Native American Legends
The Trickster kills the children
An Arapaho Legend
Nihansan was traveling down a stream. As he walked along on the
bank he saw something red in the water. They were red plums. He
wanted them badly. Taking off his clothes, he dived in and felt
over the bottom with his hands; but he could find nothing, and the
current carried him down-stream and to the surface again. He thought.
He took stones and tied them to his wrists and ankles so that they
should weigh him down in the water. Then he dived again; he felt
over the bottom, but could find nothing. When his breath gave out
he tried to come up, but could not. He was nearly dead, when at
last the stones on one side fell off and he barely rose to the surface
sideways and got a little air. As he revived, floating on his back,
he saw the plums hanging on the tree above him. He said to himself:
"You fool!" He scolded himself a long time. Then he got
up, took off the stones, threw them away, and went and ate the plums.
He also filled his robe with them.
Then he went on down the river. He came to a tent. He saw a bear-woman
come out and go in again. Going close to the tent, he threw a plum
so that it dropped in through the top of the tent. When it fell
inside, the bear-women and children all scrambled for it. Then he
threw another and another. At last one of the women said to her
child: "Go out and see if that is not your uncle Nihansan."
The child went out, came back, and said: "Yes, it is my uncle
Nihansan." Then Nihansan came in.. He gave them the plums,
and said: " I wonder that you never get plums, they grow so
near you!" The bear-women wanted to get some at once. He said:
"Go up the river a little way; it is not far. Take all your
children with you that are old enough to pick. Leave the babies
here and I will watch them." They all went.
Then he cut all the babies' heads off. He put the heads back into
the cradles; the bodies he put into a large kettle and cooked. When
the bear-women came back, he said to them: "Have you never
been to that hill here? There were many young wolves there."
"In that little hill here?" they asked. "Yes. While
you were gone I dug the young wolves out and cooked them."
Then they were all pleased. They sat down and began to eat. One
of the children said: "This tastes like my little sister."
"Hush!" said her mother, "don't say that." Nihansan
became uneasy. "It is too hot here," he said, and took
some plums and went off a little distance; there he sat down and
ate. When he had finished, he shouted: "Ho! Ho! bear-women,
you have eaten your own children."
All the bears ran to their cradles and found only the heads of
the children. At once they pursued him. They began to come near
him. Nihansan said: " I wish there were a hole that I could
hide in." When they had nearly caught him he came to a hole
and threw himself into it.
The hole extended through the hill, and he came out on the other
side while the bear-women were still standing before the entrance.
He painted himself with white paint to look like a different person,
took a willow stick, put feathers on it, and laid it across his
arm. Then he went to the women. " What are you crying about?"
he asked them. They told him. He said: " I will go into the
hole for you," and crawled in. Soon he cried as if hurt, and
scratched his shoulders. Then he came out, saying: "Nihansan
is too strong for me. Go into the hole yourselves; he is not very
far in." They all went in, but soon came out again and said:
"We cannot find him."
Nihansan entered once more, scratched himself bloody, bit himself,
and cried out. He said: "He has long finger nails with which
he scratches me. I cannot drag him out. But he is at the end of
the hole. He cannot go back farther. If you go in, you can drag
him out. He is only a little farther than you went last time."
They all went into the hole. Nihansan got brush and grass and made
a fire at the entrance. "That sounds like flint striking,"
said one of the women. "The flint birds are flying," Nihansan
said. "That sounds like fire," said another woman. "The
fire birds are flying about; they will soon be gone by." "That
is just like smoke," called a woman. "The smokebirds are
passing. Go on, he is only a little farther, you will catch him
soon," said Nihansan. Then the heat followed the smoke into
the hole. The bear-women began to shout. "Now the heat birds
are flying," said Nihansan.
Then the bears were all killed. Nihansan put out the fire and dragged
them out. "Thus one obtains food when he is hungry," he
said. He cut up the meat, ate some of it, and hung the rest on branches
to dry. Then he went to sleep.
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