by Richard L. Dieterle
Bladder was the third of the four or five sons of Earthmaker sent to earth to rescue humans from the power of evil spirits. When Bladder arrived on earth, he created twenty brothers all of whom lived together with him in a single lodge. He fought One Legged One, an avatar of Herešgúnina himself, and defeated him. The Age of Bladder was the third in cosmic history after the times of Trickster and Turtle.1 However, he had made the mistake of letting his brothers go out before him, and a a result, all but one was killed. His youngest brother, who was Morning Star, barely escaped with his life.2
Bladder was only able to kill this one evil spirit, and was not successful in completing his mission to rid the world of them entirely. His moral failing seem also to be tied up with his nature as a bladder. Felix White expressed this well: "If he was praised in any way, he would puff up with pride. Because Bladder was so puffed up, he couldn't see anyone but himself. He thought he was the best of the great ones. He became inflated with his own self importance and disregarded other people. He could blow a stream of air anywhere he wanted, and had the power of a whirlwind or tornado. While he was on earth he succeeded in killing a one-legged evil spirit called Herešguniga; but his mission was to kill all evil spirits, not just one of them."3 Even today, those who fail in moral leadership are often compared to Bladder.4
Thus, Earthmaker was forced to recall Bladder,5 but assigned him to the deepest underworld paradise located directly below that of Turtle.6
Links: The Sons of Earthmaker, Earthmaker, Turtle, Trickster, Redhorn, Hare, Spirits, Herešgúnina, The Cosmic Ages of the Winnebago, Cosmography, One Legged One, Raccoons, Morning Star, Crane, Bluehorn (Evening Star), The Twins, Cougars.
Stories: featuring Bladder as a character: Bladder and His Brothers, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth; mentioning bladders: Bladder, Bladder and His Brothers, Adventures of Redhorn's Sons (elk), The Birth of the Twins (turkey), The Two Boys (elk).
1 Paul Radin, "A Wakjonkaga Myth," Winnebago Notebooks [unpublished MSS], #37: 66-70.
2 Paul Radin, "The Bladder," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #27: 1-61; "The Morning Star, A Winnebago Legend," collected by Louis L. Meeker (National Anthropological Archives, 1405 Winnebago, A.D.S., Nov. 22, 1896); "The Morning Star," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 105-110.
3 Kathleen Danker and Felix White, Sr., The Hollow of Echoes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978) 24-25.
4 Walter Funmaker, The Winnebago Black Bear Subclan: a Defended Culture (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Minnesota: December, 1986 [MnU-D 86-361]]) 108. Informant: One Who Wins of the Winnebago Bear Clan.
5 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 ) 303.
6 Funmaker, The Winnebago Black Bear Subclan, 108-136.