Native American Legends
A race between Bear and Turtle
A Seneca Legend
An old man was going along, slowly and surely, by himself. After
a while he met a man, who asked, "Where are you going?"
"I am going to the East to see what kind of people live there."
"You will never reach that place," said the stranger,
"It is far off and you are too old and fat for the road."
Each man went his way.
Soon the old man met another person, a lean man, who asked, "Where
are you going?"
"I'm going to the East to see how people live in that place."
"You will never get there," said the lean man. "You
are too fat, you can't travel. How do you keep so fat?"
"When I come to a village and find people lying around, I
bore a hole in each one who pleases me, and suck his fat out. That
is my way of keeping fat."
"I'll try it," said the young man. "I am too lean."
Each went his own road. Soon the lean man came to an opening and
at the edge of the woods saw an animal asleep. He crawled up, carefully,
and began making a hole in its body near the tail. The animal sprang
up, hit the man a heavy blow with its heels and ran off.
"The next time I see that fat, old fellow I'll pay him for
fooling me," said the lean man. He went farther and met the
old man a second time. "How do you keep so fat?" asked
the lean man.
"I do it by eating fish. I put my tail through a hole in the
ice; a fish bites. I pull the fish out and eat it. That is how I
"I'll try that," thought the lean man. He traveled on
till he came to a river and found a good place to fish. He made
a hole in the ice, stuck his tail into the hole, and waited, waited
till his tail began to bite and ache, then he tried to pull it out,
but it was fast in the ice. He pulled till at last he pulled his
tail off; left it in the hole. He went his way, but through losing
his tail he was changed, was another kind of person. When summer
came he traveled around till he met the fat man.
"Where are you going?" asked the lean man.
"I am going East to see who lives there."
"You will never reach that place," said the lean man,
"You are too fat. Come and run a race with me."
"Very well, you may run on land, I'll run in the water. We'll
The fat man collected a number of his people and posted them in
the river from the starting place to the end of the course, and
told each man to stick out his head when the runner came almost
up to him. The wager was heads.
They started. The lean man ran with all his might, but every little
while the fat man stuck his head out of the water, he was always
in advance. When the lean man came to the goal the fat man was there
"You've won the race," said the lean man.
"Of course I have!" said the fat man, and seizing the
lean man by the neck he dragged him to a rock and cut his head off
The fat man's friends came out of the river, looked at the dead
runner, and said, "Oh, what a fool! Oh, what a fool!"
The lean man was a bear. Before he lost his tail, he was a fox.
Since that time all bears have been stub-tailed, The fat man was
a turtle. As all turtles look alike, he easily deceived the lean
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