Native American Legends
The Man-Eater and his younger brother
A Seneca Legend
Two brothers went on a hunting expedition. After they had been
quite a while in the woods and had good luck in finding game, they
built a bark house.
At first they had everything in common, but one day the elder said
to the younger, "We must live apart for the future. We will make
a partition in the middle of the house and have a door at each end.
You will always go out of the door in your part of the house and
I will go out of the one in my part."
The younger brother agreed, and they made the partition, then the
elder brother said, "Now each one will live by himself. I will not
go to your part of the house and you will not come to mine. When
we want to say anything we will talk through the partition. You
can hunt birds and animals, but I will hunt men and kill them. Neither
of us will marry or bring a woman to the house. If I marry, you
will kill me if you can. If you marry, I will try to kill you."
Both agreed to this arrangement, and for a long time lived according
to it, but one day, when the brothers were out hunting, a woman
came to the younger brother's part of the house. The elder brother
tracked her, caught her at the door, dragged her into his part of
the house, killed and ate her. When the younger brother came home
the elder said, "I had good luck today, near home."
The younger knew what his brother had done, but all he said was,
"It is well to have good luck."
A second time the elder brother tracked a woman to his brother's
part of the house. This time he knocked at the door and called out,
"Give me a couple of arrows; there is an elk out here."
The woman carried him the arrows and the minute she opened the
door he killed her. He dragged the body into his part of the house
and ate it up.
When the younger brother came, he talked through the partition
as before, but said nothing about the woman,
The next woman who came to him he warned against opening the door,
told her not to open it for anyone, even for him; he would come
The elder brother ran to the door, knocked and called out, "Give
me a couple of arrows; there is a bear out here."
The woman sat by the fire, didn't move.
Again he called, "Give me the arrows; the bear will get away."
She didn't stir, and after a while he went into his own part of
When the younger brother came the woman told him what had happened.
While they were whispering, the elder brother called out, "Brother,
you are whispering to someone. Who is it? Haven't you a woman in
"I am counting my game," answered the young man.
There was silence for a time, then the young man began whispering
cautiously to the woman.
He said, "In the morning my brother and I will have a life and
death struggle. You must help me, but it will be difficult for he
will make himself like me in form and voice, but strike him if you
The woman took a small squash shell and tied it in the young man's
hair so she might distinguish him.
The brother again called out, "You have a woman in there. You are
whispering to her," but he got no answer.
In the morning the brothers met and began to fight with clubs and
flint knives. When their weapons broke, they clinched. Soon both
were on the ground. Sometimes one was under, sometimes the other.
The elder brother was exactly like the younger and repeated his
words. Whenever the younger called to the woman, "Strike him!" the
elder cried out, "Strike him!"
The woman couldn't tell which one to strike. At last she caught
sight of the squash shell. Then she struck a heavy blow and killed
the elder brother. They put the body on a pile of wood and burned
it up, then scattered the ashes.
But the young man knew his brother would come to life. He put the
woman in a cattail, put the cattail on the point of his arrow and
shot it far away to the West. Then he ran through the heart of the
post of the house, sprang after the arrow and coming to the ground
ran with great speed till he found where the arrow had struck and
the cattail burst open. Then he soon overtook the woman and they
traveled on together.
He said, "We must travel fast, for my brother will come to life
and follow us."
The next morning they heard somebody whoop. The young man said,
"That is my brother; he will destroy us if he can."
He changed the woman into a half-decayed stump; hid himself a short
distance away, and, taking off his moccasins, told them to run on
ahead; to go quickly through swamps and thickets and over hills
and mountains and come back to him by a round-about way.
When the elder brother reached the rotten stump, he looked at it
and was suspicious but he followed the moccasins and went on swiftly
all day and all night, then he turned back. When he came to the
place where he had seen the stump, and it wasn't there, he was awfully
angry, for he knew he had been fooled. He found his brother's tracks
and followed them.
When they heard him whoop, the young man took out of his pouch
the jaw of a beaver, stuck the teeth in the ground, and said, "Let
beavers come and build a dam across the world so water may rise
to my brother's neck, and let the beavers bite him when he tries
to cross the dam."
When the elder brother came up, the dam was built, and the water
was neck high; his brother's tracks disappeared at the edge of the
water, and he said, "If they have gone through, I can."
When the water reached his breast, beavers began to bite him. He
was forced to turn back and look for another crossing. He ran all
day, but could find no end to the dam. Then he cried out, "I have
never heard that there was a beaver dam across the world," and turning
he ran back to the place he had started from. The dam was gone,
all that remained was a beaver's jaw with two teeth in it.
The man-eater hurried along as fast as he could and again the man
and woman heard his whoop. The man took a pigeon-feather from his
pouch, placed it on the ground, and said, "Let all the pigeons in
the world come and leave droppings here."
All the pigeons in the world came and soon there was a ridge six
feet high, made of droppings.
When the elder brother came to the ridge, he said, "Their tracks
are here; if they have gone through, I can."
He tried, and when he couldn't get through he turned back and ran
eastward to look for an opening, ran all day. The ridge was everywhere.
He went back to the place that he had started from and slept till
morning. When he wakened, the ridge was gone; all he found was a
pigeon feather sticking in the ground.
After dropping the feather, the younger brother and the woman ran
till they came to where an old man sat mending a fish net.
The old man said, "I will delay the man-eater as long as I can.
You have an aunt living west of here, beyond her house the trail
passes between two rocks that move backward and forward so quickly
that whoever tries to go between them is crushed, but beg of your
aunt and she will stop them."
The two hurried on, came to the woman and begged her to help them.
She stopped the rocks long enough for them to spring through, then
she said, "You will soon reach a river. On the other side of the
river you will see a man with a canoe, beckon to him and he will
come and take you across. Beyond the river are the Frost people
(Shagodyoweq Gowa) but they will not harm you. A little animal will
come to meet you. Follow it and it will lead you to an opening.
In the opening you will find your mother's house."
When the elder brother came to the old man, who was mending a fish
net, he pushed him, and called out, "Did anyone pass here?"
The old man didn't answer.
He struck him a blow on the head and asked again, "Did anyone pass
The fisherman threw his net over the man, entangled him and he
fell, but after struggling a time he freed himself and hurried on.
When he came to the woman who guarded the rocks he begged her to
stop them and let him pass. She refused and he watched for a chance
to spring through. At last, when he thought the rocks were moving
slowly, he jumped. He was caught and half his body was crushed;
but he rubbed it with saliva and cured it. Then he hurried on. When
he came to the river and saw the man on the opposite bank he shouted
to him to come with his canoe and take him across, but the man didn't
look up. He shouted again and got no answer, then he swam across.
On that side of the river was a forest where all of the trees had
been stripped of bark and killed by the hammering of mud-turtle
rattles. The hammering had been done by the Frost people in keeping
time while they danced. These people turned upon the man-eater,
killed him, hammered all the flesh off of his body, then hammered
his bones till there wasn't a bit of them left.
When the mother saw her son and his wife she was happy, and said,
"I am glad that you have come. I was afraid that your brother, who
stole you away from me, would kill you. Now you will stay with me
They lived happily ever after.
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