Native American Tales

The Coming of Thunder

The Coming of ThunderThe Coming of Thunder


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.


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.


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.


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?


1 thought on “The Coming of Thunder”

  1. I wish you would return to reviewing books, Ashe. I am part Native and much of this, although I’m pretty thick skinned, I find offensive. I’m sure you don’t mean to be, but there it is.

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