Native American Legends
The Trickster's great fall and his revenge
A Menomini Legend
Once while the Buzzard was soaring away through the air he saw
Manabozho walking along. He flew a little toward the ground, with
his wings outspread.
Then The Buzzard heard Manabozho say to him, "Buzzard, you
must be very happy up there where you can soar through the air and
see what is transpiring in the world beneath. Take me on your back
so that I may ascend with you and see how it appears down here from
where you live."
The Buzzard came down, and said, "Manabozho, get on my back
and I will take you up into the sky to let you see how the world
appears from my abode."
Manabozho approached the Buzzard, but seeing how smooth his back
appeared said, "Buzzard, I am afraid you will let me slide
from your back, so you must be careful not to sweep around too rapidly,
that I may retain my place upon your back."
The Buzzard told Manabozho that he would be careful, although the
bird was determined to play a trick on him if possible. Manabozho
mounted the Buzzard and held on to his feathers as well as he could.
The Buzzard took a short run, leaped from the ground, spread his
wings and rose into the air. Manabozho felt rather timid as the
Buzzard swept through the air, and as he circled around his body
leaned so much that Manabozho could scarcely retain his position,
and he was afraid of slipping off.
Presently, as Manabozho was looking down upon the broad earth below,
the Buzzard made a sharp curve to one side so that his body leaned
more than ever. Manabozho, losing his grasp, slipped off and dropped
to earth like an arrow. He struck the ground with such force as
to knock him senseless. The Buzzard returned to his place in the
sky, but hovered around to see what would become of Manabozho.
Manabozho lay a long time like one dead. When he recovered he saw
something close to and apparently staring him in the face. He could
not at first recognize it, but when he put his hands against the
object he found that it was his own buttocks, because he had been
all doubled up. He arose and prepared to go on his way, when he
espied the Buzzard above him, laughing at his own trickery.
Manabozho then said, "Buzzard, you have played a trick on
me by letting me fall, but as I am more powerful than you I shall
revenge myself." The Buzzard then replied, "No, Manabozho,
you will not do anything of the kind, because you cannot deceive
me. I shall watch you."
Manabozho kept on, and the Buzzard, not noticing anything peculiar
in the movements of Manabozho, flew on his way through the air.
Manabozho then decided to transform himself into a dead deer, because
he knew the Buzzard had chosen to subsist on dead animals and fish.
Manabozho then went to a place visible from a great distance and
from many directions, where he laid himself down and changed himself
into the carcass of a deer.
Soon the various birds and beasts and crawling things that subsist
on such food began to congregate about the dead deer. The Buzzard
saw the birds flying toward the place where the body lay, and joined
them. He flew around several times to see if it was Manabozho trying
to deceive him, then thought to himself, "No, that is not Manabozho;
it is truly a dead deer." He then approached the body and began
to pick a hole into the fleshy part of the thigh.
Deeper and deeper into the flesh the Buzzard picked until his head
and neck was buried each time he reached in to pluck the fat from
the intestines. Without warning, while the Buzzard had his head
completely hidden in the carcass of the deer , the deer jumped up
and pinched together his flesh, thus firmly grasping the head and
neck of the Buzzard.
Then Manabozho said, "Aha! Buzzard, I did catch you after
all, as I told you I would. Now pull out your head." The Buzzard
with great difficulty withdrew his head from the cavity in which
it had been enclosed, but the feathers were all pulled off, leaving
his scalp and neck covered with nothing but red skin.
Then Manabozho said to the bird, "Thus do I punish you for
your deceitfulness; henceforth you will go through the world without
feathers on your head and neck, and you shall always stink because
of the food you will be obliged to eat." That is why the buzzard
is such a bad-smelling fellow, and why his head and neck are featherless.
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