Native American Legends
The Beginning of Thunder
A Miwok Legend
Bear's sister-in-law, Deer, had two beautiful daughters, called
Fawns. Bear was a horrible, wicked woman, and she wanted the Fawns
for herself. So this is what she did. One day she invited Deer to
accompany her when she went to pick clover. The two Fawns remained
at home. While resting during the day, after having picked much
clover, Bear offered to pick out lice from Deer's head. While doing
so she watched her chance, took Deer unaware, and bit her neck so
hard that she killed her. Then she devoured her, all excepting the
liver. This she placed in the bottom of a basket filled with clover,
and took it home. She gave the basket of clover to the Fawns to
eat. When they asked where their mother was, she replied, "She
will come soon. You know she is always slow and takes her time in
coming home." So the Fawns ate the clover, but when they reached
the bottom of the basket, they discovered the liver. Then they knew
that their aunt had killed their mother.
"We had better watch out, or she will kill us too," they
said to one another. They decided to leave without saying anything
and go to their grandfather. So the next day when Bear was away
they got together all the baskets and awls which belonged to Deer
and departed. They left one basket, however, in the house. When
Bear returned and found the Fawns missing she hunted for their tracks
and set out after them. After she had tracked them a short distance,
the basket, left at home, whistled. Bear ran back to the house,
thinking the Fawns had returned. But she could not find them and
so set out again, following their tracks.
The Fawns, meanwhile, had proceeded on their journey, throwing
awls and baskets in different directions. These awls and baskets
whistled. Each time Bear thought that the Fawns were whistling,
and left the trail in search of them. And each time that Bear was
fooled in this manner, she became angrier and angrier.
She shouted in her anger. "Those girls are making a fool of
me. When I capture them I'll eat them." The awls only whistled
in response and Bear ran toward the sound. There was no one there.
Finally, the Fawns, far ahead of Bear, came to the river. On the
opposite side they saw Daddy Longlegs. They asked him to stretch
his leg across the river so that they might cross safely. They told
him that Bear had killed their mother and they were fleeing from
her. So when Bear at last came to the river, Daddy Longlegs stretched
his leg over again, but when the wicked aunt of the two Fawns, walking
on his leg, reached the middle of the river, Daddy Longlegs gave
a sudden jump and threw her into the river. But Bear did not drown.
She managed to swim to the shore, where she again started in pursuit
of the Fawns. But the Fawns were far ahead of their aunt, and soon
reached their grandfather's house. Their grandfather was Lizard.
They told him of the terrible fate which had overtaken their mother.
"Where is Bear?" he asked them. "She is following
us and will soon be here," they replied. Upon hearing this
Lizard threw two large white stones into the fire and heated them.
When Bear arrived outside of Lizard's house she could not find an
entrance. She asked Lizard how she should enter, and he told her
that the only entrance was through the smoke-hole, so she must climb
on the roof and enter that way. He also told her that when she entered
she must close her eyes tightly and open wide her mouth. Bear did
as she was instructed, for she was very anxious to get the two Fawns,
whom Lizard had told her were in his house. But as Bear entered,
eyes closed and mouth open, Lizard took the red hot stones from
the fire and thrust them down her throat. Bear rolled from the top
of Lizard's house dead. Lizard then skinned her and dressed her
hide, after which he cut it in two pieces, one large and one small.
The larger piece he gave to the older Fawn, the smaller piece to
the younger. Then Lizard instructed the girls to run about and see
what kind of noise was made by Bear's skin. The girls proceeded
to run around, the skins making all kinds of loud noises. Lizard,
watching them, laughed and said to himself, "The girls are
all right. They are Thunders. I think I had better send them up
to the sky." When the Fawns came to Lizard to tell him that
they were going to return home, he said, "Do not go home. I
have a good place for you. I shall send you to the sky." So
the girls went up to the sky. There Lizard could hear them running
about. Their aunt's skin, which they had kept, makes the loud noises,
that we call thunder. When the Fawn girls ran around in the sky
Rain and Hail fell. So now whenever the girls (Thunders, as Lizard
called them) run around above, rain begins to fall.
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