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The Fierce Beast
- according to the oral traditions of the Iroquois people

See Also: Tales of the Iroquois


This story was told me by Dehaweiahere (Day-hah-way-YAH-hay-lay), a Mohawk of Six Nations Country at Ohsweken.

In ancient days, three brothers were camped beside a mountain in what is now New York State. They were on a hunting trip and had left their main village on the Mohawk River.

One morning, the oldest brother took his bow and quiver of arrows, and stepping into the forest, said that he was going to hunt for deer. He told his two brothers to remain in camp until his return.

The hunter did not return, and after two days, the next older brother said that he would see if he could get a deer. He said he would find the missing brother. Taking his bow and arrows, he went into the forest.

The little brother waited patiently for his two brothers to return. After waiting for two days, the little boy finished eating the last of the supply of meat that was in camp. He knew that if he did not get any fresh meat, that he would starve to death. So, taking his bow and arrows, he also went into the forest.

After wandering for several hours, he came to a little stream. "Here," thought he, "I will find game of some kind." Quietly, he followed the course of the brook, his sharp eyes watching for a rabbit or a squirrel. The stream wound in and out among the trees. The little boy followed with winding stream for some time. The stream led the boy to a beautiful valley surrounded by high hills.

As the boy wandered on up this valley, he happened to look up at on of the hills that overshadowed the stream. At the foot of this hill, he saw a cave. "Perhaps I will find game in the cave," thought he. He left the flat land, and climbing to the entrance of the cave, he glanced in.

The inside of the cave was very dark, but the little boy was very brave. Firmly grasping his bow and an arrow, he crept into the dark shadows. For a while, he could see where he was going, but as he went farther back from the mouth of the cave, it became very dark. In a little while, he could see nothing at all but still he walked on. As he was groping his way into the heart of the hill, he stepped into a huge hole in the floor of the cave. Without warning, he fell into a deep pit. He felt himself falling down, down, he knew not where. Every minute, he expected to crash against the ragged rocks at the bottom of the pit, but to his surprise, he continued falling.

After falling for what seemed a long time, the boy saw far below him a pinhole of light. As he fell toward the light, it became brighter and larger until he saw that it was an opening in the bottom of the pit. Below the opening was a body of water that seemed to be a lake. As the boy fell through the hole, he braced his body for the plunge into the water. Down he fell into the lake. Gasping for breath, the boy swam up until his head was above water. Near at hand was land, and as he was a good swimmer, he soon reached shore.

Stepping upon a sandy beach, he found himself in a strange country. The grass was so big that he had to walk around each blade. A blade of grass was higher than a tree. Flowers towered high above his head. The little boy came to what he thought was a cliff. Upon walking around the edge of it he found it to be a tree. The top branches were so high that he could not see them. An ant hill was as high as a mountain in this strange country.

The little boy still held his bow and arrows and now, very cautiously, stalked around the tall grass. He came to a little hill, and was just about to climb it when he heard voices on the other side. Grasping his hunting knife, he slowly crept toward the sound. Cautiously walking from behind a blade of grass, the little boy saw his two missing brothers.

The two brothers appeared very excited and were looking up at the branches of a gigantic tree. The little brother went to them. He asked them why they were so excited.

"Look at that great animal in the tree," said the older brother. "We have been trying for several days to kill it. If we could kill it and bring its great skin back to the village, we would be greatly honored." Saying this, he shot an arrow to the fierce monster.

Glancing up, the little brother saw a fierce-looking animal crouched on a large branch of the tree. As the little brother looked up, the arrow that the older brother had just shot hit the tail of the monster. With a deafening roar, the huge creature jumped down on the branch below him.

The fierce animal glared down at the three brothers and, opening his mouth, showed its great teeth, at the same time letting out a roar which could be heard for many miles around. The two older brothers had exhausted their supply of arrows and, turning to the little brother, asked him for his quiver of arrows. They then shot arrow after arrow at the huge beast. Occasionally, an arrow would hit a limb of the tree, or glance off the monster's thick hide. At such times, the beast would growl and jump to a lower branch, getting nearer and nearer the three brothers.

Finally, there was but one arrow left, and the creature was still alive. The little brother then said, "Let me try. Perhaps I can hit him." Taking up the last arrow, he carefully drew it to its head. Taking very careful aim, he let the arrow fly. Up, up it went, and with a thud, cut through the beast's thick hide and into its heart!

With a deafening roar, the giant creature pawed the air, lost its balance, and fell crashing to the earth. Over and over it fell, breaking the heavy branches of the tree as if they were spider's webs. Down he fell, straight at the boys, who jumped to one side and his behind three blades of grass. With a loud thump, the monster fell on its back, the earth thrembling as he hit the ground.

Eagerly the brothers rushed out from behind the grass. They stared in awe at such a gigantic monster. Never before had they seen such a big creature. "The meat will last for many days," said the little brother.

"It will take all three of us to carry its huge hide," said oldest brother.

"We are great hunters," said middle brother.

The brothers grasped the legs of the monster and tried to pull it over on its side. They pulled and pulled, and exerting all of their combined strength, they managed to pull the giant animal over.

What do you think it was?

It was a mouse...

 

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