Native American Legends
Little Brother snares the Sun
A Winnebago (Hotcâk) Legend
At the beginning when the earth was new, the animals were the chiefs.
They were more powerful than humans, whom they hunted, killed, and
Finally they killed all the people except one girl and her little
brother, who lived in hiding. The brother was very small, no bigger
than a newborn child, but the girl was normal in size. Because she
was so much bigger, she took care of him and did all the work.
One winter day the girl had to go out and gather food in the woods.
To keep Little Brother occupied, she gave him her bow and arrows.
"Hide until a snowbird comes," she told him. "Wait
until he looks for grubs in the huge dead tree. Then kill him with
one of your arrows."
She went off, and the snowbird came, but Little Brother's arrows
missed him. "It doesn't matter," the sister said when
she came home. "Try again tomorrow."
The next day she went into the forest again. Once more the bird
came, and this time the boy's arrow hit and killed him. Proudly
he showed the bird to his sister when she returned at night.
"Sister, I want you to skin the snowbird and stretch the hide,"
he said. "I'll be killing more birds, and when we have enough
skins, you can make a feather robe for me."
"But what shall we do with the meat?" asked the girl.
At that time people ate only berries and other green things, because
they didn't hunt; it was the animals who hunted them. "Make
soup out of it," said Little Brother, who was clever in spite
of his size.
Every day for ten days he shot a snowbird, and his sister made
him a fine feather robe from the skins.
"Sister, are there no other people in this world?" he
asked one day. "Are we the only ones?"
"There may be others," she said, "but we don't dare
go looking for them. Terrible animals would stalk and kill us."
But Little Brother was consumed with curiosity. So when his sister
went off to gather food again, he set out to look for other humans.
He walked a long time but met neither people nor animals. He got
so tired that he lay down in a spot where the sun had melted the
snow away. While he was sleeping, the sun rose and shot fiery rays
upon Little Brother.
Waking up, the boy found that his feather robe had scorched and
tightened around him so that he couldn't move. To free himself he
had to tear it apart, ruining it. He shook his fists and shouted,
"Sun, I'll get even! Don't think you're so high that I can't
get at you! Do you hear me up there?"
Angry and sad, Little Brother returned home. He wept when he told
his sister how the sun had spoiled his feather robe. He lay down
on his right side for ten days and refused to eat or drink.
Still fasting, he lay on his left side for another ten. After twenty
days he got up and told his sister to make a snare for him to catch
the sun. She had only a short length of dried deer sinew, and out
of that she made a noose.
"I can't catch the sun with this little thing," he said.
So the girl made a string for him out of her hair, but he said,
"This isn't long or strong enough."
"Then I'll have to make a snare out of something secret,"
She went out and gathered many secret things and twisted them into
a strong cord. The moment he saw it, Little Brother said, "This
is the one!" To wet the cord he drew it through his lips again
and again, so that it grew longer and stronger.
Then Little Brother waited until the middle of the night, when
it is darkest. He went out and found the hole through which the
sun would rise, and at its entrance he set his snare.
When the sun came up at the usual time, he caught and held fast,
and there was no day that day. There was no light, no warmth.
Even though the animals were the chiefs who had killed and eaten
the people, they were afraid. They called a council of all their
elders and talked for a long time. At last they decided that the
biggest and most fearsome of all the animals should go and gnaw
through the cord holding the sun.
This animal was Dormouse, who was not small, as it is now, but
as big as a mountain. Even so, Dormouse was afraid of the sun. "What
you want me to do is dangerous," she said, "but I'll try."
Dormouse went to the place where the sun rises and found him in
Struggling to free himself, the sun had grown hotter. As Dormouse
approached, the hair on her back smoked and was singed off, but
she crouched down and began to gnaw at the cord. She chewed and
chewed and after a long time managed to bite it in two.
Freed at last, the sun rose at once and made everything bright
again. But the heat had shriveled Dormouse down to her present size,
and the sun's rays had half blinded her. So she was given the name
of Kug-e-been-gwa-kwa, Blind Woman.
Though brave Dormouse had freed the sun, everybody realized that
Little Brother, who had snared the sun, was the wisest being in
this world, and the one with the greatest power.
Since that time the humans have been the chiefs over the animals,
the hunters instead of the hunted.
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