Native American Legends
A lazy man
A Seneca Legend
In Geneseo there was a young man, an orphan, who went around among
the people, staying wherever kindhearted persons would keep him,
sleeping on the ground by a brush fire, and eating whatever was
given to him. When he was twenty years old, he was as much of a
boy as ever.
A chief, who was rich and proud, lived in Geneseo. He had a daughter
and two or three sons. One day the orphan stopped near the chief's
house where people were burning brush.
One of the chief's sons came out and said to him, "Don't you
feel poor and lonely sitting around so?"
"No," said the young man, "I feel as rich as you
"Don't you sometimes think you would like to have a wife?"
"Yes, I sometimes think I would like a wife if I could get
"What would you think of my sister for a wife? Many men have
tried to marry her, but she refuses everyone."
"Oh," said the orphan, looking up, "I would as soon
have her as any woman; she is handsome and rich."
"I will ask her to marry you," said the brother, thinking
to have fun with his sister.
He went to the house and said to her, "There is a young man
out there by the fire, who would like to marry you. Will you be
"I will. I would rather marry him than anyone else."
"Shall I tell him so?"
He told the young man, who said, "I shall be glad to have
her for my wife."
The brother, in fun, repeated this to his sister, who said, "I
will go and ask him myself."
She went to the orphan, and asked, "What did my brother say
to you?" He told her, and she said, "I will go with you.
Come tomorrow at this time and I'll marry you."
The next morning the girl got leggings and moccasins for the young
man. (He had never worn moccasins in Summer.) In the evening he
came to where she was. He washed, put on the leggings and embroidered
moccasins and tied up his hair. She told him then that he could
go home with her, but he must not talk with any of the men, that
one of her brothers was always fooling.
The girl became the orphan's wife and he lived in the chief's house.
In the Fall when the chief's sons were ready to go deer hunting,
the young woman wanted to go. She had a husband and she thought
he might be a good hunter.
The man had never hunted but he said, "I will go and try."
When the party had gone some distance, they camped and began to
hunt. The young man found a place where there were wild grape vines.
He made a swing, then sat in it and swung all day, didn't try to
hunt. At night he went home without game. Each morning he went to
the swing and each evening he went home without game.
The brothers killed many deer. One day one brother said to the
other, "Our brother-in-law gets no game, maybe he doesn't hunt."
They agreed to watch him.
The next morning they followed the young man, found him swinging
and saw that the ground was smooth around the swing. Then they said,
"We will not live with him and feed him. We will leave him,
go a day's journey away and camp."
They left the man and woman with only one leg of deer meat.
The young man never ate much; the woman ate most of the meat. When
it was gone, she began to be afraid of starving.
One day, while the man was swinging, a horned owl lighted on a
tree nearby. He shot the owl and put it under the swing where he
could look at it as he swung. His wife was getting very hungry.
That night when he came home without game, she said, "If I
have nothing to eat tomorrow, I will be too weak to get up. You
ought to kill something."
"Well, maybe tomorrow I will kill something."
The next morning the man went, as usual, to the swing. While swinging
he heard a woman crying. He was frightened and stopped swinging.
Soon he saw a female panther coming with three cubs. She was crying.
As she approached, he heard a terrible roar in the North, the direction
from which the panther had come. Then the man saw Whirlwind coming,
tearing down all the trees in his path. He stopped on a tree near
"You know now what harm you have done," said Whirlwind
to Panther. "Why are you angry with the panther?" asked
the young man. "What has she done to you?"
"She has torn up my best feather cap."
"Why do you think so much of your cap? It must have been a
nice one." "It was nice."
"What kind of feathers was it made of?"
"It was the skin and feathers of a horned owl."
"What would you think if I gave you another cap?"
"How can you get one?"
The young man picked up the horned owl that he had killed and threw
it at Whirlwind. Whirlwind caught it, said, "Thank you, this
is better than the one Panther destroyed," and away he flew.
Panther thanked the man, and said, "I am glad that you had
the owl, you have saved my life. Now I will help you. Go to that
knoll yonder, behind it you will find two bucks fighting. Shoot
them both. The one you shoot first will not run; they will fight
till they die."
The young man found the bucks and watched them till they killed
each other. Then, taking a large piece of meat, He went home to
his wife, who was almost starved.
"I have brought you meat," said he, "I had good
The woman sprang up, threw the meat on the fire and hardly waited
for it to cook till she began to eat.
They dragged the bucks home, skinned them, and had plenty of meat.
The young woman dried the meat and tanned the skins.
Panther told the man to always hunt near the swing and he would
kill a great deal of game.
When they had a large quantity of meat, the man said to his wife,
"Your brothers are good hunters. No doubt they have plenty
of meat, but I will find them and see."
He started. On the way he killed a deer, and he carried the carcass
along. He found the camp and looking in saw the brothers; they were
poor and weak.
He went in, and asked, "How are you?"
"We are almost starved," said one of them. "We can
find nothing to kill."
"Your sister and I have a plenty. Come and live with us. I
have meat here. Eat and then come to my camp."
He gave them the deer and they ate the meat nearly raw, they were
When they started for the young man's camp he went ahead, got home
quickly and told his wife he had found her brothers nearer starvation
than she had been. During the night the brothers came. They were
satisfied and remained with their sister and brother-in-law.
After a while they all went back to the village loaded with skins
and venison. Now the young man was rich; and he and his wife lived
ever after in Geneseo Valley.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends