Native American Legends
How Rabbit and Owl were created
An Iroquois Legend
Raweno, the Everything-Maker, was busy creating all the types of
animals. One day he was hard at work on Rabbit. Rabbit said to him,
"I want long, strong legs and long ears like the Deer, and
sharp teeth and claws like the Panther."
"I do them they way they ask for them to be," said Raweno.
He made Rabbit's hind legs very long, just the way Rabbit had described.
Owl, still not formed, was sitting on a tree nearby waiting his
turn. "Whoo, whoo," he sang, " I want a long graceful
neck like Swan's, and bright red feathers like Cardinal's, and a
nice long beak like Egret's, and a beautiful crown of plumes like
Heron's. I want to be the most beautiful, fastest and wondrous of
"Hush," said Raweno. "Turn around and look somewhere
else. Close your eyes too. Don't you know that you are not allowed
to watch me while I work?" Just at that moment Raweno was making
Rabbit's ears quite long, just as Rabbit had asked him for.
Owl refused to turn away. "Whoo, whoo," he sang again.
"Nobody can forbid me to watch. Nobody can tell me to close
my eyes. I'm going to keep watching you, because I want to."
This made Raweno angry. He grabbed Owl and pulled him off the branch,
stuffed his head deep into his body and shook him until Owl's eyes
were wide with fright. He pulled at Owl's ears until they stuck
out from both sides of his head.
"That will teach you," said Raweno. "Now you won't
be able to crane your neck to watch things you are not supposed
to watch. Now you have big ears to hear when someone tells you what
not to do. Now you have big eyes - but not so big you can watch
me, because you will be awake only at night. And your feathers will
not be red like Cardinal's but gray like mud. This is your punishment
for disobeying me."
Owl went off pouting.
Then Raweno went back to finish Rabbit, but Rabbit had been so
frightened by Raweno's anger that he ran off half-done. As a consequence,
only Rabbit's hind legs are long, and he has to hop instead of run.
And since he was frightened before the work was complete, Rabbit
has remained scared of almost everything, and never got the claws
and sharp teeth he asked for. Had he not run away then, Rabbit would
have been a very different animal.
As for Owl, he remained as Raweno shaped him in anger - with big
eyes, a short neck and ears that stick out the sides of his head.
To make matters worse, he has to sleep during the day and only come
out at night.
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