Manataka American Indian Council
A Little Boy and His Dog,
A Seneca Story
A Man and his wife went into the woods to hunt. They built a house of hemlock boughs, and lived happily. After a while a boy was born to them. The family always had a plenty of meat, for the man was a good hunter. While he was away in the woods looking for game, his wife was busy drying meat; bringing bark to keep the fire; and taking care of the child. Another child was born to them, a girl.
Everything went on well till the boy was old enough to do chores and his mother began to send him for water. The spring was some distance from the cabin and the child was afraid there. Whenever his mother told him to go, he complained and tried to beg off. But when she seized him by the hair, dragged him to the door, pushed him out and threw the bark water vessel after him, he knew that he must pick up the vessel and go. As soon as he
brought the water, his mother washed her face, combed her hair carefully, took her strap and hatchet and, telling him she was going for bark to burn and he must stay with his sister, she went off somewhere.
This happened every day for a long time.
The woman began to be cruel to the boy. She didn't give him enough to eat and neglected him in every way. She seemed to hate him.
When at last the boy told his father that he didn't have enough to eat, the man noticed that his wife was cross and cruel to the child and be began to think that something was wrong. One night as he and the boy were together on one side of the fire, and his wife and little girl were sleeping on the other side, he questioned the child about what was done in the house while he was off hunting. The boy told him that at such a time each day his mother sent him to a spring where he was afraid to go; when he came with the water, she washed and combed and then went to the woods for bark.
The man decided to watch his wife. The next morning he started off to hunt, then crept back till he came to a place where he could see his cabin. By and by he saw the skin door open and out came his boy, head first, the water vessel after him.
The boy, crying bitterly, picked up the vessel and started off. The father was angry, but he waited to see what would happen next.
boy brought the water and soon afterward the mother came out with her strap and
hatchet. She walked away and her husband followed cautiously.
The woman went down a hill and walked on till she came to a black ash tree from which the bark could easily be stripped. There she stopped and looked up into the tree. The man crept as near as was possible and not be seen by his wife. After a while she hit the tree with the back of her hatchet; it made a beautiful sound. She waited a minute, then struck the tree a second time; again the same musical sound. The third time she struck the man saw a bird on the top branches of the tree. When the woman struck a fourth time, the bird flew down, and as it touched the ground it became a handsome man. That minute the husband drew his bow and shot, instantly the man turned to a bird, flew up and disappeared in the air.
The woman, seeing her husband, said, "Is it you?"
"It is," said the man, and now I know why you abuse our boy."
"I abuse him, and I will abuse you, too," said the woman, and she caught up a club and struck her husband till he was helpless.
Then, leaving him on the ground, she ran home, put her children outside and set fire to the cabin. The hemlock boughs blazed up quickly and soon the cabin was in ashes. Then she said to her children, "You must stay here.
will be all right." And taking up a handful of ashes, she threw the ashes
into the air and said, "Let there be a snowstorm, and let the snow be as
high as these trees."
When snow began to fall, the mother said to the little boy, "Here is your dog, keep him with you and take care of your sister." Then she started off.
Snow fell fast and soon the boy and girl were covered up, but they felt as warm and comfortable as if in a house.
After a time the father dragged himself towards home. When near he saw there was no longer a cabin. He searched for his children and at last found them; then he set about building a house of boughs.
When the cabin was ready he said to the boy, "You must stay here and take care of your little sister, and of your dog, Beautiful Ears. Always give him a plenty to eat, as much and as good as you have yourselves. When you go out, carry your sister on your back, never put her down or leave her for a minute. When the dog seems uneasy, you must turn around and go home. I am going in pursuit of your mother," and he started.
In the morning when the boy woke up, he found food cooked and ready to eat. He gave Beautiful Ears his share, then he and his sister ate.
Afterward, whenever it was time to eat, food was ready for them.
One day the boy got lonely and he said to his sister and Beautiful Ears, "We will go out and amuse ourselves."
The boy had a bow and arrows; but he couldn't shoot, for he carried his sister on his back. Beautiful Ears ran ahead, then ran back, and was full of life.
The three looked around and enjoyed themselves till the dog began to whine and tease, wanted his master to go home.
Then the boy said to his sister, "Beautiful Ears wants to go back."
A few days later they went out again, went a little farther than the first day. When they got home, food was ready for them. The boy always gave Beautiful Ears his share first.
The third time they went out, the dog ran after a wild turkey. The boy followed the dog. The dog chased the turkey into a clump of bushes. The boy couldn't get into the bushes to shoot the turkey, for his sister was strapped to his back. He thought, "I will unstrap her just for a minute, then we will have a nice fat turkey to eat."
He took the little girl from his back and put her down. Before he reached the bushes she screamed and turning around the brother saw a bear take the child up and run off.
Beautiful Ears and the boy followed the bear. For three or four days the boy heard the dog bark as it ran on ahead but at last it was out of hearing and he lost trace of it: couldn't follow it any longer.
Now the boy was alone. He had nothing to live for and wished to die. One day, as he walked along without purpose, he came to the bank of a lake; he climbed a high rock, leaped into the water and lost consciousness. On coming to his senses he thought he was in a beautiful country and he felt happy. But in reality a great fish had swallowed him. After a few days the fish swam into a small stream. On the bank of that stream lived seven sisters. They had built a cabin and made a fish dam. One morning they went to the dam and found a very large fish.
They pulled it up on to the bank and the eldest sister said, "We will cut it open."
"Wait," said the second sister, "till we boil water to cook it in. We will cut it open carefully; such a large fish must have a lot of spawn."
When everything was ready, the sisters opened the fish. But in place of spawn they found a beautiful boy. They forgot the fish. They washed the boy, cared for him, and rejoiced that such a gift had come to their door. They said., "We will take good care of this boy. Maybe he will become a great hunter and get meat for us when we are old."
The sisters and their "son," as they called the boy, lived happily together. He soon surprised them by killing large game and by becoming a good hunter, but when they found that while hunting he wandered a long distance from home they were frightened and told him to keep near the house and never go toward the West.
One day the boy said to himself, "I wonder what there is off there where the sun goes down. I'll go and see."
He hadn't gone far when he came to a clearing and saw a cabin.
Everything was quiet. He crept up cautiously and peeping in saw an old man sitting with his head bent down to his breast.
That minute the old man called out, "Well, Nephew, you have come."
The boy knew that be was discovered and he answered, "Yes, I have come. I thought I would see what you were doing."
"Well, come in and wait till I get my head up."
The old man picked up a big wooden pin that lay at his side, and taking a mallet drove the pin down his spinal column. Up came his head, and he said, "I have a rule that when a nephew comes I will play a game with him and bet--"
"What do you bet?"
"I bet my head against his."
"Very well," said the boy.
The old man swept the ashes from the fireplace and made it smooth. Then he shook a bowl that had stones in it, and said, "The one who turns the stones all of a color will be the winner. You must throw first."
"No," said the boy, "if you want to play the game you must play first."
At last the old man consented. He shook the bowl; six stones flew out of the smoke-hole, turned to birds and flew off out of hearing.
After a while the boy heard the birds again and soon six stones fell through the smoke-hole into the bowl. The old man bent over and stirred the stones, repeating, "Let them be white! Let them be white!" but he couldn't get them all of one color.
The boy shook the bowl and, as before, six stones went out of the smoke-hole, turned to birds and flew off. The old man began to shake the dish and say, "I wish this, I wish that." When the stones came back to the bowl the boy stirred them and they all turned of one color.
When the old man saw that he had lost the game he wanted to play again.
"Oh no said the boy, "that isn't your rule."
"Let me smoke once more,"
The boy cut off the old man's head, set fire to the cabin and went home. After a few days the boy thought he would go again toward the West. He passed the old man's place, came to another opening and saw another cabin. Around the cabin the ground was as smooth as a playground. The boy walked up quietly and peeping into the cabin saw an old man sitting there.
That minute the old man called out, "Is that you, Nephew? Come in. I have been waiting for you."
The boy went in.
"I have a way of passing time," said the old man. "I play a game."
'What is your game?"
"I like that," said the boy.
"I bet my head against my nephew's head."
"Very well," said the boy.
They went to the middle of the opening, at one end of which there were two stakes. They threw the balls; the uncle was the best thrower, but the nephew was the best runner. When he was far ahead, the old man threw a horn after him and the horn stuck in the sole of his foot. He had to sit down and pull it out. While he was sitting there the old man passed him. The boy spat on his hand, rubbed the spittle into his foot and it was healed. He threw the horn. It hit the old man's foot and he had to sit down and pull it out. The ball rolled on and went between the stakes. At the next throw the result was the same. The old man lost the game.
He wanted to play again, but the boy said, "No, it isn't the rule."
He cut off the old man's head, burned the cabin and went home.
A third time the boy went toward the West, and farther than before. He passed the first and second clearing and coming to a third one saw a great pond covered with thick ice, and near the pond a cabin. He crept up to the cabin and peeping in saw an old man. The old man called out, "Well, Nephew, I am glad to see you. Come in."
The boy went in and said, "I thought I would look in and see you. Now I will go."
"Oh, no; I have a rule. When a nephew comes to see me, I play a game with him. We run a race on the ice and the one who gets to the goal last loses his head. No matter how you get there, only get there first."
When the boy was ready to start he took an oak ball from a nearby tree and said, "Let a high wind come!" He got into the oak ball, a high wind rose, and in a flash he was over the ice. The old man was scarcely half way.
The boy took a white flint stone out of his pouch, threw it toward the middle of the pond and said, "Let this stone melt the ice and boil the water."
In an instant the old man was sinking in boiling water. He cried for mercy, but the boy didn't listen.
The water disappeared; dry land was left where the pond had been. The old man, now a great stone, was in the middle of the space where the pond had been. The boy burned the cabin and went home.
One day a runner came to the home of the seven sisters and said, "The chief has sent me to notify you of the marriage of a certain girl. He wants everyone to come to the gathering."
The sisters knew that the boy had magic power and they were careful of him. When he said, "I want to go to the gathering," they said that bad people would be there and all sorts of games would be played.
He said, "You were afraid to have me go toward the West. I have been there and I have destroyed the dice man, the ball man, and the ice-pond man. Now I am going to this gathering. My mother, father, sister, and my dog, Beautiful Ears, are there."
At last the sisters told him he could go and told him where to find a grandmother who would tell him what to do.
The boy started and after going some distance came to a wide trail and began to meet many people. When night came they all camped together. The next day they went on.
The sisters had said to the boy, "There will be one woman in the crowd, who will seem to have power over all the others. Don't notice her."
He soon saw her, but remembering their words, looked at her and went on.
At last he came to the place where his grandmother lived. He said, "Grandmother, I have come."
"Poor Grandson," said she, "I have little to give you. I am alone and poor."
"Don't mind that," said the boy; "we will soon have a plenty to eat."
He brought in game till the old woman cried, she was so glad. And she hurried around, like a girl, to prepare the food.
She said, "There is a great gathering at the long house; the chief's daughter is to marry a second time, but first she will destroy her husband, her daughter, and a dog they call Beautiful Ears. She had a son, but no one knows where he is. Her husband is tied up at one end of the long house and every person who goes in must strike him with a burning brand. His tears are wampum beads.
"Her daughter is hanging over the fire and slowly roasting. The dog is at one end of the fire, and every person who passes him gives him a kick. His hair is singed off and he is dying."
The boy was very angry. When night came he said to his grandmother, "I am going to the gathering. The seven sisters said that you would tell me what to do. The man they are torturing is my father; the little girl is my sister."
"I know everything," said the old woman, "and I will help you. I have a pair of moccasins that you must put on when you get to the long house. Stand by the fire and when your mother calls out, 'Burn him!' stick one foot in the fire. The moccasins are made of a woman's flesh and I have power over them."
When the boy came to where the people were, he made himself very small, played around with the children, and went into the long house with them. His mother was sitting on a high seat in the middle of the room where she could be seen by everyone.
As she gave the order, "Burn him!" the boy stuck his foot into the fire, That instant the woman screamed with pain. She felt that a firebrand was burning her flesh. The boy ran out, but when it was about time for the woman to give the order again he was near the fire, and as she was beginning to say, "Burn him!" he put his foot in the fire. That instant she screamed with pain. He tormented her in this way till she died from fright and pain.
The boy led his father and sister out of the house and the dog followed. Then he said, "Let this house become red hot flint!"
Right away the long house was in flames. Some of the people in the house had magic power; their heads burst and their spirits flew through the smoke-hole and off in the air in the form of owls and other birds. The boy spat on his hands, rubbed his father, sister and dog and they were as well as ever. Then he said, "Now we will go home."
He thanked his grandmother for her help, and they started for the sister's cabin. When they came near, the seven sisters ran to meet them. And they all lived happily together ever after.
Seneca Indian Myths by Jeremiah Curtin 1922 [Told by Mrs. Logan]
From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories.
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