Indian Mythology | San Carlos Apache Mythology

The Good and the Bad Brother


1A long time ago they say there were many people living at a certain place. There were two brothers who agreed to go to this settlement. As they were going along they came upon a bull snake. The older brother said he was going to kill it and the younger told him it was a bad thing to do and that he should not do it. Each reiterated his statement three times and then the elder brother ran to the snake but the younger brother ran after him and catching him, held him while the snake escaped.

They went on for some distance until they came where a hawk sat on a tree. The elder brother said he would kill it and the younger brother said, "No." The older brother repeated his intention and the younger again said, "No." The first ran toward the hawk but the second one caught him saying the hawk was a poor thing and should be spared. He shouted to the hawk and it flew up. The elder brother asked why he had caused the hawk to get away when he was about to kill it. The younger one said just because it was a poor thing he should not kill it and urged that they should hurry on.

As they were going along they came to a horse which was very thin. When the elder brother said he was going to kill it, the younger one objected, saying it was a pitiful animal through which one could even see the grass on the hillside beyond. Each of the brothers repeated his statement the third time and then the younger brother drove the horse away. The elder brother reproached him for driving the horse away when he had said he was going to kill it. They went on and came where a man was living with whom they stayed and worked for the food they ate. The larger boy did not work but the smaller one worked for the rich man who gave them their food. The big boy who didn't work was lazy but the boy lived well.

The larger boy talked to the chief saying that the smaller boy bragged that he could do whatever the chief told him to do. "What boy?" the chief asked. "The small boy I live with," the other replied. "He says he can do that. `Well I will jump in the red boiling metal down the hill, and the next morning I will be inside sitting on something,' he says and if he says so he can do it."

The chief sent the older boy home and next day sent for the younger boy who when he came was told that he was reported to have said that he could remain over night in boiling metal. The boy said that he had not said it but was nevertheless commanded to be ready in four days to undergo the ordeal.

The boy returned to the place where he was living and sat there unhappily wondering why his brother was making such reports about him. So he sat as the days passed until three days were gone. When he realized that the next day he must go for the ordeal he felt distressed and wondered what he should do. Just then the horse he had saved came to him and spoke. "Boy, why are you unhappy?" he asked. The boy replied that the next day he was commanded to get into a pot of boiling lead. " Well, do not be disturbed by that. You saved my life over there and I will save yours," the horse said to him. He directed him to take four pails and a knife saying he would come to the boy who was to lead him to the place designated. The boy was to cut off the horse's head and fill the four pails with the blood. He was to wash himself with one of these pails of blood, drink one, and pour the remaining two into the pot of lead before he jumped in. The remains of the horse were to be placed to the east.

When the days were all passed the chief called all the people together and commanded that on that day the boy was to do this. When the boy led the horse there the people laughed for one could see the grass through the emaciated sides of the horse. The boy cut off the horse's head with the sharp knife he had brought and filled four buckets with the blood. He then took the horse to the east. He washed himself with the contents of one pail, drank one, and poured the other two into the boiling lead. Having done this he jumped in. The people all went back to their homes. The next morning they came there and opened the kettle of lead. The boy was not dead but sat inside alive. He got up and came out. He returned to his home and continued to live there happily.

When considerable time had passed the older brother informed on him again. He came to the chief and said the boy who lived with him said that he could cut the cottonwood which, if one cuts it down, stands next morning as it was before so that it can put out leaves again. The chief said the boy should do this. The next day he sent for the boy and told him that it had been reported that he said he was able to cut the cottonwood so that it would remain dead. The boy denied having said this, but the chief said that while it might be he had not said it, he must nevertheless do it. Four days were specified as the time before this must be accomplished.

The boy went back to his home where he sat about thinking what he should do, quite unhappy. When there were two days of the four remaining and he was wondering how he would cut the tree the bullsnake came to him and asked why he was so unhappy. The boy told him of the cottonwood tree which, if cut down, was the next morning always the same as before. This he said he had been ordered to cut down. The snake, saying that the boy had once helped him and saved his life, agreed to save the boy's life in return. He asked how long before the task must be attempted. The boy replied in two days. The snake then said he would go there the next day and eat off all the leaves so they could not grow out again, after which the tree might be cut.

The chief sent for the boy and told him the day had arrived. They went with the boy where the tree stood, getting there about sunset. The boy alone saw the snake as it came down the tree. The boy chopped the tree down and returned to his home. The next morning the tree was not growing; it still lay there a dead tree. The chief said the boy had saved his life and gave him suitable rewards. The boy lived happily again.

After considerable time had passed his brother informed on him again, telling the chief the boy had said he could make the rich man's daughter well again. The chief, saying he would find out, sent for the boy. He told the boy it had been reported that he had said that he could produce a child from the rich man's daughter in one night and have her well again the next morning. The boy denied saying it but the chief said that nevertheless in four days be must do it or his head would be cut off.

The boy went back to his home and sat about for three days, unhappy, thinking how he should do it. When there was only one day left the hawk flew to him and asked why he was unhappy. The boy told what he was expected to do, to cure the sick daughter of the rich man and produce a child. The hawk said that since the boy had once saved his life he would save the boy's life. The man's daughter's illness was due to a screw in the crown of her head. The screwing down of this piece of iron had nearly killed her. It was being forced down by the dancing of some people by the river's edge. The boy was to screw it up again and the girl would get well. The boy thanked him for this information. The hawk also promised to come to the house in the middle of the night. A black rattlesnake would make a noise and then there would be a baby.

When the four days had passed he came where all the men-were gathered to look on. He raised the screw in the head of the sick girl who sat there and she was well again. He went back to his home. In the middle of the night the hawk sat on the house. A black rattlesnake made a noise and just then the baby was born. When daylight came the chief said the boy had made good and saved his life. The boy went home and lived happily.

When some time had elapsed the older brother again went to the chief and said that the boy had used words that were not good. He had said that he could kill Delgit and bring his tongue and hide. The chief said that the boy should do it and sent for him. When the boy came he asked him if he had said he would kill Delgit and then told him to do it on the fourth day and bring the tongue and hide. If he did not do it his head was to be cut off.

The boy went to his home and sat around, unhappy and wondering how he should do this. When three days had passed and only one day remained the white horse through which one could see grass came to him again. The horse asked why the boy was unhappy. The boy replied that it was because it had been said that he had claimed he could kill Delgit. The horse said the boy had once saved his life and that he would save the boy's life. Telling the boy to take a long knife and a short one, he proposed they should go to Delgit since he knew where he lived. At the horse's suggestion the boy mounted him and the horse ran with him to the far distant place near which Delgit lived.

When they were near the place the boy dismounted and the horse gave him instructions, "Yonder is the one called Delgit," he said. "Sharpen the knives well. That one will not be able to see us. You must mount me holding the long knife and I will run under him four times back and forth. When I run under the fourth time you must stab upward. When you have killed him cut out his tongue and prepare the skin." The boy sharpened the knife and mounted the horse which ran under Delgit. When Delgit turned that way the horse ran back under to the other side. This he did four times, Delgit whirling from side to side in vain. When the horse ran under the fourth time, the boy, striking upward, stabbed the monster which,. shaking from side to side, fell dead.

They came up to the body which the boy cut open. He removed the skin and -the tongue. The skin was so heavy the boy could not lift it but dragged it to the bank of a ravine in which the horse stood while the boy pulled the skin across his back. The boy then sat on the load and rode back to the settlement near which he deposited the hide and tongue. When the appointed days were passed, he came to the chief, bringing the tongue. "This, which I am bringing you, is the thing you spoke of," he said. The chief said that later he would determine the matter. The boy having said the skin was lying at a distance, the chief sent some men to drag it there.

The boy was then told to go to his home and eat and afterward to return. The chief sent out for all of the people to come together to see if anyone knew Delgit's- tongue. When the people were assembled, the chief began asking them what was the color of Delgit's tongue. When not one of them knew it, he sent for an old man who was living below, that he might ask him. When the old man had come, the chief asked him what kind of a.. tongue Delgit had. The old man replied that the tongue was forked, saying, that when he was a young man he once saw it. "That is the one," the chief said, "for it is forked," and then he sent the boy home.

The boy remained there a long time happily. After a time, he began to think about his brother - how he seemed not to like him. He concluded he would report on his brother.

He went to the chief and said that a man who was living at a certain place had said that he could do what he, the boy, had done. The chief replied that he would determine the matter and sent the boy home again. He sent for the man and asked if he had said he could do what the boy had done. Although the man denied he had made the boast, the chief told him he must do as he was reported to have said in four days.

The man went home and sat for three days very much disturbed. When there was only a day left, he went where the poor white horse was and led him back. He brought there four vessels and a knife. When the time was up, he led the horse to the appointed place and cut his throat. The blood was only sufficient to fill one of the vessels. He drank some of this blood, washed in part of it, and poured the small remainder into the metal. He jumped in and the cover was replaced. Early next morning, the cover was lifted but he was not there. There was nothing left and the people all laughed about it.

The boy continued to live happily.

Magic Flight2

They say there were people living long ago. A man said to himself, "I will go on a journey." When he had traveled far he came where people were living and sat there. When he had been there a long time without anything to eat, he came to the house and walked by without speaking. He then turned about and went home. After a month he returned again. The man who lived there wondered who he was and whence. he had come. As the stranger was standing nearby, the man who lived there said to himself, " I will speak to him." Going up to him he asked him where he was from. The stranger replied that he came from a distant country. When asked why he had come he replied that he was about to return but that he would come again in a month. "Then I will have something to say," the other man remarked as the stranger left.

When he came back at the end of a month he was riding a horse. When he approached the man who lived there he was greeted: "Have you returned?" "I have come back here," he replied. "I told you I would go there." "All right, come," he said. The man said he thought he wanted to live with the stranger. The visitor said he was going back and the man said he would follow in fifteen days. The man told him his name and he knew it. The stranger told him to follow the horse's track and he would find the way.

He took some food with him and started on the journey. He walked along, following the track until he had gone a long way. The man had thought the visitor lived close by but he went on until he climbed a high mountain where he sat down. The horse's track was gone. There was nothing to be seen. While he sat there thinking what he should do, a raven lit on a tree and shouting at him asked where he was going. The man heard the raven3 who flew down to him and asked again where he was going. The man said he had been following a horse's track for he wished to visit the man who was riding on the horse. The raven said the country where the man lived was far away; that four mountains stood across the way and that he would go with great difficulty. He added that the man he was seeking was not good,4 and it was dangerous to go to him.

The man insisted that he wished to go nevertheless, and offered the raven the supply of food he had for the journey. The raven consented to carry the man close to his destination but said he would bind the man's eyes with a white something he had. He cautioned the man not to raise the bandage.

"I will carry you there and put you down on that mountain ridge where I will rest awhile," the raven said. He took the man on his back and carried him to the ridge where he put him down. They sat there a short time and then the raven carried him to the second mountain ridge where they rested and talked a short time. He carried the man to the third ridge where again they sat and rested. They then went to the fourth ridge in a similar manner. While sitting there the raven pointed out a mountain peak on which the man he was seeking lived. The raven agreed to carry the man close to the mountain and when he had done so he put him down and left him. The man went on by himself and when he came near the mountain he walked along and came where a hole had been dug for water by the river. He sat here a short time until two girls came for water. He threw a small stone from where he sat at some distance and the girls looked there and saw him.3 The girls went quickly back to the camp and said: "Father, the man who said he would come to you sits over there." The man told his daughters to invite the man to come to the camp, adding that he would do much of their work for them. When the girls came to the visitor they told him their father had asked him to come to him.

The man got up and went to the camp and talked to his host during the evening. "I saw you," he said, "and I have come here to you." "That is well," the host replied. "You will work for me." To this the visitor assented.

The next morning the man who lived there said to his guest: "You said you would work for me. Level down the mountain which stands down there, plant the ground, cause the crop to grow in one day, and bring some of the corn home with you tonight."

The man having made an ax and shovel of wood carried them with him to the mountain where he sat leaning against it, doing nothing until midday. The youngest daughter then told her father that she was carrying some food to the man who was working for them. Her father gave his consent and she set out with the food. When she came there and saw the man sitting there idle she said: "Well, you came here to work. I am bringing you food." " But I shall not eat. I am not going to save my life." " Eat, I tell you," the girl said. " I cannot do anything with the mountain," the man replied. The girl urged him again to eat and he did so. When he had finished she offered to examine his head. He put his head down to be relieved of his vermin.5 The girl feeling over his head breathed over it and he went to sleep. She lifted his head from her lap to the ground and got up. With motions of her hands in four directions she leveled the mountain and planted corn. The corn came up and tassels appeared on it. When one of them was becoming white she woke the man up. "Get up," she said, "your work is done." He got up and looked hard with his eyes. "Get some of that you came after," she said to him. He gathered some of the corn, tied it up, and took it home. When the two came to the camp the old man was pleased. " Well, this is some kind of a man who said he wanted to work." The sun set. The old man said that the next day he wanted some horses broken.

In the morning they saddled a horse for him and he mounted. The girl gave him a tough stick with which the man hit the horse on the neck and back when he tried to kick. The horse kept jumping around until he was tired and fell over. The horse then spoke saying: " Well, my daughter has caused me to be tired out. He could not do it by himself?6 " " I have twelve daughters and you may marry one of them," he said to the man. " He has beaten me and he may have his choice of the daughters. Tomorrow have my daughters stand in line for him. He will marry one of them and then he will work well." The next morning they put the twelve girls in a line and blindfolded the man. The youngest daughter had a small prominence on the palm of her hand. The man passed along the line three times and when it would be the fourth time he drew the youngest girl from the line. The old man exclaimed, "My kinfolk, he has taken from me my favorite daughter." The man married the girl and lived with her. The girl proposed that they should go back to his people because her father would try to kill her husband. The man consented to this. His wife told him to catch a horse. He brought back a black one. "Not that one, get the poor sorrel horse." He brought that one.7 "You spit here and I will spit here,"8 she said. " This old man, his daughters, and his wife have all died. They are not living beings. He will try to kill you but I will help you many times so we may go back where you live."

They mounted the horse one behind the other and rode away. When they had been gone a day the old man told one of his daughters to look in his son-in-law's house. When she came to the house the man was not there. She told her father this, who said, "Very well, I will go after him and kill him." He started away, traveling in the middle of the red wind. He rode after them on his horse. The girl saw him and said, "My father is riding over there and he is angry and it is red."

They two dismounted. The woman sat in an old house which she put there and the man sat in a black stump. The old man rode up and when he came to the old woman asked where the man was who stole his daughter. The old woman said she had not seen anyone around there. The old man got up and went back to his camp.9 The next day they all started and came where a wide stream of water was flowing across. His daughter and son-in-law were there in the middle of the stream sitting on a long large tree which was floating with them.' The girl had her head down. "My daughter, look at me once," the father called. "My child, look at me once," her mother said. "My sister, look at me once," her sister called. The girl did not look and told the man not to look for if they looked the log would float back. It floated across the water with them and she did not look back at them. They started back and returned to the camp.10

The girl and her husband went on and stayed some distance from where the man lived. The girl told her husband to go back to his people but not to permit them to embrace him. If they were to embrace him he would never think of her again. The man started back and when he was coming his relatives saw him and started toward him. He told them not to do so but one of them held out his arms. The man's mind was lost and he forgot the one who had been his wife. He lived there while much time passed. Another man's daughter fell in love with him and gave him a cloth and her beads. She said she would marry him and he consented. The people were talking of the coming wedding and of the mutual attachment of the parties. The people all came there and were told by the father that his daughter was about to be married.

There were two turtle doves sitting in a tree who said, "Wait, people, I will speak to you." " Very well," they replied and they all listened. The doves talked to each other. " We were traveling together for a long time. One day we traveled from a place called inł'a11 and the old man with his wife and daughters came after us to fight. Then I became an old woman and you became a black log. Over this way there was a body of water in the middle of which we floated on a log. They called in vain, `My daughter, my child, my sister, look at me once more.' They turned back and we two came over here where your people live. You went home and some one of your folks embraced you although I warned you that if you were so embraced you would forget me. I was that one and you were the other."

"Oh, yes, I remember now," he said. "You were my sweetheart. We will go back now. All will be well. I know you now." He gave back the one he was to marry and the one he had married long before became his wife again. They separated from each other and he married the girl who was the turtle dove. They lived together happily.

1 This story resembles in a general way a European tale entitled "Boots and the Troll" in Popular Tales from the Norse, Sir Geo. Webbe Dasent, 1904
2 Eagle in the Portuguese, (Cape Verde Island) account.
3 The narrator explained that a tc'i dn or ghost was meant. The Apache use the same word for their old conception ghost and the European concept devil. The Portuguese and Negro versions have the devil or equivalents.
4 An Indian method of approach (p. 20 above) not European.
5 The European stories are less definite as to this point.
6 The European accounts have other ordeals but less suited to Indian appreciation.
7 This was that their spittle might converse so that the father would not know of their flight.
8 The man goes four times in the European versions and then the wife goes alone.
9 The girl becomes a ship and the man the pilot. The Apache do not know boats or ships and have no word for them.
10 The mother puts a curse on her daughter that she shall be forgotten by her husband for a period of years.
11 "Gets ripe."

San Carlos Apache Mythology

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied .

Myths And Tales From The San Carlos Apache, 1918



Indian Myths and Legends

Indian Genealogy

Indian Gifts

Heirloom Native American seeds packaged for giving. Navajo Blue Corn, Bloody Butcher Corn, Greasy Beans, Cherokee Purple Tomato, Cheese Pumpkin, Sonoran Mild Chile, Navajo Red Seeded Watermelon, Hopi Black Pinto Beans.
Order now for Spring planting!!


Submit Data/Comments


Add/Correct a Link

Copyright Indian Mythology, 2006