Native American Legends
The adventures of Wolf-Marked
A Seneca Legend
A brother and sister lived together. The brother loved his sister
so well that he did not want her to work; he did all the work himself.
Each morning when he was starting off to hunt he said to her. "You
mustn't go out," and he fastened the door. When he came home in
the evening he cooked and after they had eaten he said to his sister,
"Lie down and sleep, I am going to a council."
The sister never knew when her brother came home, but when she
wakened in the morning he was cooking. The girl didn't like to be
fastened in, she said nothing, but all the time she was thinking
how she could get out of the house.
At last a night came when her brother started off forgetting to
fasten the door, then she determined to follow, him to the council.
She found his tracks and after following them a long distance came
to a house; she pushed the skin door aside and went in.
An old man sat by a fire making a wooden ladle. He looked up, and
said, "Thank you, my niece, I have waited a long time for you to
"I have come to get you to do something for me," said the girl.
"I expected that you would ask me to do something for you. There
they are, take your choice," and he pointed to a pile of ladles.
"It isn't a ladle that I want."
"What is it then? Any one who wishes for something asks for it."
"I want you to destroy my brother. He keeps me fastened into the
"I can't do that; your brother has great power. Perhaps my brother
who lives near here can; he has greater power than I have."
The girl went on. She soon came to an opening and in the opening
was a house. She went to the house and looking through a crack saw
an old man making bark bowls.
"Come in!" called the old man. "I have been expecting you."
"I have come to get you to do something for me," said the girl.
"There they are, take your choice," said the old man pointing to
a pile of bowls.
"I don't want a bowl."
"What do you want?"
"I want you to destroy my brother."
"I can't destroy him, but I can make him go a long way off."
"Do that," said the girl.
"This is what you must do," said the old man. "When you get home
begin to help about the cooking. Tomorrow morning, just as the
sun comes up, look toward the South till you see me. I shall come
in the form of a white turkey. When you see me, call to your brother,
'Oh, catch that turkey! I want it for a pet.' He will say, 'I have
never heard of any one's having a turkey for a pet.' Then say, 'Kill
it for me.' Stand just back of the door and as he draws to shoot
push the door, hit the arrow and make it glance off, then your brother's
courage will appear, he will say, 'I have never been outrun,' and
he will chase me."
The next morning the girl insisted on helping her brother cook.
Just at sunrise she saw a turkey coming from the South. When it
was near the cabin she called out, "Oh, brother, catch that white
turkey! I want it for a pet."
"Who ever heard of having a turkey for a pet?" asked he.
"Well, kill it for me."
The man fixed an arrow in his bow and as he let it fly, the girl
shut the door so quickly that it hit the arrow and sent it away
from the turkey--then off ran the man to catch the bird.
The two ran till midday, the turkey always a little ahead. Then
the turkey called out, "Let us rest. Mark where you stop and I will
mark where I stop." After resting a while they started again and
ran till dark, then the turkey called out, "Let us rest till morning."
The man lay down at the foot of a tree; the turkey roosted in a
hemlock not far away. Early the next morning they started; rested
at midday, and when the sun went down they stopped for the night.
For ten days they ran, then the man began to gain on the turkey.
The eleventh day they were running along the edge of a precipice
when the turkey turned, ran around the man and pushed him over the
cliff saying "This is the kind of man I am, I cannot be overcome."
At the bottom of the cliff was a swift river. The man struck the
water and floated down till he came to a fish dam made by the women
of the river. He lodged in the dam. Soon two girls came to the river
to see if they had caught many fish. One said to the other, "Look!
there is a dead man in the dam. Run and tell mother to come!"
The old woman came and the three pulled the man out of the water.
On each side of this man's body was the mark of a wolf.
"It is the Wolf-Marked man," said the mother. "He has never been
They carried the man to the house and began to work over him; in
a short time he opened his eyes, but he could not speak. By motions
he made the girls understand that he wanted to smoke. One of the
girls looked around for a pipe, then he motioned for his pouch.
She found a pipe in the pouch and was about to light it when he
motioned her to give it to him. He put the pipe between his lips
and drawing twice or three times lighted it.
The smoke gave him strength and soon he said, "Hang skin blankets
The old woman said, "From now on you will be my son, and these
girls will be your sisters."
The women took great care of Wolf-Marked, and he was soon as well
One day steps were heard outside, the door was kicked open and
a man came in. "I've come to give you some pudding, said he, as
he threw down a lot of nasty bark. He went off and the women swept
out the bark.
"Have you a bow and arrows?" asked Wolf-Marked.
The old woman gave him a bow and arrows. He dusted the bow and
straightened the arrows, then stringing an arrow and saying to it,
"Go and kill a bear," he shot it through the smoke hole. Soon a
noise was heard outside. The women went to the door and found a
bear lying dead on the ground. They skinned it and cutting up the
meat put it where it would dry.
The next morning a man kicked the door open and was about to throw
down a bundle of nasty bark when he saw the meat, and, knowing there
must be a man around, he turned and ran off. Soon afterward Wolf-Marked
said, "A man is coming to visit me. When he gets here let him come
inside the skin blankets."--He had always stayed behind the blankets
the women hung up when he first came.
The next morning when the dew was getting off the grass, the women
saw a man coming; he was unkempt and shabby. When he reached the
house, the mother told him to go behind the skins. The women heard
the two men talking; toward night Shabby Man came out and went away.
In a few days the same man came again. This time he brought news:
the chief's daughters were to marry but their husbands must be men
who possessed powerful spirits. Spirits that could take any form
they liked, walk around a fire and scatter wampum beads.
"Will you try?" asked Shabby Man.
"No," said Wolf-Marked.
That night Shabby Man went to the chief's house. All the powerful
men were there. When they saw Shabby Man they pushed him out, but
he looked through a crack and saw what was going on.
The power of the first man who tried was in a fisher pouch. He
called the pouch to life and sent it around the fire. It went half
way, then dropped down, a pouch again.
The second man's power was in a mink pouch. The pouch became a
live mink, took wampum beads from a nearby pile and scattered them
till a little more than half way around the fire, then the mink
dropped down, a pouch again. Each man tried his power, but the power
died before it got around the fire.
After a while, the chief said to the people, "Go home now, but
come again tomorrow night."
The next day Shabby Man urged Wolf-Marked to go to the chief's
house and try his power. At last Wolf-Marked said, "I will go tomorrow
Shabby Man went to the chief's house. Again he was thrown out and
again he looked in through a crack. The men cheered one another;
Shabby Man cheered too. Soon he saw that as each man tried, all
of the others blew against his power to prevent its getting around
the fire; Shabby Man blew too.
After a while the chief said, "Go home now; we will try again tomorrow.
That night when Wolf-Marked was walking around outside thinking
what he could use to show his power, he heard a noise and then a
voice said to him in a whisper, "I have come to help you. Here is
a pouch. You will find another pouch inside of this one. Your friend
will use the mud turtle pouch; the fawn pouch is yours, but you
must not go to the chief's house. Let the old woman and Shabby Man
go. Inside the pouches are little pieces of medicine for the woman
and Shabby Man to put in their mouths when they blow. When they
are in the chief's house they must sit side by side. The woman will
take the mud turtle pouch, shake it till it grows large and comes
to life, then Shabby Man will set it down and tell it to go around
the fire and not to let anything stop it. When the turtle gets around,
the woman must put the fawn pouch down, bring it to life and tell
it to go around the fire. When the turtle and fawn have won Shabby
Man must take one of the chief's daughters and go to his own home;
the other daughter must come to you.
Wolf-Marked took the pouches and thanked his friend.
The next morning, just at daylight, Shabby Man came and asked,
"Are you ready?"
"I am ready," answered Wolf-Marked.
"Well, let us try our power and see if we are going to succeed."
"We will succeed," said Wolf-Marked.
"Let us try so as to get used to doing it," urged Shabby Man.
"There is no need of trying," said the other.
Shabby Man urged a long time, then he went off but he soon came
back and began again, urged till he was tired, went off and again
came back to tease Wolf-Marked to try his power. All day he kept
going and coming back to urge again. At dark he said, "We must start
now or we will not get seats."
"Wait a while," answered his friend. "They will give us seats when
we get there."
After dark Wolf -Marked said to the old woman, "Mother, I want
you to go with this man to the chief's house."
Shabby Man was disappointed. "Won't you go?" asked he.
"No, my mother will go in my place."
"You had better go, we may fail."
"You will not fail," said Wolf-Marked.
On the road Shabby Man said, "Let us hurry!" And he went ahead
and waited. When the woman overtook him, he again urged her to walk
fast. At last they were there.
When the people saw Shabby Man and the woman they wanted to throw
them out, but the chief said, "Let them stay."
When Shabby Man's turn came he put the piece of medicine in his
mouth; the woman put down the turtle Pouch and urged the turtle
on. The people began to call for a close of the meeting. Shabby
Man insisted on trying and said, "O chief, give us a chance!"
The chief said to the people, "Sit down and give them a chance."
They did all they could to obstruct the turtle, but it came around
to the starting point. Shabby Man picked it up and gave it to the
woman. She shook it and made it small. It was again a pouch.
Shabby Man got up and took his place by the chief's daughter.
The people said, "Now we will go home," but the woman insisted
on having a chance. They got up to go, but she cried at the top
of her voice, "Come back, and let me try. If I succeed I have some
one to marry the chief's daughter."
The chief said, "Sit down and let the woman try."
She got the fawn skin pouch out and shook it. It became a live
fawn. She put it down and told it to run around the fire. It was
around in a flash.
The chief said, "This is the end. What I required has been accomplished."
Everyone went home, with Shabby Man went the chief's elder daughter.
The next morning men came to Wolf-Marked, and said,
The chief has sent for you to come and claim his daughter."
"She must come to me," said the young man, "and Shabby Man and
his wife must come too."
The three came, and Wolf-Marked was the husband of the chief's
The men hunted and killed plenty of game; the women took care of
the skins, and cooked. Some time passed. The men of the village
were jealous of Wolf-Marked and they plotted against him. They put
up a long pole, and said, "Whoever can lodge a ball on the top of
the pole will win, we have a man who can do it. We will challenge
Wolf-Marked and he will lose. The wager will be seven heads."
As the woman and her daughters sat in the house, they saw a man
coming on a run; the door flew open and in he came. When he saw
Wolf-Marked he said, "I have come to challenge you to lodge a ball
on the top of a pole, the wager is seven heads on each side."
"Very well," said Wolf-Marked. "That is the game amuse myself with."
When the runner left, the old woman began to cry and lament. "Don't
cry," said Wolf-Marked. "Nothing will happen to us." She only cried
the harder, and wailed that he would surely lose, and then the seven
members of the family would be destroyed. But after a time he was
able to quiet her.
That night when Wolf-Marked was standing outside and thinking about
the challenge, thinking that maybe he would lose, he heard a whisper
and a voice said, "When you were challenged you said, 'That is the
game I amuse myself with.' This will come true. Don't use, their
ball and don't begin the game. Here is the ball you are to use,
and here is a piece of medicine for you to put in your mouth when
you go to the place; with it in your mouth blow against their ball."
The next morning, when it was time to go, Shabby Man said, "I am
sick, I can't go. Couldn't you bet three against three, the old
woman and her two daughters on our side?"
"No," said Wolf-Marked, "We have agreed seven against seven. We
must all go."
When they reached the place, they saw a long pole standing in the
center of an opening. Seven men were standing near the pole; they
were the wager on the chief's side. Now Wolf-Marked and his wife,
the mother and her two daughters and Shabby Man and his wife stood
together as the wager on Wolf-Marked's side. Stuck into the pole
was a great flint knife with which to cut off their heads.
The chief asked Wolf-Marked to begin the game. When he refused
a man on the chief's side picked up the ball, rubbed it a long time,
then threw it into the air. It came down, hit the top of the pole
and bounded back and went up again. Wolf-Marked was blowing against
it, and he had the medicine in his mouth. At last he said in his
mind, "Let the ball fall." It came to the ground, then the chief
gave it to Wolf-Marked, and said, "Now it is Your turn."
"I have a ball of my own," said Wolf-Marked, and he refused to
take the chief's ball. He said to his own ball, "Be faithful. Don't
fall, stick to the pole."
He rubbed the ball in his hands, then threw it up, the whiz was
heard, and right away the ball was out of sight, After a long time
they heard it strike the sky, and it made a pleasant sound, a sound
that was heard by all of the people in the world. It came down,
hit the pole and bounded back to the sky. Three times it went to
the sky, The third time it hit, the sound was very faint. Many times
it went up, but a little lower every time.
Each man on the chief's side was wishing with all his power that
the ball would fall to the ground. The seven of Wolf-Marked's party
were wishing it to stay on the pole. There was great excitement.
The ball struck the top of the pole and stayed there.
"You have won the game," said the chief.
"That is what I expected. I knew that we would win," said Shabby
Man. And straightway he cut off the seven heads, the chief's wager.
Wolf-Marked and his friends went home and were happy, but the men
of the village were still plotting. After a good deal of talk one
of the men said, "This is what we will do: I am the swiftest runner
in the world. I have never been beaten. Challenge Wolf-Marked to
run a race with me. We will run around the lake, and the wager will
be seven heads."
A man went to Wolf-Marked and notified him of the race and its
"That is the game I like best," said he. "I have never been beaten;
I can outrun anyone."
When the old woman heard of the challenge, she cried and lamented.
"Stop crying," said Wolf-Marked. "Nothing will happen to us."
When everyone in the house was asleep, Wolf-Marked went outside
and stood thinking what he could do to win. All at once he heard
a whisper and a voice said, "Come here!"
He went toward the voice and listened, soon the voice said, "You
are going to run a race. You said that you liked the game; you will
not be disappointed this time. When the runner finds that you are
winning, he will throw back a buffalo horn. It will stick in your
foot, pull it out and throw it at him as hard as you can. You will
The next morning Wolf-Marked said to his family, "Get ready!"
"I am sick," said Shabby Man, "I can't go."
"You must go," said Wolf-Marked. "The wager is seven heads, we
must all be there."
When they reached the place, they saw a crowd of people, and seven
men standing a little to one side; they were the chief's wager.
The chief said, "Each runner must take hold of a long pole and
run against that hickory tree over there, bend the tree down drawing
the pole across it. When the pole comes off from the top and the
tree springs back, drop the pole and run." The pole was of red willow.
The runners started exactly at midday, the chief's runner holding
one end of the pole, Wolf-Marked the other. They had to pull hard
to bend the tree over. Just as they got the pole near the top, the
chief's runner let go of his end and Wolf-Marked was thrown far
back beyond the crowd of people. He sprang up and saying, "I have
never been beaten!" he gave a whoop and ran. His opponent was out
of sight. People shouted with joy.
Shabby Man rolled on the ground, and cried, "Oh, we are beaten!
We are beaten! If he had only said that the wager would be one head,
and that his own!"
When Wolf-Marked got out of sight, he called a mole, and said,
"You see that man running. Get ahead of him!"
Wolf-Marked went into the mole; the mole went under the ground
and came out ahead of the runner, who wasn't going very fast for
he thought Wolf-Marked was far behind.
After a while he saw a track and thought, "Can he be ahead?" then
he ran swiftly, but didn't see anyone. Looking again at the tracks
he said in his mind, "He is ahead!" and taking a buffalo horn out
of his pouch he told it to go to the young man and stick in his
foot; and he threw it. The horn overtook Wolf-Marked and as one
of his feet came up it went into it, and he fell to the ground.
He tried to pull the horn out, but couldn't. As the chief's runner
passed he called out, "Get up! I never before saw a man sit down
when he was running a race."
Just then Wolf-Marked's whispering friend said to him, "Pull the
horn out, throw it, and say, 'Go fast and enter the runner's foot
so deep that he can't get you out.'"
Wolf-Marked threw the horn and ran on. He hadn't gone far when
he saw his opponent sitting on the ground trying to get the horn
out of his foot. "Stop and help me," begged he.
"I didn't say that when you sent the horn into my foot, said Wolf-Marked,
and he ran on.
All the people were watching to see which runner was ahead. The
chief's party said, "We might as well begin to cut off those heads,
we will cut off six, then take Wolf-Marked's when he comes."
A man seized a flint knife and ran to Shabby Man, but the chief
called to him, "Wait till the runners get here."
At last they saw one runner, then the crowd shouted, "Our man is
coming! Our man is coming!"
When the runner came a little nearer, people began to feel uneasy;
they were not quite sure that it was their man--then they saw that
it was Wolf-Marked.
Shabby Man looked up, he had been sitting with his head down, thinking
that right away be was going to lose his life. Then he called out,
"Just as I told you! I knew Wolf-Marked would win."
When the runner came near, he called to his friend, "Why don't
you take the wager?"
Up jumped Shabby Man, and soon seven heads were lying on the ground.
Twin boys were born to Wolf-Marked and they were marked exactly
as he was. When the first one was born, the father picked him up
and threw him over the skin enclosure where he himself had stayed
when he first came to the old woman's cabin, and as he threw the
child, he said, "This, my first son, must grow to be a powerful
man." When the second child was born, he threw it over the enclosure,
and said, "This, my second son must grow to be a powerful man."
Nobody paid any attention to the children. After time talking was
heard, then a voice said, "Father, we wan t a club and a ball to
Wolf-Marked threw in a ball and a club. Some days passed, then
one of the boys called out, "Father, we are tired of the club and
ball, we want a bow and arrows.
He gave them a bow and made them red willow arrows.
For a time they were satisfied, then one called out, "Father we
want to go for our aunt!"
"Very well. When you start go in the direction the sun goes, and
don't let anything stop you."
The boys started. They went through a wide valley and climbed a
hill at the end of the valley. They were walking along quietly when
the younger brother called out, "Stop brother, and look at this."
"No," answered the elder brother, "our father told us not to stop."
The younger brother thought, "Yes, our father told us not to let
anything stop us," and he hurried on.
They had traveled a number of days when the younger boy asked,
"Brother, what would frighten you most?"
"Our father told us not to be frightened by anything," answered
the elder boy. "What would you be afraid of?"
"Of Big Head (Whirlwind)."
That minute the boys heard a great noise. From the southwest came
a terrible roar. The elder brother kept on; the younger was frightened,
but when Big Head was near he said to himself, "I won't be afraid."
That minute the roar and wind ceased.
At last the brothers came to a trail and saw foot-prints all going
in one direction. The trail ran north and south, the foot-prints
pointed north, some were very large, others were small.
The elder brother glanced at the tracks and went on, the Younger
stopped and looking at the tracks said, "Let us follow them and
find out what is going on."
"Our father told us not to stop," answered his brother.
"It won't take long; we can come right back," urged the Younger.
The elder brother yielded and they followed the foot-prints; they
had not gone far when a man of enormous size came along, seized
the boys and, tucking one under each arm, walked off. Soon he came
to a village and going into a hut at the edge of it said to men
sitting around, "I have brought game. We will notify the: people."
The boys were taken to the long house in the center of the village.
Two large kettles were brought and made ready. As people came in
they went up and looked the game over. When the chief came, he looked
also, but what he saw frightened him. Right away he said, "Free
these boys; they are the sons of the Wolf-Marked Man. If we harm
them he will destroy us; he is the most powerful man in the world."
The people of this village were all Frost (or Ice) people.
They liberated the boys and the two traveled on till they came
to a beautiful country.
"I think that our aunt is near here," said the younger boy.
"Oh, no," said the elder, "she must be far away yet."
The younger brother insisted that his aunt was near and he began
to look around. The elder stopped and watched him.
The boy came to a hollow tree and in the opening saw the body of
"Come here, brother," called he, "I have found our aunt."
He struck the woman with his arrow; she didn't move, then he struck
her twice with his bow, and said, "Your brother has sent for you."
The woman moved and roused up a little; her face was covered with
scabs and sores and she was frightful to look at. The younger boy
rubbed her with saliva; the scabs fell off, and she was well. Then
the boys saw that she was a fine-looking woman.
"Now we will go home," said the younger brother, and the three
Wolf-Marked had forgiven his sister for trying to destroy him;
be was glad to see her. After this they all lived together happily.
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