A Warrior Cared for by Wolves
A Seneca Legend
Among the Seneca's there was a war chief named Ganogwioeon. Once, with ten men, he went on the warpath to the Cherokee country. They found the Cherokees on the watch and could do nothing.
Then the chief said to his men, "I'll go alone to their village." And after dark, leaving his men in the woods, he went to the Cherokee village.
In the first cabin he came to, he found an old woman and her granddaughter. They didn't see him. He crept into a little place where they kept wood.
After dark the old woman said to her granddaughter, "Maybe Ganogwioeon is around here. I'll shut the door," and she spoke a word of warning to Odjú, her granddaughter. The chief heard this.
After a while the girl said, "It is time to sleep."
The chief heard this also and heard the girl going up the ladder to sleep above, meanwhile talking with her grandmother, who was below.
The old woman fastened the door of the little wood house, with bark strings and fastened the chief in, leaving the door to the cabin unfastened.
After waiting till the old woman was asleep, the chief went into the cabin. The fire had burned down to coals but he could see the ladder that the girl had climbed. He went up. The girl was not asleep and was about to scream when he said, "If you scream I'll cut off your head. The chief of this village has a daughter. If you will get her to come into the woods with you I will spare your life." Odjú said, "In the morning, as soon as the grass is dry, I will go to the chief's house and ask his daughter to come with me to gather wood."
Threatening to come back and kill the girl if she failed to do as planned the chief left the cabin.
Early the next morning, Odjú went to the chief's house and said to his daughter, "Come with me and gather wood." (This was the custom in those days.)
The chief's daughter was willing to go and they started. As soon as they came to the forest the Seneca sprang out of his hiding place and ran toward them. Odjú stood still, but the chief's daughter screamed and ran toward home. Ganogwioeon caught her, scalped her, and then, giving a war whoop, ran away. Men rushed out of their cabins and pursued him.
The Seneca saw that among the men following him there was one good runner. He hid in a ravine and when the runner came to the entrance of the ravine he shot him with an arrow and pulling off the man's scalp held it up before the people who were following.
When the Seneca came to a second ravine another runner was ahead of the rest. He aimed at the man, but his bowstring broke. The pursuer saw this and rushed into the ravine. The Seneca ran swiftly, but the Cherokee overtook and closed with him. A second and a third man came, then others; they bound Ganogwioeon, led him to the village and summoned the people to assemble.
Among the Cherokees there were two women who were looked upon as the head women of the tribe. Each woman had two snakes tattooed on her lips--the upper jaws of the snakes were on the woman's upper lip, and opposite each other, the lower jaws on the lower lip in the same way. When the woman opened her mouth, the snakes seemed to open theirs.
These women said, "This is the way to torment him; tie him near a fire and burn the soles of his feet till they are blistered, then let the water out of the blisters, put kernels of corn inside the skin, and chase him with clubs till he dies."
When Ganogwioeon's feet were blistered, the women stripped him and tied a bark rope around his waist. One old man said, "I want to hold the rope."
The people stood in two lines and at the end of each line were many people. The Seneca had to run between the lines. He ran so fast that he pulled the rope out of the old man's hand, then plunging to one side, he broke through the line and ran with all his strength toward the place where he had left his men.
When running he thought he was going to die, for he was naked and unarmed, far from home, and his feet were raw, but he evaded his enemies and, when night came, crept into a hollow log. In the night he heard steps on the dry leaves, and thought the Cherokees had discovered his hiding place. Whoever it was came up to the tree and said to someone who was with him, "This man is our friend."
Then he called to Ganogwioeon, "You think that you are going to die, but you will not. We will take care of you. Stick out your feet."
The chief put out his feet and right away he felt someone licking them.
After a while one of the strangers said, "We have licked his feet enough. Now we must get him warm, we will go into the tree and one of us lie down on each side of him."
It was very dark in the hollow log, but the man felt someone lie down on either side of him, and soon he was so warm and comfortable that he fell asleep.
Just before daylight the strangers crept out of the log and told the man to stick out his feet. They licked them again, and then said, "We have done all we can now. You will go on till you come to a place where you put a piece of bark. Raise the bark up, you will find something under it."
When the man came out of the log, he found that his feet were better, he could walk comfortably. At midday he came to four posts holding up a bark roof. On the ground, under the roof, was a large piece of bark. He raised the bark and found a piece of flint, a knife and an awl, then he remembered that his men had put those things there a couple of years before, when on the warpath. He took them and went on.
When it began to grow dark he looked for a hollow tree, found one and crawled into it. In the night he heard steps on the dry leaves and a voice said, "Our friend is here.
Then someone said, "Put your feet out."
He did so and again they were licked.
Then the stranger said, "That is enough, we will lie near our friend and keep him warm."
They went into the tree and lay down, but before daylight they crept out, and, after licking the man's feet again, said, "About midday you will find food."
The man went on till he found a bear that apparently had been killed only a few minutes before; it was still warm. When he had skinned the bear and cut out some of the meat, he saw, not far away, a smouldering fire, he blew it and it blazed up. He cut meat into small pieces and roasted it on sticks. When night came he lay down, and soon he heard steps on the leaves as he had the preceding nights, then a voice said, "Our friend is lying down; he isn't going to die; he has plenty to eat. We'll lick his feet."
When they finished, they said to him, "Nothing will happen to you now, you will reach home in safety." And they went away.
The next morning the man, taking some of the meat, went on toward home. That night his friends came again. They said, "Your feet are well, but you will be cold," and they lay down one on each side of him. Before daylight, when going away, they said, "At midday you will find something to eat and to wear."
The man traveled on till toward midday, then found two young bears, just killed. He skinned the bears, cooked some of the meat, tanned the skins and lay down, very tired.
The next morning he made leggings of the skins, took what meat he wanted and went on.
That night the friends came to him, and said, "Tomorrow you will find something to wear on your feet."
About midday the man came upon two fawns, just killed.
He tanned the skins and made moccasins. When night came, he made a fire, cooked meat, ate, and then lay down.
Soon he heard a voice say, "Our friend, you will reach home tomorrow. Now we will tell you why we healed your feet and cared for you. Always when you have been off in the woods hunting and have killed game, you have given the best part of the animal to us, and kept the smallest part for yourself; we are thankful. In the morning you will see us and know who we are."
When daylight came the chief saw two men, as he thought. As soon as he stood up the men took leave of him and started off. Wanting to see his friends as long as he could he turned to look at them and in the twinkle of an eye he saw that one of them was a white and the other a black wolf.
The chief reached home as his friends, the wolves, said he would.
Return to Seneca Legends