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Native American Legends

The Possum and the Jaguar

An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown

The mother of the small possum told her son, "I think it's time that you went out and found someone to be your godfather."

So it was that the little possum went out to search for a godfather. First he headed for the jaguar's lair. The jaguar came to attention thinking that this would be an easy meal. The possum, however, quickly shouted out the purpose of his visit. "Señ or Jaguar, excuse me for bothering you, but the only thing I want is to ask if you would like to be my godfather."

"Ah, so you want me to be your godfather?" the jaguar asked.

"Yes," the possum replied.

"Very well, if that's what you want, then that's how it will be. Tomorrow I'll come for you so that we can go out and eat," the jaguar said.

"Very good, Godfather. I will be ready and waiting in the morning."

The next day the jaguar arrived at the possum's house and announced, "I have come to see my godson."

"Of course," the mother said. "Come in. He's waiting for you." So the possum went with his godfather to the plain where there was a little fountain or "eye of the water."

There other animals came to drink. Then the jaguar told the possum, "Get up in this tree and when I shout 'now there's meat', you should come quickly to find me."

"Very good, I'll do it, Godfather," said the possum and hid himself among the limbs of the tree. At noon the thirsty cattle began to come down the hills to the spring, and the last to arrive was a black bull.

"Now I will procure some food for my godson," said the jaguar. So while the bull was drinking the jaguar leaped out of his hiding place and attacked. He felled the bull in the mud at the edge of the spring. When the meal was ready the jaguar shouted, "Godson, come quickly. "Eat all that you want, dear godson. There is plenty of meat," the jaguar said.

The possum began to eat, but he could hardly finish a mouthful.

"Eat, eat, my godson. Don't waste the food we now have so abundantly," the jaguar said.

"Thank you godfather, but my stomach is very small and I cannot eat much," the possum answered.

The jaguar ate all that he could and left part of the kill for other animals. As they were leaving his godson said, "Many thank;s godfather, now it is my turn to invite you to a banquet as you have invited me."

On the day of the invitation the jaguar arrived at his godson's house. This time the possum was ready to provide the food for the banquet, and the jaguar accompanied his godson in search of meat. The possum headed toward a little village where some laborers had chickens and turkeys in their pens. They paused at the edge of the village to wait until everyone went to sleep.

At midnight the possum entered a pen to hunt. One by one he was carrying off the chickens and turkeys for his godfather to eat. The jaguar said he was still hungry, so the possum returned to the pen to capture more hens. This time the hens made a great racket and woke up their owners who came out with dogs, sticks and machetes, ready to chase those who were ravaging the hen house. They searched the plain with flaming pine torches but found nothing.

A few days later the little possum said to his mother, "Come with me to eat, Mama. I know how my godfather got very good meat and I will do the same."

His mother went with him to the scene of the hunt. "Climb up that tree while I hide in the bushes at the side of the spring When I shout, 'Now there is meat' I want you to come quickly."

In this manner the possum hid himself in the same place from which his godfather had ambushed his prey. At noon the cattle began to come down from the hill to drink before they took their rest. In a little while a single bull also came down. While the bull drank water the possum leaped upon him in the same way his godfather had done. But the bull was not frightened and simply began to shake himself to get rid of this tickling on his shoulder. As he shook himself he hurled the possum into the air. He landed and stuck in the mud. Unable to get out, the possum called to his mother for help.

"Come here, Mama. Now there is meat" he shouted. His mother jumped to the ground thinking the meat was now ready.

When she got to the spring she discovered her son almost dead, and she leaped to his rescue. But she too got trapped in the mire where it is said the two sadly died.

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