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A Man And His Three Dogs

A Winnebago (Hotcâk) Legend

This story tells of a certain village where there lived a family of three: a man, his wife, and his mother-in-law. The man had three dogs: a hound, a white dog, and a rat dog. He was very fond of these dogs and used to cut up their meat before he prepared his own. The white dog used to accompany him on the hunt, while the two others stayed at home near the camp. The man was a good hunter, and lived at some distance from the village because he depended for his hunting on a blessing he had received. This year to his surprise he seemed able to kill nothing but a few small animals. He went out, nevertheless, every morning. His family was at the point of starvation. So he knew that something was wrong and he used to wonder and ponder over the cause. His dog, likewise, could not find anything, although in former years, he had always been able to find bear caves and to locate deer, elk, etc.

One night, after they had all gone to bad, the man lay awake thinking of something. Suddenly he heard the dogs talking to one another. The old hound was asking the other one whether they could not help their master. "I used to be able to help him, when I was young. But now I am old, and our little brother is too young. All that he can do is to play about the camp. So you, who are the second one, are really the only one that can be of any help," So spoke the old hound to the white dog. He answered, "I could have helped our master all this time, but there is a reason why I have not helped him." "What is the reason?" asked the old hound. "Well," answered the white dog, "the old woman, his mother-in-law, once took [a poker?] and struck me across the back with it, hitting my medicine bag. This made my heart very sad and that is the reason that our master has no success in hunting. I see bears and deer every day, when I am out, but I do not show them to him. I like the master and his wife, but I do not like his mother-in-law. However, if he were to cut the deer lung that hangs in his lodge and give it to us, I would show him a place where there are many bear caves. There is one right near here and there are many not far from here." Thus the white dog spoke.

The man had never before been able to understand the dogs but now he was able to talk to them. So in the morning when he got up he took the deer lung and cut it in three parts. His wife noticed this and asked him what he was doing. He answered that he was going to feed his dogs, and she said nothing more. He went and fed his dogs, and they were delighted. Then he took his bow and arrow and went hunting. His dog went along, and as in the olden times, before he had lost sight of his camping place the dog scared up a bear and the man killed it. From that day on he killed a bear or a deer every day. In a short time they were all provided with provisions again.

One night he told his wife what the dogs had said and how they had provided for him, so from that day on they took even better care of them. Some time passed in this manner and one night, when he was again awake he heard the dogs talking. They were saying that he was in the midst of a large body of his enemies and that there was no possible manner by which he could escape. When he heard this he got up and called his dogs into the lodge and fed them. When they had finished eating, the old hound said, "Brother, you have always treated us nicely in the past and you even fed us before you fed yourself. We always tried to help you, but now we are in a great quandary as to what to do, for you are going to have a hard time. We were just talking about this. Our little brother is, of course, of no consequence because he is too young, while I am too old to do anything but lie around the house. So it is really up to our second brother, the white dog to try and help you. He is the only one that can help you, and he has consented to try and help both you and your wife in the coming warfare." He continued, "It is said that one of the (spirit) chiefs has given you away as a victim to the one who is leading the war party. That is why all this has been kept away from you. This war leader fasted more than you did and that is why he is coming after you and why you didn't know about it. We know of it, however, for my brother has seen them today. He is going to take your wife half way back to her folks, and then he will come back and help you fight the enemy. We two, who are good for nothing will stay near the camp and help you in whatever way that we can. My younger brother will now tell you that he knows about it." Then the white dog spoke to the man and said, "Brother, you have always treated me nicely, so I am going to save you and your wife. The enemy are now circling the camp and when the sun comes up, they are going to attack you from all sides. I went out to get as much information as possible and I heard this war leader say this. Now you must understand what I am going to do. I shall escort your wife as far as I can and then she must hurry to her people and tell them to come to your assistance. The white dog continued, "If her relatives reach us early in the afternoon, they will still find us alive and fighting, but if they come later than that, it will be all over. Therefore, she must tell them to hurry up." He then got the woman and told her to take a hold of his tail, and to crawl when he crouched, and to raise herself when he did, but under no circumstance to let go of his tail. This she did, and in this way he got her to the place he had spoken of. Then he told her to run as fast as she could with her message.

In the meantime the man was getting ready for the attack. He fixed himself up for warfare, straightened his arrows, drew his bowstring tighter, and painted his face, as he always did when he prepared to go on the warpath. Then he said to the dog, "How do I look, brother?" and the dog said, "You look as if it were impossible to kill you." Then the man laughed and said, "It is good." He sat there thinking of the fight before him. He had confidence in the outcome because his brother, the dog, was going to fight with him, even though he knew that the number of the attacking party was very large. After a time the white dog came back and told the man that the only way to fight the enemy was to take turns in fighting them. As soon as they approached, the man was to fight them and when he was tired, the dog would relieve him, and so on. When things were very bad they were to retreat to the lodge and fight in the same manner. "We may be able to resist them until our friends come to our aid, and in any case they will not be able to kill us right away, because my brothers are going to concentrate their minds on us." Thus spoke the white dog, and continued," I, myself, am the chief of the wolves. I tried to become a human being like you, but I only succeeded in changing myself into an ordinary dog. I am in possession of a considerable amount of war blessings."

It was now dawn, and the enemy gave the war whoop and rushed for the man. The man, however, also gave the war whoop and rushed out with his dogs to meet them. He drove them back a ways, and then he ran back to the lodge. Then Wolf ran out to attack them. He made a great deal of noise and jumped at them, trying to tear their scrotums. Both the man and the dog, in this manner, killed many of the enemy. Thus they fought for a long time, and when the sun began to go towards the west, their friends came up and the fighting continued. Finally, both the man and the dog fell down exhausted, but some friends carried them away in blankets. While the fighting continued, the man regained consciousness, but the wolf lay unconscious for four days. His white coat was red with the blood of human beings. Finally he, too, regained consciousness, and said to the man, "Brother, I have done wrong. My coat is covered with the blood of human beings and it will never be white again. I know that he who is in control of wars will not like this at all. From now on the people will call me "the red wolf," and as the years roll on they will tell of my conduct. You yourself are a human and will remain here, but I shall go where Earth-maker has placed me."

So this is the story of how a wolf tried to become a human being, and how he only succeeded in changing himself into an ordinary dog. He did something that was entirely wrong, and therefore left us humans. The man in this story had treated him nicely so he blessed him and saved him and his wife.

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