Native American Legends
A Zuni Legend
Long ago, a boy was out walking one day when he found a young eagle
that had fallen from its nest. He picked that eagle up and brought
it home and began to care for it. He made a place for it to stay,
and each day he went out and hunted for rabbits and other small
game to feed it.
His mother asked him why he no longer came to work in the fields
and help his family. "I must hunt for this eagle," the
boy said. So it went on for a long time and the eagle grew large
and strong as the boy hunted and fed it. Now it was large and strong
enough to fly away if it wished to. But the eagle, stayed with the
boy who had cared for it so well.
The boy's brothers criticized him for not doing his share of work
in the corn and melon fields, but Eagle Boy as they now called him
did not hear them. He cared only for his bird. Even the boy's father,
who was an important man in the village, began to scold him for
not helping. But still the boy did not listen. So it was that the
boy's brothers and his older male relatives in his family came together
and decided that they must kill the eagle. They decided to do so
when they returned from the fields the following day.
When Eagle Boy came to his bird's cage, he saw that the bird sat
there with its head hanging down. He placed a rabbit he had caught
in the cage, but the eagle did not move or eat it. "What is
wrong, my eagle friend?" asked the boy. Then the eagle spoke,
he had never spoken to the boy before. He said, "My friend,
I cannot eat for I am filled with sadness and sorrow." "But
why are you so troubled?" asked the boy. "It is because
of you," said the eagle. You have not done your work in the
fields. Instead, you have spent all of your time caring for me.
Now your brothers and family have decided to kill me so that you
again will return to your duties in the village. I have stayed here
all of this time because I have learned to love you. But now I must
leave. When the sun rises tomorrow, I will fly away and never come
back." "My eagle," said the boy, "I do not want
to stay here without you. You must take me with you." "My
friend, I cannot take you with me," You would not be able to
find your way through the sky. You would not be able to eat raw
food." said the eagle. "If you are certain, then you may
come with me. But you must do as I say. Come to me at dawn, after
the people have gone down to their fields. Bring food to eat on
our long journey across the sky. Put food in pouches so you can
sling them over your shoulders. You must also bring two strings
of bells and tie them to my feet."
That night the boy filled the pouches with blue corn wafer bread,
dried meats and fruits. He made up two strings of bells, tying them
with strong rawhide. The next morning, after the people had gone
down to the fields, he went to the eagle's cage and opened it. The
eagle spread its wings wide. "Now," he said to Eagle Boy,
"tie the bells to my feet and then climb onto my back and hold
onto the base of my wings." Eagle Boy climbed on and the eagle
began to fly. It rose higher and higher in slow circles above the
village and above the fields. The bells on the eagle's feet jingled
and the eagle sang and the boy sang with it:
Pa shish lakwa-a-a-a-a.........
So they sang and the people in the fields below heard them singing,
and they heard the sound of the bells Eagle Boy had tied to the
eagle's feet. They all looked up. "They are leaving,"
the people called out in the village. "They are leaving."
Eagle Boy's parents yelled up to him, but he could not hear them.
The eagle and boy went higher and higher in the sky until they were
only a tiny speck and they disappeared from the sight of the village
people. The eagle and the boy flew higher and higher until they
came to an opening in the clouds. They passed through and came out
into the Sky Land. They landed there on Turquoise Mountain where
the Eagle People lived.
Eagle Boy looked around the sky world. Everything was smooth and
white and clean clouds. "Here is my home," the eagle said.
He took the boy into the city in the sky, and there were eagles
all around them. They looked like people, for they took off their
wings and their clothing of feathers when they were in their homes.
The Eagle People made a coat of feathers for the boy and taught
him to wear it and to fly. It took him a long time to learn, but
soon he was able to circle high above the land just like the Eagle
People and he was an eagle himself. "You may fly anywhere,"
the old eagles told him, " anywhere except to the South. Never
fly to the South Land."
All went well for Eagle Boy in his new life. One day, though, as
he flew alone, he wondered what it was that was so terrible about
the South. His curiosity grew, and he flew further and further toward
the South. Lower and lower he flew and now he saw a beautiful city
below with people dancing around red fires. "There is nothing
to fear here," he said to himself, and flew lower still. Closer
and closer he came, drawn by the red fires, until he landed. The
people greeted him and drew him into the circle. He danced with
them all night and then, when he grew tired, they gave him a place
to sleep. When he woke the next morning and looked around, he saw
the fires were gone. The houses no longer seemed bright and beautiful
All around him there was dust, and in the dust there were bones.
He looked for his cloak of eagle feathers, wanting to fly away from
this city of the dead., but it was nowhere to be found. Then the
bones rose up from the dust and came together. There were people
made of bones all around him! He stood up and began to ran away
from them. The people made of bones chased him. Just as they were
about to catch him, he saw a badger.
"Grandson," the badger said, "I will save you."
Then the badger carried the boy down into his hole and the bone
people could not follow. "You have been foolish," the
badger scolded. "You did not listen to the warnings the eagles
gave you. Now that you have been in this land in the South, they
will not allow you to live with them anymore."
Then the badger took pity on Eagle Boy and showed him the way back
to the city of the eagles. It was a long hard journey and when the
boy reached the eagle city, he stood outside the high white walls.
The eagles would not let him enter. "You have been to the South
Land," they said. You can no longer live with us." At
last, the eagle the boy had raised below took pity on him. After
all this boy had feed and cared for him. He brought the boy an old
and ragged feather cloak. "With this cloak you may reach the
home of your own people," he said. "But you can never
return to our place in the sky." He gratefully accepted the
gift of the tattered feather cloak. His flight back down to his
people was a hard one, more difficult than any flights in Sky Land.
He almost fell through the sky many times. His eagle friend circled
and circled in the clouds watching over him. When he finally reached
the village of his people on earth, the eagle flew down and carried
off the feather cloak they had given him.
From that time on, Eagle Boy lived among his people. Though he
lifted his eyes in joy whenever eagles soared overhead, he shared
in the work in the fields, and his people were honored and happy
to him among them. He could fly away if it wished to, but he the
eagle stayed with the people who loved him.
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