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How the Rabbit Lost
As retold by Marie L. McLaughlin
in "Myths and Legends of the Sioux" in 1913
Once upon a time there were two brothers,
one a great genie and the other a rabbit. Like all genie, the
older could change himself into any kind of an animal, bird,
fish, cloud, thunder and lightning, or in fact anything that
he desired. The younger brother (the rabbit) was very mischievous
and was continually getting into all kinds of trouble. His older
brother was kept busy getting Rabbit out of all kinds of scrapes.
When Rabbit had attained his full growth he wanted to travel
around and see something of the world. When he told his brother
what he intended to do, the brother said: "Now, Rabbit,
you are Witkotko (mischievous), so be very careful, and keep
out of trouble as much as possible. In case you get into any
serious trouble, and can't get out by yourself, just call on
me for assistance, and no matter where you are, I will come
Rabbit started out and the first
day he came to a very high house, outside of which stood a very
high pine tree. So high was the tree that Rabbit could hardly
see the top. Outside the door, on an enormous stool, sat a very
large giant fast asleep. Rabbit (having his bow and arrows with
him) strung up his bow, and, taking an arrow from his quiver,
said, "I want to see how big this man is, so I guess I
will wake him up." So saying he moved over to one side
and took good aim, and shot the giant upon the nose. This stung
like fire and awoke the giant, who jumped up, crying: "Who
had the audacity to shoot me on the nose?"
"I did," said Rabbit.
The giant, hearing a voice, looked
all around, but saw nothing, until he looked down at the corner
of the house, and there sat a rabbit. "I
had hiccoughs this morning and thought that I was going to have
a good big meal, and here is nothing but a toothful."
"I guess you won't make a toothful
of me," said Rabbit, "I am as strong as you, though
I am little."
"We will see," said the
giant. He went into the house and came out, bringing a hammer
that weighed many tons.
"Now, Mr. Rabbit, we will see
who can throw this hammer over the top of that tree."
"Get something harder to do,"
"Well, we will try this first,"
said the giant. With that he grasped the hammer in both hands,
swung it three times around his head and sent it spinning thru
the air. Up, up, it went, skimming the top of the tree, and
came down, shaking the ground and burying itself deep into the
earth. "Now," said the giant, "if you don't accomplish
this same feat, I am going to swallow you at one mouthful."
Rabbit said, "I always sing
to my brother before I attempt things like this." So he
commenced singing and calling his brother.
"Cinye! Cinye!" (brother,
brother) he sang.
The giant grew nervous,
and said, "Boy, why do you call your brother?" Pointing
to a small black cloud that was approaching very swiftly, Rabbit
said: "That is my brother; he can destroy you, your house,
and pine tree in one breath."
"Stop him and you can go free,"
said the giant. Rabbit waved his paws and the cloud disappeared.
From this place Rabbit continued
on his trip towards the west. The next day, while passing thru
a deep forest, he thought he heard someone moaning, as though
in pain. He stopped and listened; soon the wind blew and the
moaning grew louder. Following the direction from whence came
the sound, he soon discovered a man stripped of his clothing,
and caught between two limbs of a tall elm tree. When the wind
blew the limbs would rub together and squeeze the man, who would
give forth the mournful groans.
"My, you have a fine place
up there. Let us change. You can come down and I will take your
place." (Now this man had been placed up there for punishment,
by Rabbit's brother, and he could not get down unless someone
came along and proposed to take his place on the tree). "Very
well," said the man. "Take off your clothes and come
up. I will fasten you in the limbs and you can have all the
fun you want."
Rabbit disrobed and climbed up. The
man placed him between the limbs and slid down the tree. He
hurriedly got into Rabbit's clothes, and just as he had completed
his toilet, the wind blew very hard. Rabbit was nearly crazy
with pain, and screamed and cried. Then he began to cry "Cinye,
Cinye" (brother, brother). "Call your brother as much
as you like, he can never find me." So saying the man disappeared
in the forest.
Scarcely had he disappeared, when
the brother arrived, and seeing Rabbit in the tree, said: "Which
way did he go?" Rabbit pointed the direction taken by the
man. The brother flew over the top of the trees, soon found
the man and brought him back, making him take his old place
between the limbs, and causing a heavy wind to blow and continue
all afternoon and night, for punishment to the man for having
placed his brother up there. After Rabbit got his clothes back
on, his brother gave him a good scolding, and wound up by saying:
"I want you to be more careful in the future. I have plenty
of work to keep me as busy as I want to be, and I can't be stopping
every little while to be making trips to get you out of some
foolish scrape. It was only yesterday that I came five hundred
miles to help you from the giant, and today I have had to come
a thousand miles, so be more careful from now on."
Several days after this the Rabbit
was traveling along the banks of a small river, when he came
to a small clearing in the woods, and in the center of the clearing
stood a nice little log hut. Rabbit was wondering who could
be living here when the door slowly opened and an old man appeared
in the doorway, bearing a tripe water pail in his right hand.
In his left hand he held a string which was fastened to the
inside of the house. He kept hold of the string and came slowly
down to the river. When he got to the water he stooped down
and dipped the pail into it and returned to the house, still
holding the string for guidance. Soon he reappeared holding
on to another string, and, following this one, went to a large
pile of wood and returned to the house with it.
Rabbit wanted to
see if the old man would come out again, but he came out no
more. Seeing smoke ascending from the mud chimney, he thought
he would go over and see what the old man was doing. He knocked
at the door, and a weak voice bade him enter. He noticed that
the old man was cooking dinner.
"Hello Tunkasina (grandfather),
you must have a nice time, living here alone. I see that you
have everything handy. You can get wood and water, and that
is all you have to do. How do you get your provisions?"
"The wolves bring my meat,
the mice my rice and ground beans, and the birds bring me the
cherry leaves for my tea. Yet it is a hard life, as I am all
alone most of the time and have no one to talk to, and besides,
I am blind."
"Say, grandfather," said
Rabbit, "let us change places. I think I would like to
"If we exchange clothes,"
said the other, "you will become old and blind, while I
will assume your youth and good looks." (Now, this old
man was placed here for punishment by Rabbit's brother. He had
killed his wife, so the genie made him old and blind, and he
would remain so until someone came who would exchange places
"I don't care for youth and
good looks," said Rabbit, "let us make the change."
They changed clothes, and Rabbit
became old and blind, whilst the old man became young and handsome.
"Well, I must go," said the man. He went out and cutting
the strings close to the door, ran off laughing. "You will
get enough of your living alone, you crazy boy," and saying
this he ran into the woods.
Rabbit thought he would like to get
some fresh water and try the string paths so that he would get
accustomed to it. He bumped around the room and finally found
the tripe water bucket. He took hold of the string and started
out. When he had gotten a short distance from the door he came
to the end of the string so suddenly, that he lost the end which
he had in his hand, and he wandered about, bumping against the
trees, and tangling himself up in plum bushes and thorns, scratching
his face and hands so badly that the blood ran from them. Then
it was that he commenced again to cry, "Cinye! Cinye!"
(brother, brother). Soon his brother arrived, and asked which
way the old man had gone.
"I don't know," said Rabbit,
"I couldn't see which path he took, as I was blind."
The genie called the birds, and they
came flying from every direction. As fast as they arrived the
brother asked them if they had seen the man whom he had placed
here for punishment, but none had seen him. The owl came last,
and when asked if he had seen the man, he said "hoo-hoo."
The man who lived here,"
said the brother. "Last night I was hunting mice in the
woods south of here and I saw a man sleeping beneath a plum
tree. I thought it was your brother, Rabbit, so I didn't awaken
him," said the owl.
"Good for you, owl," said
the brother, "for this good news, you shall hereafter roam
around only at night, and I will fix your eyes, so the darker
the night the better you will be able to see. You will always
have the fine cool nights to hunt your food. You other birds
can hunt your food during the hot daylight." (Since then
the owl has been the night bird).
The brother flew to the woods and
brought the man back and cut the strings short, and said to
him: "Now you can get a taste of what you gave my brother."
To Rabbit he said: "I ought
not to have helped you this time. Anyone who is so crazy as
to change places with a blind man should be left without help,
so be careful, as I am getting tired of your foolishness, and
will not help you again if you do anything as foolish as you
did this time."
Rabbit started to return to his
home. When he had nearly completed his journey he came to a
little creek, and being thirsty took a good long drink. While
he was drinking he heard a noise as though a wolf or cat was
scratching the earth. Looking up to a hill which overhung the
creek, he saw four wolves, with their tails intertwined, pulling
with all their might. As Rabbit came up to them one pulled loose,
and Rabbit saw that his tail was broken. "Let me pull tails
with you. My tail is long and strong," said Rabbit, and
the wolves assenting, Rabbit interlocked his long tail with
those of the three wolves and commenced pulling and the wolves
pulled so hard that they pulled Rabbit's tail off at the second
joint. The wolves disappeared. "Cinye! Cinye! (Brother,
brother.) I have lost my tail," cried Rabbit. The genie
came and seeing his brother Rabbit's tail missing, said, "You
look better without a tail anyway." From that time on rabbits
have had no tails.
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