Friday, June 6, 2014

Great Plains: Legend of the Head of Gold

This story is part of the Great Plains unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Great Plains by Katharine Berry Judson (1913).

Legend of the Head of Gold
Dakota

A man had four children. And they were all young men, but they were poor and it seemed as if they would die of laziness. The old man said, “Behold! Old woman. I have the greatest pity for my youngest child, and I do not wish him to die of poverty. See here; let us seek the Great Mystery, Wakantanka. If we find him, behold! I will give the boy to him to train up well for me.”

“Yes, old man; you say well. We will do so,” said the old woman. So at once they went toward the Darkening Land, seeking Wakantanka. They came to a very high hill, and as they came to it, behold! another man came there also.

The stranger said, “For what are you seeking?”

“Alas, my friend,” the old man said, “my child, whom I pity, I wish to give to Wakantanka, the Great Mystery, and so I am seeking him.”

“Yes, friend. I am Wakantanka,” said the man. “My friend, give him to me. I will take him to my home.”

So when the father gave up the boy, the Great Mystery took him to a house that stood up like the clouds. He said, “Look at this house as much as you like. Take good care of these horses. But do not look into the little house that stands here.”

Having said this, he gave him all the keys. He added, “Yes, have a watch of this. Lo, I am going on a journey.” He said this and went away.

It was evening; he came home with a great many men, who sat down, filling the house. When they had been there a good while one of them said, “The boy is good; that is enough.” Saying this, he went out. In like manner, all the men went home.

Then again Wakantanka said, “Behold, I go on a journey. Stay here and keep watch.” So again he went away.

While the boy was watching, one of the horses said, “Friend, go into the little house where you are commanded not to look, and inside in the middle of the floor stands something yellow. Dip your head in that and make haste—we two are together. When he brings home a great many men, they will eat you, as they will eat me, but I am unwilling—we two shall share the same,” he said.

So the boy went into the little house. In the middle of the floor stood a round yellow thing into which he dipped his head. Immediately his head became golden and the house was shining and full of light.

Then he came out and jumped on the horse that had talked to him and they fled.

They went very fast. Now when they had gone a long way, behold! there came after them the one who called himself Wakantanka. He shouted, “You bad rascals, stop! You shall not live! Where will you go in such a small country as this?”

Saying this he came toward them and they were much frightened. Again he shouted, “You bad rascals, stop! You shall not live.” And indeed it seemed as if they could not live.

Then the horse said, “Take the egg you have and throw it behind us.” The boy did so. At once the whole country became a sea.

He who followed was obliged to stop. He said, “Alas, my horse, have mercy on me and take me to the other side. If you do, I will value you very highly.”

“Oh, I am not willing to do that,” the horse replied. But he continued to urge.

Then he who followed threw himself down from above the water, so that when he came to the middle of it, he went down and both he and his horse were drowned.

But the boy and his horse passed safely on. So he came to the dwellings of people and remained there.

But from behind they came to attack and fought with them.

But the boy turned his head around, and his head was covered with gold; also the horse he sat upon was golden, and those who came against him were thrown off their horses and only a few remained when the battle was over. Again, when they returned to the attack, he destroyed them all. So the boy was much thought of by the people.




(700 words)



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