Native American Tales

Chase of the Severed Head

Chase of the Severed HeadChase of the Severed Head

Cheyenne

A man used to paint his wife red all over before he left to hunt and he also wasn’t a very good hunter. When he came home, all the red paint was always gone. He asked his children where she went and they said she went to get water. One day he followed her and found out that a creature rose out of the lake and licked all the paint off of her. He was so angry that he killed her and then took her side and took it back to the children and passed it off as antelope. The boy thought the meat tasted like mother.

The father left intending to never come back. The children heard noises outside the door. It was a voice; the voice of her mother. It said that her children didn’t love her because they had eaten her. The head was coming for them, so the children decided to run away. As the two were running away, the sister would throw out her colored quills and the quills would turn into something else and stall the head for a few minutes, but the head kept coming after them.

At one point the girl made a trench and the head could not get across. It begged the daughter to let her across so she did, but halfway through, she let the head fall and it fell into the chasm and the Earth closed up after it.

They finally came to the village where their father had gone to. He had already told everyone that his children were savage and had killed and eaten their mother. The people tied up the children and moved away. An old dog took pity on them and freed them, but there was nothing for them to eat. A wolf came and the brother told the sister to look at it, but she said it wouldn’t do any good, but he told her to do it anyway, and he did. When she looked at it, it fell down dead. The children ate the wolf and lived well enough.

They soon needed food again and an antelope came, when the girl looked at it; it felt down dead. The girl wished they had a lodge. The next morning they woke up and found a new lodge, which they moved into. The brother also turned into a young man capable of hunting. Two bears appeared and became friends of the sister and brother. The plan was for them to eat the father when the time came.

They sent a messenger, a raven, to the other camp telling the starving people that they had plenty of food. The people decided to go back. After everyone else was fed, the father came up to praise the children, but the girl told the bears to eat him all up and bury whatever they didn’t eat. They lived in the village from that point on and bears will now eat people when they get the chance.

Observations

Although, not purely, this story does have some elements of European stories. There are several such stories from Europe where members of a family eat other members of a family because one member of the family felt the need to kill a family member and then feed that family member to the rest of the family.

Themes

In reality, how could you trust someone who did something like this? Could you have forgiven the father? Did he deserve to be forgiven? The children exacted justice on their father, by somewhat magical means. What he did was such a heinous crime it really couldn’t have ended any other way. There are just some crimes so bad that they cross lines no one even wants to think about. We can’t really imagine these people with other people from that point forward. They either need to be locked away in some dank dungeon somewhere or they need to be dead.

I mean, really, if you knew about someone who killed and ate a family member, would you want them anywhere? It’s an awful crime. It’s terrible. They’re not a person who belongs in society. Let’s be glad this guy was taken care of, but now bears want to eat people. I guess it’s a trade-off.

Overall

If your spouse cheats on you with a water spirit, just get divorced.

Weigh In

Would you want this guy living out with other people?

Do you think the brother and sister had a good life after this?

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