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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