The Dog that became a Panther
from the collection of W. C. McKern
(266) There was once a chief's son who took no interest in either war or hunting. He only liked to visit with people. He had a dog, a light colored, small dog. This dog he always treated well. Some young men were going out deer hunting. They said to each other that they would like to take along this young man, who was never interested in hunting. They thought he would make a good camp tender. So they invited him and he accepted. They hunted a few days, and then one day they saw men's tracks near their camp. Some wanted to go straight home without returning to camp. "If they kill this fellow, that's only one," they said. So they went straight home without telling the chief's son about it.
The chief's son was left alone with his dog. He waited for the hunters until it was very late, but they did not come. Then the dog spoke to him. He understood, although he had never heard him speak before. He told him what had happened and just what had been said. The dog said, "Don't worry, they won't kill us. Don't try to fight; I'll fight them all alone. I'll watch over you tonight. You can sleep. (267) But the man was afraid and could not sleep. The dog kept going out and coming in again. "It is almost daylight now," said the dog. "Do not go outside when you hear them cry out. Stay in the lodge. I am going out to fight when they come, but do not attempt to look at me." The dog came inside from time to time while the fight progressed. About noon, the fight still progressed. They used to give a war whoop once in a while while they fought, and the chief's son wondered about this. He thought he would like to look out and see what was happening, but the dog had told him not to look while he was fighting. So he peeked out of the lodge to see the dog fight. At the same time he looked at the dog he gave a low cry. Then the dog ran away from the enemy and came right in the lodge. They had shot him in the forepaw with an arrow. He told the man to pull it out. "They have me started now, so I'll finish it up," he said. "If you want to fight with them, you can follow me. They won't kill you," said the dog. When he went out he saw the dog. He looked like an angry lion. He was very angry and (268) killed them off faster than before. Then the man started fighting to help the dog. The dog said, "It is good of you to help me out. We will now exterminate them in a short time." Finally they killed them all. The dog said, "Now we must go home and we will take all the scalps home. Those who returned to the village have reported that we were both killed." So they took their scalps and went home. The dog kept his appearance of a lion.
Finally they came to the village. All were much astonished. Those who had returned were told by their parents how wrong they had been. They had been afraid to fight, and they had deserted the chief's son and reported that he had been killed. The dog told his master, "It is not right for me to live with you now. I will stay here in the woods. I shall know if any of the enemy are coming and I shall always be here to help." After that, the lion would come and tell the chief's son when the enemy were coming. Then the chief's son would go out to meet them and fight them. So he became a brave man. Whenever he was (269) ready to hunt deer, the lion went with him. They killed much game on such occasions. So he became a great hunter.1
Commentary: "lion" — McKern adds parenthetically, "Lion = cũk|djánikĕ – [the informant] thinks it is panther." There are variants of this form (šųkją́nįke, šų́kjąįke, šųkją́įk) still in use today (Miner, Helmbrecht-Lehmann). The alternance, -nįk- ~ -įk-, reflects the two forms that mean "little, small." The optional -e- on the end of the word derives from dropping the suffix -ge, "species, type, kind, sort" (-k-ge > -ke). McKern notes that cũk = šųk means "dog," thus leaving -ją- to be interpreted. The appropriate sense of this word that applies here is, "to curl around, to wrap around," thus giving the meaning, "the kind of dog that wraps around a little." Among North American carnivores, dogs attack with their mouths only, whereas mountain lions wrap their arms and legs around their prey to bring it down.
"brave man" — in Hočąk this expression is wągwášošé, which can also be translated as "brave," or "warrior."
Links: Cougars, Disease-Giver, Wolf & Dog Spirits.
Stories: mentioning mountain lions (Cougars, Pumas, Panthers): The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Four Steps of the Cougar, Bladder and His Brothers (v. 1); relating to dogs or wolves: The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, A Man and His Three Dogs, White Wolf, Wolves and Humans, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Old Man and His Four Dogs, Worúxega, The Dogs of the Chief's Son, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Wild Rose, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Canine Warrior, The Dog Who Saved His Master, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, The Big Eater, Why Dogs Sniff One Another, The Healing Blessing, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Trickster Loses His Meal, Sun and the Big Eater, Redhorn's Sons, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Hog's Adventures, Holy One and His Brother, The Messengers of Hare, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Grandmother's Gifts, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Bladder and His Brothers, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Old Man and the Giants, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Kunu's Warpath, Morning Star and His Friend, Chief Wave and the Big Drunk; Peace of Mind Regained (?); about scalping: The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšučka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Moiety Origin Myth, Turtle's Warparty, White Fisher, Wazųka, Great Walker's Warpath, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Fox-Hočąk War.
Themes: seeing the approach of an enemy warparty in a dream: The Moiety Origin Myth, The Dogs of the Chief's Son, Wazųka, Porcupine and His Brothers; a man is blessed with the ability to foresee the approach of enemies: Wazųka, White Fisher, The Moiety Origin Myth, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Fleetfooted Man; a group of men leave one of their own comrades behind alone to fight against an overwhelming force of enemy warriors: How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Fighting Retreat, dogs rescue humans from their enemies: Wolves and Humans, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Old Man and His Four Dogs, The Dogs of the Chief's Son, The Canine Warrior, The Dog Who Saved His Master; a person is told by a spirit that he should not look upon someone during a particular period of time, but curiosity gets the better of the person and he looks anyway, causing the object of his gaze to be injured: The Man who Defied Disease Giver, Snowshoe Strings, Sunset Point; an animal spirit transforms himself from one kind of animal into another: The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse (Thunderbird > horse), Bear Clan Origin Myth (bear > blackbird > bear), White Wolf (wolf > dog), A Man and His Three Dogs (wolf > dog), The Were-fish (raccoon > fish), Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name (raccoon > fish), The Spirit of Maple Bluff (raccoon > fish); a mountain lion fights alongside a man in battle: The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion; violating the terms of a blessing does harm: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, White Wolf, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, The Greedy Woman, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark (meadow lark), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; someone aided by a spirit friend is left for dead by his colleagues, only to be saved by his friend and brought back alive to the grief of those who left him for dead: Waruǧábᵉra, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion.
1 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) . Published in W. C. McKern, "Winnebago Dog Myths," Yearbook, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, 10 (1930): 321-322.