Native American Legends
The Rolling Head
A Cheyenne Legend
In a solitary tent lived a lone family,--a man, his wife, and two
children. When the man went out hunting, he always painted his wife's
face and body before he started in the morning. His wife went for
water to a lake near by.
She always went to the same place; and when she came to the lake,
she took off her clothes, as if to bathe. Then a large snake rose
out of the lake, after the woman had spoken to it and told it to
appear. The snake asked her to come out to him, since her husband
had gone away hunting. The woman did as the snake said. Every morning
she went to the lake.
Her husband brought back meat, and she and the children were glad.
The man did not know what happened. He did not know that his wife
went after water to the lake and met a large snake. But one day
he asked her what made the paint come off her. She said that she
took a bath. Next morning he started as if to hunt; but dug a hiding-place
near the lake to see what his wife did. She came to the shore and
called to the snake: "Come, I am waiting." Then he saw
a big old snake rise from the water, and ask her if her husband
had gone hunting. She answered: "Yes, I am coming." She
took off her clothes and entered the lake, and the snake was soon
The man had watched them, and now, leaving. his hiding-place, he
jumped on the snake, and with a large knife cut it in pieces and
at last killed it. Then he caught his wife and killed her. He cut
her up, and took her meat home and gave it to his children. He cooked
his wife, and the children unknowingly ate their mother.
Then the man said to them: "Tell your mother when she comes
home that I went to get more meat which I left hanging on a tree
so that the wolves cannot reach it." And he went away. The
younger child said: "Our mother is merely teasing us by staying
away." But the older girl answered: "Do not say anything
against our mother." Then their mother's head came rolling
to them; and it said: "I am very sorry that my children have
eaten me up."
The two children ran away, but the head pursued them. At last they
were worn out, but their mother's lead still rolled after them.
Then the older girl drew a line or mark on the ground and so deep
a hole opened that the head could not cross. The younger girl was
very hungry. She said to her sister: "Look at that deer."
The older girl looked at the deer, and it fell down dead as if shot.
So they ate of it. Then some one was kind to them and helped them,
and they lived in a large lodge and had much food of various kinds
to eat. Two large panthers and two large black bears guarded them
against all wild animals and persons.
A camp of people was starving. Neither buffalo nor smaller game
could be found. The people heard that the children had abundance
of food of all kinds, and they all moved to them. When they arrived
the children invited them, and the various companies came and ate
with them. Finally they all went out again; only the children's
father now stayed with them again. But they regretted what he had
done to them. So they caused the lions to jump upon their father,
and he was killed.
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