Native American Legends
The adventures of Haníshéonon
A Seneca Legend
A man lived in the ground. His name was Haníshéonon.
One morning this man thought, "I ought to go around the world and
find people." He came out of the ground and went off through the
woods. After a while he saw a cabin, and going near it he peeped
through a crack and saw a blind woman, Corn-worm. He stood around
thinking what to do.
At last he said, "I'll go in there and have sport with her."
When inside Haníshéonon picked up live
coals and put them on the woman's head.
She began to cry and to say, "Oh, my head aches! My head aches!"
She didn't know there were coals on her head. Then she thought she
heard some one moving around. Picking up a club, she raised it and
ran toward the noise screaming, "I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"
She struck out and nearly hit Haníshéonon.
He was frightened; he thought, "She will kill me if I stay here.
I'll get away." He left the cabin and traveled on. At last he came
to another cabin. Looking through a crack he saw an old blind man,
and thought, "I'll have sport with him."
As soon as Haníshéonon was in the house,
he took up a bucket, that stood there full of water, and poured
the water on to the old man's head.
"What a rain!" said the old man. "My house leaks. I'll go to a
corner where it is dry," and getting up he went to the other end
of the cabin. Haníshéonon followed him
and poured more water on his head.
"It leaks here, too!" said the old man. "I'll sit where I was before
and I'll smoke."
Taking a pipe out of a pouch he put tobacco into it and lighted
it. Haníshéonon poured water into the pipe
and put out the fire.
"I thought there was fire in my pipe," said the old man.
He got a second coal. Haníshéonon poured
water into the pipe a second time. A third time the old man put
in a coal and that time Haníshéonon let
him smoke, but he took a black flint and struck him on the thigh,
saying, "That's the way I do when I want some one to stop."
Then he went out and set the old man's house on fire, saying, "I'll
burn him up, I don't want blind men around here."
The old man said, "It's hot here. I think my house is burning.
I don't want to be burnt to death," and taking a flint knife he
stabbed himself in the breast; blood gushed out and ran across the
When nothing was left of the hut but coals, Haníshéonon
saw that a stream of blood came from under the coals and flowed
toward the West. (The door of the hut opened to the West). Right
away the blood turned to the old man; he was alive again. Haníshéonon
said to him, "if you want to stay alive you must live under the
ground." The old man crawled into the ground.
This is why angleworms are in the ground now.
Haníshéonon went on till he came to a
house where another old man lived and going in, he said, "Uncle,
I've come to visit you."
"I'm glad that you've come, Nephew; I get lonesome sometimes."
"Haven't you a game to play?" asked Haníshéonon.
"I have no game."
"Well, I have one," and taking hold of the old man, Haníshéonon
began to pull him to pieces. He pulled off his arms and legs, and
killed him. Then he made up his mind to bring him to life and he
began to put the pieces together. As he joined the pieces he pulled
them out and when the man came to life he was very long and thin,
and Haníshéonon said, "You are Otgóndahen
(Red Belly, a snake)."
Haníshéonon went off toward the West and
coming to a house he walked in and looked around. A man was sitting
by the fire.
Haníshéonon said, "Uncle, I've come to
"Very well," said the man, "I'm lonesome."
"Why do you live here?"
"I like to track game."
"Do you catch any?"
"Yes, I've just caught a deer."
"Where is your trap?"
"Down in Open Rocks."
"Come and show it to me."
They went out together and Haníshéonon
found that at a place where large rocks nearly met at one end, the
man had suspended a tree in such a way that if it were touched by
an animal trying to pass, it would fall and catch it.
"Try it yourself," said the man.
Haníshéonon didn't think it was much of
a trap; he laughed at it, but when he tried to go under the tree
he was caught. The man let him out, but Haníshéonon
was angry. He threw the old man down, jumped on him and killed him,
then said, "I'll fix him up again, but I don't want to make another
snake." He broke each arm into two pieces and each leg into four
pieces, pulled out the body, made it longer, and put three legs
on each side, and small bits of the arms on the man's face, one
each side of his nose Then he said, "I've finished you!" He had
changed the man into an Ongwe'.
This time Haníshéonon went toward the
West. After a while he came to a clean, beautiful forest, there
was no underbrush, and seeing a house he went to it and found an
old woman sitting by a fire.
"I've come to visit you," said Haníshéonon.
"I don't want you to visit me, I don't like you," said the woman.
"Why do you live here?" asked Haníshéonon.
"To watch. If I see a man, I kill him."
"That is wrong," said Haníshéonon. "I'm
going around to fix this world over. If I see people doing wrong,
I punish them," and catching the old woman by the hair, he pulled
her out of the house. She was very angry and Haníshéonon
was afraid of her. He ran off and she after him. When she overtook
him he began to cry and beg. The woman said, "You began this, now
I'll kill you."
Haníshéonon picked up a large piece of
flint and threw it at her head; it bounded back and hit him. He
fell over, but soon sprang up and threw a second stone. This time
he killed the woman.
"I'll not bring her to life," said he, and he pounded the body
till it was a mass of blood and bones. Then he sat down and watched
a little stream of blood that came from the mass. When the blood
dried, a very small thin insect came from it. "I didn't kill you,
after all," said Haníshéonon. "Now you
can live forever and I'll call you Sehdonhgwade" (Wood-tick).
She was a mosquito before.
When Haníshéonon came to another house,
he heard some one singing. He stood at one side of the house and
listened. The song said, "Haníshéonon is
walking around this earth. Haníshéonon
is walking around this earth."
"Somebody is singing about me," thought Haníshéonon.
The singing stopped and he heard a man say, "Last night I dreamed
that Haníshéonon came here and was standing
"How does he know that I'm standing outside?" thought Haníshéonon.
He went in, and said, "Yes, I'm here."
The man laughed, and asked, "Which way did you come?"
"I came out of the ground. Wouldn't you like a new blanket?" asked
"I would like a new blanket, mine is worn out."
Haníshéonon got some slate stone, dug
out two small bowls and gave them to him.
"How can I wear these?" asked the man.
"I'll fix them," said Haníshéonon, and
he put one on each side of the man's back and fastened them on so
they couldn't come off. And the man, who had been a woodworm before,
was changed to a June-bug.
"Now I have finished my work," said Haníshéonon,
and he went home to the hole in the ground under the center of the
Blue. He was a great power and that was why he was called Haníshéonon.
Whenever he came out of his house under the ground, he chased people
and changed them to something worse than they were before.
Haníshéonon stayed at home a long time.
One morning he heard steps and he said to himself, "Somebody is
coming to visit me." Soon there was a kick at the door and a woman
came in. "You are at home," said she.
"You have been doing bad things," said the woman. "I don't want
you to harm people. I gave you power and if you don't stop making
bad use of it, I will punish you."
"I shan't stop doing as I am doing, for I am doing right."
The woman was angry. She threw flint stones at Haníshéonon,
hit him on the head and stunned him, then she pounded him till his
bones were crushed.
"Now," said she, "You'll be this way forever."
She had taken his power away and changed him to a common muckworm.
The narrator says that Haníshéonon was
an evil spirit and that spirits like him are still walking around
in the world.
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