Native American Legends
Géha, the friend of a deserted boy
A Seneca Legend
A party of Senecas went hunting. When they had killed many deer
and were ready to go home, they didn't know what to do with a little
boy whose father and mother had died while they had been in the
The hunters had so much meat they couldn't carry the boy and he
couldn't walk so far. At last they decided to leave him in the cabin,
leaving plenty of wood and meat.
The child cried bitterly and begged to go, but they left him.
When the hunters reached home and the report went around that the
child had been left in the woods, every one thought it would die.
After some days the chief sent a man to see if the child was alive.
As soon as the messenger was outside of the village, he changed
himself into a bear.
The little boy kept a fire, cooked meat, and lived. One cold night
he began to cry; the meat was almost gone and the wood was burned
up. While crying he heard some one come to the door. After making
a noise, as if shaking A snow, a man said, "Little boy, you
think you are going I o die, you are not. I am going to take care
of you. The chief has sent a man to see if you are alive, but he
will not be here for a long time. I will be your friend. When you
want me think of me and I will come."
The man went away and the boy fell asleep. In the morning he found
a pile of wood at the door, and on a low limb of a tree hung a piece
of deer meat. Now he was happy; he built a fire and cooked some
of the meat.
The next night the man came again; he stopped at the door, and
shook his feet, as if shaking off snow, but he didn't go in. He
called to the boy, and said, "The man who is coming won't help
you; he has taken the form of a bear. He will be here at midday,
tomorrow. In the morning you will find, between the roots of the
old stump near the door, a rusty knife. Sharpen it and kill the
bear. When you hear him coming, run to the spring where the tall
hemlock stands, and climb the tree; the bear will follow you. Slip
down on the other side and as he is coming down stab him in the
The boy did as the voice told him. When he had killed the bear,
he went back to the cabin. The next night the stranger came to the
door, and said, "My friend, men are coming for you. Go home
with them, they will be good to you. The chief will adopt you and
you will become the swiftest runner living, but don't be proud and
boast of your power. I am your friend but you will never see me.
I am the one who is called Géha. If you are in trouble think
of me and I will help you. When the men come they will ask about
the messenger the chief sent, you will say, 'I haven't seen a man,
but one morning a strong wind went through the woods.'"
The next day four men came with food for the boy. They saw that
he had wood and meat, but no bow or arrow. He went home with the
men and the chief had him brought to his own house, for the child's
relatives were all dead.
The chief said, "You will be my grandson and live with me."
When they gave the boy a bow and arrows, he asked for a club.
"What do you want of a club?" asked the chief.
"To kill deer."
The chief had a club made for him. He chased deer, overtook them
hit them on the head and killed them. He killed bird's before they
could fly away. Géha had told him he would be the swiftest
runner living and he always had that in mind. When he saw boys running
he laughed, and thought, "That running is nothing. I can run
faster than any boy living."
One night some one struck on the door near the boy's bed and a
man called out, "Who is in here?"
"I am," answered the boy.
"Well, I challenge you to run a race with me. You think you
are the swiftest runner in the world. We will start from the second
mountain and run from sunrise till sundown."
In the morning the boy asked the chief, whom he called Grandfather,"
if in the night he had heard some one talking outside.
"I did not," answered the chief.
"Well, a man came and challenged me to run a race,"
"I don't think it was a man," said the chief; "it
must have been a beast and I am afraid you will get killed."
"I've been challenged, and I must go," said the boy.
"I must be ready the third morning from this."
He made ten pairs of moccasins, put flint in his arrows, and parched
corn to eat. On the third morning he started, When near the appointed
place he saw a dark mass. At first he didn't know what it was, but
when daylight came he saw it was a great bear.
When the sun appeared, the bear said, "Now, we'll start."
He leaped across the valley and on to the first mountain; where
he struck the ground sank. He leaped from mountain to mountain,
but the boy had to run through the valleys.
At midday the bear was ahead and the boy thought, am lost. I wish
my friend Géha would come."
That minute Géha came as a whirlwind and carried the boy
far ahead of the bear. As Géha traveled he threw down trees
and that delayed the bear for it had to jump over them.
At last the bear's strength gave out and he called to the boy that
he might have his life.
The boy killed the bear, then he burned tobacco to friend Géha
and asked to be taken home,
Géha carried him in a whirlwind and put him down in front
of the chief's house.
"I have come, Grandfather," said the boy, "I have
killed bear. You must send men to bring it home."
The chief sent eight men. They were twenty days going and twenty
returning, the boy wasn't half a day, for Géha had carried
him over the woods and under the clouds.
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