Native American Legends
Thousand-Legs and Bright Body his Son
A Seneca Legend
Thousand-Legs (a worm) lived in a house with his wife and seven
sons; only the youngest of the seven had a name. He was called Bright
Body. Bright Body was so small that his father didn't let him go
outside, or play around in the house. He stayed under an old couch
and played with his dog, a flea.
Thousand-Legs was poor, for though he went hunting before sunrise
and came back after dark, he brought home very little game. One
morning his wife asked, "Can't you get more game? We are hungry."
"I have bad luck," said Thousand-Legs.
"Your back often looks as if you had packed lots of game."
"I bring home all I find, I never have any luck."
The woman didn't believe what her husband said.
That evening Thousand-Legs brought no game but his back was covered
with fresh blood. His wife said, "There is blood on your back, you
must have killed some animal."
"I got hurt," said the man, "A hemlock tree fell on me."
The next morning Thousand-Legs was up and off before sunrise. His
wife followed him. Just before midday, with a small stone, he killed
a large bear. He took the bear on his back and started off. After
a while he came to a house and went in. His wife crept up, and listened.
There was a woman in the house who, after she had greeted the man,
said, "The next time you come, you must stay, not go away."
"Very well," answered Thousand-Legs, then leaving the bear, he
came out and started for home.
His wife ran on ahead, always keeping out of sight. When she reached
the house, she said to the boys, "Your father has another wife.
I can't stay here any longer," and, putting on her panther-skin
blanket, she went away.
When Thousand-Legs came he asked, "What is the matter? Where is
One of the boys said, "She went out early in the morning and was
gone all day, but a little while ago she came and put on her panther-skin
blanket, then she said she was going away and wasn't coming back."
Thousand-Legs hung his head. At last he asked, "'Why did she go?"
"She said that you had another wife."
"Well, my sons, I am going to follow your mother. You must stay
here while I am gone. If I live I will be back in ten days."
Thousand-Legs found his wife's tracks and followed them; he traveled
all night. The next morning he saw that the tracks doubled back,
but he kept straight ahead, knowing his wife had done this to deceive
him. Soon he was on her trail again, going directly West.
After a while Thousand-Legs came to a house where a very old man
was living. The old man said, "You are traveling?"
"Yes," said Thousand-Legs, "I am following the woman whose tracks
come to this house."
The old man's name was Sha-Go-Ya-Géntha (He Hides Them).
He was of the Toad family. He said, "I don't know where the woman
"Her tracks stop at your door."
"You can look for her if you want to."
Thousand-Legs looked everywhere, but didn't find his wife.
Then the old man said, in his mind, "I will send him off," and
he asked. "Do you want me to send you in the direction your wife
The old man brought a small white-flint canoe and told Thousand-Legs
to sit in it. He did, and then the old man pushed the canoe forward.
It rose in the air and went with great swiftness till it struck
against a high rock. Thousand-Legs was thrown out, fell among rocks
and was killed.
The seven boys stayed at home till they were very hungry. Then
the eldest went out to see if he could find anything for his brothers
to eat and when night came he didn't come home.
The next morning the second brother started off to look for the
first. The brothers at home waited all day but neither brother came.
The next morning the third brother went to look for the other two,
and he didn't come back.
Each day a brother went out till six had gone and not one had returned.
Only Bright Body was left, he was under the couch playing with his
At last the boy said in his mind, "It seems to me there is no one
in the house; it is very quiet here."
He crawled from under the couch and looking around didn't see anyone.
"What has happened?" thought he, "Why have they all gone away?"
He listened, but couldn't hear footsteps or voices. After listening
a long time, he said, "I think that I hear my mother crying far
off in the West. I must go to her."
He went outside and listened, his dog standing behind him. Again
he heard crying and the sound came from a great distance.
"That is my mother," said he, "I must go to her. She is in trouble."
He and his dog rose in the air and went along above the highest
trees, always going toward the West.
Bright Body came down at the edge of a village and going into a
cabin found two women there, a grandmother and her granddaughter.
He said to the old woman, "I have come to visit you."
"We are poor," said she, "we haven't anything to eat."
"I don't want food," said Bright Body, "I only want shelter at
"You can stay," said the old grandmother, whose name was Spinner.
She made rope, by rolling strips of bark on her knees.
Bright Body had not been in the cabin long when someone ran up,
kicked the door open, and said, "Tonight they will burn the woman's
feet; her tears are wampum beads. Maybe you can pick up some of
The messenger ran off to the next cabin, and the grandmother said,
"The people of this village are bad people. That man is the servant
of Blue Jay, the chief, the rest of the people are of the Raven
When night came, Bright Body went to the long house. A great many
people were there. Going inside he saw his mother tied to a post.
As soon as he came his mother knew he was there.
The chief rose, and said, "Be ready. Look out for the beads!"
The chief's two daughters lighted the torches, for the old grandmothers
were going to burn the woman's feet. When they held the torches
to her flesh tears ran from her eyes to the floor and as they touched
the floor they became beautiful beads. Everyone rushed to pick them
Bright Body was watching. When the people were on their knees scrambling
for the beads he untied his mother and led her outside. Then he
ran around the house and as he ran he repeated, "I want you to be
stone and to be red hot! I want you to be stone and to be red hot!"
The house became stone and the stone was red hot. The people were
suffocating. They stopped picking up beads and hurried to get out
of the house, but there was no way out. For a time there was shouting
and screaming, then all was quiet.
Bright Body said to his mother, "We will leave this place," and
calling his dog they started.
When going through the village a blue lizard chased Bright Body,
but he tore the lizard to pieces and the dog carried the pieces
far off in different directions so they could not come together
again, and Bright Body said "Lizard, you thought you were going
to kill me, but I am more powerful than you were. I have destroyed
When Bright Body came to Spinner's house, he said to her, "I have
killed all the people in the village. Now you can live in peace."
She thanked him, and he and his mother and his dog traveled on
till they came to their own home. There Bright Body found his six
brothers and they all lived together and were happy.
The story doesn't say how the brothers got home or what happened
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