Native American Legends
The Deserted Village
A Seneca Legend
A grandfather and grandson lived together. They were the only persons
left of a large nation. All their relatives and friends had been
When the boy was old enough, his grandfather made him a bow and
arrows and taught him to hunt. He killed small animals at first,
but after a while he killed a deer. Each time he brought home game
his grandfather danced and rejoiced, and mentioned the name of the
The two lived happily together till the grandson was a young man,
then one day his grandfather said to him, "You are old enough to
marry. I would like to have a woman here to cook. You must go South
and find a wife. For an ordinary man it is a long journey but you
will go quickly," and giving his grandson a pair of moccasins, he
sent him off.
About midday the young man came to an opening in the woods. In
the opening was a large village. He went from one house to another;
all were empty. Then he went to the long house and looking in saw,
on a bench, the body of a young woman. The corpse was ornamented
with beautiful beads.
The young man thought, "I'll take some of those beads, they will
be nice for my wife, when I find one."
He took what beads he wanted and when outside, said to himself,
"I'll go home now and look for a wife some other time."
He started northward, as he thought, and ran along swiftly.
After a while he came to a clearing and to his surprise found it
was the same one he had left. Looking at the village and the long
house, he thought, "I must have made a mistake."
He took bearings again and hurried toward home. Again he came out
in the village.
"It must be that woman brings me here because I have taken her
beads. I'll give them back to her."
He went to the long house, put the beads on to the body, and again
started for home. On the way he killed a bear and skinned it. Taking
some of the meat he rolled it up in the skin, made a pack and carried
it along, running as fast as he could, hoping to reach home before
At night he came out in the same opening.
"This is strange," thought he, "I'll have to spend the night in
the long house."
He kindled a fire, cooked his meat, spread out the bear skin and
sat down to eat. As he ate he threw the bones behind him; soon he
heard crunching and gnawing.
"Maybe a hungry ghost does that," thought he, "I'll give it some
He threw pieces of meat behind him and heard them eaten.
After he had eaten enough, he crawled under the bear skin to sleep.
Soon something began to pull the bear skin from his feet. He sprang
up, stirred the fire and put on more wood. All was quiet, and he
lay down again. After a while, when the fire had grown dim, something
crawled over his body, came up to his breast. He threw his arms
around the thing, wrapped it in the bearskin and sprang to his feet.
A terrible struggle began. The two wrestled from near the fire to
the end of the long house and then down along the other side. When
near the place they had started from, the gray of daylight came.
That minute what seemed to be a body, dropped to the floor and lay
still. The young man lashed the bearskin around it closely, left
it on the floor and cooked and ate his breakfast.
He was curious to know what was in the skin, for he thought it
must be something connected with the woman. Opening the skin carefully
he found only a piece of clotted blood about the size of his fist.
He heated water, dissolved the blood, and, with a wooden ladle
he whittled out with his flint knife, he poured some of the blood
into the woman's mouth. It went down her throat. Again and again
he poured. At last the woman's breast began to move. When he had
given her half the blood she breathed.
When she had taken it all, she said, "I am hungry."
The young man pounded corn, made thin gruel and fed her. Soon she
was able to sit up and in a little while she was well.
She said, "People lived in this village till a short time ago.
Many men from the North have wanted to marry me, when I was unwilling
and refused each one of them, they changed me and drove my father
and all his people away. I was left here for dead."
"Come," said the young man, "We will go and find your father."
They set out together, and after a while came to a village. Crow,
with his large family, lived in the house at the edge of the village.
When the young man told Crow the story of the long house and the
chief's daughter, Crow said, "My chief is this girl's father. I'll
tell him that his daughter is alive."
Crow hurried to the chief's house and said to the chief, "Your
daughter is alive."
The mother screamed, "You lie! no one ever came to life after being
dead more than ten days." And taking up a club she started to drive
Crow out of the house.
"Don't strike him," said the chief, "Maybe our daughter has come
"She has," said Crow, "She is in my house now.
"Tell her to come here," said the chief.
When the chief and his wife saw their daughter they were happy,
and, as they were willing, the young man became their son-in-law.
After a few days the man said to his wife, "Borrow your father's
bow and arrows, all the young men in the village are to hunt tomorrow;
I must go with them."
Each man went alone, starting early. Crow met the young man, and
said, "I'll fly high and look around, see where the deer are."
Crow saw ten deer some distance away. He came down and said, "I'll
fly behind those deer and drive them toward you, you can kill them."
The! young man waited till the deer passed, then when all were
in line, he killed the ten with one arrow.
Crow said, "The hunters never give me anything but intestines."
"You may have a whole deer today," said the young man. Crow flew
home with the news, and asked, "What are our young men good for?
The chief's son-in-law has killed ten deer before sunrise."
The other hunters had bad luck.
At night there was a feast and a dance in the long house.
The hunters planned to kill the young man. When in the dance he
came to the middle of the long house, by their magic they made him
sink deep into the ground, disappear. But Crow knew where he was,
and when all were gone he called upon his friend Turkey to dig up
the young man.
Turkey came and scratched till at last he had the dirt away, then
Crow made a rope and together they drew the young man out of the
The chief decided to leave the enemies of his son-in-law and go
with the good people, the friends of his son-in-law, to live in
the village where the young man's grandfather lived.
They went there, settled down, and lived happily.
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