Native American Legends
The girl who was the ring
A Pawnee Legend
By the bank of a river stood a lodge, in which lived four brothers
and their sister. The boys made arrows. To the branch of a tree
in front of the lodge they had hung a rawhide strap, such as women
use for carrying wood, to make a swing for the girl.
Whenever their meat was all gone and they began to get hungry,
The girl used to send her brothers into the timber to cut dogwood
shoots to make arrows. When the arrows were ready, she would get
into the swing and the boys would swing her. As the swing moved,
they would see dust rising all around the horizon, and would know
that the Buffalo were coming.
Then all four boys would take their bows and arrows, and stand
about the swing so as to protect the girl and not let the Buffalo
come near her. When the Buffalo had come close, the boys would kill
them in a circle all about the swing. They would quickly carry the
girl into the lodge, and would kill so many Buffalo that the rest
would be frightened and run away. So they would have plenty to eat,
and the dried meat would be piled high in the lodge.
One day the boys went out to get wood for arrows, and left the
girl in the lodge alone. While they were away a Coyote came to the
lodge and talked to the girl. He said to her: "Granddaughter,
I am very poor, and I am very hungry. I have no meat in my lodge,
and my children also are hungry. I told my relations that I was
coming to ask you for food, and they have been laughing at me. They
said, 'Your granddaughter will not give you anything to eat.' "
The girl answered him: "Grandfather, here is plenty of meat.
This house is full of it. Take what you want. Take the fattest pieces.
Take it to your children. Let them eat."
The Coyote began to cry. He said: "Yes, my relations laughed
at me when I said I was going to visit you and ask you for something
to eat. They said you would not give me anything. I do not want
any dried meat -- I want some fresh meat to take to my children.
Have pity on me, and let me put you in the swing, so as to bring
the Buffalo. I do not want to swing you hard so as to bring the
Buffalo in great herds. I want to swing you only a little so as
to bring a few Buffalo. I have a quiver full of arrows to keep the
The girl said: "No, grandfather, I cannot do this. My brothers
are away. Without them we can do nothing."
Then the Coyote slapped his breast and said: "Look at me.
Am I not a man and strong? I can run around you fast, after you
are in the swing, and I can keep the Buffalo off. I can shoot clear
through a Buffalo. I have plenty of arrows, and I need only use
a single one for each Buffalo. Come on, I want to swing you just
a little, so that but few Buffalo will come." So he coaxed
the girl, but still she refused.
After he had begged her for a long time, she agreed to let him
swing her a little, and got in the swing. He began to swing her,
at first gently, but all at once he pushed her very hard, and kept
doing this until she swung high. She screamed and cried, and tried
to get off the swing, but it was now too late. All around -- from
all sides -- the Buffalo were coming in great crowds. The Coyote
had made ready his arrows, and was running around the girl, trying
to kill the Buffalo and keep them off, but they crowded upon him
-- so many that he could do nothing -- and at last he got frightened
and ran into the lodge. The Buffalo were now just all over the ground
about the lodge, and suddenly one of the young Bulls, the leader
of a big band, as he passed under the swing, threw up his head,
and the girl disappeared, but the Coyote, peeping out of the lodge
door, saw on the horn of this Bull a ring, and then he knew that
this ring was the girl. Then the Bull ran away fast, and all the
Buffalo ran after him.
When the Buffalo had gone, the Coyote came out of the lodge and
saw that the girl was not there. He did not know what to do. He
was frightened. Pretty soon he heard the girl's brothers coming.
They had seen the dust, and knew that some one was swinging their
sister, and that the Buffalo had come. They hurried back, running
fast, and when they reached the lodge they found the Coyote just
dragging himself out of a mud-hole. He crawled out crying, and pretended
that the Buffalo had run over him and trampled him. His bow and
arrows were in the mud. He told the brothers his story and said
that he had tried hard to save the girl, but that he had not known
that so many Buffalo would come. He said he had thought that the
girl must be swung high, so that the Buffalo could see her from
a long way off.
The brothers felt very sorry that their sister was lost. They counseled
together to see what they should do, trying to decide what would
be the best plan to get her back again. While they were talking
about this, the Coyote, with all the mud upon him, stood before
them and said: "Brothers, do not feel sorry because your sister
is lost. I will get her back again. Live on just as you always do.
Do not think about this. Do not let it trouble you. I will get her
back again." After he had spoken thus, he said, "Now I
am going to start off on the war-path," and he left them and
He journeyed on alone considering what he should do, and at length,
as he was traveling along over the prairie, he met a Badger, who
said to him, "Brother, where are you going?" The Coyote
said: "I am going on the war- path against my enemies. Will
you join my party?" The Badger said, "Yes, I will join
you." They went on. After they had gone a long way, they saw
a Swift Hawk sitting on the limb of a tree by a ravine. He asked
them where they were going, and they told him, and asked him if
he would go with them. He said he would go. After a time they met
a Kit Fox, and asked him to join them, and he did so. Then they
met a Jack Rabbit, who said he would go with them. They went on,
and at length they met a Blackbird, and asked him to join them.
He said: "Let it be so. I will go."
Soon after they had all got together they stopped and sat down,
and the Coyote told them how the girl had been lost, and said that
he intended to try to get her back. Then they talked, and the Coyote
told them the plan that he -- the leader -- had made. The others
listened, and said that they would do whatever he told them to.
They were all glad to help to recover the girl.
Then they all stood up and made ready to start, and the Coyote
said to the Blackbird, "Friend, you stay here until the time
comes." So the Blackbird remained there where they had been
talking, and the others went on. After they had gone some distance
farther, the Coyote told the Hawk to stop and wait there. He did
so. The others went on a long way, and then the Coyote said to the
Rabbit, "You stay here." The others went on, and at the
next stopping-place he left the Kit Fox; and at the next -- last
of all -- he left the Badger. Then the Coyote went on alone and
travelled a long way, and at length he came to the Buffalo camp.
He went out to the place where the young Bulls used to play the
stick game, and lay down there. It was early in the morning.
After a time some of the young Bulls came out, and began to roll
the ring and to throw their sticks at it. The Coyote now pretended
to be very sick. His hair was all covered with mud, and his tongue
hung out of his mouth, and he staggered about and fell down and
then got up again, and seemed to feel badly. Sometimes he would
get over near to where the ring was being rolled, and then the young
Bulls would call out: "Here, hold on! Don't get in the way."
After a little while the Coyote pretended that he felt better,
and he got up and went over to where the young Bulls were sitting,
looking on at the game, and sat down with them, and watched the
play with the others. Every now and then two of the young Bulls
would begin to dispute over the game, each saying that his stick
was the nearer to the ring, and sometimes they would wrangle for
a long time. Once, while they were doing this, the Coyote went up
to them and said: "Here! You men need not quarrel about this.
Let me look. I know all about this game. I can tell which stick
is the nearer." The Bulls stopped talking and looked at him,
and then said: "Yes, let him look. Let us hear what he says."
Then the Coyote went up to the ring and looked, and said, pointing:
"That stick is nearest. That man has won." The Bulls looked
at each other, and nodded their heads and said, "He knows.
He is right." The next time they had a dispute, he decided
it again, and all were satisfied.
At length two of the young Bulls had a very fierce dispute, and
almost came to fighting over it. The Coyote came up and looked,
and said: "This is very close. I must look carefully, but I
cannot see well if you are all crowding around me in this way. I
must have room. You would all better go over to that hill, and sit
down there and wait for me to decide." The Bulls all went over
to the hill and sat down, and then the Coyote began to look. First
he would go to one stick and look carefully, and then he would go
to the other and look. The sticks were about the same distance from
the ring, and for a long time it seemed that he could not make up
his mind which was the nearer. He went backward and forward, looking
at the sticks, and stooping down and putting his hands on his knees
and squinting, and at last, when once his face was close to the
ground, he suddenly snatched up the ring in his mouth, and started,
running as hard as he could for the place where he had left the
As soon as he had started, all the Bulls on the hill saw what he
was doing -- that he was taking the ring away from them -- and they
started after him. They did not want to lose the ring, for it was
very useful to them, and they played with it all the time. When
the Buffalo in the camp saw that the young Bulls had started, they
all followed, so that soon all the Buffalo were rushing after the
Coyote. He ran fast, and for a long time he kept ahead of the Buffalo,
but they followed, a great mass of Buffalo crowding and pushing,
running as hard as they could run. At last the Coyote was beginning
to get tired, and was running more slowly, and the Buffalo were
beginning to catch up to him, but he was getting near to where the
Badger was. After a time the Buffalo were getting nearer to the
Coyote. He was very tired, and it seemed to him as if he could not
run any farther. If he did not soon get to where he had left the
Badger, the Buffalo would run over him and trample him to death,
and get back the ring. At length, when they were close behind him,
he ran over the top of a little hill, and down in the valley below
saw the Badger sitting at the mouth of his hole. The Coyote raced
down the hill as fast as he could, and when he got to the hole he
gave the ring to the Badger, and just as the herd of Buffalo got
to the place, they both dived down into the hole.
The Buffalo crowded about the Badger's hole, and began to paw the
ground, to dig it up so as to get the Coyote and the ring, but the
Badger had dug a hole a long way under the ground, and while the
Buffalo were digging he ran along through this hole and came out
far off, and ran as hard as he could toward the brothers' lodge.
Before he had gone very far, some of the Buffalo on the outside
of the herd saw him, and called out to the others: "There he
is! There he goes!" Then all the Buffalo started again and
ran after the Badger. When they had come pretty close to him, he
would stop running and dig another hole, and while the Buffalo were
crowding around the hole, trying to dig him out, he would dig along
under the ground, until he had got far beyond them, and would then
come to the top of the ground, and run as fast as he could toward
the lodge. Then the Buffalo would see him and follow him.
In this way he went a long distance, but at length he got tired
and felt that he could not run or dig much farther. He was almost
spent. At last, when he dug out of the ground, he saw not far off
the Kit Fox, lying curled upon a rock, asleep in the sun. He called
out: "Oh, my brother, I am almost tired out! Help me! "
The Kit Fox jumped up and ran to him and took the ring in his mouth
and started running, and the Badger dug a deep hole, and staid there.
The little Fox ran fast, gliding along like a bird; and the Buffalo,
when they saw him running, chased him and ran hard. The Kit Fox
is a swift animal, and for a long time he kept ahead of the Buffalo.
When he was almost tired out, he came to where the Rabbit was,
and gave him the ring, and ran into a hole, and the Rabbit ran on.
The Buffalo followed the Rabbit, but he ran fast and kept ahead
of them for a long time. When they had almost caught him, he came
to where the Hawk was sitting.
The Hawk took the ring in his claws and flew off with it, and the
Rabbit ran off to one side and hid in the long grass. The Buffalo
followed the Hawk, and ran after him. They seemed never to get tired.
The Hawk, after he had been flying a long time, began to feel very
weary. He would sail down low over the Buffalo's backs, and was
only just able to keep above them. At last he got near to where
the Blackbird was.
When the Blackbird heard the pounding of many hoofs and knew that
the Buffalo were coming, he flew up on a sunflower stalk and waited.
When the Buffalo came to the place where he was, he flew up over
them to the Hawk, and took the ring on his neck, and flew along
over the Buffalo. The ring was heavy for so small a bird, and he
would alight on the backs of the Buffalo and fly from one to another.
The Buffalo would toss their heads and try to hit him with their
horns, but he kept flying from one to another, and the Buffalo behind
were always pushing forward to get near the ring, and they pushed
the other Buffalo ahead of them. Pretty soon the herd passed over
a hill and were rushing down to the place on the river where the
brothers' lodge stood.
Ever since their sister had been lost, the brothers had been making
arrows, and now they had piles of them stacked up about the lodge.
When they saw the Buffalo coming they got their bows and took their
arrows in their hands, and shot and shot until they had killed many,
many Buffalo, and the rest were frightened and ran away.
The Blackbird had flown into the lodge with the ring, and after
the brothers had finished killing, they went into the lodge. And
there, sitting by the fire and smiling at them as they came in,
they saw their sister.
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