The Underground Journey
A man was living with his wife. It was summer. The woman was
pregnant. One day, while she was picking berries, a big bear saw and
abducted the woman, whom he kept in his cave. Before spring, the
woman gave birth to a child begotten by her first husband, but with
plenty of hair on his body, wherefore he was called Icma'
(Plenty-of-Hair). In the spring the bear came out of his cave. The
boy looked outside and told his mother, "We had better run away to
where you first came from." But the bear had stopped up the entrance
with a big rock, and the woman said, "We can't get out, the rock is
too heavy." The boy tried it, and was able to lift it. They fled
before the bear returned. They were already near the Indian camp
when they heard the bear coming in pursuit. The woman was exhausted,
but the boy packed her on his back and ran to the camp. At first,
the woman went to a stranger's lodge. Then someone told her husband
that his wife was back. The chief then took both her and his son
The boy used to play with other boys. Once he quarreled with one of
them and killed him with a single blow. This happened again on
another occasion. Then Icma' said to his father, "I don't like to
kill any more boys, I'1 go traveling." He started out and met two
men, who became his comrades. One of them was called Wood-Twister
other Timber-Hauler (Hē'isno'han).
They got to a good lodge, and decided to stay there together. On the
first day, Icma' and Wood-Twister went hunting. They bade
Timber-Hauler stay home and cook. While they were away, an ogre that
lived in the lodge came out, threw Timber-Hauler on his back, and
killed him. The two other men found him dead, but Icma' restored him
to life.. The next day Icma' said, "Wood-Twister, you stay home,
I'll go hunting with Timber-Hauler." At sunset Wood-Twister began
cutting firewood. He saw something coming out of the lodge that
looked like a man, but wearing a beard down to its waist and with
nails as long as bear-claws. It assaulted Wood-Twister, who was
found dying by his friends, but was restored by Icma'. The next day
Icma' said, "You two go hunting, I will stay home." As he was
beginning to chop wood, the monster appeared and challenged him to
fight. Icma' seized its head, cut it off, and left the body in the
lodge. When his comrades returned, Icma' asked them, "Why did not
you kill him like this?" Then he said, "I don't like this house, let
us go traveling."
They started out and got to a large camp. The chief said, "My three
daughters have been stolen by a subterranean being. Whoever brings
them back, may marry them all." Icma' told Timber-Hauler to get wood
and ordered Wood-Twister to twist a rope of it. Then he made a hole
in the ground and put in a box to lower himself in. He descended to
the underground country and pulled the rope to inform his friends of
his arrival. He found the three girls. The first one was guarded by
a mountain lion, the second by a big eagle, the third by giant
cannibals. Icma' killed the lion. The girl said, "You had better
turn back, the eagle will kill you." But he slew the eagle. Then the
girl said, "The cannibals are bad men, you had better go home."
"I'll wait for them." The twelve cannibals approached yelling; they
were as big as trees. The girl said, "Run as fast as you can." But
Icma' remained, and made two slings. With the first he hurled a
stone that went clean through six of the men and killed them; and
with the other sling he killed the remaining cannibals in the same
way. One of the girls gave him a handkerchief, another one a tie,
and the youngest one a ring. He took them to his box, and pulled the
rope. His two comrades hoisted up the oldest one. Both wanted to
marry her, but Icma' pulled the rope again, and they hauled up the
second girl. Then Icma' sat down in the box with the youngest, and
pulled the rope. As they were hauling them up, Wood-Twister said,
"Let us cut the rope." The other man refused, but Wood-Twister cut
the rope, and Icma' fell down. He stayed there a long time, while
his companions took the girls to the chief.
At last Icma' begged a large bird to carry him above ground. The
bird said he did not have enough to eat for such a trip. Then Icma'
killed five moose, and having packed the meat on the bird's back,
mounted with the third girl. Flying up, Icma' fed the bird with
moose-meat, and when his supply was exhausted, he cut off his own
flesh and gave it to the bird to eat. Icma' came up on the day when
his false friends were going to marry the girls. All the people were
gathered there. Icma' arrived. "I should like to go into the lodge
before they get married." When he came in, Wood-Twister was
frightened. "I should like to go out, I'll be back in a short time,"
he said. But he never returned. Then the chief asked, "Which of you
three rescued the girls?" Then Icma' showed the handkerchief, the
tie and the ring given him by the girls, and got all the three girls
for his wives.
A big mountain lion went about killing everything he saw. Three men
were digging a hole in the ground, and were lowering a pail by a
rope in order to escape. One of them, Stick-Twister, said, "I'll go
down first. If I pull the rope, draw me up quick." When he had got
far down, he saw many lodges. In the first lodge he saw two
good-looking girls. He said, "I like you girls very much." "Why?"
"Because you are so pretty." "Oh, our sister in the next tipi is
much prettier." There were blue, yellow and red tipis. The girls
said, "You will see many of us people underground here." He went on
and reached an old woman's tent. "Oh, my grandson," she said, "don't
go any further, those people are bad, they will kill you." The man
said, "Give me some. water." She said, "We have to buy our water. I
have only this much left." She gave him a cup and a-half. The man,
after drinking, said, "Give me a pail, I'll fetch water." He got
water. The old woman said, "You will make the people angry at me.
They kill anyone that steals water; they will throw you into a hole,
where the mountain-lion will devour you." He gave the old woman a
ring, and returned to the first tipi. He took one of the girls, went
back to his pail, and got in. They heard the roar of the lion,
pulled the rope, and were drawn up. The man told his friends, "I
found many good-looking people there." One of them said, "I'll go
down and learn how to make guns." "Take a little iron along, put it
in the ground when you get down there, and invite all the people to
come up with you." The second man descended. He met two men and
asked them, "How do you make iron?" "Out of stone juice." "I come
from a fine country; come up there with me." "What kind of people
are you talking about? You are no good." "Where I come from there
used to be lots of people, but the mountain-lion has killed most of
them." He knew he was in danger, so he ran back to the pail, jerked
the rope, and was hauled up again.
Long ago a man was living with two wives, one of whom had a son.
Once the other woman asked her stepson to fetch some fire-wood.
While out in the woods, he shot a partridge. The stepmother went for
the partridge before it was dead. She put it between her legs. The
partridge scratched her thighs. She came home and told her husband
that the other woman's son had tried to seduce her; she had repulsed
him, but while assaulting her he had scratched her legs.
The man was very angry. He asked his son to look for eggs with him.
They started out in a canoe on a big lake, where there were four
islands. On one of these they landed. There were no eggs there. The
boy walked about on the island. In the meantime, his father returned
to the boat and paddled away. The boy shouted to his father to stop,
but the man only answered, "Who is your father?" The boy cried for
four days and nights. At last a gull flew to him. It advised him to
kill a gull, take off its skin and feathers, and put them on
himself. The boy did as he was told, donned the skin, and tried to
fly. At first he rose only a short distance and fell down again. At
last he learnt to fly. Then he flew across the lake. When he
descended on dry land, the gull told him he would have to pass two
chasms that were alternately opening and closing, but if he caught
two small fish and threw them into the cracks he would be able to
pass in safety while the earth was swallowing them. He did as he was
told. When he came to the first crack, he threw in one of the fish,
and while the earth closed over them, he passed across. In the same
way he stepped over the second chasm.
He traveled on towards his father's camp. When he got nearby, he
heard his mother crying. He stood listening. She was chopping wood.
A little bird flew up to her, and said, "Your son is here." She
listened. The bird repeated the same words. She answered. "That is
not true, my son has been dead for a long time." Then the boy
approached her. She ran up and embraced him. "My boy, are you back?"
She showed him sore spots all over her body, telling him how her
husband was abusing her. The boy got angry. He bade her go home and
bring the other wife's baby. "Throw it into the fire, run out of the
lodge, and cry, 'O, my son! 0, my son!"' She did as he had bidden
her. Her husband followed her, crying, "No matter where you go, I
shall kill you." The boy was waiting behind a tree. The woman ran
towards him. When the man saw his son, he stopped. "O, are you
back?" He did not hurt his wife. He invited his son to their lodge,
and they agreed to have a trial of strength. The man failed to
overcome his son. At last the boy said, "Which of us can bring the
sun down here?" He caught the sunbeams, pulled them down like ropes,
and thus brought the sun down.2 It got very hot, and the
father was nearly suffocated. Then the boy told his father to hide
under fat, but the fat soon melted.2 The father could not
escape from the heat and was burnt to death.
Two brothers were living together; the older one was married.3
One day, while the older brother was out hunting, the woman tried to
seduce her brother-in-law, but he refused to have anything to do
with her. Then the woman requested him to catch her a chicken and
bring it home alive. The boy obeyed. The woman put the chicken
between her legs, until it had scratched them all up, then she
released it. The boy asked her, "Why did you do that?" She did not
reply. The boy waited for his brother outside. When he had returned,
the woman feigned crying. "Your brother tried to ravish me, and when
I resisted, he scratched up my legs." "You lie, you asked me to
bring you a chicken, and the chicken scratched you." The man,
however, believed his wife' he ate nothing. He said to his brother,
"There is a big eagle's nest over there. We'll take a rope along and
catch the young birds." They started out. The eyrie was near a large
river. The man told his brother to climb up. The boy climbed up,
killed the young birds, and threw them down to his companion. The
older brother then chopped down the tree, so that Tez6xnin fell into
the water. Then he went home. His wife asked, "Where is your
brother?" He refused to answer, though she repeated the question
several times. At last he said, "I killed him, because he tried to
ravish you." The woman said, "I lied to you," and began to cry. But
Tez6xnin got out of the water, and afterwards became very strong.
(The older brother, Red-Boat, has abandoned his brother on an
The young man found an enemy on the island. He killed and scalped
him, making two pieces of the scalp. Then he went back to where his
older brother had left him. Something rose from the water. It had a
long body and two horns, one straight, the other crooked.
"Grandchild," this being said, "where are you going?" "I am looking
for my brother." "Your brother has left you, get on my head, we'll
go after him." The young man tied a piece of scalp to the crooked
horn, and told the animal he was giving it to him for a present.
Then the Horned-One declared he would save the boy. The boy mounted
between his horns and they pur-sued the older brother. The
Horned-One said, "When we are close to him, say, 'You have abandoned
me, but if you have anything to take pity on you, we shall see which
of us will live longer."' When they got close, the boy called out to
his brother according to these directions. Red-Boat cried, "Very
well, you will soon be killed by a big mosquito." The younger
brother cried, "You will be burnt to death by the sun." They parted.
The Horned-One took the boy to an island and bade him land. "Always
look at the sun at noon. If you see a little cloud just below the
sun, get on the largest log you can find, and lie there for some
time." He departed. The boy walked about with the one piece of
scalp. He saw a cloud appear, and got on a log. A huge mosquito made
a dash at him. He got under the log, and the mosquito's sting went
clean through it. The boy had received a piece of bone with
instructions from the water-animal. He now used it against the
mosquito and killed him. He walked on, crying.
Suddenly there appeared some animals coming over a hill. The first
two were tigers,2 followed by two
bears. They were followed by a woman. She bade the animals stop and
spare the boy, because he was so pitiable. The boy approached her
and sat down. She asked him what he was doing, and he recounted his
story. She said, "I am hunting people somewhere." The water-animal
had told him to give the second scalp to an old woman he would meet.
It turned out that she was the Horned-One's wife. She was wearing a
scalp-robe, and the scalp he offered her fitted nicely. She was
grateful. "These animals would have eaten you up, but I stopped
them. I will tell you where to go. Your brother's brother-in-law is
chief in his tribe and known as its greatest medicine man. He is
always abusing your sister. Though he is wakan', I will tell you how
to act. Travel towards his camp, and wait until evening. On your way
you will meet some of my children. They generally come at this time.
You may kill and eat the last animal you meet, but don't break its
bones." A number of animals passed; a black one was in the rear. It
turned out to be a fat young skunk. The young man caught and killed
it, skinned it, and roasted its flesh, but without breaking any of
its bones. He picked up the bones and wrapped them up in the
animal's skin. He laid it down, and the skunk got up alive again.
He walked on and got to a hill, whence he saw a camp. Going to a
coulee, he remained there until dark. Then he approached the camp to
listen to what was going on. In one lodge, in the center of the
camp, where the medicine-man lived, he heard a woman crying. It was
his sister. He went first to his parents' lodge. He tied his bone
weapon to one of the tent-poles, and entered. No one inside knew
him. His parents had grieved about his supposed death, but did not
recognize him. They had had nothing to eat for three days. He said,
"Father and mother, it is I that have come back to life." Then he
told them his story. They told him how unhappy his sister was. The
boy said, "We shall soon get rid of him." "It is pretty hard to get
rid of him; he is very powerful, there is no way of killing him."
After a while, the medicine-man dispatched his wife to invite her
brother to his tent. He refused at first, saying her husband was not
a good man, but when she came the second time he accepted the
invitation. The medicine-man offered him something to eat and smoke,
but the boy refused the pipe. A short time after, his sister was
again maltreated by her husband. The boy sent his mother to tell her
that when her husband beat her again she should seize him by the
hair and try to pull him outside of the lodge. The next time, the
woman acted according to his instructions. Her brother was waiting
outside, his bone weapon in his hand. When the medicine-man was
outside the lodge, the boy broke his back clean through. The
medicine-man said, "I did not expect a boy like you to kill me, but
you did, and now you will take charge of the camp." The boy bade his
sister build a fire. She heated rocks and cast them into a pit dug
in the ground. Her husband attempted to rise, but he grew weaker and
could not move. Thus he was killed, and the boy saved his sister.
The hero was now going to kill his older brother, Red-Boat. One day
he summoned all his relatives, and said, "Gather as many baskets of
water as possible. Set them in your lodge, and remain there." The
next day it was very hot. It was so hot that the water began to
boil. Nearly all the people, except the boy's relatives, were
getting burnt. Red-Boat tried to enter his brother's lodge, but his
brother would not permit it, so he burnt to death outside of the
door. Red-Boat's wife was saved. The next day it grew cool, and
several people who had hidden appeared again. The young man told his
parents to use Red-Boat's wife as a slave. "First I will punish
her," he said. He took a badger's claws, and with them scratched all
her back. Then she became the slave of his parents.
b1 A rather confused version.
a1 Also found among the Biloxi: J. O. Dorsey, in
Riggs, p. XXXI; the Dakota: ibid.,p.139; the Omaha: J. 0. Dorsey,
(d), p. 138; the Cree: Petitot, p. 451; the Blackfoot: Wissler and
Duvall, p. 98.
a2 This is a rather popular mode of destroying the
enemy in Stoney folklore.
a3 This incident occurs in a James Bay Cree version
recorded by Mr. Skinner.
b3 The narrator identified the younger brother with
c1 Ft. Belknap.
c2 I use my interpreter's expression.
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