The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds

by Joseph LaMère


(300) In a little village there once lived an orphan boy and his grandmother. As the boy grew up, he found a chum of the same age. One day they went out to get some hickory-wood to make bird-arrows. When these arrows were ready, the orphan boy went out hawk-hunting. He captured a young pigeon-hawk (kirikirisge). He got fond of it, and kept it at home as a pet.

One day he put some tobacco in a little bundle and tied it around the hawk's neck. Soon after this the pigeon-hawk disappeared, but it returned not long after without the tobacco-bundle. So he put another bundle around its neck, and soon the bird again disappeared. This incident was repeated again and again.

One day long after, when the hawk was full grown, the boy again tied a bundle of tobacco around its neck, and told the bird that he thanked it that it had stayed with him so long, but now that it was full grown, if it cared to, it could go wherever it wished. Thereupon the bird flew away and never returned.

The two chums, one day, went oct again to find some dogwood for pointed arrows. They went around the brush, and accidentally got separated, for it was a cloudy and rainy day. While they were separated, the bad thunder-spirits seized the orphan and carried him to their home.

The chum hunted for him a long time, but then gave up in despair and returned home. The chum returned day after day to the place where his friend had disappeared, to search for him and to mourn for him.

(301) When the bad [thunder-]spirits (wakąjašišigera) seized the orphan, they tied him to the floor, binding his wrists and feet to stakes. Their purpose was to hold him in this position until there was nothing left in his stomach, because it was their rule that only then would they devour human beings.

While the boy was thus extended, they watched him carefully in order to prevent his escape.

One day the little pigeon-hawk thought he would go to see this person of whom the thunder-spirits were talking so much. What was his surprise to recognize in the prisoner the man who had given him all the tobacco, and with whom he had lived for so long a time.

He went out and killed some pigeons; roasted them, and put some bones and some of the meat under .his wings, and went back to see the prisoner. He managed as best he could to drop some meat into his mouth. He kept on doing this every day until the bad thunder-spirits began to mistrust him. "This man," they said to themselves, "ought to be cleaned out by this time; and if he is not, that pigeon-hawk must be feeding him secretly." So the next time the hawk appeared, they decided to put him out. One of them took hold of him and pushed him towards the door. The pigeon-hawk, however, intentionally fell into the fire, burnt himself badly, and, crying at the top of his voice, ran to his brother, Big-Black-Hawk, the chief of the Thunder-Birds. "What is the matter, brother?" the latter asked. So Pigeon-Hawk told his brother the whole story as piteously as he could, — how the man who was now starving had befriended him on earth, and given him much tobacco; and how he was now a prisoner and about to be devoured.

Big-Black-Hawk got angry, and went over to the place where the prisoner lay, and told the spirits that they had done wrong in bringing this man up there to be eaten; that he had tried to be patient, and had not reprimanded them. When, however, they pushed one of their own comrades into the fire, he could no longer be quiet. They could not have their prisoner. So he cut the prisoner loose, and took him along with him.

Little Pigeon-Hawk, in the mean time, brought him pigeons, roasted them, and fed him, for he was almost starved to death. After the prisoner got stout again, he made a bow and some arrows for himself, and went out hunting with little Pigeon-Hawk.

(After a while he found some beavers and grizzly bears, and the story repeats itself as in the preceding one. The first beaver was found through accident by an arrow falling into a well and getting smeared with chalk. When the orphan found they were anxious to have these beavers and grizzly bears, he went out hunting for them regularly. Now, these animals had been there all the time, but being spirits themselves, like the thunder-spirits, they possessed the power of hiding themselves from them, although this did not protect them from the Indians.)

After a while Big-Black-Hawk told his younger brother that he would (302) have to bring his human friend back to the earth. "It is not that I don't like him," Big-Black-Hawk said, "but he does not belong here, and Earth-Maker would not approve of it." So Big-Black-Hawk told the orphan that he had benefited the thunder-spirits very much, but that he could not remain with them, and would have to return to his home. He gave him a club, of which, however, he was to make a substitute before he went back to earth.

Pigeon-Hawk took him back; and when he came to the earth, the orphan made a club and returned the original to Pigeon-Hawk.

The next evening his old chum came to the brush as usual, and was very much surprised to find him there. The orphan told his friend to go home and order some young unmarried people to build a lodge and have it scented with white cedar leaves.

The chum did as he was bidden; and after that, he, and the orphan armed with his club, went to the lodge and told the unmarried young people to go out hunting and bring a large buck, for they wanted to make a feast. The orphan assured the people that they would have no difficulty in finding one; they had but to go across the hill.

They did as they were bidden, and came home with a large buck. Then he told them to invite to the feast as many people as they wished. After a few days, and when all were assembled in the lodge, the orphan told the people of his experiences in the land of the Thunder-Birds. He then told the unmarried people to get two more deer for next day's feast. The next day he told them the same. On the fourth day he told them to get four big bears. On this day he told them that he and his friend were going to look around the country the next day, and, if any young men wished to come along, they might.

They all understood what he meant; i. e., that he was going on the warpath; so a good many decided to go along. They traveled that day until noon. Then the orphan told a few of his companions to go a little way and kill some animals. At supper-time he told them the same. After supper he told his companions that he was going to attack a certain camp. The spirit-birds and other animals were helping and directing him, so that he knew he would have no difficulty in finding the camp he was in search of.

When all was ready, they started out, and killed all the inhabitants of the camp. They kept on going from camp to camp, killing all the inhabitants. After they had killed the inhabitants of the fourth camp, the orphan told his friends that he was now going to stop, and would thereafter only go on the warpath in order either to revenge some one or to attack an enemy.1


Commentary: "chalk" — the chalk found on the boy's arrow when it landed in a well tells us that the spirit animal was a Waterspirit, since they live in subterranean caves lined with white minerals.


Links: Thunderbirds, Black Hawks, Great Black Hawk, Pigeon Hawk, Hawks, The Thunderbird Warclub, Waterspirits, Bird Spirits.


Stories: mentioning Thunderbirds: The Thunderbird, Waruǧápara, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Thunderbird and White Horse, Bluehorn's Nephews, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (vv. 1, 2), The Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird, The Thunder Charm, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Story of the Thunder Names, The Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, Brave Man, Ocean Duck, Turtle's Warparty, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Quail Hunter, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Redhorn's Sons, The Dipper, The Stone that Became a Frog, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, The Spirit of Gambling, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Aračgéga's Blessings, Kunu's Warpath, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Glory of the Morning, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Big Stone, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Song to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way; mentioning Great Black Hawk: Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Chief of the Heroka, The Thunderbird, Waruǧápara, The Lost Blanket, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Redhorn's Sons, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga; mentioning black hawks: Hawk Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), The Dipper, The Thunderbird, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Waruǧápara, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Morning Star and His Friend, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; mentioning hawks: Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Waruǧápara, Holy One and His Brother, The Thunderbird, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Creation Council, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; about two male friends: Wazųka, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Lame Friend, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Morning Star and His Friend, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Worúxega, The Fleetfooted Man, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Tobacco Man and Married Man; about journeys to and from Spiritland: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Journey to Spiritland, Sunset Point, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Lame Friend, Two Roads to Spiritland, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Holy One and His Brother, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Foolish Hunter, Waruǧápara, The Thunderbird, White Wolf, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Two Brothers, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Petition to Earthmaker, Wears White Feather on His Head, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man Whose Wife was Captured; in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Nannyberry Picker, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, The Diving Contest, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧápara, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; mentioning pigeons: Pigeon Clan Origins, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Waruǧápara, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Lost Blanket, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Bird Origin Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, The Creation Council, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 2), Gottschall: A New Interpretation; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Thunderbird, Owl Goes Hunting, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (kaǧi, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧápara, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (eagle), The Gift of Shooting (eagle), Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (buzzards), The Shaggy Man (kaǧi), The Healing Blessing (kaǧi), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (kaǧi), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įčorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Fleetfooted Man, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds; mentioning pigeon hawks (kirikirisge): Spear Shaft and Lacrosse; mentioning grizzly bears: Blue Bear, Brass and Red Bear Boy, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Were-Grizzly, The Spotted Grizzly Man, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Roaster, Wazųka, Little Priest's Game, The Story of How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistega's Magic, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, The Two Boys (giant black grizzly), Partridge's Older Brother, The Chief of the Heroka, The Dipper (white grizzly), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Creation of Man (v. 9), The Creation of Evil, cp. The Woman Who Fought the Bear; mentioning the Thunderbird Warclub: Waruǧápara, The Thunderbird, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, cf. Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth.


Themes: a young man grows up with one or more birds whom he loves very much: Partridge's Older Brother; a young man comes to own a very remarkable bird: The Red Feather; someone is abducted and led off into captivity: The Captive Boys, A Man's Revenge, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Lost Child, Wears White Feather on His Head, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Bladder and His Brothers, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Green Man, Brave Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Šųgepaga, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, Wolves and Humans, The Woman Who Became an Ant, Thunderbird and White Horse, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), The Boy who Flew, Testing the Slave; a human joins up with the Thunderbirds: The Thunderbird, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Waruǧapara, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Dipper; Thunderbirds capture a boy who is out looking for material with which to make arrows: Hare Acquires His Arrows; a human being physically travels to Spiritland without having died: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Sunset Point, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, The Star Husband, White Wolf, Waruǧápara, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Shaggy Man, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Boy who would be Immortal, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Rainbow and the Stone Arch (v. 2), Trickster Concludes His Mission; the Thunders seek to eat a human being: Bluehorn's Nephews, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, two boys (or young men) out cutting wood are attacked: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Lame Friend; good spirits try to intercede with bad spirit allies to save the life of a captured human: Įčohorucika and His Brothers; a mortal is returned to earth from the spirit village that he is visiting: Waruǧápara, The Thunderbird, Two Roads to Spiritland, The Shaggy Man, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Snowshoe Strings, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, White Wolf, The Foolish Hunter, The Petition to Earthmaker; a human has an easy time hunting something that the spirits find hard to get: Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Thunderbird, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Waruǧápara, How the Thunders Met the Nights; powerful spirits refer to strong animals by names denoting smaller and weaker animals: How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Two Boys, Waruǧápara, The Thunderbird, The Lost Blanket, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Redhorn's Sons (cf. the inverse theme, Buffalo Spirits calling grass "bears" in, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle); a Waterspirit that has been killed for food is called a "beaver" by spirits: The Thunderbird, Waruǧápara, The Twins Disobey Their Father, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Bluehorn's Nephews; the Chief of the Thunders rewards a human with the Thunderbird Warclub for killing a Waterspirit: Waruǧapara, The Thunderbird; spirits bless a man with an artifact: Waruǧápara (warbundle, warclub), The Warbundle of the Eight Generations (warbundle, flute), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (warbundle), The Thunderbird (warclub), The Rounded Wood Origin Myth (ceremonial object), Origin of the Decorah Family (drum), Paint Medicine Origin Myth (magical paint), Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka (flute), Ancient Blessing (pot, ax, spoon), The Blessing of the Bow (bow and arrows), Heną́ga and Star Girl (Thunderbird Medicine, arrow).


Notes

1 Paul Radin, "Winnebago Tales," Journal of American Folklore, 22 (1909): 300-302. Told by Joseph LaMère, Bear Clan, in the summer of 1908.