Native American Legends
The Fifth World
A Navajo Legend
First Man was not satisfied with the Fourth World. It was a small
barren land; and the great water had soaked the earth and made the
sowing of seeds impossible. He planted the big Female Reed and it
grew up to the vaulted roof of this Fourth World. First Man sent
the newcomer, the badger, up inside the reed, but before he reached
the upper world water began to drip, so he returned and said that
he was frightened.
At this time there came another strange being. First Man asked
him where he had been formed, and he told him that he had come from
the Earth itself. This was the locust. He said that it was now his
turn to do something, and he offered to climb up the reed.
The locust made a headband of a little reed, and on his forehead
he crossed two arrows. These arrows were dressed with yellow tail
feathers. With this sacred headdress and the help of all the Holy
Beings the locust climbed up to the Fifth World. He dug his way
through the reed as he digs in the earth now. He then pushed through
mud until he came to water. When he emerged he saw a black water
bird swimming toward him. He had arrows crossed on the back of his
head and big eyes.
The bird said: "What are you doing here? This is not your
country." And continuing, he told the locust that unless he
could make magic be would not allow him to remain.
The black water bird drew an arrow from back of his head, and shoving
it into his mouth drew it out his nether extremity. He inserted
it underneath his body and drew it out of his mouth.
"That is nothing," said the locust. He took the arrows
from his headband and pulled them both ways through his body, between
his shell and his heart. The bird believed that the locust possessed
great medicine, and he swam away to the East, taking the water with
Then came the blue water bird from the South, and the yellow water
bird from the West, and the white water bird from the North, and
everything happened as before. The locust performed the magic with
his arrows; and when the last water bird had gone he found himself
sitting on land.
The locust returned to the lower world and told the people that
the beings above had strong medicine, and that he had had great
difficulty getting the best of them.
Now two dark clouds and two white clouds rose, and this meant that
two nights and two days had passed, for there was still no sun.
First Man again sent the badger to the upper world, and he returned
covered with mud, terrible mud. First Man gathered chips of turquoise
which he offered to the five Chiefs of the Winds who lived in the
uppermost world of all. They were pleased with the gift, and they
sent down the winds and dried the Fifth World.
First Man and his people saw four dark clouds and four white clouds
pass, and then they sent the badger up the reed. This time when
the badger returned he said that he had come out on solid earth.
So First Man and First Woman led the people to the Fifth World,
which some call the Many Colored Earth and some the Changeable Earth.
They emerged through a lake surrounded by four mountains. The water
bubbles in this lake when anyone goes near.
Now after all the people had emerged from the lower worlds First
Man and First Woman dressed the Mountain Lion with yellow, black,
white, and grayish corn and placed him on one side. They dressed
the Wolf with white tail feathers and placed him on the other side.
They divided the people into two groups.
The first group was told to choose whichever chief they wished.
They made their choice, and, although they thought they had chosen
the Mountain Lion, they found that they had taken the Wolf for their
chief. The Mountain Lion was the chief for the other side. And these
people who had the Mountain Lion for their chief turned out to be
the people of the Earth. They were to plant seeds and harvest corn.
The followers of the Wolf chief became the animals and birds; they
turned into all the creatures that fly and crawl and run and swim.
And after all the beings were divided, and each had his own form,
they went their ways.
This is the. story of the Four Dark Worlds and the Fifth, the World
we live in. Some medicine men tell us that there are two worlds
above us, the first is the World of the Spirits of Living Things,
the second is the Place of Melting into One.
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