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Native American Legends

The Stone Boy

A Sioux Legend

The Four Brothers lived together without any woman, so they did the woman's work. One time, as the eldest was gathering wood after nightfall, something ran into his big toe. This pained him but little and soon he forgot it, but his toe began to swell and was soon as big as his head. Then he cut it open and found something in it. He did not know what it was, but his brothers washed it and found that it was a baby girl.

The Four Brothers kept the baby and gave it good food and fine clothes so that it grew to be a beautiful young woman. She could do a woman's work well and quickly and never allowed anyone leave their tipi cold or hungry. She could dress skins so that they were white and soft and from them make good clothing, upon which she put beautiful ornaments, and each ornament meant something.

Many young men tried to induce her to live with them, but she would not leave the Four Brothers. They told her that they would always keep her as their sister, and they did everything to please her. The eldest brother said "I will go and hunt deer so that our sister may have the skins to make clothing for herself." He went away and did not return. Then the next eldest brother said, "I will go and hunt buffalo so that our sister may have the skins to make robes for herself." He went away and did not return. Then the next youngest brother said, "I will go and hunt Elk so that our sister may have meat for herself." He too went away and did not return. Then the youngest brother said, "Sister, our brothers have gone away and have not returned. I will go and find them." So he went away and did not return.

When the youngest brother had been gone one moon, the young woman went to the top of a high hill to mourn, and to seek a vision. While she was mourning she saw a pebble which she looked at for long time, for it was very smooth and white, and then she put it in her mouth to keep from being thirsty. She fell asleep with the pebble in her mouth and swallowed it. While she slept the vision came to her in the form of a great beast, which told her that the Four Brothers were kept by a stone and that a stone would find them and bring them back to her.

She told this vision to a Shaman and asked him to tell her what it meant. The Shaman told her to marry and name her son the Stone. But she would not live with any man, for she remembered how good and kind the Four Brothers were, and she wished to live with them only.

Soon she grew big with child and gave birth to a baby boy. The flesh of this baby was as hard as stone, and she knew that it was mysterious (Wakan) and came from the pebble she had swallowed. She went far away and lived alone with her son. She taught him all the games and songs and all about Roots and Plants and Animals and Birds, so that he was cunning and wise. She gave him fine clothes and good food so that he grew up strong and brave though his flesh and was hard as stone. She would not allow him to hunt or join a war party, for she was afraid he would go away and never return like the Four Brothers.

Each Moon she went to top of the hill to mourn. When her son had grown to be a man he asked to why she went to mourn each Moon, and she said to him, "My son, you are now a man, and I will tell you why I mourn." So she told him the story of the Four Brothers, of her coming to them, of how they went away and did not return, of his own birth and the vision of a great beast.

She sang this song to him:

I am a mysterious woman.
I am like no other woman.

You are a mysterious man.
Your flesh is like stone.

You are the Stone Boy.
You are the stone the great beast told of.

He then sang to her:

I am the Stone Boy.
I am the stone that will aid you.

I will bring back your brothers.
My mother, I will make you happy.

He then said to her, "Mother, I will go to find your brothers. I will bring them to you." She said, "I am afraid you too will go away and never come back." He said to her,"What did the great beast to tell you? I am the stone." She said, "Go my son, but first you must be prepared with magic." She made a great feast and invited a wise Shaman, a wise old woman, a great brave, a great hunter and four maidens as the chief guests, and all the people as common guests. She placed the people as they belonged according to the bands, with her son among the chief guests. When all were satisfied with eating, she stood before the people and told the story of the Four Brothers; of her coming to them, of their going, of her vision, and birth and life of her son. She then told them to examine her son that they might know that he was mysterious (Wakan). The people all examined the young man, and when they found that his flesh was hard like stone, they said he was indeed mysterious and that he was the Stone Boy. She then told them that her son was to go in quest of the Four Brothers and she had invited the chief guests so that they would help her to prepare her son with the magic for his quest.

The chief guests agreed to do what she should ask of them. The Shaman gave the Stone Boy a charm (Pajuta-wakan-rea) that would keep all harm from him. The old woman gave him a robe on which she had painted a dream which she made the robe magical and made anyone who wore it invisible. The warrior gave him a magical spear that would pierce anything, and a magical shield that would ward off anything, and a magical club that would break anything. The hunter showed him how to find anything he wanted. His mother made clothes of good deerskin and the young women put ornaments on them. While ornamenting his clothing, they sang love songs and Shaman conjured the ornaments (Ca Kina Wakan Kaga) so that they were magical. On the sides of his moccasins they put mountains so that he could step from hill to hill without touching the valleys; on the tops they put dragonflies so that he could escape all danger; on his leggings they put wolf tracks so that he would never grow weary; on his shirt they put the tipi circle so that he could find shelter anywhere.

He stood before the people, clothed in his magical garments, his shield on his back and his spear and club in his hands. His face was towards the rising Sun. Before him was his mother, on one side the Shaman, warrior, and hunter, and on the other, the old woman and the four young maidens. He said to his mother, "I will bring the Four Brothers to you." To the young women, "When I return I will take you four as my women." To the men, "What you have told me I will use to release the Four Brothers." Then turning his face towards the setting Sun he said to the old woman, "I go."

Then the old woman threw the robe about him and he was seen no more, but there was a wind as if the Thunderbird flew towards the setting sun. His mother fell on her face as if dead, but the people heard a voice high in the air, clear and loud like the voices of the cranes when they fly towards the region of the pines, and this is what it said: "A stone shall free the Four Brothers."

When the Stone Boy went from the people, he stepped from hill to hill more swiftly than the stars (meteors) fall at night. From each hill he looked carefully into the valley so that he saw all there was in every valley, but he saw nothing of the Four Brothers until he came to the high hills far towards the setting sun.

In the valley there was much game of every kind and in one he found a stone knife that he knew belonged to the eldest brother. In another valley he found a stone arrowhead that he knew belonged to the next eldest brother. In a third, he found a stone axe that he knew belonged to the next youngest brother, and in a fourth he found a stone bone breaker that he knew belonged to the youngest brother. Then he knew he was on the right road to find the Brothers and looked carefully into each valley.

Near the mountains he saw a valley that was barren, with nothing in it but a stone, a tree, and a little brown hill from which he saw smoke rising. He took off his robe and sat down to watch this. Soon a huge coyote, larger than a buffalo, came out of the hill and began to jump up very high and yelp very loud. Then the stone began to roll and bump about and the tree began to move from place to place. The stone went to a pool of water and took a drink.

The Stone Boy continued to watch, and soon a growl like thunder came from the hills beyond. The coyote, when he heard this growl, jumped very high and fast and yelped and yelled; the tree moved from place to place, and a little woman came out of the hill and looked towards the growling. Soon a huge bear as large as a cloud came over the hills. He walked upright like a man and held some people in his forepaws, and his growl sounded like thunder. He came into the valley and held the people up to the tree. The Stone Boy saw that each branch of the tree was a snake. These snakes bit the people as the bear held them up so that they were paralysed. When they were still as if they were dead, the bear threw them down on the hard smooth ground and the stone rolled over them and flattened them so that they were like dried buffalo skins.

Thus the little old woman laid them on the little brown hill and the Stone Boy saw that the hill was made of flattened people piled one on top of another. When the people had all been placed on the hill, the coyote sniffed towards the hill where the Stone Boy stood and jumped and yelled. Then he sniffed and jumped again; he sniffed very hard, jumped very high, and yelped very loud and the little old woman pointed to that hill and the bear growled and came to it. But the Stone Boy put on his robe and stepped to another hill. The bear looked foolish and said, "That must have been a Thunderbird (Wakinyan), a Winged God."

Thus the coyote sniffed towards the hill where the Stone Boy stood and again jumped up and down and the tree walked that way and the stone came also. Then they growled like very heavy thunder and came creeping towards the hill, watching everything closely, but when he got near, the Stone Boy stepped to another hill. Then the bear was afraid, and he ran back to the little hill, whining and whimpering, for he thought it was a Thunderbird. Then the little old woman came out of the hill, and the coyote yelped and jumped up and down and ran around and around, and branches of the tree squirmed and licked their tongues and hissed like a great wind. The stone jumped up and down, and every time it came down, it shook the earth.

Then the Stone Boy stood up and took off his robe and jeered at them and mocked them. They saw him. The old woman screamed and the coyote yelped louder than ever and jumped up and down, and the tree walked towards him, every snake hissing louder. The stone rolled and tumbled towards him and the bear came very fast towards him growling like a Thunder Cloud. When the bear was very close, he raised his paw to strike, but the Stone Boy shot one of the arrows through his heart and he fell dead.

Then the coyote came jumping up and down. Every time he jumped up, he went higher and higher, and when he was near enough he jumped up so as to come down on the Stone Boy, but the Stone Boy set his spear on the ground, and when the coyote came down the spear ran through his heart and killed him. Then the stone came rolling and tumbling and smashing everything in its path. When it was about to roll over the Stone Boy and smash him, he raised his war club and struck it a mighty blow and broke it to pieces.

The tree could not walk up the hill, so the Stone Boy went down into the valley, and when he came near the tree the branches began to strike him. But he held up the shield the warrior had given him, and when one of the snakes branches would strike it, its teeth would break off and its head would be smashed. So the Stone Boy danced about the tree and sang and shouted until every branch had smashed itself to death against the shield.

The little old woman then went into the little hill, and the Stone Boy came near it and cried, "Ho, old woman, come out." But the old woman said,, "My friend, I am a weak old woman. Have pity on me and come into my tipi."

The Stone Boy saw that the hill was a strange kind of tipi. He found the door, went in, and the old woman said, "My friend, I am a weak old woman, but you are welcome to my tipi. I will get you something to eat and drink." The Stone Boy noticed that her tongue was forked, so he was very wary and watched her closely.

She said, "My friend, you must be tired. Lie down and rest while I get food for you." The Stone Boy laid down and the old woman passed close, saying to him, "The meat is behind you." As she leaned over him she stabbed him over the heart, but her stone knife broke off when it struck him.

She said, "My friend, I stumbled and fell on you." The Stone Boy said, "I will sit up, so you will not stumble over me." So she said, "My friend, sit near the center of the tipi, so I can go about without stumbling over you."

So the Stone Boy sat near the center of the lodge, and the old woman moved about him. As she passed him she struck him on the head with a war club, but it only bounced off without hurting him, so she said, "My friend, you must be hungry. I will make soup for you." She made soup with bad medicine in it and gave it to the Stone Boy, who drank it.

The old woman said, "Ho, you are the one I hate. I am Iya, the evil spirit. I hate all people. I have given you that which will destroy you. You have swallowed poison. It will kill you. I am Iya the evil one. I know whom you seek. You were hunting for your mother's brothers. They are there in that tipi. They are like tanned skins. You will soon die and I will make a tanned skin of you. I must have a living stone to flatten you out and I must find it. The living stone was my master. He is the only one I feared. He is the only one that could hurt me. No one else can do me any harm. His only relative is a living stone. He is now my master and none other. But you will die from the poison I have given you and I will sing your death song."

She sang:

A young man would be wise.
A young man would be brave.

He left the places he knew.
He came to strange places.

He came to death valley.
He came to Iya's tipi.

He slew Iya's son, the coyote.
He slew Iya's daughter, the snake tree.

He broke the living stone.
He broke Iya's master.

Iya will be revenged on him.
Iya will see him die.

He slew my friend the bear.
Iya will laugh and see him die.

Then the Stone Boy said, "May I also sing a song?" Iya said, "Ho, sing what you will. It is your death song and it is music that will make my heart glad."

The living stone was Iya's master.
The living stone had but one relation.

He had a son that was little.
A pebble that was white as snow.

Iya feared the pebble and stole it.
Feared it because it was white.

Iya carried it into a far away country.
Iya threw it from him on a hilltop.

Where it would not be nourished.
Where it was not be life warmed.

He thought no one would find it.
He thought it would be there forever.

A woman born mysterious.
Found this pebble mysterious.

She gave to it the warmth of life.
The son of the living stone.

The wisest Shaman taught him wisdom.
The bravest warrior taught him bravery.

The oldest woman taught him cunning.
The best of women taught him kindness.

The people taught him justice.
To strive for the right against evil.

He was charmed from harm by the Shaman.
He was armed against evil by the warrior.

On his robe was the dream of the old woman.
On his feet was the magic of the young woman.

Thus he came to death's valley.
Thus he came to Iya's tipi.

He slew Iya's friend, the bear.
Because he enticed the people away.

He slew Iya's son, the coyote.
Because he did evil only.

He slew Iya's daughter, the snake tree,
because her faults were many.

Iya's knife would not harm him.
Iya's club would not kill him.

Iya's broth would not kill him.
It only makes him warm and strong.

I had enabled you threw away.
I am the Stone Boy, your master.

Then Iya said, "How shall I know you are to be my master?" The Stone Boy said, " Do my bidding or will punish you." Then Iya said, "I am a weak old woman. Have pity on me and do not punish me." The Stone Boy said, "Your tongue is forked, and you do not tell the truth. You are not a woman. You are an evil old man. You have pity on no one, but do evil to everyone. Tell me, where are my mother's brothers?" Iya said ,"I do not know. I was only boasting when I said I knew where they were. Have pity on me. Do not make it hard for me." Then the Stone Boy said, "I will have no pity on you. Tell me where my mother's brothers are." Iya said, "I do not know."

Then the Stone Boy seized him by the foot and placed it on the ground and trod on it, and Iya's foot was flattened like a piece of dried skin and he howled with pain. But the Stone Boy demanded he tell where his mother's brothers were, and Iya declared that he did not know. Then the Stone Boy flattened his other foot in the same way, and Iya sobbed and cried with pain and said he would tell all to the Stone Boy if he would not punish him any further, for Iya recognized that the Stone Boy was truly his master.

Iya said: "In ancient times, I found game plentiful in the valleys below here, and good hunters and brave men came here to hunt it. These good men could not be made to do evil at their homes, so I could not do them mischief. So I made a bargain with your father, the living stone, and with the great bear and bought my sons and daughter with me and we all lived here in this valley. (Iya was a giant; he fought with the living stone. The stone conquered him and became his master. He kept Iya with nothing to eat until he grew smaller and became a little old person.)

"The bargain was that the bear would go out among the game, and when a good man came to hunt, the bear would show himself and, being so big, the hunters would chase him until they came where they could see my son, who would jump up and down and scare them so that they would fall down with no strength. Then the bear would take them in his arms and bring to my daughter, who would sting them so they would be paralysed. Then the living stone would roll on them and flatten them out like skins and I would heap them onto my tipi poles. As they were alive, this would always be a torment for them. In this way I could do mischief to good men.

"We often heard of the four men who lived alone and did woman's work and who never did evil to anyone, so that I could not torment them. But they would not hunt or go on the war path, and we thought they would never come within our power. So I determined to get a woman into their tipi that it might do something evil, but I could not get an ordinary woman among them. Then I tried to break off a branch from my daughter, the snake tree and put it into their tipi, but the branches would not break and the only way I could get a part of my daughter was by digging out a part of the heart of the tree. This I did and placed it near the tipi of the four brothers so that when one of them went to get wood he would step on it and stick it into his toe. These man were so good that when they cared for this child it grew up to be a good woman -- as they were good men -- but I waited patiently, for when she grew to be a woman I knew they would not live as they had before. When she was a woman they came to hunt game for her, and the bear enticed them and they were caught and flattened and are now tormented on my tipi poles.

"When I threw the white pebble away, I knew that no ordinary woman could nourish it into life and growth, and when your mother grew up to be a woman, I did not think of being a mysterious woman who could give life and growth to the pebble. So my own evil has brought the punishment on me, for I know that you are my master and that you will not let me do evil any more. But those who now lie on tipi poles will still be tormented."

Then the Stone Boy said, "Tell me: how can these people that are on your tipi poles be restored to their natural condition?" Iya said, "I will not." The Stone Boy said, "I am your master. Tell me or I will punish you." Then Iya said, "Remember, I am your grandfather, and do not punish me." The Stone Boy said, "I broke my own father in pieces because he was evil. Do you think I would spare you because you are my grandfather?" Iya said, "I will not tell you."

Then the Stone Boy said, "Give me your hand." He took Iya's hand and trod on it and it was flattened like a dried skin and Iya howled with pain. Then the Stone Boy said, "Tell me or I will flatten your other hand." and Iya said, "I will tell you." "You must skin the bear and coyote and stretch a skins over poles so as to make a tight tipi. Then you must gather all the pieces of the broken living stone. You must make a fire of the wood from the snake tree and heat the stones is over this fire, and placed them in tipi. Then get one of the flattened people off the poles of my tipi and place it in the tipi you have built. Then place the hot stones in the tipi and pour water over the stones. When the steam rises into the flattened person, he will be as he was before the bear enticed him."

Then the Stone Boy did as he was told, but the skins of the bear and the coyote would not make a full sized tipi, so he made it low and round on top. When he made a fire of the snake tree, the branches were so fat that one would heat all the stones red hot. He had plenty of fuel to heat the stones as often has he wished. So he placed the flattened people in the sweat house and steamed them and they became men as they were before they were enticed by the bear.

He did not know who his mother's brothers were, so he took the arrow he had found and called to all and asked them whose arrow it was. One man said it was his. He told him stand to one side. He took the stone knife he had found and asked whose it was. A man said it was his, and he told him to stand to one side. He then took the plant seed dice he had found and asked whose it were. One man said it was his, and he told him to stand to one side. Then he told the men he had asked to stand aside to look at each other. They did so, and when they had looked at each other they embraced each other, and the Stone Boy knew they were brothers.

Then the Stone Boy told them story of the four men, of the birth of his mother and how the four man went away and never came back. Then the men said, "We are those four men." The Stone Boy knew that they were his mother's brothers, so he told them the story of his own birth, and they said, "We believe you, because we know the birth of your mother." Then he told them of his preparation to come for them, of his coming and his fight with bear, the coyote, the stone, and the snake tree, and how he was the master of Iya. They said, "We believe you, because the bear did entice us and the coyote did jump up and down and the snake bit us and the stone did roll over and make as flat like skins and the old woman did spread us on her tipi and we were tormented."

Then the Stone Boy counseled with them as to what he should do to Iya. They advised him to make him flat like a skin, but the Stone Boy said, "There is no snake tree to bite him." He came back to Iya and said, "You have been very evil, but now I am your master and I shall punish you for all the evil you have done so that you always be in torment as you have kept all these people." Iya was a great coward and he begged the Stone Boy to spare him and not punish him. But the Stone Boy said, "I shall flatten you like skin and spread you on a pole."

Then Iya said, "I am Iya, the giant, and I will grow so big that you cannot flatten me." He began to grow and grew larger and larger so that he was a great giant. But the Stone Boy began to trample on him. Beginning at his feet, which he had already flattened, he trampled on his legs, so that Iya fell to his knees; he trampled on his thighs so that Iya fell to his buttocks; he trampled on his hips so that great floods of water ran from him. This water was bitter and salty and it soaked into the Earth, and where it comes out in springs or lakes it makes the water very bad and bitter.

Then he trampled his belly, and Iya vomited great quantities of cherry stones, and the Stone Boy said to him, "What are these cherry stones?" and Iya said, "They are the people that I have sucked in with my breath when I went about the Earth as a giant." The Stone Boy said, "How can I make these people as they were when you sucked them in with your breath?" Iya said, "Make a fire without smoke." So the Stone Boy got very dry cottonwood and made a fire and when it was burned to coals Iya said, "Get some of the hair from the great bear's skin." He got hair from the great bear, and Iya said, "Put the hair on the fire." And he put it on the fire. Then there rose a great white smoke, and it was like the smoke from wild sage branches and leaves. Then Iya said, "Blow this smoke on the cherry stones." The Stone Boy did so, and Iya said, "This drives away all my power to do these people any harm." Iya said, "Get the hair of many women." The Stone Boy did so then there was a thick blue smoke like the smoke of sweet grass and Iya said, "This gives you power to do what you wish to these people."

The Stone Boy said to the people, "Be as you were before Iya sucked you in with his breath." Every cherry stone arose. They were transformed into more women and children, so that there were a great many people there. These people were all very hungry, so the Stone Boy said to Iya, "What shall I give these people to eat?" Iya replied. "Give them the flesh of the great bear." So he cut off a piece of the flesh of the great bear and gave it to a woman. It grew to be a large piece, and this woman cut it in two and gave half of it to an other woman. Immediately each of these pieces grew large. Each time a piece was given away it grew large. Then the women built fires and cooked the meat and all feasted and were happy and sang songs.

The people spoke many different languages and could not understand one another, but the Stone Boy could speak to each one in his own language. He addressed some in their own tongue, "Where was your place?" They replied, "Over the mountains." He said to then, "Go to your people." As he said this to everyone, he gave to the oldest woman of each people a piece of the flesh from the great bear, so that they had plenty to eat while they traveled. Then the Stone Boy said to his mother's brothers, "Now we will go back to your sister, to my mother, but before we go I will destroy Iya so that he may do no more mischief or hurt the people."

He trod on Iya's chest and his breath rushed out of his mouth and nostrils like a mighty wind and the whirled and twisted, breaking down trees, tearing up grass, throwing water from the lake, and even piling the rocks and Earth over the carcasses of the coyote and the snake tree, so that the Thunderbird came rushing through the air to find out what all this tumult was about. With his cloud shield he rushed into this great whirlwind, and while the lightening spit and flashed from his eyes, he fought the whirlwind and carried it away into the sky.

Then the Stone Boy said to Iya, "I will now tread your head and your arms out flat like a dried skin and you shall remain forever here in his evil valley where there is no tree, nor grass, nor water, and no living thing will ever come near you. The Sun shall burn you and the cold shall freeze you and you shall feel and think and be hungry and thirsty, but no one shall come near you."

Iya grew so large that he almost lay across the valley. His hands were upon the hill where the Stone Boy first showed himself. When the Stone Boy told him his fate, his hands grasped for something, and he felt the Stone Boy's robe. This he quickly threw over himself and immediately he became invisible. But the Stone Boy saw what he was doing and jumped quickly to trample the breath out of Iya, his mouth gaped wide open. He got the robe over his head before Stone Boy could get his feet on him. When the Stone Boy did trample Iya, he stepped into his mouth, so Iya closed his jaws like a trap and caught both of the Stone Boy's feet between his teeth.

Iya could not hurt the Stone Boy, but he held the feet and very tightly between his teeth, and when the Stone Boy drew out one foot, he closed still closer on the other so that when that one was dragged out, the moccasin was left in Iya's mouth and was invisible and could not be found.

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