The Fatal Swing
An Osage Legend
Once there was a man living by the big water. He was a deer hunter. He would go out and kill wild turkeys and bring them in. Finally his mother-in-law fell in love with him.
There was a swing by the water, and the old woman and her daughter would swing across it and back. After a while, the old woman partially cut the rope, so that it would break. While the husband was out hunting one day the old woman said to her daughter, "Let us go to the swing, and have some fun."
The old woman got in first, and swung across the water and back. Then the girl got in the swing and she swung across all right, but when she was half- way back, the rope broke in two, and the girl fell into the water and was drowned.
The old woman went home and got supper for her son-in-law. The man came in just at dark, and he missed his wife, and said, "Mother-in-law, where is my wife?" The old woman said, "She has gone to the swing, and has not yet returned." The old woman began to prepare supper for her son-in-law. The man said, "Do not give me any supper."
So he started to cry. The old woman said, "Do not cry; she is dead, and we cannot help it. I will take care of the baby. Your wife got drowned, so she is lost entirely." The man cut off his hair and threw his leggings away and his shirt, and was mourning for his wife. He would go out, and stay a week at a time without eating.
He became very poor. Finally he said he was going off to stay several days; that he could not help thinking of his wife. He went off and stayed several days, and when he came home he would cry all the time.
One time, when he was out mourning, a rain and thunderstorm came up, and lightning struck all around the tree he was sitting under. He went back home and saw his baby, but stayed out of his sight. Again he went out, and it rained and thundered, and he went up by a big tree and lightning struck a tree near by him.
The Lightning left him a club, and said, "Man, I came here to tell you about your wife for whom you are mourning. You do not know where she is, or how she came to be missing. That old woman drowned her in the big water. The old woman broke the rope and the girl is drowned in the big water. This club you must keep in a safe place. I was sent here to you, and I will help you get your wife back, and you must not be afraid of the big water. Go ahead and try to get her, and the fourth day you will get her all right."
The man went to the big water, and he saw his wife out in the water, and she said, "I cannot get to you. I am tied here with chains. I am going to come up four times." The next time she came out half-way. She said, "Bring me the baby, and I will let her nurse." So the man took the baby to her mother and let her nurse.
The woman said, "They are pulling me, and I must go. But the next time you must get me." So she came out the third time up to her knees. The man took the baby to her and let it nurse again. The woman said, "I have got to go back. They are pulling me by the chains. I must go, but the next time will be the last.
I want you to try your best to get me." The man said, "I am going to get you, without doubt." The woman came out the fourth time, and the man hit the chain with the club and it seemed as though lightning struck it, and broke it. He got his wife.
So they went home, and the old woman said, "My daughter, you have got home." But the woman said not a word. Then the man heated an arrow red-hot and put it through the old woman's ears. So they killed the woman.
Return to Osage Legends