Blackfoot: The Rolling Rock

Earlier, you saw Napi (Old Man) as a kindly helper-god, but here you see him behaving instead as a trickster; you can compare this story to the Sioux story of the trickster Inktomi and the blanket.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Blackfoot unit. Story source: Blackfeet Indian Stories by George Bird Grinnell (1915).

The Rolling Rock

Once when Old Man was travelling about and felt tired, he sat down on a rock to rest. After he was rested he started on his way, and because the sun was hot, he threw his robe over the rock and said to it, "Here, I give you my robe because you are poor and have let me rest on you. Keep it always."

He had not gone far when it began to rain, and meeting a coyote, he said to him, "Little brother, run back to that rock and ask him to lend me his robe. We will cover ourselves with it and keep dry."

The coyote ran back to the rock, but presently returned without the robe.

"Where is the robe?" asked Old Man.

"Why," said the coyote, "the rock said that you had given him the robe and he was going to keep it."

This made Old Man angry, and he went back to the rock and snatched the robe off it, saying, "I was only going to borrow this robe until the rain was over, but now that you have acted so mean about it, I will keep it. You don't need a robe, anyhow. You have been out in the rain and snow all your life, and it will not hurt you to live so always."

When he had said this he put the robe about his shoulders, and with the coyote he went off into a ravine and they sat down there. The rain was falling and they covered themselves with the robe, and were warm and dry.

Pretty soon they heard a loud, rumbling noise, and Old Man said to the coyote, "Little brother, go up on the hill and see what that noise is."

The coyote went off, but presently he came back, running as hard as he could, saying, "Run, run, the big rock is coming."

They both started and ran away as fast as they could. The coyote tried to creep into a badger-hole, but it was too small for him and he stuck fast, and before he could get out, the rock rolled over him and crushed his hips.

Old Man was frightened, and as he ran he threw away his robe and everything that he had on so that he might run faster. The rock was gaining on him all the time.

Not far away on the prairie a band of buffalo bulls were feeding, and Old Man cried out to them, saying, "Oh, my brothers, help me, help me; stop that rock." The bulls ran and tried to stop it, butting against it, but it crushed their heads. Some deer and antelope tried to help Old Man, but they too were killed. Other animals came to help him, but could not stop the rock; it was now close to Old Man, so close that it began to hit his heels. He was just going to give up when he saw circling over his head a flock of night-hawks.

"Oh, my little brothers," he cried, "help me; I am almost dead." The bull bats flew down one after another against the rock, and every time one of them hit it he chipped off a piece, and at last one hit it fair in the middle and broke it into two pieces.

Then Old Man was glad. He went to where there was a nest of night-hawks and pulled their mouths out wide and pinched off their bills, to make them pretty and queer-looking. That is the reason they look so to-day.

(500 words)

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