Native American Legends
How the Summer Birds Came
A Zuni Legend
In the days of the ancients, in the town under Thunder Mountain
called K'iákime, there lived a most beautiful maiden. But
one thing which struck the people who knew her was that she seldom
came forth from her room.
She never went out of her house; never seemed to care for the people
around her, never seemed to care to see the young men when they
Now, this was the way of it. Through the roof of her room was a
little skylight, open, and when it rained, one of the Gods Of the
Rain descended in the rain- drops and wooed this maiden, and married
her all unknown to her people; so that she was in his company every
time it rained, and when the dew fell at night, on his ladder of
water descending he came, and she was very happy, and cared not
for the society of men. By-and-by, behold! to the utter surprise
of the people, whose eyes could not see this god, her husband, there
was a little boy born to her.
Now, he was the child of the gods, and, therefore, before he was
many days old, he had begun to run about and speak, and had wonderful
intelligence and wonderful strength and vivacity. He was only a
month or two old when he was like a child of five or six or eight
years of age, and he would climb to the house-top and run down into
the plaza and out around the village hunting birds or other small
With only his fingers and little stones for weapons, he never failed
to slay and bring home these little creatures, and his mother's
house was supplied more than any other house in the town with plumes
for sacrifice, from the birds which he captured in this way.
Finally he observed that the older men of the tribe carried bows
and arrows, and that the arrows went more swiftly and straighter
than the stones he threw; and though he never failed to kill small
animals, he found he could not kill the larger ones in that way.
So he said to his mother one night: "Oh, mother, where does
the wood grow that they make bows of, and where do they get sticks
for their arrows? I wish you would tell me."
But the mother was quite silent; she didn't like to tell him, for
she thought it would lead him away from the town and something would
happen to him. But he kept questioning her until at last, weary
with his importunities, she said: "Well, my little boy, if
you go round the cliff here to the eastern side, there is a great
hollow in the rocks, and down at the bottom of that hollow is a
Now, around that shelter in the rocks are growing the trees out
of which bows are made, and there also grow the bushes from which
arrows are cut; they are so plentiful that they could supply the
whole town, and furnish all the hunters here with bows and arrows;
but they cannot get them, because in the cave lives a great Bear,
a very savage being, and no one dares go near there to get timber
for the bows or sticks for the arrows, because the Bear would surely
devour whoever ventured there. He has devoured many of our people;
therefore you must not go there to get these arrows.
"No, indeed," said the boy. But at night he lay down
with much in his mind, and was so thoughtful that he hardly slept
the whole night. He was planning what he would do in the morning.
The next morning his mother was busy about her work, and finally
she went down to the spring for some water, and the little boy slipped
out of the house, ran down the ladder, went to the riverside, stooped
down, and crawled along the bank of the river, until he could get
around on the side of the cliff where the little valley of the spring
that flows under Thunder Mountain lies.
There he climbed up and up until he came to the shelter in the
rocks round on the eastern side of Thunder Mountain. The mouth of
this hollow was entirely closed with fine yellow-wood and oak, the
best timber we have for bows, and straight sprouts were growing
everywhere out of which arrows could be made.
"Ah, this must be the place," said the boy, as he looked
at it. I don't see any Bear. I think I will climb up and see if
there is anything to be afraid of, and try if I can cut a stick
before the Bear comes out."
He started and climbed into the mouth of the cavern, and his father,
one of the Gods of the Rain, threw a tremendous shaft of lightning,
and it thundered, and the cave closed together.
"Ha!" cried the boy. "What in the world is the meaning
of this?" Then he stood there a moment, and presently the clouds
finished and the cave opened, and all was quiet. He started to go
in once more, and down came the lightning again, to remind him that
he should not go in there.
"Ha!" cried the boy again. "What in the world does
it mean?" And he rubbed his eyes, it had rather stunned him,--and
so soon as it had cleared away he tried again, and again for the
Finally the god said, "Ah! I have reminded him and he does
not heed. He must go his own way." So the boy climbed into
No sooner had he got in than it began to get dark, and Wah! came
the Bear on his hind legs and grabbed the boy and began to squeeze
him very tight.
"O my! O my!" cried he. Don't squeeze me so hard! It
hurts; don't squeeze me so hard! My mother is one of the most beautiful
women you ever saw!"
"Hollo!" exclaimed the Bear. "What is that you say?"
"My mother is one of the most beautiful women you ever saw!"
"Indeed!" said the Bear, as he relaxed his hold.
"My son, sit down. What did you come to my house for? I am
sure you are very welcome."
"Why," said the boy, "I came to get a piece of wood
for a bow and sticks for arrows."
Said the Bear, "I have looked out for this timber for a long
time. There is none better in the whole country. Let me tell you
what I will do. You don't look very strong. You haven't anything
to cut the trees down with. I will go myself and cut down a tree
for you. I will pick out a good one for a bow; not only that, but
I will get fine sticks for arrows, too.
So he stalked off into the forest, and crack, crack, he smashed
the trees down, and, picking out a good one, gnawed off the ends
of it and brought it to the boy, then gathered a lot of fine straight
sticks for arrow-shafts and brought them.
"There," said he, "take those home. Do you know
how to make a bow, my son?"
"No, I don't very well," replied he.
"Well," said the Bear, "I have cut off the ends;
make it about that length. Now take it home, and shave down the
inside until it is thin enough to bend quickly at both ends, and
lay it over the coals of fire so it will get hard and dry. That
is the way to make a good bow."
"All right," said the boy; and as he took up the bundle
of sticks and the stave for the bow, he said: "just come along
toward night and I will introduce you to my mother."
"All right," said the old Bear; "I will be along
just about sunset. Then I can look at your bow and see whether you
have made it well or not."
So the boy trudged home with his bundle of sticks and his bow stave,
and when he arrived there his mother happened to be climbing out,
and saw him coming.
"You wretched boy," she said, "I told you not to
go out to the cave! I warrant you have been there where the Bear
"Oh, yes, my mother; just see what I have brought," said
the boy. "I sold you to the Bear. He will be here to get you
this evening. See what I have brought!" and he laid out his
bow-timber and arrow-shafts.
"Oh," said she, "you are the most wretched and foolish
of little boys; you pay no attention to what any one says to you;
your mother's word is nothing but wind in your ears."
"Just see what I have brought home," said he. He worked
as hard as he could to make his bow, stripped the arrow-shafts,
smoothed and straightened them before the fire, and made the points
of obsidian--very black it is; very hard and sharp were the points
when he placed them on the arrows. Now, after placing the feathers
on the arrows, he stood them up on the roof of the house against
the parapet in the sunlight to dry; and he had his bow on the other
side of the house against the other parapet to dry. He was still
at work, toward sunset, when he happened to look up and saw the
Bear coming along, slowly, comfortably, rolling over the sand.
"Ah!" said he, "the old man is coming." He
paid no attention to him, however.
Presently the Bear came close to the ladder, and shook it to see
if it was strong enough to hold him.
"Thou comest?" asked the boy.
"Yes," said the Bear. "How have you been all day?"
"Happy," said the boy.
"How is your mother?"
"Happy," said the boy, "expecting you."
So the old Bear climbed up. "Ah, indeed," said he, as
he got over the edge of the house, "have you made the bow?"
"Yes, after a fashion."
So the Bear went over, raised himself on his hind feet, looked
at the bow, pulled it, and said, as he laid it down: "It is
a splendid bow. What is this black stuff on these arrows?"
"Obsidian," answered the boy.
"These points are nothing but black coals," said the
"I tell you," said the boy, "they are good, black,
flint arrow-heads, hard and sharp as any others."
"No," said the other, "nothing but coals."
"Now, suppose you let me try one of those coals on you,"
said the boy.
"All right," said the Bear. He walked over to the other
side of the roof and stood there, and the boy took one of the arrows,
fitted it to the bow, and let go. It went straight into the heart
of the Bear, and even passed through him entirely.
"Wah!" uttered the Bear, as he gave a great snort and
rolled over on the house-top and died.
"Ha, ha!" shouted the boy, "what you had intended
to do unto me, thus unto you! Oh, mother!" called he, as he
ran to the skyhole, "here is your husband; come and see him.
I have killed him; but, then, he would have me make the experiment,"
said the boy.
"Oh, you foolish, foolish, disobedient boy!" said the
mother. What have you been doing now? Are we safe?
"Oh, yes," said he; "my step-father is as passive
as if he were asleep." And he went on and skinned his once
prospective step-father, and then took out his heart and hung it
to the cross-piece of the ladder as a sign that the people could
go and get all the bow-timber and arrows they pleased.
That night, after the evening meal was over, the boy sat down with
his mother, and he said: "By the way, mother, are there any
monsters or fearful creatures anywhere round about this country
that kill people and make trouble?"
"No," said the mother, "none whatever."
"I don't know about that; I think there must be," said
"No, there are none whatever, I tell you," answered the
The boy began to tumble on the floor, rolling about, playing with
his mother's blankets, and throwing things around, and once in a
while he would ask her again the same question, until finally she
got very cross with him and said: "Yes, if you want to know,
down there in the valley, beyond the great plains of sagebrush,
is a den of Misho Lizards who are fearful and deadly to every one
who goes near them. Therefore you had better be careful how you
run round the valley."
"What makes them so fearful?" asked he.
"Well," said she, "they are venomous; they have
a way of throwing from their mouths or breath a sort of fluid which,
whenever it strikes a person, burns him, and whenever it strikes
the eyes it blinds them. A great many people have perished there.
Whenever a man arrives at their den they are very polite and greet
him most courteously; they say: 'Come in; sit down right here in
the middle of the floor before the fire.' But as soon as the person
is seated in their house they gather round the walls and throw this
venom on him, and he dies almost immediately."
"Is it possible?" responded the little boy; and for some
reason or other he began to grow sleepy, and said: "Now, let
us go to sleep, mother."
So he lay down and slept. Just as soon as it was light the next
morning he aroused himself, dressed, took his bow and arrows, and,
placing them in a corner near the ladder, said: "Oh, mother,
give me my breakfast; I want to go and shoot some little birds.
I would like to have some roasted birds for dinner."
She gave him his breakfast as quickly as she could, and he ran
down the ladder and went to shooting at the birds, until he happened
to see that his mother and others were out of sight; then he skulked
into the sagebrush and went as straight as he could for the den
of the Misho Lizards. There happened to be two young ones sunning
themselves outside, and they said:
"Ah, my fine little fellow, glad to see you this morning.
Come in, come in; the old ones will be very much pleased to entertain
you. Come in!"
"Thank you," said the boy. He walked in, but he felt
under his coat to see if a huge lump of rock salt he had was still
"Sit right down here," said the old people. The whole
den was filled with these Misho Lizards, and they were excessively
polite, every one of them.
The boy sat down, and the old Misho said to the young ones: "Hurry
up, now; be quick!" And they began to throw their venom at
him, and continued until he was all covered with it; but, knowing
beforehand, and being the child of the gods, he was prepared and
protected, and it did him no harm.
"Thank you, thank you," said the boy. "I will do
the same thing. Then he pulled out the salt and pushed it down into
the fire, where it exploded and entirely used up the whole council
of Misho Lizards.
"There!" cried the boy. "Thus would you have done
unto me, thus unto you."
He took two fine ones and cut out their hearts, then started for
home. When he arrived there, he climbed the ladder and suspended
the two hearts beside that of the Bear and went down into the house,
saying, "Well, mother, is dinner ready?"
"There now," said she, "I know it. I saw you hang
those hearts up. You have been down there."
"Yes," said he, "they are all gone--every solitary
one of them."
"Oh, you foolish, foolish, disobedient fellow! I am all alone
in the world, and if you should go to some of those fearful places
some time and not comeback, who would hunt for me? What should I
do?" said the mother.
"Don't be troubled, mother, now," said the boy. "I
don't think I will go any more. There is nothing else of that kind
around, is there, mother?"
"No, there is not," she replied; "not a thing. There
may be somewhere in the world, but there is not anywhere here."
In the evening, as he sat with his mother, the boy kept questioning
and teasing her to tell him of some other monsters--pulling on her
skirts and repeating his questions.
"I tell you," she said, "there are no such creatures."
"Oh, mother, I know there are," said he, "and you
must tell me about them."
So he continued to bother her until her patience gave out, and
she told him of another monster. Said she: "If you follow that
cañon down to the southeast, there is a very, very, very
high cliff there, and the trail that goes over that cliff runs close
by the side of a precipice. Now, that has been for ages a terrible
place, for there is a Giant living there, who wears a hair-knot
on his forehead. He lies there at length, sunning himself at his
He is very good-natured and very polite. His legs stretch across
the trail on which men have to go who pass that way, and there is
no other way to get by. And whenever a man tries to go by that trail,
he says: 'Pass right along, pass right along; I am glad to see you.
Here is a fresh trail; some one has just passed. Don't disturb me;
I am sunning myself.' Down below is the den where his children live,
and on the flesh of these people he feeds them."
"Mercy!" exclaimed the boy. "Fearful! I never shall
go there, surely. That is too terrible! Come, let us go to sleep;
I don't want to hear anything more about it."
But the next morning, just as soon as daylight appeared, he got
up, dressed himself, and snatched a morsel of food.
His mother said to him: "Where are you going? Are you thinking
of that place I told you about?"
"No," said he; "I am going to kill some prairie-dogs
right here in sight. I will take my war-club."
So he took his war-club, and thrust it into his belt in front,
ran down the hill on which the village stood, and straightway went
off to the place his mother had told him of. When he reached the
top of the rocks he looked down, and there, sure enough, lay the
Giant with the forehead knot.
The Giant looked up and said: "Ah, my son, glad to see you
this morning; glad to see you coming so early. Some one just passed
here a little while ago; you can see his tracks there."
"Well," said the boy, "make room for me."
"Oh, just step right over," said the old man; "step
right over me."
"I can't step over your great legs," said the boy; "draw
"All right," said the old Demon. So he drew his knees
up. "There, now, there is plenty of room; pass right along,
Just as the boy got near the place, he thrust out his leg suddenly
that way, to kick him off the cliff; but the boy was too nimble
for him, and jumped aside.
"Oh, dear me," cried the Monster; "I had a stitch
in my leg; I had to stretch it out."
"Ah," said the boy, "you tried to kick me off, did
"Oh, no," said the old villain I had a terrible stitch
in my knee,"--and he began to knead his knee in the most vehement
manner. "just pass right along; I trust it won't happen again."
The boy again attempted to pass, and the same thing happened as
"Oh, my knee! my knee!" exclaimed the Monster.
"Yes, your knee, your knee!" said the boy, as he whipped
out his war-club and whacked the Giant on the head before he had
time to recover himself. "Thus unto me you would have done,
thus unto you!" said the boy.
No sooner had the Giant fallen than the little Top-knots gathered
round him and began to eat; and they ate and ate and ate,--there
were many of them, and they were voracious--until they came to the
top-knot on the old fellow's head, and then one of them cried; "Oh,
dear, alas and alas! this is our own father!"
And while they were still crying, the boy cut out the Giant's heart
and slung it over his shoulder; then he climbed down the cliff to
where the young Top- knots were, and slew them all except two,--a
pair of them. Then he took these two, who were still young, like
little children, and grasping one by the throat, wrung its neck
and threw it into the air, when it suddenly became a winged creature,
and spread out its wings and soared away, crying: "Peep, peep,
peep," just as the falcons of today do. Then he took the other
one by the neck, and swung it round and round, and flung it into
the air, and it flew away with a heavy motion, and cried: "Boohoo,
boohoo, boohoo!" and became an owl.
"Ah," said the boy, "born for evil, changed for
good! Ye shall be the means whereby our children in the future shall
sacrifice to the gods themselves."
Then he trudged along home with the Giant's heart, and when he
got there, he hung it on the cross-piece of the ladder by the side
of the other hearts. It was almost night then.
"There, now!" said his mother, as he entered the house;
"I have been troubled almost to death by your not coming home
sooner. You went off to the place I told you of; I know you did!"
"Ha!" said he, "of course I did. I went up there,
and the poor fellows are all dead."
"Why will you not listen to me?" said she.
"Oh, it is all right, mother," said the boy. "It
is all right." She went on scolding him in the usual fashion,
but he paid no attention to her.
As soon as she had sat down to her evening tasks, he asked: "Now,
is there any other of these terrible creatures?"
"Well, I shall tell you of nothing more now," said she.
"Why, is there anything more?" asked the boy.
"No, there is not," replied she.
"Ah, mother, I think there must be."
"No; there is nothing more, I tell you."
"Ah, mother, I think there must be."
And he kept bothering and teasing until she told him again (she
knew she would have to): "Yes, away down in the valley, some
distance from here, near the little Cold-making Hill, there lives
a fearful creature, a four-fold Elk or Bison, more enormous than
any other living thing. Awiteli Wakashi he is called, and no one
can go near him. He rushes stamping and bellowing about the country,
and people never pass through that section from fear."
"Ah," said the boy don't tell me any more he must be
a fearful creature, indeed."
"Yes; but you will be sure to go there," said she.
"Oh, no, no, mother; no, indeed!"
But the next morning he went earlier than ever, carrying with him
his bows and arrows. He was so filled with dread, however, or pretended
to be, that as he went along the trail he began to cry and sniffle,
and walk very slowly, until he came near the hole of an old Gopher,
his grandfather. The old fellow was working away, digging another
cellar, throwing the dirt out, when he heard this crying. Said he:
"That is my grandson; I wonder what he is up to now."
So he ran and stuck his nose out of the hole he was digging, and
"Oh, my grandchild, where are you doing?"
The boy stopped and began to look around.
"Right here! right here!" cried the grandfather, calling
his attention to the hole. "Come, my boy."
The boy put his foot in, and the hole enlarged, and he went down
"Now, dry your eyes, my grandchild, and tell me what is the
"Well," said the boy, "I was going to find the four-fold
Bison. I wanted to take a look at him, but I am frightened!"
"Why, what is the matter? Why do you not go?" said the
"Well, to tell you the truth, I thought I would try to kill
him," he answered.
"Well, I will do what I can to help; you had better not try
to do it alone. Sit here comfortably; dry your eyes, and I will
see what I can do."
The old Gopher began to dig, dig, dig under the ground for a long
way, making a fine tunnel, and packed it hard on the top and sides
so that it would not fall in. He finally came to hear the "thud,
thud, thud" of the heart of this creature, where it was lying,
and dug the hole up to that spot. When he got there he saw the long
layers of hair on its body, where no arrow could penetrate, and
he cut the hair off, so that the skin showed white.
Then he silently stole back to where the boy was and said: "Now,
my boy, take your bow and arrows and go along through this hole
until you get to where the tunnel turns upward, and then, if you
look well, you will see a light patch. That is the skin next the
heart of the four-fold Bison. He is sleeping there. You will hear
the 'thud, thud, thud' of his heart. Shoot him exactly in the middle
of that place, and then, mind you, turn around and run for your
life, and the moment you get to my hole, tumble in, headforemost
or any way."
So the boy did as he was told-crawled through the tunnel until
he came to where it went upward, saw the light patch, and let fly
an arrow with all his might, then rushed and scrambled back as hard
as he could. With a roar that shook the earth the four-fold Bison
fell over, then struggled to his feet, snorted, bellowed, and stuck
his great horn into the tunnel, and like a flash of fire ripped
it from end to end, just as the boy came tumbling into the deeper
hole of his grandfather.
"Ah!" exclaimed the Gopher.
"He almost got me," said the boy.
"Sit still a moment and rest, my grandson," said the
Gopher. "He didn't catch you. I will go and see whether he
So the Gopher stuck his nose out of the hole and saw there a great
heap of flesh lying. He went out, nosed around, and smelt, jumped
back, and went forward again until he came to the end of the creature,
and then he took one of his nails and scratched out an eye, and
there was no sign of life. So he ran back to the boy, and said:
"Yes, he breathes no more; you need not fear him longer."
"Oh, thank you, my grandfather!" said the boy.
And he climbed out, and laid himself to work to skin the beast.
He took off its great thick skin, and cut off a suitable piece of
it, for the whole pelt was so large and heavy that he could not
carry it; then he took out the animal's great heart, and finally
one of the large intestines and filled it with blood, then started
He went slowly, because his load was so heavy, and when he arrived
he hung the heart on the ladder by the side of the others, and dragged
the pelt to the skyhole, and nearly scared the wits out of his mother
by dropping it into the room.
"Oh, my child, now, here you are! Where have you been?"
cried she. "I warned you of the place where the four-fold Bison
was; I wonder that you ever came home."
"Ah, the poor creature said the boy he is dead. just look
at this. He isn't handsome any more; he isn't strong and large any
"Oh, you wretched, wretched boy! You will be the death of
me, as well as of yourself, some time," said the mother.
"No, mother," said the boy; "that is all nonsense."
That evening the boy said to his mother: "Now, mother, is
there anything else of this kind left? If there is, I want to know
it. Now, don't disappoint me by refusing to tell."
Oh, my dear son," said she, "I wish you wouldn't ask
me; but indeed there is. There are terrible birds, great Eagles,
fearful Eagles, living over on Shuntekia. In the very middle of
an enormous cliff is a hollow place in the rocks where is built
their nest, and there are their young ones. Day after day, far and
near, they catch up children and young men and women, and carry
them away, never more to be seen. These birds are more terrible
than all the rest, because how can one get near to slay them? My
son, I do hope and trust that you will not go this time,--but, you
foolish little boy, I see that you will go."
"Well, mother, let us go to sleep, and never mind anything
about it," said the boy.
But after his mother had gone to sleep, he took the piece of rawhide
he had skinned from the fourfold Bison, and, cutting it out, made
himself a suit--a green rawhide suit, skin-tight almost, so that
it was perfectly smooth. Then he scraped the hair off, greased it
all over, and put it away inside a blanket so that it would not
In the morning, quite early, he took his weapons, and taking also
his rawhide suit, and the section of the four-fold Bison's intestine
which he had filled with blood, he ran into the inlet, and across
it, and climbed the mesa near the Shuntekia cliff. When he came
within a short distance of the nest of the Eagles, he stopped and
slipped on his rawhide suit, and tied the intestine of blood round
his neck, like a sausage.
Then he began to cry and shake his head, and he cried louder than
there was any need of his doing in reality; for presently the old
father of the Eagles, who was away up in the sky, just a mere speck,
heard and saw him and came swishing down in a great circle, winding
round and round the boy, and the boy looked up and began to cry
louder still, as if frightened out of his wits, and finally rolled
himself up like a porcupine, and threw himself down into the trail,
crying and howling with apparent fear.
The Eagle swooped down on him, and tried to grasp him in his talons,
and, kopo kopooo, his claws simply slipped off the rawhide coat.
Then the Eagle made a fiercer grab at him and grew angry, but his
claws would continually slip off, until he tore a rent in the intestine
about the boy's neck, and the blood began to stream over the boy's
coat, making it more slippery than ever.
When the Eagle smelt the blood, he thought he had got him, and
it made him fiercer than ever; and finally, during his struggling,
he got one talon through a stitch in the coat, and he spread out
his wings, and flew up, and circled round and round over the point
where the young Eagles nest was, when he let go and shook the boy
free, and the boy rolled over and over and came down into the nest;
but he struck on a great heap of brush, which broke his fall. He
lay there quite still, and the old Eagle swooped down and poised
himself on a great crag of rock near by, which was his usual perching
"There, my children, my little ones," said he, "I
have brought you food. Feast yourselves! Feast yourselves! For that
reason I brought it."
So the little Eagles, who were very awkward, long-legged and short-winged,
limped tip to the boy and reached out their claws and opened their
beaks, ready to strike him in the face. He lay there quite still
until they got very near, and then said to them: "Shhsht!"
And they tumbled back, being awkward little fellows, and stretched
up their necks and looked at him, as Eagles will.
Then the old Eagle said: "Why don't you eat him? Feast yourselves,
my children, feast yourselves!"
So they advanced again, more cautiously this time, and a little
more determinedly too; and they reached out their beaks to tear
him, and he said "Shhsht!" and, under his breath, "Don't
eat me! And they jumped back again.
"What in the world is the matter with you little fools?"
said the old Eagle. "Eat him! I can't stay here any longer;
I have to go away and hunt to feed you; but you don't seem to appreciate
my efforts much." And he lifted his wings, rose into the air,
and sailed off to the northward.
Then the two young Eagles began to walk around the boy, and to
examine him at all points. Finally they approached his feet and
"Be careful, be careful, don't eat me! Tell me about what
time your mother comes home," said he, sitting up. "What
time does she usually come?
"Well," said the little Eagles, "she comes home
when the clouds begin to gather and throw their shadow over our
nest." (Really, it was the shadow of the mother Eagle herself
that was thrown over the nest.)
"Very well," said the boy; "what time does your
father come home?"
"When the fine rain begins to fall," said they, meaning
"Oh," said the boy. So he sat there, and by-and-by, sure
enough, away off in the sky, carrying something dangling from her
feet, came the old mother Eagle. She soared round and round until
she was over the nest, when she dropped her burden, and over and
over it fell and tumbled into the nest, a poor, dead, beautiful
maiden. The young boy looked at her, and his heart grew very hot,
and when the old Eagle came and perched, in a moment he let fly
an arrow, and struck her down and dashed her brains out.
"Ha, ha!" exclaimed the boy. "What you have done
to many, thus unto you."
Then he took his station again, and by-and-by the old father Eagle
came, bearing a youth, fair to look upon, and dropped him into the
nest. The young boy shut his teeth, and he said: "Thus unto
many you have done, and thus unto me you would have done; so unto
you." And he drew an arrow and shot him. Then he turned to
the two young Eagles and killed them, and plucked out all the beautiful
colored feathers about their necks, until he had a large bundle
of fine plumes with which he thought to wing his arrows or to waft
Then he looked down the cliff and saw there was no way to climb
down, and there was no way to climb up. Then he began to cry, and
sat on the edge of the cliff, and cried so loud that the old Bat
Woman, who was gathering cactus-berries below, or thought she was,
overheard the boy.
Said she: "Now, just listen to that. I warrant it is my fool
of a grandson, who is always trying to get himself into a scrape.
I am sure it must be so. Phoo! phoo!"
She spilled out all the berries she had found from the basket she
had on her back, and then labored up to where she could look over
the edge of the shelf.
"Yes, there you are," said she; "you simpleton!
you wretched boy! What are you doing here?"
"Oh, my grandmother," said he, "I have got into
a place and I cannot get out."
"Yes," said she; "if you were anything else but
such a fool of a grandson and such a bard-hearted wretch of a boy,
I would help you get down; but you never do as your mother and grandmother
or grandfathers tell you."
"Ah, my grandmother, I will do just as you tell me this time,"
said the boy.
"Now, will you?" said she. "Now, can you be certain?--will
you promise me that you will keep your eyes shut, and join me, at
least in your heart, in the prayer which I sing when I fly down?
Yan lehalliah kiana. Never open your eyes; if you do, the gods will
teach you a lesson, and your poor old grandmother, too."
"I will do just as you tell me," said he, as he reached
over and took up his plumes and held them ready.
"Not so fast, my child," said she; "you must promise
"Oh, my grandmother, I will do just as you tell me,"
"Well, step into my basket, very carefully now. As I go down
I shall go very prayerfully, depending on the gods to carry so much
more than I usually carry. Do you not wink once, my grandson."
"All right; I will keep my eyes shut this time," said
he. So he sat down and squeezed his eyes together, and held his
plumes tight, and then the old grandmother launched herself forth
on her skin wings. After she had struggled a little, she began to
"Ha ash tchaa ni,--Ha ash tchaa ni:
Tche pa naa,--thlen-thle.
Thlen! Thlen! Thlen!
Now, just listen to that," said the boy; "my old grandmother
is singing one of those tedious prayers; it will take us forever
to go down."
Then presently the old Bat Woman, perfectly unconscious of his
state of mind, began to sing again:
"Thlen thla kia yai na kia."
"There she goes again," said he to himself; "I declare,
I must look up; it will drive me wild to sit here all this time
and hear my old grandmother try to sing."
Then, after a little while, she commenced again:
"Ha ash tchaa ni,--Ha ash tchaa ni;
Tche pa naa,--thlen-thle.
Thlen! Thlen! Thlen!"
The boy stretched himself up, and said: "Look here, grandmother!
I have heard your 'Thlen! Thlen! Thlen!' enough this time. I am
going to open my eyes.
"Oh, my grandchild, never think of such a thing." Then
she began again to sing:
Ha ash tchaa ni,--Ha ash tchaa ni: Tche pa naa,--thlen-thle. Thlen!
She was not near the ground when she finished it the fourth time,
and the boy would not stand it any more. Lo! he opened his eyes,
and the old grandmother knew it in a moment. Over and over, boy
over bat, bat over boy, and the basket between them, they went whirling
and pitching down, the old grandmother tugging at her basket and
scolding the boy.
"Now, you foolish, disobedient one! I told you what would
happen! You see what you have done!" and so on until they fell
to the ground. It fairly knocked the breath out of the boy, and
when he got tip again he yelled lustily.
The old grandmother picked herself up, stretched herself, and cried
out anew: "You wretched, foolish, hard-hearted boy; I never
will do anything for you again-never, never, never!"
"I know, my grandmother," said the boy, "but you
kept up that 'Thlen! Thlen! Thlen!' so much. What in the world did
you want to spend so much time thlening, thlening; and buzzing round
in that way for?"
"Ah, me!" said she, "he never did know anything--never
will be taught to know anything."
"Now," said she to him, "you might as well come
and eat with me. I have been gathering cactus-fruit, and you can
eat and then go home." She took him to the place where she
had poured out the contents of the basket, but there was scarcely
a cactus-berry. There were cedar-berries, cones, sticks, little
balls of dirt, coyote-berries, and everything else uneatable.
"Sit down, my grandson, and eat; strengthen yourself after
your various adventures and exertions. I feel very weary myself,"
said she. And she took a nip of one of them; but the boy couldn't
exactly bring himself to eat. The truth is, the old woman's eyes
were bad, in the same way that bats' eyes are usually bad, and she
couldn't tell a cactus-berry from anything else round and rough.
"Well, inasmuch as you won't eat, my grandson," said
she, "why, I can't conceive, for these are very good, it seems
to me. You had better run along home now, or your mother will be
killing herself thinking of you. Now, I have only one direction
to give you. You don't deserve any, but I will give you one. See
that you pay attention to it. If not, the worst is your own. You
have gathered a beautiful store of feathers. Now, be very careful.
Those creatures who bore those feathers have gained their lives
from the lives of living beings, and therefore their feathers differ
from other feathers. Heed what I say, my grandson.
When you come to any place where flowers are blooming,--where the
sunflowers make the field yellow,--walk round those flowers if you
want to get home with these feathers. And when you come to more
flowers, walk round them. If you do not do that, Just as you came
you will go back to your home."
"All right, my grandmother," said the boy. So, after
bidding her good-by, he trudged away with his bundle of feathers;
and when he came to a great plain of sunflowers and other flowers
he walked round them; and when he came to another large patch he
walked round them, and then another, and so on; but finally he stopped,
for it seemed to him that there were nothing but fields of flowers
all the way home. He thought he had never seen so many before.
"I declare," said he, "I will not walk round those
flowers any more. I will hang on to these feathers, though."
So he took a good hold of them and walked in amongst the flowers.
But no sooner had he entered the field than flutter, flutter, flutter,
little wings began to fly out from the bundle of feathers, and the
bundle began to grow smaller and smaller, until it wholly disappeared.
These wings which flew out were the wings of the Sacred Birds of
Summerland, made living by the lives that had supported the birds
which bore those feathers, and by coming into the environment which
they had so loved, the atmosphere which flowers always bring of
Thus it was, my children, in the days of the ancients, and for
that reason we have little jay-birds, little sparrows, little finches,
little willow-birds, and all the beautiful little birds that bring
the summer, and they always hover over flowers.
"My friends" [said the story-teller], "that is the
way we live. I am very glad, otherwise I would not have told the
story, for it is not exactly right that I should,--I am very glad
to demonstrate to you that we also have books; only they are not
books with marks in them, but words in our hearts, which have been
placed there by our ancients long ago, even so long ago as when
the world was new and young, like unripe fruit. And I like you to
know these things, because people say that the Zuñis are
Native American Legends
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