Native American Legends
Tree Worm and his Mother-In-Law, Barkworm
A Seneca Legend
Háiendonis was walking along with all of his effects in
a bundle. He didn't know where he came from or where he was going,
though he knew he was going in a northerly direction. Wherever darkness
overtook him, there he put his bundle on the ground, went inside
of it and spent the night, if he didn't find a hollow tree to sleep
He traveled a long time. Then one morning he came to a precipice.
It was very far to the bottom and he didn't know how he was to get
down with so large a pack on his back.
At last he put the pack on the ground and going to basswood tree
stripped it of bark, split the bark into strings, tied the strings
together and made a long rope. Then fastening one end of the rope
to a hemlock tree on the edge of the precipice, he let the other
end down, took hold of the rope near the tree and lowered himself.
Soon was at the end of the rope, and he clung there. The bundle
on his back pulled the upper part of his body over till he was in
nearly a horizontal position, face ward. He couldn't see where he
was. He almost touched the ground, but he didn't know it. He thought,
"What can I do? I can't hang here long. Maybe I had better let go
and fall. I can't get up and I can't go down."
He decided to let go of the rope and fall. As soon as he dropped
the rope, the pack on his back touched the ground and his head rested
on the pack, but he thought he was falling all the time. At last
he said to himself, "I am tired of falling. I'll try and turn over
a little so I can see where I am going."
He turned and found that he was on the ground. Saying, "Oh, how
I've been delayed by not knowing that the ground was at the end
of the rope!" he got up and went on.
When night came Háiendonis slept in a hollow tree or in
his bundle. He traveled many days. When he was tired of traveling
he looked around for a good place to live in. At last he stopped
where the trees were only a short distance apart. He built a cabin,
took his pack inside and arranged his blankets, pouches, ladles,
and bark bowls. The next morning he went out to hunt for food. He
saw a deer, pointed at it, and the deer fell dead. Every kind of
game was under his control, when he went home
he didn't carry the game. He stood near the house, and said, "Let
the game I have killed be piled up here at the door. Let it be dressed
and hung up to dry." In the Morning the meat was drying and a pile
of skins lay at the door.
One day, when Háiendonis was hunting, he saw a Gásyondetha
and pointing his finger at him killed him' for he wanted the skin
for a pouch. Going farther he
killed a panther and then a fox. "Now," thought he, "I'll have
three new pouches." The next morning the three skins were hanging
on the side of the cabin. "What will I do with these pouches?" thought
Háiendonis, then, taking down the skin of Gásyondetha
he said to it, "Stand here, alive!" That instant Gásyondetha
stood alive before him.
Háiendonis brought the three skin pouches to life and had
them stand inside the house.
Soon it was known that a man, who was full of witchcraft, had settled
down in the neighborhood. That if he wanted to kill an animal or
a man he had only to point a finger at them. People were afraid
Not far from Háiendonis' house lived a woman and her three
daughters. The woman was full of witchcraft and had come there to
settle down because no one wanted to live near her.
One day this woman said to her daughters, "We will grind corn and
Each woman had a pounder. Soon the corn was flour and the mother
made it into bread. Then she filled a basket and said to the eldest
daughter, "I want you to go to Háiendonis and see if he will
The girl, whose name was Deyóndennigongenyos,
started with the basket.
Háiendonis saw a girl coming with a basket on her back,
and he thought, "There is a woman coming, I think she is coming
to see me. I wonder if she wants to marry me?" Then he said to his
pouches, "Gásyondetha, go over there and stand by the tree!
You, Panther, go and stand a little nearer this way; and you, Fox,
stand at the door."
When the girl was near, Háiendonis began to smoke his pipe.
She walked along with her head down and did not see Gásyondetha
till she was right at his side. Then, looking up, and seeing such
a fierce person, she turned and ran. As she ran, the bread fell
out of the basket and when she reached home she had lost it all.
"What is the matter?" asked Barkworm, her mother.
The girl was out of breath and couldn't answer.
Háiendonis laughed and watched the girl till she got home.
After a few days the mother said, "We will grind corn and make
The girls pounded corn into flour and Barkworm made the flour into
bread. Then she said to her second daughter, "Take the basket and
go to Háiendonis, your sister is a coward."
Háiendonis saw the girl coming, with a basket on her back,
and said, "Here comes another woman, she will soon be spilling her
He stationed the pouches as before. The girl came with her head
down till she reached Gásyondetha, then, looking up and seeing
him, she said, "I'm not afraid of you!" and went on. She passed
the panther and came to the door of the cabin. In the doorway stood
a man switching something against the door. The girl was frightened;
she screamed, turned around, and began to run. As she ran she spilled
the bread out of her basket.
Háiendonis laughed, and watched the girl till she reached
After a few days Barkworm said to her daughters, "We will try again."
She made bread, filled a basket with it, and said to her youngest
daughter, YENOnGAA, "You must go this time. Don't notice
anything or be afraid of anything. Go straight into the house."
When Háiendonis saw the girl coming, he said, "It is strange
how little those women care for bread. There is another one coming
and when she gets near she will turn and run, spilling her bread
as she goes."
When the girl came to where Gásyondetha stood she looked
at him, then she gave him a blow, and he fell to the ground, and
was nothing but a skin pouch. She treated Panther in the same way.
When she came to the door, Fox stood there, the wind was switching
his tail against the door, this had frightened the second sister,
but Yenongaa was not afraid. She struck Fox and down
he went, nothing but a skin pouch.
When Háiendonis saw the girl knocking down his guards, he
thought, "She will come in! I will get my Pipe and pretend to be
an old man."
As the girl pushed the skin door aside she asked, "Where is Háiendonis?"
No answer. She asked again, then an old man sitting there, said,
"It seems to me that I hear a woman speaking."
The girl spoke louder.
The old man looked up and said, "I don't think he is at home. I
don't think he will be here for ten days."
"Very well" said the girl, "I will come in ten days." And she went
At the end of ten days, the girl set out again. When l Háiendonis
saw her coming, he said, "Now I will be a little boy."
This time the girl paid no attention to the pouches. She went straight
to the door and stood there.
"Come in!" said a little boy.
She pushed the door aside, and asked, "Where is Háiendonis?"
"He went out a little while ago," said the boy. "He has gone to
the other side of the world."
"How long will he be gone?"
"He said he would be back in ten days."
"Very well. I will come again in ten days."
At the end of ten days, Háiendonis saw the girl coming and
he thought, "I'll be invisible this time."
The girl went into the house and put her basket down, Seeing nobody
she said, "I will wait a while," and she sat down on Háiendonis'
Háiendonis laughed. The girl jumped up and ran home, forgetting
"Where is your basket?" asked Barkworm.
The girl gave no answer, but her mother knew where it was.
Háiendonis had cleaned the intestines of the game he had
killed, filled them with blood and meat, cooked them and hung them
up over his couch, some of these intestines clung to the girl. Barkworm
took them, and said, "Thank you, my daughter. This is good meat.
You must go again tomorrow."
The next morning the girl started. When Háiendonis saw her
coming, he laughed, and said, "I think this time all the intestines
She found him in his real form. He asked, "What were you doing
with the basket you left here yesterday?"
"It was full of marriage bread. My mother sent me to stay with
you," said the girl.
Háiendonis did not drive her away. He ate of the marriage
bread and that made her his wife.
The next day Yenongaa said, "I want to go to my mother."
"You can go," said her husband.
Old Barkworm and her two elder daughters were evil-minded, poisonous
persons. Barkworm now began to give her youngest daughter as much
power as possible and to instruct her how to control Háiendonis.
"You must make him come and live with us," said she.
When Yenongaa came back, Háiendonis looked at
her and right away he knew she was going to try to control him.
Each time she tried, she failed. But she went often to her mother
to get more power and witchcraft. Háiendonis wondered why
she acted this way. At last he said to himself, "I will destroy
all of her people." The next time she started for her mother's,
he followed, circled around, got ahead of her and reached the old
woman's house first.
He sprang into the house, and said to old Barkworm, "I am here
to fight with you."
They were fighting when Yenongaa came. She stood at
one side powerless to help either her husband or her mother and
Háiendonis killed Barkworm and two of her daughters, then
he said to his wife, "Go off a little way."
She went, and he set fire to the house. It blazed up high, then
burned to the ground. When the fire died down, something among the
coals popped; a horned owl flew to the trees, and hooted; a second
pop and a screech owl called out; at the third pop a common owl
flew to the top of a tree.
"Now we will go home," said Háiendonis.
The woman stood still, looking in one direction; she was dazed.
He pulled her along by the arm, and said, "Come home," then she
The minute the old woman was killed, people, even at the edge of
the world, knew it, and a shout of joy was then that sounded all
over the world.
Háiendonis put saliva on his hands, rubbed his wife's head
and pulled her hair, which till then had been short, and right away
it became long and beautiful. Now they lived in Háiendonis'
house and were happy.
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