Native American Legends
How the Rabbit lost his tail
A Sioux Legend
Once upon a time there were two brothers, one a great genie and
the other a rabbit. Like all genie, the older could change himself
into any kind of an animal, bird, fish, cloud, thunder and lightning,
or in fact anything that he desired.
The younger brother (the rabbit) was very mischievous and was continually
getting into all kinds of trouble. His older brother was kept busy
getting Rabbit out of all kinds of scrapes.
When Rabbit had attained his full growth he wanted to travel around
and see something of the world. When he told his brother what he
intended to do, the brother said: "Now, Rabbit, you are Witkotko
(mischievous), so be very careful, and keep out of trouble as much
as possible. In case you get into any serious trouble, and can't
get out by yourself, just call on me for assistance, and no matter
where you are, I will come to you."
Rabbit started out and the first day he came to a very high house,
outside of which stood a very high pine tree. So high was the tree
that Rabbit could hardly see the top.
Outside the door, on an enormous stool, sat a very large giant
fast asleep. Rabbit (having his bow and arrows with him) strung
up his bow, and, taking an arrow from his quiver, said, "I
want to see how big this man is, so I guess I will wake him up."
So saying he moved over to one side and took good aim, and shot
the giant upon the nose. This stung like fire and awoke the giant,
who jumped up, crying: "Who had the audacity to shoot me on
"I did," said Rabbit.
The giant, hearing a voice, looked all around, but saw nothing,
until he looked down at the corner of the house, and there sat a
"I had hiccups this morning and thought that I was going to
have a good big meal, and here is nothing but a toothful."
"I guess you won't make a toothful of me," said Rabbit,
"I am as strong as you, though I am little."
"We will see," said the giant. He went into the house
and came out, bringing a hammer that weighed many tons.
"Now, Mr. Rabbit, we will see who can throw this hammer over
the top of that tree."
"Get something harder to do," said Rabbit.
"Well, we will try this first," said the giant. With
that he grasped the hammer in both hands, swung it three times around
his head and sent it spinning through the air. Up, up, it went,
skimming the top of the tree, and came down, shaking the ground
and burying itself deep into the Earth.
"Now," said the giant, "if you don't accomplish
this same feat, I am going to swallow you at one mouthful."
Rabbit said, "I always sing to my brother before I attempt
things like this." So he commenced singing and calling his
brother. "Cinye! Cinye!" (brother, brother) he sang. The
giant grew nervous, and said, "Boy, why do you call your brother?"
Pointing to a small black cloud that was approaching very swiftly,
Rabbit said: "That is my brother; he can destroy you, your
house, and pine tree in one breath."
"Stop him and you can go free," said the giant. Rabbit
waved his paws and the cloud disappeared.
From this place Rabbit continued on his trip towards the west.
The next day, while passing through a deep forest, he thought he
heard some one moaning, as though in pain. He stopped and listened;
soon the wind blew and the moaning grew louder. Following the direction
from whence came the sound, he soon discovered a man stripped of
his clothing, and caught between two limbs of a tall elm tree. When
the wind blew the limbs would rub together and squeeze the man,
who would give forth the mournful groans.
"My, you have a fine place up there. Let us change. You can
come down and I will take your place." (Now this man had been
placed up there for punishment, by Rabbit's brother, and he could
not get down unless some one came along and proposed to take his
place on the tree). "Very well," said the man. "Take
off your clothes and come up. I will fasten you in the limbs and
you can have all the fun you want."
Rabbit disrobed and climbed up. The man placed him between the
limbs and slid down the tree. He hurriedly got into Rabbit's clothes,
and just as he had completed his toilet, the wind blew very hard.
Rabbit was nearly crazy with pain, and screamed and cried. Then
he began to cry "Cinye, Cinye" (brother, brother). "Call
your brother as much as you like, he can never find me." So
saying the man disappeared in the forest.
Scarcely had he disappeared, when the brother arrived, and seeing
Rabbit in the tree, said: "Which way did he go?" Rabbit
pointed the direction taken by the man. The brother flew over the
top of the trees, soon found the man and brought him back, making
him take his old place between the limbs, and causing a heavy wind
to blow and continue all afternoon and night, for punishment to
the man for having placed his brother up there.
After Rabbit got his clothes back on, his brother gave him a good
scolding, and wound up by saying: "I want you to be more careful
in the future. I have plenty of work to keep me as busy as I want
to be, and I can't be stopping every little while to be making trips
to get you out of some foolish scrape. It was only yesterday that
I came five hundred miles to help you from the giant, and today
I have had to come a thousand miles, so be more careful from now
Several days after this the Rabbit was traveling along the banks
of a small river, when he came to a small clearing in the woods,
and in the center of the clearing stood a nice little log hut. Rabbit
was wondering who could be living here when the door slowly opened
and an old man appeared in the doorway, bearing a tripe water pail
in his right hand. In his left hand he held a string which was fastened
to the inside of the house. He kept hold of the string and came
slowly down to the river. When he got to the water he stooped down
and dipped the pail into it and returned to the house, still holding
the string for guidance.
Soon he reappeared holding on to another string, and, following
this one, went to a large pile of wood and returned to the house
with it. Rabbit wanted to see if the old man would come out again,
but he came out no more. Seeing smoke ascending from the mud chimney,
he thought he would go over and see what the old man was doing.
He knocked at the door, and a weak voice bade him enter. He noticed
that the old man was cooking dinner.
"Hello Tunkasina (grandfather), you must have a nice time,
living here alone. I see that you have everything handy. You can
get wood and water, and that is all you have to do. How do you get
"The wolves bring my meat, the mice my rice and ground beans,
and the birds bring me the cherry leaves for my tea. Yet it is a
hard life, as I am all alone most of the time and have no one to
talk to, and besides, I am blind."
"Say, grandfather," said Rabbit, "let us change
places. I think I would like to live here."
"If we exchange clothes," said the other, "you will
become old and blind, while I will assume your youth and good looks."
(Now, this old man was placed here for punishment by Rabbit's brother.
He had killed his wife, so the genie made him old and blind, and
he would remain so until some one came who would exchange places
"I don't care for youth and good looks," said Rabbit,
"let us make the change."
They changed clothes, and Rabbit became old and blind, whilst the
old man became young and handsome.
"Well, I must go," said the man. He went out and cutting
the strings close to the door, ran off laughing. "You will
get enough of your living alone, you crazy boy," and saying
this he ran into the woods.
Rabbit thought he would like to get some fresh water and try the
string paths so that he would get accustomed to it. He bumped around
the room and finally found the tripe water bucket. He took hold
of the string and started out.
When he had gotten a short distance from the door he came to the
end of the string so suddenly, that he lost the end which he had
in his hand, and he wandered about, bumping against the trees, and
tangling himself up in plum bushes and thorns, scratching his face
and hands so badly that the blood ran from them. Then it was that
he commenced again to cry, "Cinye! Cinye!" (brother, brother).
Soon his brother arrived, and asked which way the old man had gone.
"I don't know," said Rabbit, "I couldn't see which
path he took, as I was blind."
The genie called the birds, and they came flying from every direction.
As fast as they arrived the brother asked them if they had seen
the man whom he had placed here for punishment, but none had seen
The owl came last, and when asked if he had seen the man, he said
"The man who lived here," said the brother. "Last
night I was hunting mice in the woods south of here and I saw a
man sleeping beneath a plum tree. I thought it was your brother,
Rabbit, so I didn't awaken him," said the owl.
"Good for you, owl," said the brother, "for this
good news, you shall hereafter roam around only at night, and I
will fix your eyes, so the darker the night the better you will
be able to see. You will always have the fine cool nights to hunt
your food. You other birds can hunt your food during the hot daylight."
(Since then the owl has been the night bird).
The brother flew to the woods and brought the man back and cut
the strings short, and said to him: "Now you can get a taste
of what you gave my brother."
To Rabbit he said: "I ought not to have helped you this time.
Any one who is so crazy as to change places with a blind man should
be left without help, so be careful, as I am getting tired of your
foolishness, and will not help you again if you do anything as foolish
as you did this time."
Rabbit started to return to his home. When he had nearly completed
his journey he came to a little creek, and being thirsty took a
good long drink. While he was drinking he heard a noise as though
a wolf or cat was scratching the Earth. Looking up to a hill which
overhung the creek, he saw four wolves, with their tails intertwined,
pulling with all their might. As Rabbit came up to them one pulled
loose, and Rabbit saw that his tail was broken.
"Let me pull tails with you. My tail is long and strong,"
said Rabbit, and the wolves assenting, Rabbit interlocked his long
tail with those of the three wolves and commenced pulling and the
wolves pulled so hard that they pulled Rabbit's tail off at the
second joint. The wolves disappeared.
"Cinye! Cinye! (Brother, brother.) I have lost my tail,"
cried Rabbit. The genie came and seeing his brother Rabbit's tail
missing, said, "You look better without a tail anyway."
From that time on rabbits have had no tails.
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