The Sun lived on the other side of the sky vault, but her daughter lived in the
middle of the sky, directly above the earth, and every day as the Sun was
climbing along the sky arch to the west she used to stop at her daughter’s house
for dinner.
Now, the Sun hated the people on the earth, because they could never look
straight at her without screwing up their faces. She said to her brother, the Moon,
“My grandchildren are ugly; they grin all over their faces when they look at me.”“My grandchildren are ugly; they grin all over their faces when they look at me.”
But the Moon said, “I like my younger brothers; I think they are very
handsome”—because they always smiled pleasantly when they saw him in the
sky at night, for his rays were milder.
The Sun was jealous and planned to kill all the people, so every day when she
got near her daughter’s house she sent down such sultry rays that there was a
great fever and the people died hundreds, until everyone had lost some friend
and there was fear that no one would be left. They went for help to the Little
Men, who said the only way to save themselves was to kill the Sun.
The Little Men made medicine and changed two men to snakes, the Spreading-
adder and the Copperhead, and sent them to watch near the door of the daughter
of the Sun to bite the old Sun when she came next day. They went together and
hid near the house until the Sun came, but when the Spreading-adder was about
to spring, the bright light blinded him and he could only spit out yellow slime, as
he does to this day when he tries to bite. She called him a nasty thing and went
into the house, and the Copperhead crawled off without trying to do anything.
So the people still died from the heat, and they went to the Little Men a second
time for help. The Little Men made medicine again and changed one man into
the great Uktena and another into the Rattlesnake and sent them to watch near
the house and kill the old Sun when she came for dinner. They made the Uktena
very large, with horns on his head, and everyone thought he would be sure to do
the work, but the Rattlesnake was so quick and eager that he got ahead and
coiled up just outside the house, and when the Sun’s daughter opened the door to
look out for her mother, he sprang up and bit her and she fell dead in the
doorway. He forgot to wait for the old Sun, but went back to the people, and the
Uktena was so very angry that he went back, too. Since then we pray to the
rattlesnake and do not kill him, because he is kind and never tries to bite if we do
not disturb him. The Uktena grew angrier all the time and very dangerous, so
that if he even looked at a man, that man’s family would die. After a long time
the people held a council and decided that he was too dangerous to be with them,
so they sent him up to Gălûñ′lătĭ, and he is there now. The Spreading-adder, the
Copperhead, the Rattlesnake, and the Uktena were all men.
When the Sun found her daughter dead, she went into the house and grieved, and
the people did not die any more, but now the world was dark all the time,
because the Sun would not come out. They went again to the Little Men, andbecause the Sun would not come out. They went again to the Little Men, and
these told them that if they wanted the Sun to come out again they must bring
back her daughter from Tsûsginâ′ĭ, the Ghost country, in Usûñhi′yĭ, the
Darkening land in the west. They chose seven men to go, and gave each a
sourwood rod a hand-breadth long. The Little Men told them they must take a
box with them, and when they got to Tsûsginâ′ĭ they would find all the ghosts at
a dance. They must stand outside the circle, and when the young woman passed
in the dance they must strike her with the rods and she would fall to the ground.
Then they must put her into the box and bring her back to her mother, but they
must be very sure not to open the box, even a little way, until they were home
They took the rods and a box and traveled seven days to the west until they came
to the Darkening land. There were a great many people there, and they were
having a dance just as if they were at home in the settlements. The young woman
was in the outside circle, and as she swung around to where the seven men were
standing, one struck her with his rod and she turned her head and saw him. As
she came around the second time another touched her with his rod, and then
another and another, until at the seventh round she fell out of the ring, and they
put her into the box and closed the lid fast. The other ghosts seemed never to
notice what had happened.
They took up the box and started home toward the east. In a little while the girl
came to life again and begged to be let out of the box, but they made no answer
and went on. Soon she called again and said she was hungry, but still they made
no answer and went on. After another while she spoke again and called for a
drink and pleaded so that it was very hard to listen to her, but the men who
carried the box said nothing and still went on. When at last they were very near
home, she called again and begged them to raise the lid just a little, because she
was smothering. They were afraid she was really dying now, so they lifted the
lid a little to give her air, but as they did so there was a fluttering sound inside
and something flew past them into the thicket and they heard a redbird cry,
“kwish! kwish! kwish!” in the bushes. They shut down the lid and went on again
to the settlements, but when they got there and opened the box it was empty.
So we know the Redbird is the daughter of the Sun, and if the men had kept the
box closed, as the Little Men told them to do, they would have brought her home
safely, and we could bring back our other friends also from the Ghost country,
but now when they die we can never bring them back.but now when they die we can never bring them back.
The Sun had been glad when they started to the Ghost country, but when they
came back without her daughter she grieved and cried, “My daughter, my
daughter,” and wept until her tears made a flood upon the earth, and the people
were afraid the world would be drowned. They held another council, and sent
their handsomest young men and women to amuse her so that she would stop
crying. They danced before the Sun and sang their best songs, but for a long time
she kept her face covered and paid no attention, until at last the drummer
suddenly changed the song, when she lifted up her face, and was so pleased at
the sight that she forgot her grief and smiled.