The Wild Rose

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

There once was a village on Lake Winnebago, and at the edge of this village lived Witch Man and his daughter Hįčoga ("Blue Fur"). One day people saw a great wolf lurking near the village, and all the men rushed to grab their bows and arrows. Many a well-aimed arrow they shot at him, but not a single one touched the wolf. A second and third time the wolf appeared, yet everyone shot at him in vain. Witch man realized that the only time that the wolf visited the village was when Hįčoga went to draw water from the spring. So when the wolf appeared for the fourth time, Witch man followed his daughter to the spring, and hid behind some fern plants [inset] to see what might happen. Then suddenly the wolf appeared, and unexpectedly, the wolf transformed himself into a man dressed in a white deerskin coat. When the coat was opened, Witch Man could see that it was lined with shells. The wolf-man turned to Witch Man just as if he were not concealed, and said, "Old man, I shall take your daughter for my wife and we shall live among my race." And so it was that Hįčoga moved far away and lived among the wolves with her new husband.

However, the wolf people seemed to resent her, and when a plague broke out, everyone thought that she had caused it by witchcraft. The epidemic spread, and soon her husband fell ill. As he lay dying, he told her that things would be very difficult, but that he would leave something good behind for her protection. He handed her a little white deerskin bag, and told her that if she was ever in danger, she need only take what was in the bag and throw it behind her, and it would be a shield and a salvation to her. Then her husband died. The wolf people murmured against her, and soon they came after her. Hįčoga turned and fled, but the wolves began to catch up to her. She remembered her husband's gift, and when she opened it, she found that it contained nothing but thorns. She threw a handful of these behind her and when the thorns touched the ground, immediately tall hedges with sharp spines sprang up, blocking her enemies. Yet her pursuers dogged her relentlessly, so for a second and a third time she threw the thorns, and hedges again sprang up to slow the wolves. However, the fourth time she had but one remaining thorn. In desperation, she cried aloud to Earthmaker himself, who took pity on her. A voice spoke from the heavens, saying, "Hįčoga, prick your finger with the last thorn and let the ruby drop fall into the white purse." So she did as Earthmaker bid her do, and as soon as the drop of blood touched the white deerskin, the bag immediately filled again with thorns. With these she was able to rescue herself, and escape to her home on Lake Winnebago. These hedges still exist today, and the deep red hue of their roses eternally expresses the life-giving blood from which their color sprang.1

Commentary."Blue Fur"— the name Hįčoga is a Wolf Clan name, not only the birth order name for the first or third born female, but the name of one of the primordial wolves who contributed to the founding of the Wolf Clan itself.

"your finger" — since the blood proves to be reproductive, it is not a Freudian overreach to see her finger as a female counterpart to the penis. The actual female counterpart of the penis is the vaginal canal, which is like the complement of the finger-penis, reproducing its form as a cast. The blood that comes from the vaginal barrel is that of menstruation, which is a blood of infertility, that seems to "kill" the semen. The Hočągara say that the menstrual blood "kills the war weapons." Consequently, such weapons must be kept away from a menstruating woman. It may see ironic, therefore, that the buckskin wrapping of the Warbundle, full of articles of power against the enemy, is made by a woman having her first menstruation. It seems in that case that the wrapping of the Warbundle kills the war weapons of the enemy. The pack of wolves pursuing Hįčoga are thus stopped, their war weapons, their sharp teeth, neutralized by the blood-touched container of magical thorns. Thorns are said to be the warriors among plants, and members of the Wolf Clan are known as the "minor soldiers." So the blood of Hįčoga becomes the seed of warriors. These warriors have the special power to check wolves, since indeed they are descended from the blood of a Wolf Clansman, Hįčoga. The Wolf Clan is the only one that can marry within its own clan, all other clans must marry not only outside their clans, but outside their moiety. The wild rose reproduces not only by the seeds that fall from it to the ground, which is like inter-moiety marriage, but the rose plant also propagates by its own roots, rather like the Wolf Clan itself.

"the white deerskin" — by pricking her finger and allowing a single drop to fall on the white deerskin purse, Hįčoga recreates the deerskin offering to Sun [inset], the single red dot in a white field. This leads to a flower colored by her blood which itself stands as another image of the offering to the sun.

Comparative Material. A long Cheyenne story, which naturally falls into two parts, has significant similarities in its first part with the Hočąk story of the Wild Rose. In this story a man lives with his wife and two children, a girl and her younger brother. The man used to paint his wife's face, but one day he noticed that her paint had come off during the day, so the next day he watched her from a hole surrounded by weeds. In time his wife came down to the river to tan hides when to his surprise she summoned a Mih’ (Waterspirit-like creature) from the stream. Once they were sure that her husband was not around, the Mih’ coiled himself around her, and licked all the paint off her face. The husband rushed up with his knife and drove off the Mih’, then he cut off his wife's head. He threw the head into the water, then butchered the rest of his wife's body. This he fed to his children, and while they were eating, he abandoned them. While they were eating what they thought was venison, the mother's head came rolling into the teepee. It began chasing after the children, crying out, "Where will you find your people?" The little boy had a hard time keeping up, and it looked as if the head would catch them, but the girl said, "When I was little I used to pretend there was a cactus bed so thick I could not find my way through it." No sooner had she said this than a cactus bed sprang up and blocked the way of the mother's head. They ran some more, but the head once again was gaining on them, so the girl imagined a hedge of wild roses, and the head was once again blocked. In like manner she fended off the head again by generating a hedge of wild currant bushes. Later she imagined a crevice which suddenly appeared. The head pleaded for a branch over which it could cross the crevice, so the girl supplied one, but once the head got midway, she turned it over and it fell in. The crevice closed over the head with a loud noise. They came to a camp, and inside the first teepee they came to was their father. (The story continues along different lines. For the second part of the story, see the Shaggy Man.)2

Many of the same themes are found in a story of another Woodland people, the Germans:

Auf dem Wege von Virnau nach Benshausen ist ein Fleck, darauf spukt ein Jägergeist, weil er, da er noch lebte, dort Fahrsamen gewann, b. i. den unfichtbarmachenden Samen des Farnkrautes, dessen Besitzer ungesehen hinfahren kann, wohin er will. Er trat zur Sonnenwendezeit in der Mittagstunde auf eine Waldblösse, breitete ein weisses Tuch aus, auf das er sich stellte, und schoss gegen die Sonne. Da fielen drei Tropfen Blutes herab, die musste er auffangen und wol bewahren, das war der Fahrsamen, dessen Gewinnung den Jäger freilich dem Teufel weihte. Der Jäger kannte seinen Todestag, sagte ihn sogar voraus, und that an demselben einen schrecklichen Brüll. Run fitzt er dort am Wege in der Mittagsstunde auf; und drei weisse Hündlein bei sich, wie der Wode, zu jeder Seite eins und eins auf dem Schoosse — die weichen nimmer von ihm.3 On the way from Virnau to Benshausen is a spot haunted by the spirit of a hunter, because he, while he yet lived, there won fare-seed, that is the unconquerable seeds of the fern, whose possessor could go about unseen wherever he wants. He stepped into a forest meadow at the midday hour of the solstice, spread a white cloth out, on which he placed himself, and shot at the sun. There three drops of blood fell down, which he caught and would conserve, that was the fare-seed, that extraction which admittedly consecrated the hunter to the devil. The hunter knew his death-day, told to him in advance, and done at the very place to a dreadful roar. There he ran along the way at the midday-hour; and three white dog lead by each other, like the wild hunt of Woden,4 one to each side and one on the tail — which never yield to him.

The three drops of blood that fall upon the white cloth are those of the sun, and like Hįčoga's thorns, they are the seeds of a plant. But the plant is not the rose, rather it's the plant behind which Witch Man sought to be invisible. Reference to dogs also appears, as the hunter is in some way guided by dog leashes and can never free himself from the chase. The hunter is made invisible by the seeds of the fern that are the blood of the sun, just as Witch Man thought the ferns would render him invisible. The opposite process, the pursued offering her blood in the form of the traditional sacrifice to the sun, yields seeds whose alienation are sufficient to overcome the canines in pursuit.

The Arikara have an interesting parallel to the thorn hedge magically generated to impede the pursuit of the dangerous predators. Four brothers and one sister were being pursued by a female were-bear. One of the brothers "threw an awl. And when he threw it where they had just come from, there was a thicket of thorn apple bushes. Oh, there was indeed a multitude of them! And as the bear woman came up against them, she started to look for a place to go through the thicket. She was barely able to pass through."5

The Greeks have a rather good parallel to part of our present story. To quote Rose, "... roses, which once were all white, were reddedned by the blood of Aphrodite, who had pricked herself on a thorn as she ran to help the dying Adonis."6

Links: Earthmaker, Witches, Wolf & Dog Spirits, Lake Winnebago.

Stories: about flowers: White Flower, Fourth Universe; 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, The Dog that became a Panther, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, 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, Black Otter's Warpath, Chief Wave and the Big Drunk; Peace of Mind Regained (?); mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; about about Earthmaker blessing or rescuing a person: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Waruǧábᵉra, The Seven Maidens, The Stone Heart, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins; mentioning witches or warlocks: The Witch Men's Desert, The Thunder Charm, The Seer, Turtle and the Witches, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Claw Shooter, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Migistéga's Death, The Mesquaki Magician, The Tap the Head Medicine, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, The Magical Powers of Lincoln's Grandfather, The Hills of La Crosse, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara (v. 2), Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Potato Magic, Young Rogue's Magic; set at Lake Winnebago (Te Xete): Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The First Fox and Sauk War, White Thunder's Warpath, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 2), The Great Fish, The Two Boys, Great Walker's Warpath, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Fox-Hočąk War, Holy Song, First Contact (v. 2), Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, The Two Children (?); mentioning springs: Trail Spring, Vita Spring, Merrill Springs, Big Spring and White Clay Spring, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Bear Clan Origin Myth, vv. 6, 8, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Bluehorn's Nephews, Blue Mounds, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Lost Child, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Omahas who turned into Snakes, The Two Brothers, Snowshoe Strings, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Nannyberry Picker, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, The Two Boys, Waruǧábᵉra, Wazųka, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Turtle and the Witches; mentioning shells: The Gift of Shooting, The Markings on the Moon, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, Young Man Gambles Often (wampum), Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2) (wampum), Wolves and Humans (oyster), Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Lost Child, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 2), Turtle's Warparty, The Lost Blanket (mussel), The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads (crab).

Themes: a suitor rendezvouses with a young woman at a spring where she draws water: Wazųka, The Stone Heart; wolves are associated with water: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth; hunters track an animal that turns out to be a spirit being: Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name (raccoon), The Spirit of Maple Bluff (raccoon), The Were-fish (raccoon), Bird Clan Origin Myth (bear), The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter (deer); a newlywed goes to the home of her husband to live among his kind, a race of Animal Spirits: The Woman who Married a Snake, The Shaggy Man (bears); someone in danger prays to Earthmaker for rescue: The Fatal House; a human being receives a blessing directly from Earthmaker: Šųgepaga, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega); a spirit gives someone something to cast at her pursuers that will prevent them from catching her: Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II; red as a symbolic color: The Journey to Spiritland (hill, willows, reeds, smoke, stones, haze), The Gottschall Head (mouth), The Chief of the Heroka (clouds, side of Forked Man), The Red Man (face, sky, body, hill), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (neck, nose, painted stone), Redhorn's Father (leggings, stone sphere, hair), The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father (hair, body paint, arrows), Wears White Feather on His Head (man), The Birth of the Twins (turkey bladder headdresses), The Two Boys (elk bladder headdresses), Trickster and the Mothers (sky), Rich Man, Boy, and Horse (sky), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Spirit), Bluehorn Rescues His Sister (buffalo head), Wazųka (buffalo head headdress), The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (horn), The Brown Squirrel (protruding horn), Bear Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Deer Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (stick at grave), Pigeon Clan Origins (Thunderbird lightning), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks (eyes), Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (scalp, woman's hair), The Race for the Chief's Daughter (hair), The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy (hair), Redhorn Contests the Giants (hair), Redhorn's Sons (hair), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle (hair), A Wife for Knowledge (hair), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (hair), The Hočągara Contest the Giants (hair of Giantess), A Man and His Three Dogs (wolf hair), The Red Feather (plumage), The Man who was Blessed by the Sun (body of Sun), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (body of the Warrior Clan Chief), Red Bear, Eagle Clan Origin Myth (eagle), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (Waterspirit armpits), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Waterspirits), The Roaster (body paint), The Man who Defied Disease Giver (red spot on forehead), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (warclub), Įčorúšika and His Brothers (ax & packing strap), Hare Kills Flint (flint), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head (edges of flint knives), The Nannyberry Picker (leggings), The Seduction of Redhorn's Son (cloth), Yųgiwi (blanket).


1 Nile Behncke, "Winnebagoland Legends," Wisconsin Archeologist, 20, #2 (1939): 31-32.

2 Henry Tall Bull and Tom Weist, The Rolling Head (Billings: Montana Indian Publications, 1971) 5-14.

3 Ludwig Bechstein, Thüringer Sagenbuch, 2 vols. (Vienna and Leipsig: Hartlebens Verlags, 1858) #161, "Fahrsamengewinnung," 2:18-19.

4 for der Wode, see Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsches Worterbuch (Leipsig: Hirzel, 1965) sv. wutesheer.

5 Arthur Morrisette, "The Young Woman Who Became a Bear," in Douglas R. Parks, Myths and Traditions of the Arikara Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996) 151.

6 H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Greek Mythology (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1959) 125.