Native American Legends
The Unktomi, Two Widows, and the Red Plums
A Sioux Legend
There once lived, in a remote part of a great forest, two widowed
sisters, with their little babies. One day there came to their tent
a visitor who was called Unktomi (spider). He had found some nice
red plums during his wanderings in the forest, and he said to himself,
"I will keep these plums and fool the two widows with them."
After the widows had bidden him be seated, he presented them with
On seeing them they exclaimed "hi nu, hi nu (an exclamation
of surprise), where did you get these fine plums?" Unktomi
arose and pointing to a crimson tipped cloud, said: "You see
that red cloud? Directly underneath it is a patch of plums. So large
is the patch and so red and beautiful are the plums that it is the
reflection of them on the cloud that you see."
"Oh, how we wish some one would take care of our babies, while
we go over there and pick some," said the sisters. "Why,
I am not in any particular hurry, so if you want to go I will take
care of my little nephews until you return." (Unktomi always
claimed relationship with everyone he met). "Well brother,"
said the older widow, "take good care of them and we will be
back as soon as possible."
The two then took a sack in which to gather the plums, and started
off towards the cloud with the crimson lining. Scarcely had they
gone from Unktomi's sight when he took the babies out of their swinging
hammocks and cut off first one head and then the other. He then
took some old blankets and rolled them in the shape of a baby body
and laid one in each hammock. Then he took the heads and put them
in place in their different hammocks.
The bodies he cut up and threw into a large kettle. This he placed
over a rousing fire. Then he mixed Indian turnips and arikara squash
with the baby meat and soon had a kettle of soup. Just about the
time the soup was ready to serve the widows returned. They were
tired and hungry and not a plum had they. Unktomi, hearing the approach
of the two, hurriedly dished out the baby soup in two wooden dishes
and then seated himself near the door so that he could get out easily.
Upon the entrance of the widows, Unktomi exclaimed: "Sisters,
I had brought some meat with me and I cooked some turnips and squash
with it and made a pot of fine soup. The babies have just fallen
asleep, so don't waken them until you have finished eating, for
I know that you are nearly starved." The two fell to at once
and after they had somewhat appeased their appetites, one of them
arose and went over to see how her baby was resting. Noting an unnatural
color on her baby's face, she raised him up only to have his head
roll off from the bundle of blankets. "'My son! my son!"
she cried out.
At once the other hastened to her baby and grabbed it up, only
to have the same thing happen. At once they surmised who had done
this, and caught up sticks from the fire with which to beat Unktomi
to death. He, expecting something like this to happen, lost very
little time in getting outside and down into a hole at the roots
of a large tree. The two widows not being able to follow Unktomi
down into the hole, had to give up trying to get him out, and passed
the rest of the day and night crying for their beloved babies. In
the meantime Unktomi had gotten out by another opening, and fixing
himself up in an entirely different style, and painting his face
in a manner that they would not recognize him, he cautiously approached
the weeping women and inquired the cause of their tears.
Thus they answered him: "Unktomi came here and fooled us about
some plums, and while we were absent killed our babies and made
soup out of their bodies. Then he gave us the soup to eat, which
we did, and when we found out what he had done we tried to kill
him, but he crawled down into that hole and we could not get him
"I will get him out," said the mock stranger, and with
that he crawled down into the hole and scratched his own face all
over to make the widows believe he had been fighting with Unktomi.
"I have killed him, and that you may see him I have enlarged
the hole so you can crawl in and see for yourselves, also to take
some revenge on his dead body." The two foolish widows, believing
him, crawled into the hole, only to be blocked up by Unktomi, who
at once gathered great piles of wood and stuffing it into the hole,
set it on fire, and thus ended the last of the family who were foolish
enough to let Unktomi tempt them with a few red plums.
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