home near the camp. The man was a good hunter, and lived
at some distance from the village because he depended for his hunting
on a blessing he had received. This year to his surprise he seemed
able to kill nothing but a few small animals. He went out, nevertheless,
every morning. His family was at the point of starvation. So he
knew that something was wrong and he used to wonder and ponder over
the cause. His dog, likewise, could not find anything, although
in former years, he had always been able to find bear caves and
to locate deer, elk, etc.
One night, after they had all gone to bad, the man lay awake thinking
of something. Suddenly he heard the dogs talking to one another.
The old hound was asking the other one whether they could not help
their master. "I used to be able to help him, when I was young.
But now I am old, and our little brother is too young. All that
he can do is to play about the camp. So you, who are the second
one, are really the only one that can be of any help," So spoke
the old hound to the white dog. He answered, "I could have
helped our master all this time, but there is a reason why I have
not helped him." "What is the reason?" asked the
old hound. "Well," answered the white dog, "the old
woman, his mother-in-law, once took [a poker?] and struck me across
the back with it, hitting my medicine bag. This made my heart very
sad and that is the reason that our master has no success in hunting.
I see bears and deer every day, when I am out, but I do not show
them to him. I like the master and his wife, but I do not like his
mother-in-law. However, if he were to cut the deer lung that hangs
in his lodge and give it to us, I would show him a place where there
are many bear caves. There is one right near here and there are
many not far from here." Thus the white dog spoke.
The man had never before been able to understand the dogs but now
he was able to talk to them. So in the morning when he got up he
took the deer lung and cut it in three parts. His wife noticed this
and asked him what he was doing. He answered that he was going to
feed his dogs, and she said nothing more. He went and fed his dogs,
and they were delighted. Then he took his bow and arrow and went
hunting. His dog went along, and as in the olden times, before he
had lost sight of his camping place the dog scared up a bear and
the man killed it. From that day on he killed a bear or a deer every
day. In a short time they were all provided with provisions again.
One night he told his wife what the dogs had said and how they
had provided for him, so from that day on they took even better
care of them. Some time passed in this manner and one night, when
he was again awake he heard the dogs talking. They were saying that
he was in the midst of a large body of his enemies and that there
was no possible manner by which he could escape. When he heard this
he got up and called his dogs into the lodge and fed them. When
they had finished eating, the old hound said, "Brother, you
have always treated us nicely in the past and you even fed us before
you fed yourself. We always tried to help you, but now we are in
a great quandary as to what to do, for you are going to have a hard
time. We were just talking about this. Our little brother is, of
course, of no consequence because he is too young, while I am too
old to do anything but lie around the house. So it is really up
to our second brother, the white dog to try and help you. He is
the only one that can help you, and he has consented to try and
help both you and your wife in the coming warfare." He continued,
"It is said that one of the (spirit) chiefs has given you away
as a victim to the one who is leading the war party. That is why
all this has been kept away from you. This war leader fasted more
than you did and that is why he is coming after you and why you
didn't know about it. We know of it, however, for my brother has
seen them today. He is going to take your wife half way back to
her folks, and then he will come back and help you fight the enemy.
We two, who are good for nothing will stay near the camp and help
you in whatever way that we can. My younger brother will now tell
you that he knows about it." Then the white dog spoke to the
man and said, "Brother, you have always treated me nicely,
so I am going to save you and your wife. The enemy are now circling
the camp and when the sun comes up, they are going to attack you
from all sides. I went out to get as much information as possible
and I heard this war leader say this. Now you must understand what
I am going to do. I shall escort your wife as far as I can and then
she must hurry to her people and tell them to come to your assistance.
The white dog continued, "If her relatives reach us early in
the afternoon, they will still find us alive and fighting, but if
they come later than that, it will be all over. Therefore, she must
tell them to hurry up." He then got the woman and told her
to take a hold of his tail, and to crawl when he crouched, and to
raise herself when he did, but under no circumstance to let go of
his tail. This she did, and in this way he got her to the place
he had spoken of. Then he told her to run as fast as she could with
In the meantime the man was getting ready for the attack. He fixed
himself up for warfare, straightened his arrows, drew his bowstring
tighter, and painted his face, as he always did when he prepared
to go on the warpath. Then he said to the dog, "How do I look,
brother?" and the dog said, "You look as if it were impossible
to kill you." Then the man laughed and said, "It is good."
He sat there thinking of the fight before him. He had confidence
in the outcome because his brother, the dog, was going to fight
with him, even though he knew that the number of the attacking party
was very large. After a time the white dog came back and told the
man that the only way to fight the enemy was to take turns in fighting
them. As soon as they approached, the man was to fight them and
when he was tired, the dog would relieve him, and so on. When things
were very bad they were to retreat to the lodge and fight in the
same manner. "We may be able to resist them until our friends
come to our aid, and in any case they will not be able to kill us
right away, because my brothers are going to concentrate their minds
on us." Thus spoke the white dog, and continued," I, myself,
am the chief of the wolves. I tried to become a human being like
you, but I only succeeded in changing myself into an ordinary dog.
I am in possession of a considerable amount of war blessings."
It was now dawn, and the enemy gave the war whoop and rushed for
the man. The man, however, also gave the war whoop and rushed out
with his dogs to meet them. He drove them back a ways, and then
he ran back to the lodge. Then Wolf ran out to attack them. He made
a great deal of noise and jumped at them, trying to tear their scrotums.
Both the man and the dog, in this manner, killed many of the enemy.
Thus they fought for a long time, and when the sun began to go towards
the west, their friends came up and the fighting continued. Finally,
both the man and the dog fell down exhausted, but some friends carried
them away in blankets. While the fighting continued, the man regained
consciousness, but the wolf lay unconscious for four days. His white
coat was red with the blood of human beings. Finally he, too, regained
consciousness, and said to the man, "Brother, I have done wrong.
My coat is covered with the blood of human beings and it will never
be white again. I know that he who is in control of wars will not
like this at all. From now on the people will call me "the
red wolf," and as the years roll on they will tell of my conduct.
You yourself are a human and will remain here, but I shall go where
Earth-maker has placed me."
So this is the story of how a wolf tried to become a human being,
and how he only succeeded in changing himself into an ordinary dog.
He did something that was entirely wrong, and therefore left us
humans. The man in this story had treated him nicely so he blessed
him and saved him and his wife.
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