Once seven people went out to make war,—the Ashes, the Fire, the Bladder, the Grasshopper, the Dragon Fly, the Fish, and the Turtle. As they were talking excitedly, waving their fists in violent gestures, a wind came and blew the Ashes away. "Ho!" cried the others, "he could not fight, this one!"
The six went on running to make war more quickly. They descended a deep valley, the Fire going foremost until they came to a river. The Fire said "Hsss—tchu!" and was gone. "Ho!" hooted the others, "he could not fight, this one!"
Therefore the five went on the more quickly to make war. They came to a great wood. While they were going through it, the Bladder was heard to sneer and to say, "He! you should rise above these, brothers." With these words he went upward among the tree-tops; and the thorn apple pricked him. He fell through the branches and was nothing! "You see this!" said the four, "this one could not fight."
Still the remaining warriors would not turn back. The four went boldly on to make war. The Grasshopper with his cousin, the Dragon Fly, went foremost. They reached a marshy place, and the mire was very deep. As they waded through the mud, the Grasshopper's legs stuck, and he pulled them off! He crawled upon a log and wept, "You see me, brothers, I cannot go!"
The Dragon Fly went on, weeping for his cousin. He would not be comforted, for he loved his cousin dearly. The more he grieved, the louder he cried, till his body shook with great violence. He blew his red swollen nose with a loud noise so that his head came off his slender neck, and he was fallen upon the grass.
"You see how it is," said the Fish, lashing his tail impatiently, "these people were not warriors!"
"Come!" he said, "let us go on to make war."
Thus the Fish and the Turtle came to a large camp ground.
"Ho!" exclaimed the people of this round village of teepees, "Who are these little ones? What do they seek?"
Neither of the warriors carried weapons with them, and their unimposing stature misled the curious people.
The Fish was spokesman. With a peculiar omission of syllables, he said: "Shu... hi pi!"
"Wan! what? what?" clamored eager voices of men and women.
Again the Fish said: "Shu... hi pi!" Everywhere stood young and old with a palm to an ear. Still no one guessed what the Fish had mumbled!
From the bewildered crowd witty old Iktomi came forward. "He, listen!" he shouted, rubbing his mischievous palms together, for where there was any trouble brewing, he was always in the midst of it.
"This little strange man says, 'Zuya unhipi! We come to make war!'"
"Uun!" resented the people, suddenly stricken glum. "Let us kill the silly pair! They can do nothing! They do not know the meaning of the phrase. Let us build a fire and boil them both!"
"If you put us on to boil," said the Fish, "there will be trouble."
"Ho ho!" laughed the village folk. "We shall see."
And so they made a fire.
"I have never been so angered!" said the Fish. The Turtle in a whispered reply said: "We shall die!"
When a pair of strong hands lifted the Fish over the sputtering water, he put his mouth downward. "Whssh!" he said. He blew the water all over the people, so that many were burned and could not see. Screaming with pain, they ran away.
"Oh, what shall we do with these dreadful ones?" they said.
Others exclaimed: "Let us carry them to the lake of muddy water and drown them!"
Instantly they ran with them. They threw the Fish and the Turtle into the lake. Toward the center of the large lake the Turtle dived. There he peeped up out of the water and, waving a hand at the crowd, sang out, "This is where I live!"
The Fish swam hither and thither with such frolicsome darts that his back fin made the water fly. "E han!" whooped the Fish, "this is where I live!"
"Oh, what have we done!" said the frightened people, "this will be our undoing."
Then a wise chief said: "Iya, the Eater, shall come and swallow the lake!"
So one went running. He brought Iya, the Eater; and Iya drank all day at the lake till his belly was like the earth. Then the Fish and the Turtle dived into the mud; and Iya said: "They are not in me." Hearing this the people cried greatly.
Iktomi wading in the lake had been swallowed like a gnat in the water. Within the great Iya he was looking skyward. So deep was the water in the Eater's stomach that the surface of the swallowed lake almost touched the sky.
"I will go that way," said Iktomi, looking at the concave within arm's reach.
He struck his knife upward in the Eater's stomach, and the water falling out drowned those people of the village.
Now when the great water fell into its own bed, the Fish and the Turtle came to the shore. They went home painted victors and loud-voiced singers.
Notes: Contains 14 Native American folktales
Publisher: Ginn and Company, Boston, London