Native American Legends
The twin brothers
A Caddo Legend
Many, many winters ago, there lived a young man who had learned
the secrets of plant and animal lore. He knew which plants and herbs
cured illness, which could be used to purify the body and spirit,
and which could help the People see more clearly their thoughts
and dreams. He came to be known as Medicine Man.
Medicine Man loved a young girl named Clay Pot Woman, and she loved
him. She chose him as her husband, and they were married in a ceremony
witnessed by their entire village. They built their grass house
outside the village, near the river.
One winter later, Clay Pot Woman was going to have a baby. But
she grew ill, and the birth of the baby was a difficult time for
her. Medicine Man was very afraid for Clay Pot Woman.
Medicine Man went out and gathered all the good herbs and plants
to make the strongest medicine he could for both body and spirit.
He made a drink from some of the herbs. He burned some of the other
plants in the fire to make a good smell and purify the air in the
grass house. Other plants he placed at the head of Clay Pot Woman's
bedding, to give her spirit comfort and strength.
After a difficult birth, Clay Pot Woman presented Medicine Man
with a new baby son. Medicine Man gathered up all the herbs and
what was left of the drink, the dirty bedding with all the things
left over from the birth and threw them on the midden pile, where
garbage and broken pots were thrown. The medicine mixed with the
things left over from birth and a magic event occurred: up from
the midden pile sprang another baby boy, larger than the one inside
the grass house.
Because the medicine was so strong, the second boy born was larger
and seemed older already. According to Indian custom, that would
make him the older brother. Because he was not born in the grass
house, he ran away into the forest and grew up with the wild animals.
Winters came and went, and the young boy born in the hut grew up.
Medicine Man and Clay Pot Woman loved him and taught him well. He
was known by a boyhood name, but he looked forward to the day when
he would be a hunter or warrior and earn himself a manhood name.
For that day, Medicine Man made the boy a strong bow and many straight
arrows, and the boy spent many happy days practicing his bowmanship.
One day in summer, Medicine Man went out to hunt and Clay Pot Woman
took one of her pots to the nearby river to get water for the day.
The boy played in the bare yard that his tribe always cleared around
their grass houses.
The boys mother did not return as the shadows of evening grew long
across the grass house, she did not return as the sun went down
behind the trees. Medicine Man came home, but not Clay Pot Woman.
Fearing for his wife's safety, Medicine Man took his son with him
to the river's edge. There they saw the footprints of Clay Pot Woman,
they saw her pot lying broken by the riverbank. Two sets of footprints
went into the river. No footprints came back out.
Medicine Man knelt in the clay at the river's edge and wept. "The
ogres from across the river have come and taken her away,"
he said. "The tribe of creatures that lives over there eats
people for supper. My wife, your mother, is gone forever."
The boy also knelt and wept with his father.
Medicine Man and his son went back to the grass house, built a
fire, and stayed inside and mourned for six days. On the seventh,
with all their food gone, Medicine Man prepared to go hunting again.
The next morning he said goodbye to the boy and told him to stay
near the clearing that was their yard, near the protection of the
village. Medicine Man promised to return before sundown.
The boy played in the yard as usual and shot his arrows into a
wooden target. Suddenly, when the sun was high in the sky, another
boy stepped out of the forest and greeted him. The other boy was
taller and stronger and appeared older than the younger son of Medicine
Man, but he resembled their father, and he looked very much like
the younger boy's reflection in the water. The Wild Boy had a nose
just a little bit too long, like an animal's snout, and his hair
was long and unkempt. He wore no clothing at all, but he spoke gently
and the two boys played together.
They laughed and joked, and shot the bow in turn, each trying to
better the other's aim. They became fast friends. At last, the Wild
Boy revealed his secret.
"I am your older brother," he said, "born out of
Father's magic. But you must not tell Father about me, I choose
to live in the forest."
As the sun was setting, the Wild Boy left quickly. Medicine Man
came home with game for supper.
For four days it was the same. Each day, Medicine Man left the
grass house to hunt or to go into the village. The Wild Boy came,
and the twin brothers played together. At sunset, the Wild Boy left,
saying, "You must not tell Father about me, I choose to live
in the forest."
Each night, missing the companionship of his new found brother,
the younger son moped about the grass house and stared vacantly
into the fire. His father noticed, and asked what was troubling
him. The boy, who would never lie to his father, told him all about
the Wild Boy.
"We must capture him," said Medicine Man joyfully, "and
bring him into our house to become part of our family! When you
see him tomorrow, walk to him, and pretend that you see a little
bug crawling in his long hair. Tell him you will remove the bug,
but instead tie four knots in a hank of his hair. By this magic
we will capture him, and bring him into our family. I will transform
myself into a flying insect, and hide in the grass nearby.
The next day, Medicine Man became an insect and sat on a blade
of grass at the edge of the yard. The Wild Boy came.
"Where is our father?" he asked, suspiciously. "He
is not here," said the younger brother, for in fact, their
father was not present in his usual form.
Then who is that man on that blade of grass?" asked the Wild
Boy, and he ran into the forest.
Four more times they tried to fool the Wild Boy. Medicine Man became
a bird, he became a dog, he became a crawling bug and hid behind
the fire. Every time, the Wild Boy saw him. Finally, the father
told the younger boy, "Today I must go hunting. But if your
brother should come, try to tie the magic knots anyway."
Medicine Man took his bow and arrows and left the grass house,
but a short walk away from the yard he stopped and hung his weapon
on a tree limb. He transformed himself into a insect and returned
to the yard without his younger son's knowledge.
The Wild Boy came again. "Where is our father?" he asked.
"He is not here," said the Village Boy, unaware of their
The Wild Boy smiled, came into the yard, and they played together.
"Brother," said the Village Boy, "you have a bug
in your hair. I will take it out." With that, he tied four
knots in a hank of the long hair. Just then, Medicine Man became
himself again, and he and the Village Boy took the Wild Boy by the
arms and led him into the grass house.
Medicine Man took a sharp shell and snipped off the excess nose
from the Wild Boy and cut his hair like the boys of the village
wore it. He gave the Wild Boy a robe made of buffalo calfskin to
Later, their lather gave the boys supper, and while they ate, he
went for his bow and arrows. When he returned, to show the Wild
Boy that he was welcomed into the family, Medicine Man presented
him with a very special arrow, blackened from the smoke of herbs
burned in the medicine fire.
To show his love for his younger son as well, Medicine Man gave
a blue arrow to the younger boy, painted with juice and oil of many
The Wild Boy, now dress and behaving as a proper village brother
should, cut bark from an elm tree and made a wheel of bark for the
two boys to shoot at. They painted the target in two colors, black
and blue. They spent many happy hours in target practice, sometimes
rolling the wheel of bark along the ground to test their skill with
a moving target.
One day the wheel rolled in to the forest without either boy hitting
it. When they went to look for it, it was gone.
"Someone has been here, watching us," said the Wild Boy,
"and he has taken our target wheel!"
The twin brothers grew stronger and taller as the winters came
and went, and the three were very happy as a family. One day in
the spring, while their father was away for many days, the Wild
Boy said to the Village Boy, "The time has come for us to take
our manhood names. Let us go on a long journey."
Each took his own bow, made from the wood of the bois d`arc tree,
and his arrows, and parched corn to eat on the journey. The Wild
Boy also carried his black arrow, the special gift from their father.
The twin young men walked the path deep into the forest, along
the river. The Wild Boy led the way, and they left the path to go
into the dense woods. There they met a great squirrel, larger than
a dog, who was a friend of the Wild Boy.
The great squirrel gave the twins two pecans that had unusual power
within them. The great squirrel told the Wild Boy that his many
friends in the forest remembered him and missed him. This gift was
a remembrance from the animals and birds in the deep woods.
When night came, the twins made camp and planted one of the pecans
in the soft earth. When they awoke the next morning, a great pecan
tree had grown overnight. It was so tall that its upper branches
were among the clouds, up in the World of Dreams.
The Wild Boy explained to his younger brother, "The Great
Father Above has special gifts to give us as we reach manhood. He
promised me the gifts when I was a very little boy living in the
forest. Now I will climb high in this tree and see a vision, a dream.
All my bones will drop out of my body and fall to the ground. The
head bone will fall last of all. You will think that I am dead,
but it will not be so."
"Take my bones and put them in a pile, with the head bone
on top. Cover the pile with my buffalo calf robe and shoot the black
arrow into the air. Then, just as we did when we played together
and shot our arrows into the air to watch them turn and fall to
Earth, call out to me, "Look out, Brother, for the arrow is coming
straight toward you!'"
The younger boy was afraid to look up as the Wild Boy climbed,
and just as he had said, soon the bones began to fall, the head
bone last of all. The Village Boy gathered the bones, covered them,
and shot the arrow. He called out, "Look out, Brother, for
the arrow is coming straight toward you!"
The Wild Boy ran out from under the calf robe whole and healthy
as ever, just before the arrow struck the buffalo hide.
"Now," said the older boy, "you must also climb
up and see your vision, your dream, and receive the powers the Great
Father Above has reserved for you. I shall do as you did for me,
and we will meet here below afterwards."
The Village Boy was fearful as he climbed into the clouds, but
soon he felt warm and comfortable, as if he were asleep, and he
saw a vision of power. He felt no pain as his fell out of the cloud
and struck the Earth.
But he did hear his brother call out to him, and he ran out from
under the buffalo robe, whole and healthy as ever. The arrow struck
the hide and trembled upright.
"What gift did you receive?" asked the older brother.
"Listen," said the younger brother, delighted. And he
opened his mouth and spoke a word that rumbled like a earthquake
and echoed off the trees and rocks.
"We will call you by the name Thunder," said the older
"What powers did you receive?" asked Thunder.
"Look," said the older boy, and he opened his mouth and
spoke a word that lashed out of his mouth like a snakes tongue,
and flashed like flames reaching across the sky.
"We will call you by the name Lighting," said Thunder.
The long day was ending, but strengthened by their new powers and
their new manhood names, Lighting and Thunder walked together to
the edge of the great river that also ran past their village. As
they laid down to sleep for the night, they planted the second pecan.
By daybreak, when they awoke, another great pecan tree had grown
overnight. Its long branches drooped across the river, giving them
a way to pass over.
Lighting and Thunder climbed up the second great pecan tree and
walked down its drooping branches to the opposite side of the river.
There, after walking only a short distance, they came to the village
of the ogres, creatures that ate people for supper. They saw piles
of bones here and there in the grass.
"Look!" cried Lighting, pointing at a pile of bones.
"These are the bones of our mother!" How he knew this,
Thunder could not imagine, but he trusted his brother's wisdom.
Quickly they piled all the bones in a heap, and the head bone last
of all. They put the buffalo robe over the bones and Lighting shot
the black arrow into the air.
"Look out Mother," called Thunder, "for the arrow
is coming toward you!"
The black arrow flew higher and higher in the sky shot by the greatest
strength Lighting could gather, it turned slowly, and fell to Earth,
faster and faster. Suddenly Clay Pot Woman ran out from under the
robe, and the black arrow struck the ground so hard it pierced deep
through the calf robe and shattered into splinters.
Despite the many years she had been gone from among the People,
Clay Pot Woman knew both her sons the moment she saw them. They
embraced and wept with happiness.
Just as they hugged each other, the Great Chief of the Ogres came
from the grass house nearby. He was very ugly and very cruel. As
he approached, Thunder drew his blue arrow and notched it into his
As the ogre chieftain drew closer, the brothers saw he was wearing
their target wheel as an ornament on his right side. By this, they
knew he was the ogre that has crossed the river, that had watched
them, and that had taken their mother so long before.
Taking aim at the ogre's side, Thunder sent the blue arrow at its
target and the great beast-man fell dead.
Before the rest of the ogre village was aroused, the three People
ran back to the pecan branch and crossed the river. As they were
on the branch, the first of the ogre warriors came running out of
the village and came at the People, throwing spears. Thunder turned
back and spoke his word, and the great roaring rumbled rolled out
across the water and frightened the ogres from ever coming across
Once Thunder had helped their mother down the tree trunk, Lighting
turned back and spoke his word. A great white bolt of lighting writhed
out of his mouth and split the great pecan tree so that its drooping
branches fell into the river and washed away. No People would cross
the river to the land of the ogres out of curiosity.
Soon the three People were back at the village, and they came into
the grass house and greeted Medicine Man. He embraced them all,
and they were a family again.
They lived happily for many years, but finally the day came when
Medicine Man, old and having lived a good life, died quietly. Clay
Pot Woman did not stay long in this world without her husband, she
soon was also dead.
Lighting and Thunder, now grown men, took the bones of their mother
and father, wrapped them in buffalo robes, and buried the bundles
as their People had always done.
Then, no longer wanting to be in this world, Thunder and Lighting
went back down the forest path they had traveled so many years before,
climbed the first great pecan tree, and stepped off into the clouds.
The old tree fell away beneath them and became a long log in the
Thunder and Lighting lived thereafter in the sky and came and went
with the wind and the storms, the People below looked up and remembered.
When they gathered around the fires at night, they told the wonderful
story of the Twin Brothers.
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