Native American Legends
Quail kills cold weather and the Thunder Family
A Seneca Legend
A Man and his wife lived in an ugly-looking cabin in the forest.
They had one child, a little boy. When the boy was four or five
years old, another child was born, a boy no longer than a hand.
The mother died and the man burned the body. Then, wrapping the
baby up in a blanket, he put it in a hollow tree, for he thought
it was dead.
Each day the man went to hunt and left the elder boy to play around
the cabin. After a time the boy heard something crying in a hollow
tree and going to the tree he found a baby. The child was lonely
and almost starved. The boy fed it with soup he made of deer intestines.
The child drank the soup with great relish, drank again and again
and soon became strong. The boy gave his little brother plenty to
eat and at last he came out of the tree.
The two boys played together. The elder boy made the little one
a coat of fawn-skin and put it on him. Then, as he ran around, he
looked exactly like a chipmunk.
One day the father noticed a decrease of provisions and asked the
boy what he had done with the deer intestines.
The boy said, "I eat a good many."
The father looked around the fire and seeing very small tracks,
said, "Here are the tracks of a little child."
Then the boy told how he had found his brother, had fed him and
made a coat for him, and how they played together.
"Bring him in," said the father.
"He won't come; he is afraid."
"We will catch him. Tell him to come with you and hunt for mice."
The man caught a great many mice, put them in his bosom and his
clothes and, going beyond the hollow tree, turned himself into an
The boy went to the hollow tree, and called, "Come out, Brother,
we will play catching mice."
The little fellow came out of the tree and he and his brother ran
to the stump, ran around it and caught a number of mice. The child
laughed and shouted with joy. Suddenly the stump became a man. The
man caught the little boy and ran home. The child screamed and struggled.
No use; he couldn't get away; but he wouldn't be pacified. At last
his father put a little club in his hand, and said, "Strike that
tree!"--A great hickory that stood near the house.
The child struck the tree, the tree fell to the ground. Everything
that he hit with his club was killed. He was delighted, he didn't
cry any more.
The little fellow stayed now with his brother and the two played
while their father was off hunting.
"You must not go towards the North," said their father; "bad people
"Let's go North," said the little one, as soon as his father was
out of sight, "I want to find out what is there."
The boys started and went on till they came to wooded and swampy
ground, then the little one heard people call, "My father my father,
my father," and he said to himself, Those people want to hurt my
father, I'll kill them."
He piled up stones, made them red hot, and hurled them "'to the
swamp till he had killed all the people there--they were frogs and
they sang, "Ho´qwa! Ho´qwa!"
When the boys got home their father was angry, and said, "You must
not go to the swamp again, and you must not go West. It is dangerous
The next day when his father had gone hunting, the little boy said
to his brother, "I want to know what is in the West, let us go there."
The two traveled West till they came to a tall pine tree. On the
top of the tree was a nest made of skins.
"Oh," said the little boy, "that is a queer place for a nest. I
would like to see what is in it. I'll climb up there."
Up he went and on the top of the tree he found two naked children,
a boy and a girl. They were terribly frightened when they saw him.
He pinched the boy till he cried out, "Father! Father! Some strange
child has come and is frightening me."
Suddenly a terrible voice was heard in the far West. The voice
came nearer and nearer, and a great dark object hurried along in
the air till it reached the nest on the top of the tree--It was
Old Man Thunder.
The boy raised his club and struck him on the head, crushed him
and he fell to the ground, dead.
Then the boy pinched the little girl till she called out, "Mother!
Mother! Some strange boy has come and is teasing me."
That minute the voice of Mother Thunder was heard in the West and
soon she was at the nest.
The boy raised his club and struck her on the head and she too
fell to the ground, dead.
"This Thunder baby will make a splendid tobacco pouch for my father,"
thought the boy, "I'll take him home."
He struck the boy with his club and threw him to the ground. He
threw the little girl also, then he went down himself, and said
to his brother, "Now we will go home."
When the boys got home the little one said, "Oh, Father, I have
brought you a splendid pouch."
"What have you done now?" asked the father when he saw the Thunder
baby. "Old Man Thunder and his wife have never done us any harm.
They bring rain and do good, but they will destroy us in revenge
for what you have done."
"They'll not harm us," said the boy, "I've killed the whole family."
Another day the father said to the boys, "You mustn't go North,
that is the country of the Stone Coats (Ice and Great Cold)."
The elder brother wouldn't go, so the little one started off alone.
About midday he heard the loud barking of a Stone Coat's dog and
knowing that its master must be near he crawled into the heart of
a chestnut tree.
Soon Stone Coat came, looked at the tree, and said, "There is nothing
But his dog, as tall as a deer, barked and looked up, so Stone
Coat struck the tree with his mallet. The tree split open and the
boy fell out.
"What a strange little fellow you are," said Stone Coat, looking
at the boy, "You are not big enough to fill a hole in a tooth."
"I'm not here to fill holes in your teeth," said the boy, "I came
to go home with you and see how you live."
"All right! come with me."
Stone Coat was enormously tall, he carried two bears in his belt
as a common man would carry two squirrels. Once in a while he looked
down at the little fellow running by his side, and said, "Oh, you
are a curious little creature!"
Stone Coat's house was very large and long. The boy had never seen
anything like it.
Stone Coat skinned the two bears, took one himself and put one
before his visitor, saying, "Eat this bear or I'll eat you and the
"If you don't eat your bear before I eat mine, may I kill you?"
asked the boy.
"You may kill me," said Stone Coat.
The boy cut off pieces of meat as fast as he could and put them
in his mouth, but he kept running in and out, hiding the meat. He
was so small that Stone Coat didn't see what he was doing. In a
short time all of the flesh of the bear had disappeared, then he
said to Stone Coat, "You haven't finished eating your bear. I am
going to kill you."
Stone Coat said, "Wait till I show you how to slide down hill."
He took the boy to a long icy hill that ended in a cave,
put him in a bark bowl and sent the bowl down at great speed. Presently
the boy ran up to where he had started from.
"Where is my bowl?" asked Stone Coat.
"I don't know; it has gone down somewhere," said the boy.
"Let's see who can kick this log highest," said Stone Coat.
The log was large around, long and very heavy. Stone Coat put his
foot under the log and lifted it into the air twice his own length.
The boy put his foot under the log and sent it whistling through
the air. It was gone a long time, then came down on Stone Coat's
head and crushed him.
"Come home with me," said the boy to Stone Coat's dog.
"Now my father will have a splendid dog," thought he.
When the man saw the dog he cried out, "What have you done? Stone
Coat will kill us."
"I've killed Stone Coat. He'll not trouble us," said the boy.
"My boys," said the man, "You must never go Southwest. That is
where the people live who are always gambling."
The next day the little boy started off alone; about midday he
came to an opening in the woods. At the farther end of the opening
was a roof on posts, under the roof was a man whose head was larger
than the head of a buffalo. He was shaking dice for the heads of
men who came along. Crowds of men were betting in threes. When the
game was lost, the big-headed man had the three men stand on one
side while he played with three other men. When they lost, they
stood with the first three and so on till the number of losers was
large enough, then he cut off each man's head.
As the boy came, a large number of men had lost and were waiting
to be killed. Hope came to them for they knew that the boy had great
The game began again; the boy playing. When the bigheaded man threw
the dice, the boy caused some to remain in the dish and others to
go high and when they came back to be of different colors. He threw;
the dice became woodcocks, flew high and came down dice, all of
The two played till the boy won back the men who were waiting to
have their heads cut off, and the big-headed man lost his own head.
The crowd shouted, and said, "Now you must be our chief!"
"How could such a little fellow as I am be chief? Maybe my father
would like to be your chief, I will ask him."
The boy went home and told his father, but his father would not
go to the land of the gamblers, he said, "You have come back from
the Southwest, but you must not go to the East, bad men play ball
The next day the boy went toward the East till he came to a beautiful
plain, a large level space where Wolves and Bears were playing ball
with Eagles, Turtles and Beavers.
The boy took the side of the Wolves and Bears and they said, "If
you win the game for us, we will make you chief of this country."
The boy won.
He went home and said to his father, "I have won all the beautiful
country of the East. You must go there and be chief." The father
and his two sons went to that country and there they lived.--This
is the story.
The little boy is called Popkpéknos, Quail, and is said
to personify Summer or Warm Weather. He kills Stone Coat, a character
known to be Ice and Cold Weather, and he also kills the Thunder
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends