Native American Legends
The boy who became a God
A Navajo (New Mexico) Legend
The Tolchini, a clan of the Navajos, lived at Wind Mountains. One
of them used to take long visits into the country. His brothers
thought he was crazy. The first time on his return, he brought with
him a pine bough; the second time, corn. Each time he returned he
brought something new and had a strange story to tell. His brothers
said: "He is crazy. He does not know what he is talking about."
Now the Tolchini left Wind Mountains and went to a rocky foothill
east of the San Mateo Mountain. They had nothing to eat but seed
grass. The eldest brother said, "Let us go hunting," but
they told the youngest brother not to leave camp. But five days
and five nights passed, and there was no word. So he followed them.
After a day's travel he camped near a canon, in a cavelike place.
There was much snow but no water so he made a fire and heated a
rock, and made a hole in the ground. The hot rock heated the snow
and gave him water to drink. just then he heard a tumult over his
head, like people passing.
He went out to see what made the noise and saw many crows crossing
back and forth over the canon. This was the home of the crow, but
there were other feathered people there, and the chaparral cock.
He saw many fires made by the crows on each side of the ca-on. Two
crows flew down near him and the youth listened to hear what was
The two crows cried out, "Somebody says. Somebody says."
The youth did not know what to make of this.
A crow on the opposite side called out, "What is the matter?
Tell us! Tell us! What is wrong?"
The first two cried out, "Two of us got killed. We met two
of our men who told us."
Then they told the crows how two men who were out hunting killed
twelve deer, and a party of the Crow People went to the deer after
they were shot. They said, "Two of us who went after the blood
of the deer were shot."
The crows on the other side of the canyon called, "Which men
"The chaparral cock, who sat on the horn of the deer, and
the crow who sat on its backbone."
The others called out, "We are not surprised they were killed.
That is what we tell you all the time. If you go after dead deer
you must expect to be killed."
"We will not think of them longer," so the two crows
replied. "They are dead and gone. We are talking of things
of long ago."
But the youth sat quietly below and listened to everything that
After a while the crows on the other side of the canyon made a
great noise and began to dance. They had many songs at that time.
The youth listened all the time. After the dance a great fire was
made and he could see black objects moving, but he could not distinguish
any people. He recognized the voice of Hasjelti. He remembered everything
in his heart. He even remembered the words of the songs that continued
all night. He remembered every word of every song. He said to himself,
"I will listen until daylight."
The Crow People did not remain on the side of the canyon where
the fires were first built. They crossed and recrossed the canon
in their dance. They danced back and forth until daylight. Then
all the crows and the other birds flew away to the west. All that
was left was the fires and the smoke.
Then the youth started for his brothers' camp. They saw him coming.
They said, "He will have lots of stories to tell. He will say
he saw something no one ever saw."
But the brother-in-law who was with them said, "Let him alone.
When he comes into camp he will tell us all. I believe these things
do happen for he could not make up these things all the time."
Now the camp was surrounded by pinon brush and a large fire was
burning in the center. There was much meat roasting over the fire.
When the youth reached the camp, he raked over the coals and said.
"I feel cold."
Brother-in-law replied, "It is cold. When people camp together,
they tell stories to one another in the morning. We have told ours,
now you tell yours."
The youth said, "Where I stopped last night was the worst
camp I ever had." The brothers paid no attention but the brother-in-law
listened. The youth said, "I never heard such a noise."
Then he told his story. Brother-in-law asked what kind of people
made the noise.
The youth said, "I do not know. They were strange people to
me, but they danced all night back and forth across the canon and
I heard them say my brothers killed twelve deer and afterwards killed
two of their people who went for the blood of the deer. I heard
them say, "'That is what must be expected. If you go to such
places, you must expect to be killed.' "
The elder brother began thinking. He said, "How many deer
did you say were killed?"
Elder brother said, "I never believed you before, but this
story I do believe. How do you find out all these things? What is
the matter with you that you know them?"
The boy said, "I do not know. They come into my mind and to
Then they started homeward, carrying the meat. The youth helped
them. As they were descending a mesa, they sat down on the edge
to rest. Far down the mesa were four mountain sheep. The brothers
told the youth to kill one.
The youth hid in the sage brush and when the sheep came directly
toward him, he aimed his arrow at them. But his arm stiffened and
became dead. The sheep passed by.
He headed them off again by hiding in the stalks of a large yucca.
The sheep passed within five steps of him, but again his arm stiffened
as he drew the bow. He followed the sheep and got ahead of them
and hid behind a birch tree in bloom. He had his bow ready, but
as they neared him they became gods.
The first was Hasjelti, the second was Hostjoghon, the third Naaskiddi,
and the fourth Hadatchishi. Then the youth fell senseless to the
ground. The four gods stood one on each side of him, each with a
They traced with their rattles in the sand the figure of a man,
drawing lines at his head and feet. Then the youth recovered and
the gods again became sheep. They said, "Why did you try to
shoot us? You see you are one of us." For the youth had become
The gods said, "There is to be a dance, far off to the north
beyond the Ute Mountain. We want you to go with us. We will dress
you like ourselves and teach you to dance. Then we will wander over
Now the brothers watched from the top of the mesa but they could
not see what the trouble was. They saw the youth lying on the ground,
but when they reached the place, all the sheep were gone. They began
crying, saying, "For a long time we would not believe him,
and now he has gone off with the sheep."
They tried to head off the sheep, but failed. They said, "If
we had believed him, he would not have gone off with the sheep.
But perhaps some day we will see him again."
At the dance, the five sheep found seven others. This made their
number twelve. They journeyed all around the world.
All people let them see their dances and learn their songs. Then
the eleven talked together and said, "There is no use keeping
this youth with us longer. He has learned everything. He may as
well go back to his people and teach them to do as we do."
So the youth was taught to have twelve in the dance, six gods and
six goddesses, with Hasjelti to lead them. He was told to have his
people make masks to represent the gods.
So the youth returned to his brothers, carrying with him all songs,
all medicines, and clothing.
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