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Legend of Tu-Tok-A-Nu'-La (El Capitan)

A Miwok Legend

Here were once two little boys living in the valley who went down to the river to swim. After paddling and splashing about to their hearts' content, they went on shore and crept up on a huge boulder which stood beside the water.

They lay down in the warm sunshine to dry themselves, but fell asleep. They slept so soundly that they knew nothing, though the great boulder grew day by day, and rose night by night, until it lifted them up beyond the sight of their tribe, who looked for them everywhere.

The rock grew until the boys were lifted high into the heaven, even far up above the blue sky, until they scraped their faces against the moon. And still, year after year, among the clouds they slept.

Then there was held a great council of all the animals to bring the boys down from the top of the great rock. Every animal leaped as high as he could up the face of the rocky wall. Mouse could only jump as high as one's hand; Rat, twice as high.

Then Raccoon tried; he could jump a little farther. One after another of the animals tried, and Grizzly Bear made a great leap far up the wall, but fell back. Last of all Lion tried, and he jumped farther than any other animal, but fell down upon his back.

Then came tiny Measuring-Worm, and began to creep up the rock. Soon he reached as high as Raccoon had jumped, then as high as Bear, then as high as Lion's leap, and by and by he was out of sight, climbing up the face of the rock.

For one whole snow, Measuring-Worm climbed the rock, and at last he reached the top. Then he wakened the boys, and came down the same way he went up, and brought them down safely to the ground. Therefore the rock is called Tu-Tok-A-Nu'-La, the measuring worm. But white men call it El Capitan.

Legend of Tu-Tok-A-Nu'-La (El Capitan)

Here is the same story again. Told slightly differently.

Two young and curious Indian boys, long ago, lived in Yosemite Valley. They were always exploring faraway places, climbing ledges where later they needed rescue, yet they continued their adventures.

One day, they came upon a new lake and decided to swim across to a large rock. When they reached the opposite shore, they climbed to the top of the huge rock to rest in the sunshine, but soon they fell asleep. On and on they slept through that night, the next, and the next night, until many moons had come and gone.

Can you imagine what happened to that rock? It kept right on growing and growing, rising higher and higher, until the faces of the two Indian boys brushed the sky.

Of course their families were distraught in the beginning, but finally gave up hope of ever seeing their two lost sons again.

Now it happened that many animals had heard from their ancestors about what had happened to the two lost Indian boys. At a council gathering of the animals, they were wondering how they could help bring the boys down as the huge rock had grown into a giant granite mountain.

All of the animals decided to have a contest. Every creature would try to jump up to the mountain top. Poor little mouse only jumped a foot, larger rat leaped two feet, strong raccoon much higher, grizzly bear made a mighty leap, but he was too heavy, mountain lion took a long run and jumped, but he fell down flat on his back. None could jump high enough.

Insignificant little measuring-worm came late to the contest. Everyone explained to him their predicament. None could leap high enough to the top of the mountain to rescue the two boys.

Measuring-worm decided to try. Step by step, inch by inch, little by little he began measuring his way up the granite wall that reached to the sky. He went so high that he was out of sight!

Up and up he crawled through many sleeps and through many moons, almost through a whole snow. Measuring-worm kept on crawling and at last reached the top of the giant mountain, whose magic somehow allowed the boys to remain boys!

What fun they experienced on the way down! Measuring-worm led them on a continuous, circuitous slide around and around the slippery snowy sides of the mighty mountain. They laughed and screamed with delight at the adventure they were having.

At last, measuring-worm and the two Indian boys were safe on the ground again. Their animal friends gathered to welcome them down from the sky, as well as the elders and braves of the Yosemite tribe.

From that day on to this, the great granite mountain has been called by the Indians Tu-Tok-A-Nu'-La, which means "measuring- worm." Later, the Spaniards named the mountain El Capitan, a name that now appears on most maps of the Yosemite National Park.

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