Native American Legends
Hagowane and his ten sons
A Seneca Legend
At Hetgengastende lived a man of great power named Hagowane. He
belonged to the Eagle family. One day this man started off to hunt.
Taking his canoe he sailed across the lake in front of his house
and leaving the canoe traveled for five days toward the West, then
he collected wood and made a camp. The first day he hunted, he killed
five bears and six deer, brought them to camp and said to himself,
"I have had bad luck today."
The second day he killed ten bears and twelve deer and brought
them to camp. That night he skinned and roasted the fifteen bears
and eighteen deer and finished the work before daylight.
The next day he went for more game. He killed twenty-four deer
and twenty bears, brought them to camp skinned and roasted them,
finishing exactly at midnight. Then he said to himself, "I have
Putting the meat into one pile he tied it up with bark strings
and shook it, saying, "I want you to be small." It shrank to a little
package that he hung to his belt. In the same way, he made the skins
into a small package that he hung to his belt. Then he set out for
When Hagowane came to the lake he looked everywhere for his canoe,
but couldn't find it. He saw a man coming toward him.
When they met, the man asked, "What have you lost?"
"I have lost my canoe," answered Hagowane.
"The man who lives on that island over there was here yesterday.
He took your canoe."
"Who is the man?"
"He is one of the Turtle family."
"How can I get my canoe?"
"Give me what meat you have and I will get it for you."
"What am I to eat if I do that?"
"Well, I will do better. I will bring the canoe if you will take
your meat home, keep half and put the other half outside your house
"Very well," answered Hagowane.
The man himself had taken the canoe to the island and now he brought
it back, "That man on the island," said he, "is an ugly fellow;
he nearly killed me."
When Hagowane got home, he drew the canoe to a place of safety
among the rocks. Then he took the packages of meat from his belt,
untied and threw them down. That minute they regained their natural
size. He piled the meat up inside of his house and tanned the skins,
but he didn't pay Handzoyas for bringing back the canoe.
After a time a woman of the Wild Goose family came to Hagowane's
house bringing a basket of bread. She said, "My mother sent me to
ask you to take me for a wife."
The man hung his head a while, thinking. At last he said to himself,
"I suppose nothing bad will come of this." Then he looked at the
girl, and said, "I am willing."
The girl was glad, She placed the marriage bread before him. He
ate some of it, and said, "I am thankful. I have not tasted of bread
for many years."
The two lived happily. Each year for ten years a son was born to
Then one morning when Hagowane was sitting on a rock outside the
house, he said to himself, "I am tired of staying here, I am going
He sat in his canoe and rowed across the lake. After a time his
wife missed him. She looked everywhere, but could get no trace of
When the eldest boy was almost a young man, he said to his mother,
"I am going to search for my father till I find out where he is."
"You will get lost on the way," said his mother. "Oh, no, I will
not," replied he.
After a time the mother gave her consent and the boy set out traveling
always toward the North. While crossing a rocky place, he came upon
a trail. "These footprints look like my father's," thought he, and
he followed them. Soon he came to a cross trail, "I wonder where
this comes from and where it goes," thought he. "When I come back,
I will find out."
Not far from the cross trail, the boy saw a house and as the trail
he was following entered it, he went in and looking around saw one
old man in the south-east corner, another in the south-west, a third
in the north-west and a fourth in the north-east corner and each
one was smoking.
The first old man raised his head, looked at the boy and asked,
"Well my grandson, what are you doing here? If you want to see your
father come to me, I will show him to you."
The boy went to him, the old man seized him by the hair, bent his
head over a bark bowl and cut it off.
"I am glad of young game," said he, "It must be worth eating, it
is just the right age," and he began to cut up the body.
At home they waited long for tidings from the eldest brother. When
none came, the second son said, "I must go and find my brother."
"Oh, my son," said the mother, "do not go, some misfortune has
befallen your brother."
"I must go," answered the boy. "I cannot help going. I want to
find my father and my brother," and he made ready for the journey.
He put on a shirt, leggings and moccasins of meteor skin and took
bow and arrows. The mother cried but she couldn't prevent his going.
He went North, as his brother had done, followed the same trail
till he came to the cross trail and went into the house where the
four old men were sitting.
The old man in the north-west corner called out, "My grandson,
do you want to see your father? Come here."
The boy went and looking into a bowl half full of water saw the
face of his father and the face of his brother. Then the old man
seized him by the hair and cut off his head.
Nine of the brothers went, one after another, and all were killed
by the four old men in the house near the cross trail. Then Yellow
Flint, the tenth and youngest son, though he was still small and
young, said to his mother, "I must follow my brothers."
"Oh, my son," said the mother, "you cannot go. There are four old
men living near the trail. They are called Hadia´des. They
have great power."
"But I must go. I want to find my father and my brothers."
"You will never see them again, they are dead."
"Can't I kill those old men?"
"Maybe you can, if I give you my power."
"Give it to me. I must kill them."
"I will go and bring it," said the mother.
She went West to a rough and rocky place and came back with a slate
rock mannikin about half the length of her little finger.
"Here," said she, "put this mannikin between your belt and your
body and you can do what you like; you can change yourself to whatever
form you please."
The boy put the mannikin between his belt and his body, took a
bow made of hickory and arrows of red willow pointed with wasp stings,
and went toward the North, as his brothers had. He found a fresh
trail, and thought, "Maybe this is my father's trail." After a while
he came to the cross trail running from east to west. He stood still
and thought, "Where does this trail come from and where does it
go? I will find out."
He went toward the East till he came to a wide opening and saw
a cloud of dust moving toward him. "I must hurry back," said he
to himself, "or something may happen to me."
When he turned, the great cloud approached quickly. Soon it touched
him and he grew so weak that he fell to the ground. Looking up he
saw a long-legged person rushing on. He sprang to his feet, climbed
a tree and shot off a wasp sting-pointed arrow. The arrow hit the
man in the cloud and killed him. The long-legged stranger was Djiäyen
The boy went East again, another cloud of dust rushed toward him,
but he turned aside. After the cloud passed, he ran on till he came
to the place where the trails crossed and going northward from there
came to the house where the four old men sat smoking. After standing
outside a while, he found a crack and looking in saw the brothers.
''I wonder if those are the men that my mother told me about,"
thought he, "I will kill them if I can, if I can't I will burn down
He took the mannikin from his belt and placed it on his hand. It
stood up and he said to it, "I am going to ask You a question. I
want to kill those old men, how am I to do it?"
The mannikin said, "You must climb that high rock over there and
call out, 'I, Othägwenda, am on this high rock!'
You will find sharp flint stones up there. Take a handful of them
and throwing them toward the house say, 'I want it to be hot.'"
The boy put the mannikin in his belt and listened to the conversation
of the old men.
One said, "I think Othägwenda is around here."
"Oh," replied the man in the south-east corner. "You said that
all the family were dead."
"I think a little boy is left," said the old man in the south-west
"I think they are all dead except the old woman," said the man
in the north-east corner.
"Well," said the old man in the north-west corner, "It seems to
me that one is lurking around here somewhere."
"If you think so, hunt for him," said the old man in the south-west.
Othägwenda sprang on to the house and sat with
his feet in the smoke-hole.
The old man looked all around, but could find no one,
The boy drew his bow and shot through the smoke-hole shot each
one of the brothers. The arrows went deep into' their bodies, but
the men were not hurt. They didn't know that they had been hit.
The boy sprang from the house and landed far away, then he climbed
the rock and called out, "I, Othägwenda, am on this
high rock!" He heard one of the brothers say, "My back is sore.
I feel as though my bones were broken."
The boy picked up a handful of sharp flint stones and threw them
at the house, saying, "I want you to be red hot and burn up those
old men and their house."
The flints went straight to the house; a few pieces went beyond.
Those that struck the house set it on fire; those that fell beyond
burned the forest; everything was blazing in and around the place.
Then the boy threw a second handful of flints, saying, "I want you
to cut off the heads of those old men." The flint struck each man's
neck in such a way that his head dropped off.
The boy stood on the rock and watched the fire till only coals
remained. All at once there was an explosion and Whirlwind, a great
head, flew towards him, knocked him off of the rock and rising high
in the air went straight West.
The boy sprang to his feet and looking up saw Whirlwind going higher
and higher. Soon he heard a crash as Whirlwind struck the Blue,
then the head came down again. When it reached the ground, Othägwenda
ran forward quickly and crushed it with a white flint stone.
The boy searched through the coals, with a pointed stick. At the
north-west corner of the coals of the house he came upon a trail
running towards the north-west, and he followed it till he came
to an opening. A cloud of dust rushed toward him. He ran into the
forest and waited.
The cloud stopped at the edge of the forest, and from it came an
"Oh," said the Spider, "I thought somebody was on the trail. My
master is fooling me. I thought he had found another one of the
Spider turned back, running as fast as he could. The boy followed
till Spider reached a house which was sunken in the ground. The
boy listened outside and soon he heard some one crying. He thought,
"That sounds like my father's voice; he must be in there."
He took out the mannikin, placed it on his hand. It came to life,
stood up, and the boy asked, "How am I to kill the Spider that lives
in this house?"
"Go to a tree just west of here," said the mannikin, "Climb to
the top of it, and call out, 'I am Othägwenda, and
I am more powerful than anything under the Blue, I can kill any
kind of game on earth.' When you have spoken these words, cut a
limb from the tree, throw it towards the house and tell it to split
open Spider's heart; the heart is in the ground under the house.
When Spider is dead, rescue your father and burn the house."
The boy did as the mannikin said. He cut off a limb of the tree,
spat on it, and straightway it was alive and he threw it towards
the house, saying, "Split Spider's heart in two."
The limb went under the house to where the heart was hidden. That
instant Spider stretched out and died. The boy slipped down from
the tree and went to the house. Spider lay dead in the middle of
the room. Under the much lay a man who seemed to be almost dead.
Othägwenda raised the couch and found his father.
The flesh was gone from his legs and arms and he was barely alive.
"My father," said the boy, "You must go home."
"My son," said Hagowane, "You will die if you stay here."
"There is no danger now," answered the boy.
Then he put the mannikin on his hand and asked, "What shall I do
with my father?"
The mannikin answered, "Rub saliva over him and flesh will come
on his bones."
The boy did this and his father was as strong and well as ever.
"Now, said he "I am Hodionskon (the Trickster).
I have heard old people say that when he dies he comes to life again.
We will go home."
"You can go," said Othägwenda, "but I must find
When Hagowane reached home, his wife looked at him and cried, "Oh,
my dear son, I wish you were here. I have seen something strange."
"Why do you talk in that way?" asked Hagowane, "Why do you cry?
Are you sorry that I have come?"
"You are not alive."
"Yes, I am."
"No, you are not." And thinking he was a ghost she drove him on
to the rocks, and there he had to stay.
After his father had gone, the boy burned Spider's house, When
only coals were left, something shot up and flew westward. It alighted
on the plain and became a Sandpiper.
"This is the way I do, this is why I say that I can kill anybody,"
cried the boy, and going around the edge of the opening on the eastern
side he found a broad trail and followed it till he came to a cross
trail. He stood at the four corners of the two trails, one going
North and South, the other East and West, put the mannikin on his
hand, and said, "I want you to tell me what I am to do."
"At the foot of that tree over there you will find a bark bowl;
beyond the tree is a medicine spring; on the other side of the spring
a plant is growing. Put the plant in the bowl and fill the bowl
with water from the spring. Here, where the trail crosses, dig a
hole and put the bowl into it with the plant standing in the water.
Then stay close by and see what will happen."
The boy put the mannikin away and went to the pine tree that grew
in the north-west, between the northern and western trails. He found
the spring and farther on a plant with bright red blossoms. He did
as the mannikin had told him to, then put the bowl in the ground
at the crossing of the trails and standing aside watched and listened.
Soon he heard a noise in the forest like a heavy wind coming from
the North. Nearer and nearer it came, with, terrible cloud of dust,
and nothing could be seen till the cloud stopped at the crossing.
Then, in the middle of it, the boy saw the skeleton of Blue Lizard.
The skeleton walked up to the plant and ate one of its red blossoms.
Though the skeleton had no place to hide the blossom, it vanished.
The boy wondered greatly. "It is nothing but bones," thought he,
"Where does food go?"
The skeleton grew sick. It jumped around till arms, legs, head
and ribs fell apart.
Othägwenda laughed, but just then he heard the
noise of a heavy wind and saw it coming from the South, with a great
cloud of dust. The cloud stopped at the crossing and the boy saw
the skeleton of Snake. It went to the bowl and ate a blossom. That
minute it began to shake and soon it fell to pieces, became a pile
of bones. Then a terrible wind came from the East and stopped at
the crossing. In the middle of the cloud of dust was the skeleton
of Nyagwaihe, the Ancient of Bears. It ate a blossom and then began
to tremble and to disjoint; soon it was only a pile of bones. From
the West came the skeleton of the Ancient of Winged Snakes. When
it had turned to bones the boy put the mannikin on his hand, and
asked, "Is it finished?"
"It is," said the mannikin. "All the trails are clear. If You go
to the end of the southern trail you will find three of your brothers."
When the boy came to the end of the southern trail, he couldn't
see anything, but after looking around a while, he found a rock
with an opening in it. He went to the opening and down into the
ground. It was dark there and he thought, "Maybe there are other
skeletons here, but I must go on.,
At last be came to a place where there was no fire but a plenty
of light, and just beyond he found three of his brothers. The' eldest
called out, "Oh, my brother, you must hurry away, the skeleton will
"I will kill it," said the boy.
"My brother, if you stay here, you will not live."
I have come to take you away," said Othägwenda.
"We cannot walk," answered the three. "The skeleton has eaten our
The boy looked at his brothers and saw that their legs and arms
were simply bones. He rubbed the bones with saliva and they were
covered with flesh.
"You must go home," said Othägwenda. "I am going
for my other brothers."
The three went home. When their mother saw them she cried out,
and, thinking them ghosts, seized a club and drove them away. They
found their father and sat on the rock with him.
The boy went back to the crossing and followed the eastern trail
till he came to the end of it. At first he didn't see anything and
he wondered where the Ancient of Bears came from. Then he found
an opening in the ground and went down into it. "There must be other
skeletons here," thought he, "but I must go on."
Soon he came to a place where there was a bright light from rotten
wood which was packed up there, and farther on he found three of
his brothers. All their flesh had been eaten and they were too weak
to move; he brought flesh to their bones and sent them home. The
mother drove them away as she had their father and brothers.
Othägwenda went back to the crossing and followed
the northern trail till he came to a small opening. While he was
looking around, a whirlwind came upon him and he ran to the shelter
of a maple tree that stood near by. Soon he heard a heavy blow on
the opposite side of the tree. He looked and saw an Onwi
(Winged-Snake), lying dead at the foot of the tree. Coming in the
whirlwind, it had struck the tree and been killed.
The boy went to the edge of the opening but right away he heard
a second whirlwind coming. "I shall die this time," thought he,
for he saw that a great number of winged-snakes were in the whirlwind.
He hid behind the tree and the whirlwind rushed by, then he ran
to the other side of the opening.
The boy put the mannikin on his hand; it stood up, alive, and he
asked, "What can I do with the snakes that are chasing me?"
"You must make a fire across the trail."
He gathered boughs and sticks, made a large, long pile, set fire
to the west end of it, and said to the wind, "My grandfather, blow
gently on the west end of this pile."
His grandfather heard him and soon there was a mighty fire. When
it was burning fiercely the boy said, "Grandfather, let the breeze
die down." Straight-away it stopped blowing. When the whirlwind
of snakes came again, the snakes were swept into the fire and every
one of them perished.
Free of the snakes, the boy hurried along the northern trail till
he saw a whirlwind going toward the north-east, then he took out
the mannikin and asked, "Which way must I go?"
"North," answered the mannikin.
As the boy traveled along he saw a trail going toward the north-west,
but he went straight ahead. When he came to the end of the trail
he found an opening in the ground near a birch tree. He went into
the opening and soon came to a place where an old man sat smoking.
"What can that old man be doing?" thought he.
The old man straightened up, and said, "I am weak this morning.
It seems to me that somebody is around here.
He raised his head and looked around and as he looked his eyes
seemed to project from his head.
He saw Othägwenda, and said, "My nephew, I am glad
that you have come. I will find out what luck you have."
He took a rattle made of a Dagwanoenyent and shook it,
saying "Sáwa, Sáwa!"
"Stop," said the boy. "I will try your luck first."
"No, my nephew, I will try first," said the old man whose name
was Dewaqsonthwûs (Flea). They disputed till they
came to blows. The old man threw down his rattle and struck at the
boy and his own arm fell off. He struck with the other hand and
that arm fell off. Then he kicked at him with one leg and that fell
off; with the other and that dropped. The old man was now only head
The arms and legs tried to get back to their places on the body
but the boy pushed them away and shot an arrow through the old man.
The arrow took root and became a small tree. Flea tried to bite
the boy but as he made the attempt his head flew off.
The boy pounded the body, jumped and danced around it, and said,
"Oh, my uncle is in pieces now!"
In the old man's house he found the last three of his brothers,
weak and wretched as the others had been. He cured them and sent
them home. The mother drove them from the house and they sat down
on the rock with their father and brothers.
After his brothers had gone Othägwenda took out
the mannikin and asked, "Is there anything on the north-east trail?"
"You will rescue people if you go there," answered the mannikin.
"Is there anything bad on the north-west trail?"
At the end of the north-west trail, the boy found a house without
a door. "How can I get into this house," thought he. Looking through
a crack he saw an old woman of the Blue Snake people; she was singing
and the song said, "Othägwenda is coming. Othägwenda
"She knows that I am here," thought the boy.
Presently she said, "I will go out and play a while."
The boy didn't see how the woman got out of the house, but all
at once he saw her going along the trail that ran toward the West;
he followed her. She went into a small lake and down deep in the
water. Then he saw a tail come to the surface and begin to move
around in a circle. On the tail were two little things like fins.
They rubbed against each other and made beautiful music. In the
water the old woman was a fish. After a while she came partly out
of the water but seeing the boy she drew back, and said, "My grandson,
don't kill me. I have never harmed any of your people."
"I will spare you if you will give me something that will be useful
"I will give you a fin. Keep it to find your luck with."
"How can I use it?"
"When you lie down, put it under your head. You have a dream and
the dream will tell you what you want to know."
The boy went home with the old woman and looking around saw an
opening in the ground and in it many people almost dead. He got
them out, rubbed them with saliva, healed them and sent each man
to his own home. When all had gone, he asked the old woman why she
had captured these people and shut them up.
"I did not shut them up," said the woman. "My husband is a man-eater.
He brought them here. He lives on another trail. His name is Dewaqsonthwûs
"Was that man your husband? I have killed him."
"I am glad," said the woman. "Your people are safe now, for you
have destroyed their greatest enemy."
Othägwenda traveled on the north-east trail till
he came to a house where he heard singing. The song said, "The youngest
son of the Hóngâk (Goose) woman is going everywhere
in the world. We wish he would come to us."
The song stopped and the woman said, "I feel badly. Let us go and
throw rocks." They went to a place where there were white flint
rocks as large as a house. The woman picked up one of the rocks
and threw it into the air. It came down on her head, but didn't
hurt her. Then she threw it to the man, who caught it and threw
When tired of playing they went to the house. The man said, "I
feel as though some one were here." Looking around he saw the boy,
and he asked, "My grandson, what are you doing here?"
"I have come to visit you."
"My grandson," said the woman, "I am glad you have come, we have
been waiting for you. You have killed the man-eater and the skeletons.
Now we want you to free the men who are in an opening under our
The boy found many men in the opening which the man-eater had forced
this man and woman to guard. He liberated them, and sent each man
to his own home.
"Now," said Othägwenda, "let all the trails disappear.
Trails must not be made across the world to deceive people."
The trails disappeared, then the boy went home. When he saw his
father and nine brother sitting on a large flat rock he asked, "Why
don't you go into the house?"
"Your mother wouldn't let us stay in the house; she drove us out,"
The boy went into the house, and asked, "Mother, are you sorry
that I found my father and my brothers?"
"Did you find them and send them home?"
The woman was glad then. She welcomed her husband and sons. They
came in, and all were happy.
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