Native American Legends
Cold and Frost, or Stone Coat Women
A Seneca Legend
Once four men started off on a hunting expedition, They went in
canoes up a large river. These men were the first men to make a
canoe. When the chief of the party said, "We will land at King Fisher's
place," the men were glad for they had been out a number of days.
After they had drawn their canoes to the bank the chief said, "Each
man must do his best, must bring in all the game he can."
The next morning the chief asked the sun, the moon and the stars
to help them, and give them success in getting game.
The men were good hunters and soon they had plenty of meat. Then
two of the party said, "We are going farther into the forest to
hunt for elk."
"You must be careful," said the old man, "and not go too far away
from a trail; something might happen."
One of the men was stubborn, he always wanted his own way. He wouldn't
follow the old man's advice. But he went farther than he intended.
When night came all the party returned to camp except the stubborn
man and as they gathered around the fire they talked of him and
said he must have gone far into the forest.
The man traveled all day. When night overtook him he built a fire.
After a while he heard voices and looking across the river that
was near where be had camped, he saw two women and a baby. The baby
was crying. One of the women sat down and nursed it. The man was
glad that there were people around.
Soon one of the women noticed that there was a man on the opposite
side of the river, and she called out, "How did you cross, brother!"
It seemed strange to him that he could hear her words from such
a distance, but he told her to come straight toward his fire.
Again the woman asked, "How did you cross, brother?" and he repeated,
"Come straight toward my fire." She asked a third time, and a third
time he answered, "Come straight toward my fire." He began to be
frightened, began to think that maybe they were Stone Coats, though
they looked like women.
The younger woman asked, "Can we stay all night by your fire?"
"If you come over, you may stay by my fire," answered the man.
Looking sharply at the women he knew now that they were not human
beings. One said to the other, "If we go higher up, we may find
a place to cross," and they started. Soon they came to the log where
the man had crossed. Men he saw them coming, he ran some distance
down stream, crossed at a ford and went to a point opposite his
fire. When they came to his fire and saw that he was where they
had been, one called out, "Why did you run away from us? Nothing
will happen to you. Come back. We won't harm you." One of the women
picked up his tomahawk and drew her finger along the edge of it.
"I wonder if this would take a person's life?" said she.
"Yes," called the man, "it would take any one's life. Put it down!"
She laid it down. They urged him to come to the fire. When he refused
they were angry and were determined to get at him. They started
for the crossing, saying, "Wait where you are till we come over."
"Very well," answered the man, but when he saw them crossing he
ran to the ford and when they reached the place where he had been
he was on the opposite side, by the fire.
The women couldn't walk side by side, one followed the other, the
younger woman carried the baby.
When they saw the man standing by his fire the elder woman called
to him, "A time will come when I will get at you!"
"You kill people," said the man.
"You are not able to kill any one," replied the woman.
"I'll show you what I can do," said the man. He drew his tomahawk
and struck a rock; great pieces split off.
"I think he can kill us," said the woman.
Picking up his bow the man aimed at a tree; the arrow went straight
to the mark. The woman, seeing his skill, was astonished and thought,
"He is a man to be feared."
"That man must be Híno'
" said the younger woman.
"He is dodging around," said the elder, "but I will kill him!"
She was angry because he tried to keep away from them.
When the man saw the women recrossing the river he went into the
river and under the water. They couldn't see him. He stayed in the
river till daylight, then he started off toward the camp where his
companions were. He was a swift runner, but about midday he heard
a voice say, "Now I have caught you!"
When he knew that the women were behind him he did his best, but
his strength was failing. Finding that he couldn't escape by running,
he climbed a tree. He had just reached a place in the thick branches
when the elder woman came and stood under the tree. Her daughter,
who was carrying the child, ran up; the mother nursed the child
and then said, "We must hurry and overtake him!" (Stone
Coats, because of their clothing, couldn't look up, so the woman
didn't see the man.) When she wanted to know how far away he was,
she took a tiny finger out of her bosom and put it on the palm of
her hand. The finger stood erect and pointed straight at the man.
That minute the man slipped down, snatched the finger and ran off.
The finger was of great service; the man could run faster. It was
an adviser also and pointed out the road to be taken. The man consulted
the finger to find how far he was from camp and in what direction
The finger raised a little and pointed in a certain direction.
After he had run some distance he consulted the finger again. It
hardly rose from his hand. He knew then that he was near his comrades.
When he reached camp, he ate, regained his strength and then told
his story, but he didn't tell about the finger. The chief of the
party said, "We must gather up our things and go home."
When the men were in their canoes and were pushing away from the
bank, they saw a woman coming. She was crying. When near enough
she called out, "Give back what you have taken and you will be successful.
If you return what belongs to me, you will have good luck."
"What did you take from her?" asked the chief. "Whatever it was
it may be true that we will have good luck if you give it back."
The man drew out the finger and showed it to his comrades.
"Let her have it if she will promise not to molest us again," said
The man put the finger on the palm of his hand and reached it toward
the woman as far as he could and she reached to get it. She slipped,
fell into the river, and sank. They saw only bubbles.
"Let us be off quickly!" said the man, and they rowed away as fast
as they could. They reached home in safety. The man kept the finger.
He became very expert in bunting for be always consulted the finger.
When he put it on his palm and asked where game was, it rose and
pointed in the direction the animal would be found. And as long
as the man lived he had a supply of all things good to eat.
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