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Rolling Head

A Wintu Legend

Long ago there was a village filled with people. They lived in the flatlands on both the west and the east sides of the river. The younger of the chief's two daughters had just reached puberty, and her parents were planning to call a puberty dance.

In the evening the father spoke to the other women. "Early in the morning go strip bark for a maple-bark apron," he said. "But don't take my younger daughter with you. Go secretly."

So the women got up very early and stole away. Quite far north they went, and some even climbed uphill and crossed the ridge to the north.

Later the girl who had reached puberty woke up and, though it was forbidden, followed the others. When she reached them, they were stripping bark. She went up to them and began cutting maple bark too.

All at once she struck her little finger with a splinter. Her older sister came up to her and wiped the blood with dead leaves. The other women said, "When will it leave off? The blood cannot stop flowing."

Afraid of what had happened, they ran back to the village. They reached the house and told the father, "She got stuck with a splinter while stripping bark." And the old man said, "She doesn't listen to me."

The girl and her older sister were left behind alone. The younger one, who stood downhill to the north, now sucked blood and spat it out. Then more blood came, and though she sucked and sucked, she could not stop the flow.

Meanwhile the sun began to set. She kept on sucking until early evening, unable to help herself. Suddenly she happened to swallow blood and smelled the fat. It tasted sweet. So she ate her little finger, and then ate her whole hand. Then devoured both her hands. Then she ate her leg, ate both her legs. Then she ate up her whole body. Then her head alone was left. It went rolling over the ground, with her sister still beside her.

In the village the chief said, "From the north she'll come. Put on your clothes, people. Get your weapons. We must go." And the people dressed themselves and got their weapons. And from the north they saw her come, rolling toward her father's house. She arrived in the early evening and lay there.

After she had rested a while, she bounced up to the west across the river to the flat on the west, where she threw the people into her mouth. Without stopping, she turned the village upside down as she devoured them all.

Then she fell to the east across the river and lay there, and the next morning she threw the people who lived on the eastern flat into her mouth and ate them, devoured them all. Only her eldest sister she left for a while.

And she went about the world, and when she saw people, she threw them into her mouth and ate them. Each evening she came home, each morning she went about the world looking for people. Always she went searching.

One day she climbed up to the northern edge of the sky and looked all over the world, but she saw no one. So in the evening she came home, and the next morning she got up and threw her sister into her mouth.

Then she went on her way until she reached the edge of a big creek which she did not know how to cross.

A man was sitting on the other side. She called to him, and he threw a bridge over. She was crossing, and when she had gone halfway he jerked it, and it went down at Talat. And she fell into the river, and a riffle pike jumped and swallowed her. And it is finished.

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