The Great Thunderbird

The Great ThunderbirdThe Great Thunderbird

Brule Sioux

John Lame Deer recounts a bit of wisdom about Thunderbirds in this story.

There are several sets of great thunderbirds. When a person dreamt of them, the person gained some power, at least for a while. The thunderbirds all lived high up and in each of the four directions.

When people first came to be, the water monsters, that lived in all the rivers and streams, decided that they did not like the people. To the water monsters, the people were nothing but lice crawling upon the face of the Earth. All the water monsters decided to puff their bodies up in the water to cause a great flood. Many people were drowned, but a few escaped to a high peak, but the waves threatened to pull them off.

The thunderbirds got together and decided that they should help the people. They were relatives of a kind because when a man dreamed of a thunderbird, he got some of its power.

At first, the thunderbirds fought the water monsters down by the water, but it wasn’t working out. It was the home turf of the water monsters and they had the advantage. The thunderbirds retreated to the sky to plan on how to attack next. It was decided that the thunderbirds should attack from the sky. They all decided to thunder and lightning at once. When they did so, all the water dried up and the water monsters were burnt to a crisp, including Unktehi, the biggest water monster of them all. Unktehi’s bones now makes up the ridges in the Badlands.

Lame Deer goes on to talk about how he was lost in the Badlands, years ago, looking for horses, but a terrible storm came up and it got dark. He climbed up on a high ridge and was afraid he was going to fall, but he felt that if he stayed there, he would be safe. When the storm went away, he said he had been on the backbone of Unktehi, but he was never able to find it again, not did he find the horses.

Observations

I’ve never been to the Badlands, but multiple stories have mentioned that the Badlands ridges are bones. I know they do kind of stick up weirdly out of the landscape, but like I said, I’ve never been there and cannot personally vouch for what the whole thing looks like. I do know that actual bones have been found in the region, of various prehistoric beasts. These bones may lend to the idea that the whole darn thing is just bones.

Thunderbirds are cryptids; a cryptid is an animal/being that has sightings, supposedly, but no one can really determine whether it’s real or not. There isn’t enough evidence to disprove their existence nor is there enough evidence to prove their existence. Obviously, there aren’t really birds that can make it lightning, but are there birds large enough to pick up a ten-year old kid? That’s the thing we don’t know. People say that have seen extremely large birds and there are even some stories about tribes in the Appalachian region clearing hillsides so they can keep a watch for Thunderbirds.

Themes

Unktehi was a jerk and so she died. Again, you do something awful, expect some kind of punishment. You kill a bunch of people, don’t expect to get out of it alive. In all of history, there aren’t many mass-killers who have gotten out of something alive. The only instances in which they do get out alive is if they’re small-time killers who are careful, or they were lucky enough to escape the death penalty, or unlucky enough, however you look at it. Mass-murderers almost always get their due, whether by mob justice, government justice, or by their own hand. If you’re a mass-murdering tyrant, like Unktehi, you’re going to get it, maybe not right now, but you’ll get what’s coming to you.

Overall

Down with Water Monsters!!

Weigh In

What would you do with Unktehi and her cohorts?

Are thunderbirds real? Yeah or nay?

The Coming of Thunder

The Coming of ThunderThe Coming of Thunder

Miwok

Bear, Deer’s sister-in-law, wanted Deer’s two fawns for herself. One day she invited deer over and killer her. She ate her all up, except for her liver. She put the liver in a basket with clover and then went to see the two fawns. The two fawns saw their mother’s liver and knew that Bear had killed her mother. They thought that Bear would surely kill them too, so they decided to go to Grandfather’s house.

They took all the baskets with them. They would throw the baskets out here and there and the baskets would make whistling noises. When Bear heard the whistling, she thought that it was the fawns whistling and this threw Bear off their trail. They came to a river and asked Granddaddy Long Legs to stretch his legs across so they could cross and he did. When Bear got to the river, Grandaddy Long Legs let her fall into the river when she was halfway over, but Bear was able to swim to the shore.

The two fawns got to Grandfather’s house, who was a lizard. They told him what had happened and Grandfather heated up two stones in the fire. When Bear got the house, Grandfather told her that she had to come inside. When she did, he shoved the two stones down her throat and she died. He skinned her and gave the hide to the two fawns who ran around wearing it. It made great noises and Grandfather said they were two thunders. He decided to send them up into the sky to live where they make thunder and hail.

Observations

Apparently the Miwok people were very sophisticated at basket making. I don’t know that they could make a basket that actually whistled, but maybe they could.

This is one strange family tree. The deer had apparently been married to a bear at some point and a lizard adopted a deer as his daughter.

Themes

How about–don’t kill people? The Bear decided to kill her sister-in-law and then she was after the daughters. She got what was coming to her.

In some of the more “out-there” theology, there is the idea of Blood Atonement. The concept is you have done something so bad that the only way you could be forgiven, or even partially forgiven for such act, is to lay down your life as payment. Essentially think about Mosaic law, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If you take a life, you lose a life. The entire idea of like for like is fairly universal in cultures. If you do something, you have to make restitution to some degree. The bear made her restitution by losing her life and we would all probably say she deserved it for what she did.

Overall

Just don’t kill people.

Weigh In

What would you have done to the bear?

Do you think two fawns playing is a good explanation for the sound of thunder?

Son of Light Kills the Monster

Son of Light Kills the MonsterSon of Light Kills the Monster

Hopi

Man-eagle used to take women and girls and then use them for four days before killing them and eating them. One day Son of Light’s wife was taken by Man-eagle and he vowed to get her back. Along the way he met the Pinion maidens, mole, and spider woman. They volunteered to help. The Pinion maidens made a shirt of resin exactly like Man-eagle’s. Spider woman was to go and sit right beside Son of Light’s ear.

The mole burrowed a passage through a tall mountain, but they still weren’t tall enough to get to Man-eagle’s home in the sky. Spider woman called birds to help out. One bird would fly as far up as it could go before tiring, with everyone on its back, before they switched to another bird. Four birds were used in total, but they finally arrived in the clouds where Man-eagle lived.

Son of Light found his wife quickly, but Man-eagle came back. It was decided that there would be four challenges that Son of Light would have to best Man-eagle at in order to get his wife back.

First there was a smoking contest. Man-eagle had a large pipe, which he filled with his poisonous tobacco, which he was used to, but anyone else would fall down dead. Mole burrowed underneath the pipe, so when Son of Light smoked, all the smoke just went away and Man-eagle was the first to become sick from smoking his own tobacco.

The next challenge was to break two large elk antlers. Spider woman switched out Man-eagle’s with a piece of hard rock. Son of Light got a weak antler. Son of Light was able to break his antler, but Man-eagle could not.

The next challenge was to pull up an entire tree, roots and all. Man-eagle chose the tree he thought would have shallower roots. Mole burrowed underneath the tree Son of Light was going to pull up and loosened up all the roots. Son of Light was able to pull up his tree with no problem.

The next challenge was to eat a small mountain of food, every single bit of it. Mole burrowed another hole and when Son of Light ate his food went into the hole. Son of Light was able to polish off the entire heap of food.

Son of Light had won, but Man-eagle said there was one last thing to do. They must both get into a fire, lit by Son of Light’s wife and whoever burned was the loser. Man-eagle’s magic shirt had been switched out for the resin shirt the pinion maidens had made. Both Man-eagle and Son of Light got onto piles of wood. Son of Light was wearing Man-eagle’s magic shirt, while Man-eagle was wearing the resin shirt. The fire was lit and Man-eagle was burned because his shirt was made of resin.

Spider woman gave Son of Light a special medicine to put on Man-eagle’s ashes. When he did, Man-eagle came back to life as a good-looking man. They asked him if he was ever going to kill people and eat them again, and he promises that he would not. Spider woman brought back all the Hopi people to life that Man-eagle had killed. Son of Light and his wife went home.

Observations

Wife-stealing was a thing in some Native American tribes. If you liked someone else’s wife, you took her. Maybe you kept her and maybe she went back to the previous guy. Attitudes about the wife after being stolen were different in each tribe, although the idea tended to be a little more acceptable among Native American tribes versus anyone European. A woman wasn’t necessarily “ruined” or “dirty” or “to blame” if someone else slept with her who wasn’t her husband.

Son of Light seemed to have no problem with the fact that Man-eagle most likely raped his wife. Son of Light wanted his wife back. When this story says “abused” or “used” in relation to the people Man-eagle stole, it means he was sexually assaulting them and maybe physically abusing them as well. It doesn’t mean he was making them do his dishes. He was tying them up in his little torture/sex chamber and messing them over for four days and then killing them and eating them. It’s pretty screwed up.

Certainly, if you knew a serial killer like Man-eagle had your family member, you would try everything to get them back.

Themes

This is a hero’s tale. It’s very similar in structure to some European hero tales. Someone was taken from a hero. A hero finds people who will aid him. A hero must make an incredible journey to get to the person he’s trying to rescue. A hero competes with a giant/monster in several impossible challenges, the hero only wins because he has the help of the people he met along the way. A hero then bests the giant/monster.

In European stories, the hero would have three challenges; in Native American stories there are four challenges.

The hero doesn’t win by honest means, but the giant/monster wasn’t exactly being nice either. In some of our hero stories, the hero must uphold to moral standards. For instance, in some versions of Batman he never uses guns or he never kills people. Those are his moral upholdings. The hero in this story doesn’t have those moral upholdings, but is he any less of a hero? If you really look at it, the “hero” wasn’t the one doing the actual work, his friends were. The hero just took credit for it.

Sounds like life, you know? There’s a politician or some type of president or vice president or CEO who takes credit for something that other people did. They make themselves the hero, when in reality it was someone else who did everything and possibly several someones.

Overall

Kudos for wanting to get your wife back, Son of Light, hope you sent Thank You cards to everyone who helped you out.

Weigh In

What merit did Son of Light bring to this story?

Would you do the things Son of Light and his friends did to rescue your significant other?

Rolling Head

Rolling HeadRolling Head

Wintu

Once a young girl was going through puberty and they were going to have a puberty dance for her. The chief, her father, told the women to go and strip bark for her for an apron, but the girl was not to be there or to know. She got bored and decided to show up anyway.

She pricked her finger with a splinter and it bled and bled and bled. Nobody could get it to stop. The girl sucked on her finger trying to get it to stop, but it wouldn’t, but the girl decided she tasted good so she ate her finger. Then she ate her hand. Then her arms, then her legs, and pretty much everything except her head.

She started eating people. She threw them into her mouth and ate them all. One day a man stretched a bridge across the water for her to cross and when she was half-way across, the man pulled the bridge away and the head fell into the river and was washed away.

Observations

Puberty was pretty much exactly like this.

I love how the little drawing has hairy legs.

Themes

Is this a story of how puberty can go bad? Pubescent Girls Gone Wild, it sounds wrong on so many levels.

First off, I don’t appreciate the fact that a girl going through puberty was essentially compared to being a horrible monster. Puberty sucks and so does menstruating. It’s not nice to make up awful stories about how women turn into monsters when their hormones are going all over the place. If your hormones went all screwy like that, every single month, you’d be irritated too.

I’ve never been a woman who has experienced being ravenously hungry during that time of the month, but I know there are women who are and maybe they do want to eat everything and everybody, so get out of the way. This story had to have been a joke, told by some man. My daughter, she went through puberty, and she became a monster. Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard it before. Puberty for girls really sucks, if no one has told you this. Whatever man who told this story can go fly a f***ing kite.

Yes, I sort of cussed there. This story is mean, kind of funny, but still mean. Just watch out, the next time the woman in your life gets her period, she’s going to come and eat you, better run.

Overall

Why couldn’t there have been mountains of chocolate?

Puberty dance? Is that like Homecoming? Everyone dresses up and stands awkwardly against the walls because they’re going through puberty and they’re not sure about life and their bodies.

Weigh In

Is this story mean, in your opinion?

Did you feel like a monster when you went through puberty?

The Quillwork Girl and her Seven Star Brothers

The Quillwork Girl and her Seven Star BrothersThe Quillwork Girl and her Seven Star Brothers

Cheyenne

There was once a young woman who was very good at quillwork. She could make the most beautiful designs and colors. One day she started making a set of clothes for a man, but she didn’t have any brothers or a husband. Once she finished that set of clothes, she made another set of clothes. When she was finished she had seven sets of clothing for men that were the most beautiful anyone had ever seen.

She told her mother she was going to go and find her brothers and take their clothes to them. The mother said she would go with her daughter, but her daughter told her it was too far. The mother said she would go part of the way. They set off. When they reached halfway the mother and the daughter parted.

Eventually, the girl came to a large tipi. A young boy met her, he was the smallest of the brothers. He was overjoyed with his new clothes, which fit him perfectly. The girl went into the tipi and put a set of clothes on each of the six remaining beds. She started cooking and cleaning. The six brothers came home and were very pleased to find her there and took her as their sister. Each of the brothers had some kind of power, but the youngest had the most unique powers.

One day a bison came to the door and demanded to take the girl away to the bison people. The brothers would not give her up. The next day a bigger bison came, but the brothers would not give her up. The third day, an even bigger bison came, but the brothers would not give her up. The fourth day, the ruling bison, the largest of them all, came with the entire bison nation. They demanded the girl, but the brothers would not give her up.

The girl and the seven brothers climbed into a tree. The youngest brother shot it with an arrow and up it grew. Then he shot it again and it grew some more, but the bison below kept trying to knock the tree over. The youngest brother shot the tree two more times. It grew way up into the sky and everyone was able to step off onto the clouds. They knew they could not get down, so the brother turned them into stars. They’re now the big dipper. The girl is the brightest star.

Observations

Half of this story is very European in nature. Seven has not been a number I’ve encountered in the Native American tales so far. The main number used in these stories is the number four, which is also used in this story a couple of times. The use of seven is a European thing in my head.

When I was reading the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, seven was a number repeated over and over again, especially in relation to groups of brothers. There were several stories in which there was one sister and seven brothers, much like this story. There was also the story of the seven dwarves. Snow White is what this story reminds me of. It’s like Native American Snow White, but I suppose she needs a different name in the Native American version, like Quillwork Girl.

On an off-to-the-side not, would Quillwork Girl really have been her name? We don’t go around calling each other “Pretty Flower Girl” in English-speaking countries do we? No, we don’t. It’s not exactly our tradition, well, sort of. Some of our names actually do mean something like Pretty Flower Girl, but they’re from Middle English and Old English. In other languages, take Japanese for example, names do mean something like Pretty Flower Girl. The most common ending for a girl’s name in Japan is “ko” which means girl. Quillwork Girl might have actually had a name in Cheyenne that was just one word, but it got translated to English as “Quillwork Girl” because that’s what it meant in Cheyenne.

Themes

I really feel as if this story is heavily influenced by European culture. Those European stories were about being unified. They were about sibling love and dedication. This girl wasn’t technically the sister to these brothers, but she adopted them as her brothers. She stood by them and they stood by her. They could have just let the bison take her. They didn’t have to protect her as she wasn’t even her sister.

This story makes a strong case for adopted love as well. These brothers hadn’t even adopted this girl as this sister for very long before they were standing up for her and protecting her. Good for them. You’re supposed to treat someone whom you have adopted as a family member with the same kind of respect and love you treat all the other family members.

Overall

Protect your sisters.

Weigh In

Would your brothers have given you to the bison?

Would you give your brothers to the bison?