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The Voice, The Flood, and The Turtle

A Caddo Legend

Once there was a chief whose wife, to the fear and wonder of the people, gave birth to four little monsters.

The elders said: "These strange children will bring great misfortune. It would be better to kill them right now, for the sake of the tribe."

"No way will we kill them," said their mother. "These children will turn out alright, by and by."

But they didn't turn out all right.

The small monsters grew fast, much faster than ordinary children, and became very big. They had four legs and arms each. They hurt other children; they upset tepee's; they tore up buffalo robes; they befouled people's food. A wise man, who could see things in his mind which had not yet happened, said: "Kill these strange bad things before they kill you."

But their mother said: "Never. They'll be fine young men some day."

They never became fine young men; instead they started killing and eating people. At that point all the men in the village rushed at them to do away with them, but by then it was too late. The monsters had become too big and too powerful to be killed. They grew taller and taller.

One day they went into the middle of the camp and stood back to back, one facing East, one facing South, one facing West, and one facing North. Their backs grew together, and they became one.

As they grew higher and higher, most people took refuge near the monsters' feet, where the huge creatures could not bend down to catch them. But people who stayed farther off were seized by mile-long arms, killed, and eaten.

The four monsters, now grown together, rose up to the clouds, and their heads touched the sky.

Then the man who could see into the future heard a voice telling him to set up a hollow reed and plant it in the ground. The man did, and the reed grew bigger and bigger very fast. In no time it rose to touch the sky.

The man heard the voice again, saying: "I will make a great flood. When the signs of bad things coming appear, you and your wife climb up inside this hollow cane. Be naked as you were born, and take with you a pair of all the good animals in order to save them."

The man asked: "What sign will you be sending?"

"When all the birds in the world - birds of the woods, the sea, the deserts, and the high mountains - form up into a cloud flying from North to South, that will be the sign. Watch for the cloud of birds."

One day the man looked up and saw a big cloud made up of birds traveling from North to South. At once he and his wife moved up into the hollow reed, taking with them all the animals they wished to save.

Then it began to rain and did not stop. Waters covered the Earth and kept rising until only the top of the hollow cane and the heads of the monsters were left above the surface.

Inside the hollow reed, the man and his wife heard the voice again: "Now I shall send Turtle to destroy the monsters."

The monster's heads were saying to each other: "Brothers, I'm getting tired. My legs are weakening. I can't keep standing much longer."

The floods swirled around them with strong currents that almost swept them away.

Then the Great Turtle began digging down underneath the monster's feet. It uprooted them, and they could not keep their footing but broke apart and toppled over. They fell down into the waters, one sinking toward the North, one toward the East, one toward the South, and one toward the West.

Thus the four directions came into being.

After the monsters had drowned, the waters subsided. First the mountain tops reappeared, then the rest of the land. Next came hard-blowing winds that dried the Earth.

The man climbed down to the bottom of the hollow reed and opened the hole at it's foot. He looked out. He stuck out his hand and felt around.

He said to his wife: "Come out. Everything is dry." So they emerged, followed by all the animals.

They left the reed, which collapsed and disappeared. But when they stepped out on the Earth, it was bare; nothing was growing.

The wife said: "Husband, there's nothing here and we are naked. How shall we live?"

The man said: "Go to sleep." They lay down and slept, and when they woke the next morning, all kinds of herbs had sprung up around them.

The second night while they slept, trees and bushes grew. Now there was firewood to keep them warm, and all kinds of woods for making bows and arrows.

During the third night green grass covered the Earth, and animals appeared to graze on it.

The man and his wife went to sleep a fourth time and woke up inside a grass hut. They stepped out and found a stalk of corn.

Then they heard the voice say: "This will be your holy food." It told the woman how to plant and harvest the corn and ended with: "Now you have everything you need. Now you can live. Now you will have children and form a new generation. If you, woman, should plant corn, and something other than corn comes up, then know that the world will come to it's end."

After that, they never heard the voice again.

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