Thunder Destroys Horned Snake
A Seneca Legend
A mother and daughter lived in a bark house on the edge of a village. Many men wanted the girl for a wife, for she was nice-looking, but to each man she said, "You are not such a man as I want."
One day the girl and her mother went to the forest to pick up wood. When it began to grow dark they were far from home.
The mother said, "We'll make a fire and stay here all night."
They made a fire and got ready for the night. All at once a man stood near the girl, when she looked up she was amazed, he was so handsome. He had a wampum belt around his body and long feathers in his head-dress.
He said to her, "I have come to marry you."
Her mother was around picking up wood.
The girl said, "I will tell my mother."
The young man stood by the fire and waited for the girl's answer.
When she told her mother that a stranger had come and wanted to marry her, the mother said, "You have refused many good men, now do as you like."
The girl gave the man her mother's answer, and said, "I will be your wife."
"You must go home with me," said the man, and taking off his wampum belt he gave it to the mother, and said, "This will be a proof that we are married."
The woman hung the belt on a tree. She was greatly pleased with her new son-in-law.
The two started off together. They soon reached a large clearing at one end of which was a house.
The man said, "That is our home."
When they went into the house the persons sitting around seemed to be pleased with the young woman.
She was contented and happy till one day her husband said, "I am going to hunt."
He went out and as he closed the door she heard a strange noise, then all was still.
Towards dark she heard the same noise. The door opened and a great snake came in. It put its head on the woman's lap and told her to look for vermin. She found bloodsuckers and angleworms as well as insects. After a while the Snake backed out of the door; the next minute the husband came in as handsome as ever.
"Were you afraid of me?" asked he.
"I wasn't afraid," said the young woman.
The next day the man went to hunt. When he closed the door the woman heard the same kind of noise she had heard the day before. And when she went out to gather wood she saw a great snake sunning itself on the rocks. Then she saw another and another and she began to be very homesick.
About dark her husband came as he had the evening before.
The next day, after he had gone, she began to think about getting away from such a terrible man. She went for wood and while standing in one place, thinking, she heard a voice and turning toward it saw an old man.
He said, "My grandchild, you are unfortunate. The man you are living with is a bad man. We have often tried to kill him, but he is cautious, we can't catch him. There are seven brothers, your husband is the youngest, their hearts are tied together in a bunch and the bunch is hidden under his couch. You must get it; I and my friends will help you all we can."
The young woman found the hearts, hid them under her blanket and hurrying out of the house began to run.
Soon she heard a voice calling, "Stop! Come back!" but she ran the faster.
The voice said, "You can't get away, no matter how you try."
Then strength seemed to leave her, but that minute the stranger, who had called her "grandchild," was at her side.
"I will help you," said he, and taking hold of her blanket he pulled her out of the water. She saw then that she had been in a lake. A great black cloud was above them and Thunder began to shoot his arrows. Soon the woman saw that the stranger had killed the terrible Snake; other men like him were on the shore and they thanked her and said that she had helped them.
The men drew the Snake out of the lake, cut it into pieces, and stuck the head on a pole. Seeing that the eyes looked at the woman in a sharp, ugly way, the grandfather said, "You must come home with us."
They packed pieces of the Snake in separate bundles, then each man took a bundle, and they started. After a while they came to what seemed to the woman to be a house. Inside the house was a very old man. The leader said to him, "This young woman has helped us kill the great Snake.
The old man looked up, and said, "My granddaughter, I thank you."
All the men, except the very old man, hunted, but each day they brought the woman corn and squash, for she couldn't eat their kind of food. They told the names of the persons from whom they stole the corn and squash, and she knew those persons.
One day the old man said to the others, "Maybe you had better take the woman with you; she has power."
They said, "Very well," and then they told her that one of their number was missing, and said, "On a rock in deep water is a terrible bloodsucker. The man shot at him, but he wasn't quick enough and the bloodsucker caught him. Our friend lies there on the rock and we can't rescue him or kill the bloodsucker."
She went with them to the lake. When they came to where the rock was she looked down and saw the bloodsucker. The men tried to kill the bloodsucker by going up to the clouds and shooting arrows down into the water. When each man had tried and failed they asked the woman to shoot. She shot once; the bloodsucker moved. She shot a second time; there was a terrible struggle in the water, then all was quiet.
Soon they saw that the bloodsucker was dead and their friend was free. The man came out of the water and they all went home.
After the woman had been with these men about a year, Old Man Thunder said, "It is time for this woman to go to her mother," and he said to her, "For ten days you mustn't do any work, any pounding or chopping."
The Thunders went with her till she was near home. She thought they walked along as ordinary persons. When they left her she saw that she was standing in water; a heavy shower had just passed over. Her mother's house was close by.
For eight days she refused to work, the ninth day her mother and friends urged her to help them pound corn. She said that she couldn't, but they urged so hard that she took the pounder and struck one blow; the mortar split apart and the corn fell on the ground, such was her terrible strength.
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