Native American Legends
The Star Husband
An Arapaho Legend
There was a camp-circle. A party of women went out after some wood
for the fire. One of them saw a porcupine near a cottonwood tree
and informed her companions of the fact.
The porcupine ran around the tree , finally climbing it, whereupon
the woman tried to hit the animal, but he dodged from one side of
the trunk of the tree to the other, for protection. At length one
of the women started to climb the tree to catch the porcupine, but
it ever stopped just beyond her reach. She even tried to reach it
with a stick, but with each effort it went a little higher.
"Well!" said she, "I am climbing to catch the porcupine,
for I want those quills, and if necessary I will go to the top."
When porcupine had reached the top of the tree the woman was still
climbing, although the cottonwood was dangerous and the branches
were waving to and fro; but as she approached the top and was about
to lay hands upon the porcupine, the tree suddenly lengthened, when
the porcupine resumed his climbing.
Looking down, she saw her friends looking up at her, and beckoning
her to come down; but having passed under the influence of the porcupine
and fearful for the great distance between herself and the ground,
she continued to climb, until she became the merest speck to those
looking up from below, and with the porcupine she finally reached
The porcupine took the woman into the camp-circle where his father
and mother lived. The folks welcomed her arrival and furnished her
with the very best kind of accommodation. The lodge was then put
up for them to live in. The porcupine was very industrious and of
course the old folks were well supplied with hides and food.
One day she decided to save all the sinew from the buffalo, at
the same time doing work on buffalo robes and other things with
it, in order to avoid all suspicion on the part of her husband and
the old folks, as to why she was saving the sinew. Thus she continued
to save a portion of the sinew from each beef brought in by her
husband, until she had a supply suitable for her purpose.
One day her husband cautioned her that while in search of roots,
wild turnips and other herbs, she should not dig and that should
she use the digging stick, she should not dig too deep, and that
she should go home early when out for a walk.
The husband was constantly bringing in the beef and hide, in order
that he might keep his wife at work at home all the time. But she
was a good worker and soon finished what was required for them.
Seeing that she had done considerable work, one day she started
out in search of hog potatoes, and carried with her the digging
stick. She ran to a thick patch and kept digging away to fill her
bag. She accidentally struck a hole which surprised her very much,
and so she stooped down and looked in and through the hole, seeing
below, a green Earth with a camp-circle on it.
After questioning herself and recognizing the camp-circle below,
she carefully covered the spot and marked it. She took the bag and
went to her own tipi, giving the folks some of the hog potatoes.
The old folks were pleased and ate the hog potatoes to satisfy their
daughter-in-law. The husband returned home too, bringing in beef
Early one morning the husband started off for more beef and hides,
telling his wife to be careful about herself.
After he was gone, she took the digging stick and the sinew she
had to the place where she struck the hole. When she got to the
hole, she sat down and began tying string, so as to make the sinew
long enough to reach the bottom.
She then opened the hole and laid the digging stick across the
hole which she had dug, and tied one of the sinew strings in the
center of this stick, and then also fastened herself to the end
of the lariat. She gradually loosened the sinew lariat as she let
herself down, finally finding herself suspended above the top of
the tree which she had climbed, but not near enough so that she
could possibly reach it.
When the husband missed her, he scolded the old people for not
watching their daughter-in-law. He began to look for her in the
direction in which she usually started off, but found no fresh tracks,
though he kept traveling until he tracked her to the digging stick
which was lying across the hole.
The husband stooped down and looked into this hole and saw his
wife suspended from this stick by means of a sinew lariat or string.
"Well, the only way to do is to see her touch the bottom,"
said he. So he looked around and found a circular stone two or three
inches thick, and brought it to the place.
Again he continued, "I want this stone to light right on top
of her head," and he dropped the stone carefully along the
sinew string, and it struck the top of her head and broke her off
and landed her safe on the ground. She took up the stone and went
to the camp-circle.
This is the way the woman returned.
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