Native American Legends
The Hunter who became a Fish
A Seneca Legend
Two brothers started off to hunt. After they had I camped they
heard a peculiar noise and one of them said, "I am going to find
out what that is," and he followed the sound. It seemed to come
from inside a hollow tree. Thinking there might be a bear in the
tree the young man ran back to camp and said to his brother, "There
must be a bear in that tree over there, but it makes a noise like
They went to the tree and one of them climbed up and looked into
the hole. At first he couldn't see anything. Then, at the bottom
of the hole, he saw a spotted trout jumping around.
He got the trout out and threw it down to his brother, who said,
"This is a curious fish. Let's take it to camp."
"Don't touch it," said the other, "It might be something that will
But the young man didn't listen; he took the trout to camp, cleaned
and ate it
Right away, he said, "Bring some water, I am thirsty."
Water was brought and he drank and kept drinking, "Couldn't drink
"I think the fish is making you sick," said his brother.
"Get more water," was the answer. "Take my moccasins and fill them."
When the young man was tired of bringing water he said to his brother,
"You must go to the spring where you can drink all the water you
He went to the spring, drank till he was tired, then rested and
drank again. When the other brother went to the spring he was frightened;
his brother's mouth was like the mouth of a fish.
"Doesn't your mouth feel strange?" asked he.
The man put up his hand and then knew that his mouth had grown
large, but he kept on drinking.
The next time the young man went to the spring his brother was
half fish; fish to the waist, and he was still drinking.
Later he went to the spring and found that his brother had become
a fish and gone into the water.
The next morning when the young man went to the spring, he saw
a great fish far under the water, and the spring had become a pond.
He sat down on the bank and soon the Fish rose to the surface,
and said, "My poor brother, go home and tell our father what has
happened to me. When you want fish come here and get all you need;
this pond will always be full of fish."
The young man went home and told what had taken place. The people
came to the pond; the Fish rose to the surface, and said, "I shall
not be a fish long, I am going to be a Nyagwaihe."
Soon the Fish changed to a Nyagwaihe (a great bear). The Bear stayed
around the pond and of each party that came to fish, it killed and
ate one man. Nobody saw this, but each party always lost one of
its number, and people began to think that if the Bear lived long
it would kill a great many men.
A council was called to decide what to do, and three young, men
promised to kill the Bear. They went to the pond, but never came
The Bear's brother said, "I will go to the pond, maybe I can drive
And taking parched corn flour to eat, new moccasins to wear, and
a good bow and twelve arrows he went to the pond and camped on the
That night he dreamed that his brother, in the form of a man, came
to him, and asked, "Why are you here? I can kill you."
And he answered, "I came to drive you away, for you are doing a
great deal of harm."
The man said, "I will start at daylight and run. Follow, and see
if you can overtake me."
The next morning the young man went in the direction the man had
indicated, running as fast as he could. Just at midday he saw bear
tracks, and he called out, "Now I'll overtake you!"
He ran faster than before, ran till dark, then camped and built
a fire. When he opened his bundle of corn flour it had turned to
ants; he had nothing to eat. The Bear had done this to deprive his
brother of food.
While the young man sat by the fire thinking, he heard some one
approaching; he knew it was the Bear and he had drawn his bow, ready
to aim, when the Bear called out, "Wait, brother, till I talk with
you. If you will let me go I will start early tomorrow morning,
and leave this part of the country forever."
The brother said, "I will let you go."
They parted and the next morning the young man went back to his
village and told the people what had happened and said, "You can
fish in the lake as much as you like; no one will trouble you.
And so it proved.
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