Native American Legends
Swan's daughters marry Earthquake's son
A Seneca Legend
One day Swan said to her two daughters, "My daughters, I have had
a great deal of trouble in rearing you. For a long time I've eaten
nothing but mushrooms, I am hungry for meat. You are old enough
to marry. Earthquake Old Woman lives near here. Her son, Split Face,
is a good young man and a great hunter. You must go and marry him."
The girls pounded corn for the marriage bread. The mother baked
twenty cakes in the ashes, wrapped them in corn husks, and put them
into a basket. She painted long red stripes on each girl's face
and combed her long hair.
Then, giving the basket to the elder, she said, "Don't stop till
you come to Earthquake's house. Don't ask the way of anyone, or
speak to anyone."
The elder sister took the basket and the two started. About midday
they saw a middle-aged man of the Owl people. He ran across the
trail and called out, "I have lost my arrow! I shot at a bird and
the arrow went so far that I can't find it."
"I will help you hunt for it," said the elder sister, putting her
basket down on a log.
The younger girl didn't want to look for the arrow. She said, "Mother
told us not to stop, or to speak to anyone," but she followed her
The man ran around the girls, seized the basket and carried it
off. When the girls couldn't find the arrow, they went back to the
log where they had left the basket. it was gone, and right away
they knew that the old man had fooled them. They went home and when
their mother asked what had become of the basket the second sister
said, "We met a man who had lost his arrow. While we were looking
for it, he stole our basket."
The mother scolded the elder sister, and said, "You don't care
for me. You know that I am hungry for meat, yet you disobey me.
We will make bread tomorrow and your younger sister will carry
it to Earthquake's house."
The next day the mother made marriage bread, got her daughters
ready for the road and gave them the same command as before.
The girls followed the same trail. Again they met Owl and this
time the elder sister asked how far it was to Earthquake's house.
"It isn't far," said Owl. "It is right over there," and he pointed
to his own house. They went to the house and going in saw Owl's
wife and his little boy. They put the basket of marriage bread down
near the woman.
Owl told his wife to go to the other side of the fire and pretend
to be his sister. He sat down between the two girls and when the
little boy called him "Father," he said, "He is my sister's son.
His father died yesterday, he is calling for him," and Owl began
to cry for his brother-in-law.
Someone was heard coming toward the cabin. Then there was a kick
on the door and a man called out, "O'Ówa, they want
you at the long house!"
Owl said, "My people always call me by a nickname. They are holding
a council and can't get along without me. I must go. I'll come back
soon," and he went away.
The younger sister said, "This isn't Earthquake's house. If we
can get our basket we will go home."
When Owl's wife fell asleep, the younger girl took the basket and
said to her sister, "Now we must go."
They started for home. Soon they came to an opening and in the
center of the opening was a long house. They crept up cautiously
and looking through a crack saw Earthquake and near her sat her
son, a nice looking young man. There were two fireplaces in the
house and many men and women were sitting around them. Owl was dancing
and as he danced people threw pieces of meat and of mush into his
mouth. The girls recognized him and knew that they had been fooled
again. They went into the house and putting the basket of bread
near Earthquake, they sat down, one on each side of the young man.
The mother was glad; she liked the girls. When Owl saw them, he
dropped his blanket and ran out of the house.
Swan's daughters lived with Split Face and were happy. He was a
good hunter and they had a plenty to eat. After a while their mother-in-law
said, "You must carry your mother some meat, she is hungry."
Earthquake took a large quantity of meat, made a pack of it, made
the pack small and giving it to the elder sister, said, "Have your
mother come back with you, I will give her a fire to live by."
When Swan had eaten enough and was glad, she went home with her
daughters. And she lived with them ever after happy and contented.
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