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INDIAN WHY STORIES




THE MOON AND THE GREAT SNAKE

The rain had passed; the moon looked
down from a clear sky, and the bushes
and dead grass smelled wet, after the heavy
storm. A cottontail ran into a clump of
wild-rose bushes near War Eagle's lodge, and
some dogs were close behind the frightened
animal, as he gained cover. Little Buffalo Calf
threw a stone into the bushes, scaring the
rabbit from his hiding-place, and away went
bunny, followed by the yelping pack. We
stood and listened until the noise of the chase
died away, and then went into the lodge, where
we were greeted, as usual, by War Eagle.
To-night he smoked; but with greater cere-
mony, and I suspected that it had something
to do with the forthcoming story. Finally he
said:

"You have seen many Snakes, I suppose?"
"Yes," replied the children, "we have seen
a great many. In the summer we see them
every day."

"Well," continued the story-teller, "once
there was only one Snake on the whole world,
and he was a big one, I tell you. He was pretty
to look at, and was painted with all the colors
we know. This snake was proud of his clothes
and had a wicked heart. Most Snakes are
wicked, because they are his relations.

"Now, I have not told you all about it yet,
nor will I tell you to-night, but the Moon is
the Sun's wife, and some day I shall tell you
that story, but to-night I am telling you about
the Snakes.

"You know that the Sun goes early to bed,
and that the Moon most always leaves before
he gets to the lodge. Sometimes this is not so,
but that is part of another story.

"This big Snake used to crawl up a high hill
and watch the Moon in the sky. He was in
love with her, and she knew it; but she paid
no attention to him. She liked his looks, for
his clothes were fine, and he was always slick
and smooth. This went on for a long time,
but she never talked to him at all. The Snake
thought maybe the hill wasn't high enough, so
he found a higher one, and watched the Moon
pass, from the top. Every night he climbed
this high hill and motioned to her. She began
to pay more attention to the big Snake, and
one morning early, she loafed at her work a
little, and spoke to him. He was flattered,
and so was she, because he said many nice
things to her, but she went on to the Sun's
lodge, and left the Snake.

"The next morning very early she saw the
Snake again, and this time she stopped a long
time--so long that the Sun had started out
from the lodge before she reached home. He
wondered what kept her so long, and became
suspicious of the Snake. He made up his
mind to watch, and try to catch them together.
So every morning the Sun left the lodge a little
earlier than before; and one morning, just as
he climbed a mountain, he saw the big Snake
talking to the Moon. That made him angry,
and you can't blame him, because his wife
was spending her time loafing with a Snake.

"She ran away; ran to the Sun's lodge and
left the Snake on the hill. In no time the
Sun had grabbed him. My, the Sun was
angry! The big Snake begged, and promised
never to speak to the Moon again, but the Sun
had him; and he smashed him into thousands
of little pieces, all of different colors from the
different parts of his painted body. The little
pieces each turned into a little snake, just as you
see them now, but they were all too small for
the Moon to notice after that. That is how so
many Snakes came into the world; and that is
why they are all small, nowadays.

"Our people do not like the Snake-people
very well, but we know that they were made
to do something on this world, and that they
do it, or they wouldn't live here.

"That was a short story, but to-morrow night
I will tell you why the Deer-people have no
gall on their livers; and why the Antelope-
people do not wear dew-claws, for you should
know that there are no other animals with
cloven hoofs that are like them in this.

"I am tired to-night, and I will ask that
you go to your lodges, that I may sleep, for I
am getting old. Ho!"

 


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