Native American Legends
The Magic Arrows
An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown
There was once a young man who wanted to go on a journey. His mother
provided him with sacks of dried meat and pairs of moccasins, but
his father said to him: "Here, my son, are four magic arrows.
When you are in need, shoot one of them!"
The young man went forth alone, and hunted in the forest for many
days. Usually he was successful, but a day came when he was hungry
and could not find meat. Then he sent forth one of the magic arrows,
and at the end of the day there lay a fat Bear with the arrow in
his side. The hunter cut out the tongue for his meal, and of the
body of the Bear he made a thank-offering to the Great Mystery.
Again he was in need, and again in the morning he shot a magic
arrow, and at nightfall beside his camp-fire he found an Elk lying
with the arrow in his heart. Once more he ate the tongue and offered
up the body as a sacrifice. The third time he killed a Moose with
his arrow, and the fourth time a Buffalo.
After the fourth arrow had been spent, the young man came one day
out of the forest, and before him there lay a great circular village
of skin lodges. At one side, and some little way from the rest of
the people, he noticed a small and poor tent where an old couple
lived all alone. At the edge of the wood he took off his clothes
and hid them in a hollow tree. Then, touching the top of his head
with his staff, he turned himself into a little ragged boy and went
toward the poor tent.
The old woman saw him coming, and said to her old man: "Old
man, let us keep this little boy for our own! He seems to be a fine,
bright-eyed little fellow, and we are all alone."
"What are you thinking of, old woman?" grumbled the old
man. "We can hardly keep ourselves, and yet you talk of taking
in a ragged little scamp from nobody knows where!"
In the meantime the boy had come quite near, and the old wife beckoned
to him to enter the lodge.
"Sit down, my grandson, sit down!" she said, kindly;
and, in spite of the old man's black looks, she handed him a small
dish of parched corn, which was all the food they had.
The boy ate and stayed on. By and by he said to the old woman:
"Grandmother, I should like to have grandfather make me some
"You hear, my old man?" said she. "It will be very
well for you to make some little arrows for the boy."
"And why should I make arrows for a strange little ragged
boy?" grumbled the old man.
However, he made two or three, and the boy went hunting. In a short
time he returned with several small birds. The old woman took them
and pulled off the feathers, thanking him and praising him as she
did so. She quickly made the little birds into soup, of which the
old man ate gladly, and with the soft feathers she stuffed a small
"You have done well, my grandson!" he said; for they
were really very poor.
Not long after, the boy said to his adopted grandmother: "Grandmother,
when you see me at the edge of the wood yonder, you must call out:
'A Bear! There goes a Bear!"
This she did, and the boy again sent forth one of the magic arrows,
which he had taken from the body of his game and kept by him. No
sooner had he shot, than he saw the same Bear that he had offered
up, lying before him with the arrow in his side!
Now there was great rejoicing in the lodge of the poor old couple.
While they were out skinning the Bear and cutting the meat in thin
strips to dry, the boy sat alone in the lodge. In the pot on the
fire was the Bear's tongue, which he wanted for himself.
All at once a young girl stood in the doorway. She drew her robe
modestly before her face as she said in a low voice:
"I come to borrow the mortar of your grandmother!"
The boy gave her the mortar, and also a piece of the tongue which
he had cooked, and she went away.
When all of the Bear meat was gone, the boy sent forth a second
arrow and killed an Elk, and with the third and fourth he shot the
Moose and the Buffalo as before, each time recovering his arrow.
Soon after, he heard that the people of the large village were
in trouble. A great Red Eagle, it was said, flew over the village
every day at dawn, and the people believed that it was a bird of
evil omen, for they no longer had any success in hunting. None of
their braves had been able to shoot the Eagle, and the chief had
offered his only daughter in marriage to the man who should kill
When the boy heard this, he went out early the next morning and
lay in wait for the Red Eagle. At the touch of his magic arrow,
it fell at his feet, and the boy pulled out his arrow and went home
without speaking to any one.
But the thankful people followed him to the poor little lodge,
and when they had found him, they brought the chief's beautiful
daughter to be his wife. Lo, she was the girl who had come to borrow
his grandmother's mortar!
Then he went back to the hollow tree where his clothes were hidden,
and came back a handsome young man, richly dressed for his wedding.
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