A Raccoon Tricks Four Blind Men
by John Harrison,
translated by Oliver LaMere
|Harrison Family History|
|Captain John Harrison|
"Once there was a raccoon who went up a stream. As he went along suddenly he came to an Indian rope trap. He thought it was that kind, so he raised his left paw, but did not put it down. 'If I put it down, the trap will bite me.' Then all day he stood there, only at night did he go home. The sun rose as he went along the Indian path and soon he came to water.
He kept going on the path, and then there was a long lodge. He peeped in and there four old men were on each side within this house. One of them said, 'Your cooking must be done by now.' 'Yes, it is cooked. Hand the dish here and I will give you some.' The raccoon went in. All four of these old men were blind. Then the old men on the other side said, 'Ho! here is the dish, pass it over.' But then the raccoon said, 'Ho!' and took the dish. The one being served said, 'What? ' as he had not gotten the dish. 'What happened? I handed it to you and you took the corn,' he said. 'I am saying that no one here handed it to me,' he said. Then he hit him right in his face. He said, 'Ho! We will do it. I said I handed it to you.' Then the other one right in the face he hit him. 'Ho! we will do it,' he said, and he stood up. Now the two fellows got a hold of one another and began to fight each other. It was the raccoon who stood up and did it, hitting them in the face too. 'Well! We will do it,' then all four of them began fighting and then the raccoon laughed as the old men were funny.
The four then went into town and there they knew of him. 'Hoho! Old men, the raccoon is the cause of this,' they said. 'Stand at the door.' Then they did it, but the raccoon had gone out on top of the lodge."1
Commentary. The advice of the villagers is for the four blind men to stand outside the door of the lodge on the supposition that when the raccoon comes out they will have him; but the raccoon is one step ahead of them and has climbed up onto the top of the lodge. The men at the entrance and the lodge with the hole in the middle of it (smoke hole) resembles the rope trap at the beginning of the story, and here too the raccoon has extricated himself from the opening before it can close on him. And we can bet that he will once again slip away in the night.
The story shows us the raccoon's three worlds: he sets out traveling upon the ground (earth), then crosses a stream (water), then finally ends up above everyone as he sits upon the top of the lodge (upper world).
Stories: mentioning raccoons: Bladder and His Brothers, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Raccoon and the Blind Men, The Were-fish, Trickster and the Mothers, Grandfather's Two Families, The Green Man; mentioning blind people: Raccoon and the Blind Men, Hare Visits the Blind Men, The Raccoon Coat, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Roaster, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Owl Goes Hunting.
Themes: a man's meal is stolen before he can eat it: Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Trickster Loses His Meal, A Mink Tricks Trickster; people are led astray by a raccoon: Bladder and His Brothers, Raccoon and the Blind Men; a spirit tricks men into fighting one another:Hare Visits the Blind Men, Raccoon and the Blind Men.
1 John Harrison, "Story of a Raccoon, " in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Winnebago III, #11a, Freeman #3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Story 9: 119-124. Translated by Oliver LaMere.