Bald Eagle sends Mud-Turtle to the Edge of the World
A Seneca Legend
Once upon a time, a bald-headed old man lived on the top of a mountain, and his wife and three children lived near a lake about half way to the summit of the same mountain.
Each day the old man went down to fish in the lake. On his way home he stopped and gave some of the fish to his wife, and thus they lived well and happily. After they had passed many years in this manner, the old man became curious to know how large the world is.
Being chief of his people he called a council, and said, "I want to know how large the world is. I wish some man would volunteer to find out."
One young man said, "I will go and find out."
"Very well," said the chief, "How long will you be gone?"
"I can't tell, for I don't know how far I shall have to travel."
"Go," said the chief, "And when you return you will tell us about your journey."
The young man started and after traveling two moons he came to a country where everything was white--the forests, the water, the grass. It hurt his feet to walk on the white ground, so he hurried back. When he reached home he notified the chief.
The chief said, "I don't believe that he has been to the end of the world, but I will call a council and we will hear what he has to say."
When the people were assembled, the young man said: "I did not go very far, but I went as far as I was able." And he told all he knew of the White Country. The chief said, "We must send another man."
They sent a second man. He was gone four moons and returned. The chief called a council, and then asked: "Did you go to the end of the world?"
"No," said the man, "but I went as far as I was able to go. Everything was as it is here till I came to the White Country. I traveled two moons in the White Country and could go no farther. I could not have lived had I continued my journey."
The chief sent a third man. He traveled farther than the second man, then came back and related that there were people who lived in white houses and dressed in fur.
The chief was encouraged and he sent a fourth man. As the man traveled he noticed everything. He crossed white rivers and white lakes and was gone eight moons.
On his return, he said, "I came back quicker than I went, for I came a shorter way and reached the green land sooner than I would if I had come on the trail by which I went."
The chief sent a fifth man. He crossed the White Country and beyond that he found a place where there was nothing but rocks. He climbed very high then went down, and so he went up and down till he wore his moccasins off. He was gone ten moons and came back.
At the council called by the chief the man said, "I passed over the White Country, crossed rocky places, and then came straight home. It cannot be very far across the world."
"How did you know the way home?" asked the old man.
''As I went I noticed the trees. The tops of the hemlocks leaned toward the East and our home is in that direction, so I followed the bend of the hemlocks."
The bald-headed chief was learning something all the time.
Many men were sent, one after another, and each turned with a story a little different from that told by others, but still no one satisfied the chief. At last a man said, "I will start and I will go to the end of the world before I come back."
The chief looked at the man and saw that he was very homely, but very strong, and he said, "I think you will do as you promise. You may go."
The chief called a council of the whole nation and each man agreed to make a journey by himself, and then come home and describe all he had seen. The chief and his men went and were gone forty moons. When they came home a council was held and each told what he had seen.
When the man came who had promised to go to the end of the world, he said, "I have been to the end of the world, I have seen all kinds of people, all kinds of game, all kinds of forests and rivers. I have seen things which no one else has ever seen."
The chief was satisfied, he said, "I am chief of all the people, you will be next to me. You'll be second chief."
This was the pay the man got for his journey. He took his position as second chief.
The old chief was Bald Eagle. The first man sent out was Deer. His feet were tender, he could not endure the ice and snow of the White Country. The homely man who went to the end of the world was Mud-Turtle.
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