Native American Legends
Thunder destroys Horned Snake
A Seneca Legend
A mother and daughter lived in a bark house on the edge of a village.
Many men wanted the girl for a wife, for she was nice-looking, but
to each man she said, "You are not such a man as I want."
One day the girl and her mother went to the forest to pick up wood.
When it began to grow dark they were far from home.
The mother said, "We'll make a fire and stay here all night."
They made a fire and got ready for the night. All at once a man
stood near the girl, when she looked up she was amazed, he was so
handsome. He had a wampum belt around his body and long feathers
in his head-dress.
He said to her, "I have come to marry you."
Her mother was around picking up wood.
The girl said, "I will tell my mother."
The young man stood by the fire and waited for the girl's answer.
When she told her mother that a stranger had come and wanted to
marry her, the mother said, "You have refused many good men, now
do as you like."
The girl gave the man her mother's answer, and said, "I will be
"You must go home with me," said the man, and taking off his wampum
belt he gave it to the mother, and said, "This will be a proof that
we are married."
The woman hung the belt on a tree. She was greatly pleased with
her new son-in-law.
The two started off together. They soon reached a large clearing
at one end of which was a house.
The man said, "That is our home."
When they went into the house the persons sitting around seemed
to be pleased with the young woman.
She was contented and happy till one day her husband said, "I am
going to hunt."
He went out and as he closed the door she heard a strange noise,
then all was still.
Towards dark she heard the same noise. The door opened and a great
snake came in. It put its head on the woman's lap and told her to
look for vermin. She found bloodsuckers and angleworms as well as
insects. After a while the Snake backed out of the door; the next
minute the husband came in as handsome as ever.
"Were you afraid of me?" asked he.
"I wasn't afraid," said the young woman.
The next day the man went to hunt. When he closed the door the
woman heard the same kind of noise she had heard the day before.
And when she went out to gather wood she saw a great snake sunning
itself on the rocks. Then she saw another and another and she began
to be very homesick.
About dark her husband came as he had the evening before.
The next day, after he had gone, she began to think about getting
away from such a terrible man. She went for wood and while standing
in one place, thinking, she heard a voice and turning toward it
saw an old man.
He said, "My grandchild, you are unfortunate. The man you are living
with is a bad man. We have often tried to kill him, but he is cautious,
we can't catch him. There are seven brothers, your husband is the
youngest, their hearts are tied together in a bunch and the bunch
is hidden under his couch. You must get it; I and my friends will
help you all we can."
The young woman found the hearts, hid them under her blanket and
hurrying out of the house began to run.
Soon she heard a voice calling, "Stop! Come back!" but she ran
The voice said, "You can't get away, no matter how you try."
Then strength seemed to leave her, but that minute the stranger,
who had called her "grandchild," was at her side.
"I will help you," said he, and taking hold of her blanket he pulled
her out of the water. She saw then that she had been in a lake.
A great black cloud was above them and Thunder began to shoot his
arrows. Soon the woman saw that the stranger had killed the terrible
Snake; other men like him were on the shore and they thanked her
and said that she had helped them.
The men drew the Snake out of the lake, cut it into pieces, and
stuck the head on a pole. Seeing that the eyes looked at the woman
in a sharp, ugly way, the grandfather said, "You must come home
They packed pieces of the Snake in separate bundles, then each
man took a bundle, and they started. After a while they came to
what seemed to the woman to be a house. Inside the house was a very
old man. The leader said to him, "This young woman has helped us
kill the great Snake.
The old man looked up, and said, "My granddaughter, I thank you."
All the men, except the very old man, hunted, but each day they
brought the woman corn and squash, for she couldn't eat their kind
of food. They told the names of the persons from whom they stole
the corn and squash, and she knew those persons.
One day the old man said to the others, "Maybe you had better take
the woman with you; she has power."
They said, "Very well," and then they told her that one of their
number was missing, and said, "On a rock in deep water is a terrible
bloodsucker. The man shot at him, but he wasn't quick enough and
the bloodsucker caught him. Our friend lies there on the rock and
we can't rescue him or kill the bloodsucker."
She went with them to the lake. When they came to where the rock
was she looked down and saw the bloodsucker. The men tried to kill
the bloodsucker by going up to the clouds and shooting arrows down
into the water. When each man had tried and failed they asked the
woman to shoot. She shot once; the bloodsucker moved. She shot a
second time; there was a terrible struggle in the water, then all
Soon they saw that the bloodsucker was dead and their friend was
free. The man came out of the water and they all went home.
After the woman had been with these men about a year, Old Man Thunder
said, "It is time for this woman to go to her mother," and he said
to her, "For ten days you mustn't do any work, any pounding or chopping."
The Thunders went with her till she was near home. She thought
they walked along as ordinary persons. When they left her she saw
that she was standing in water; a heavy shower had just passed over.
Her mother's house was close by.
For eight days she refused to work, the ninth day her mother and
friends urged her to help them pound corn. She said that she couldn't,
but they urged so hard that she took the pounder and struck one
blow; the mortar split apart and the corn fell on the ground, such
was her terrible strength.
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