Native American Legends
Whirlwind and her husband
A Seneca Legend [Told by Peter White]
An old man and his nephew lived together in a bark house in the
woods. The old man made the boy live on fungus and told him always
to go South to find it, he must never go toward the North.
Each day the uncle went off hunting, but he never brought home
any game. He lived on chestnut pudding and bear's oil.
For a long time the nephew couldn't find out how his uncle made
the pudding, but one day he discovered that the old man had a little
kettle, that he put a speck of chestnut in the kettle and then said,
"Swell kettle! Swell kettle!" And soon he had a good sized kettle
and it was full of pudding.
The next day, after his uncle had gone hunting, the young man found
the kettle and had a good meal of pudding and each day after that,
as soon as his uncle was out of sight, he made pudding.
The young man began to wonder why his uncle always cautioned him
not to go North, and after thinking over it a while he made up his
mind to find out. He started and traveled till he came to a house.
In the house he found a supply of deer and bear meat hanging up
around the walls, and many skins full of bear's oil. A woman sat
in the middle of the room, with her head bent down.
Little boy was crawling around. When the boy saw the young man,
he clapped his hands and laughed.
The woman took no notice of what was going on. The young man played
a while with the child, then started for home taking along a piece
of meat that he had hidden under his blanket.
Things went on in this way for a number of years. The uncle started
off to hunt. The young man went to the long house and played with
the boy. The woman never moved or spoke.
The boy was perhaps fifteen years old when one day he said to the
young man, "You and I are cousins. Your uncle is my father and this
woman sitting here is my mother."
The young man asked, "Why does she never speak?"
The boy didn't know. The young man asked the woman different questions
but she wouldn't answer. Then he took his bow and shot an arrow
at a skin of bear's oil which hung above her head. The arrow cut
the skin and the oil ran out and fell on to the woman's head and
face. She was very angry, but she didn't speak.
The meat in the house was game that the uncle brought. He came
late in the day, after his nephew had gone home. So in all those
years they never met at the long house. That evening when the uncle
came and found the skin broken and the oil spilt over the woman's
head, he suspected that his nephew had been there.
When he reached home, he asked, "Have you been at the, long house?"
"I have," said the nephew. "I have been there every day for many
years. I have eaten meat there. I haven't eaten fungus for a long
"Did you break the skin and let the oil out?"
"I did," said the nephew.
"You have done great harm," said the uncle, "That woman is full
of witchcraft. She will destroy us."
The next morning, the old man started off as usual. The Young man
stayed at home, he was angry. He raised the cover of the couch,
took out the little kettle, put water into it and a large piece
of chestnut. When the water boiled, he began to strike the kettle,
and say, "Swell kettle! Swell kettle!" The kettle came up as high
as the couch. The young man stood on the couch, when the kettle
rose higher he got on to the shelf, when it was as high as the shelf,
he went out of the smoke-hole on to the roof.
He enjoyed the increase of the pudding, thinking how angry his
uncle would be when he came home.
When the old man came, he asked, "What have you been doing; making
"That is an old habit with me. I have been eating chestnut pudding
"You have destroyed us both," said the uncle, who was very angry.
"You have enraged the woman and now she will never stop till she
The next morning, just at daybreak, they heard a terrible noise
off in the direction of the long house. Trees began to moan. The
sound grew louder and louder, then came the cracking of limbs and
the falling of trees. An awful storm was coming, and the woman was
in the middle of the storm. She swept over the house, tore it from
the ground, caught up the uncle and carried him away. The nephew
had hidden, she didn't find him.
That day the young man went to the long house, as usual. The woman
was sitting there silent and motionless, as if nothing had happened.
He asked the boy what his mother had done with his father.
"I don't know what she has done with him," said the boy. "She went
off with him and came back without him. Tomorrow she will come for
The young man went home to make ready for the woman's coming. He
had a mole for his medicine; he crept into the mole and the mole
went deep into the ground under the torn-down house.
In the morning the woman came with terrible fury, uprooting all
the trees in her path, but she couldn't find the young man. After
she had gone, he came from his hiding place and went to the long
house. The woman sat there as silent and motionless as before.
"Where were you this morning?" asked the boy. mother couldn't find
"I was right there under the house."
When he went home, he prepared for the storm and at daylight the
next morning it came. He was in the mole and the mole was in the
ground and the woman didn't find him. At last she made herself into
a whirlwind, whirled around and around. Then swooping down, she
dug a deep hole in the earth, lifted the ground and went to the
sky, carrying the mole along in the dirt. The mole fell and the
young man was killed. The woman went home satisfied.
The mole breathed into the young man's mouth and by putting breath
in and drawing it out brought him to life, and right away he set
out to find his uncle. He went beyond the long house, traveled as
fast as he could all day and all night, carrying the mole with him.
The next morning at daybreak the woman came with a terrible storm.
The young man went into the mole and under the ground and when the
woman couldn't find him she went back to the long house.
The young man traveled a second day and night. The next morning
the woman came again with a terrible storm. She found where her
nephew was and scooping up the earth she carried him far into the
sky. The mole fell to the ground, the young man was killed and the
woman went home, satisfied.
The mole brought the young man to life, and, putting the mole in
his belt, he ran on as fast as he could. That night he slept deep
in the ground between two great rocks on a mountain. At daybreak
the woman came, but she couldn't find him. That day the young man
traveled till he came to a house in an opening, and near the house,
under the roots of a great elm, he found his uncle. The tree was
standing on his breast. The old man was only skin and bones, but
as soon as he saw his nephew he begged for a smoke.
"Poor uncle," said the young man, "I'll give you a smoke." He pushed
the tree over, got the old man out and gave him a pipe and tobacco.
As soon as he had smoked, he was well and strong
The next morning the woman came again. By watching the nephew had
discovered that she came in a narrow path and that it was possible
to get away from her. He told his uncle to run toward the West and
keep out of the path, then he went into the mole and the mole went
under the ground. The woman became a whirlwind, scooped up the ground
and carried the mole to the sky. The mole fell and the young man
was killed, but, as before, the mole brought him to life. He followed
the woman to the long house and found her sitting there silent and
motionless. He shot an arrow at her and killed her. Then he gathered
a pile of dry bark and wood, poured bear's oil over it, put the
body on the pile and burned it up and throwing the charred bones
in every direction, he said to the boy, "We will go to my uncle."
They found the old man in the second long house and they stayed
there for a time. But the woman came to life, and suspecting they
were at the long house she went there in a terrible rage.
The young man sent his uncle and the boy away. He had found out
the woman's habits and strength. He knew that, after a certain force
was spent, she became weak and couldn't travel fast. While she was
a whirlwind, he stayed out of her path. When she hadn't found him
and her strength was used up, she turned to go home, but she had
to travel slowly. She could no longer go through the air. The young
man followed her and killed her with an arrow, then he called his
uncle and the boy. The three piled up wood, built a great fire and
burned the body to ashes, then picking up the bones they carried
them to the long house and pounded them to powder. This powder the
young man divided into three parts and put into three skin bags
and tied each bag up tight. One bag he gave to his uncle, one he
gave to his cousin, and the third he put into his own pouch, saying,
"I will keep it here. She shall never come to life again. When we
are out in a storm we must always stand apart so that the force
in these powders cannot unite.
They went to their first home and soon there was a house and a
supply of every kind of dried meat, and the three lived together
and were happy.
Peter White said that the Indians used to think that all trees
came from the pine tree. That once the pine trees got to disputing,
quarreling over which was the tallest and which was the strongest
and which had the most power. One tree declared that he had; another
said he had. At last one lofty pine got so angry that he struck
his nephew on the head and pressed him down with such strength that
he crowded his branches together and spread them out. After that
the nephew was a hemlock. All hemlocks came from this pine which
the wrath of the great pine had maimed and spread out.
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