Heroes: The Attack on the Giant Elk and the Great Eagle (cont.)

This story is part of the Native American Hero Tales unit. Story source: Tales of the North American Indians by Stith Thompson (1929).

The Attack on the Giant Elk and the Great Eagle (cont.)

In four strides he reached the home of the Eagle, an inaccessible rock, on which was the nest, containing two young eaglets.

His ear told him to stand facing the east when the next morning the Eagle swooped down upon him and tried to carry him off. The talons of the Eagle failed to penetrate the hard elk-skin by which he was covered.

"Turn to the south," said the ear, and again the Eagle came and was again unsuccessful. Jonayaíyin faced each of the four points in this manner, and again faced toward the east, whereupon the Eagle succeeded in fastening its talons in the lacing on the front of the coat of the supposed man, who was carried to the nest above and thrown down before the young eagles, with the invitation to pick his eyes out.

As they were about to do this, Jonayaíyin gave a warning hiss, at which the young ones cried, "He is living yet."

"Oh, no," replied the old Eagle; "that is only the rush of air from his body through the holes made by my talons." Without stopping to verify this, the Eagle flew away.

Jonayaíyin threw some of the blood of the Elk which he had brought with him to the young ones and asked them when their mother returned. "In the afternoon when it rains," they answered.

When the mother Eagle came with the shower of rain in the afternoon, he stood in readiness with one of the Elk antlers in his hand. As the bird alighted with a man in her talons, Jonayaíyin struck her upon the back with the antler, killing her instantly.

Going back to the nest, he asked the young eagles when their father returned. "Our father comes home when the wind blows and brings rain just before sunset," they said. The male Eagle came at the appointed time, carrying a woman with a crying infant upon her back. Mother and babe were dropped from a height upon the rock and killed.

With the second antler of the Elk, Jonayaíyin avenged their death and ended the career of the eagles by striking the Eagle upon the back and killing him. The wing of this eagle was of enormous size; the bones were as large as a man's arm; fragments of this wing are still preserved at Taos.

Jonayaíyin struck the young eagles upon the head, saying, "You shall never grow any larger." Thus deprived of their strength and power to injure mankind, the eagles relinquished their sovereignty with the parting curse of rheumatism, which they bestowed upon the human race.

Jonayaíyin could discover no way by which he could descend from the rock until at length he saw an old female Bat on the plain below. At first she pretended not to hear his calls for help; then she flew up with the inquiry, "How did you get here?"

Jonayaíyin told how he had killed the eagles. "I will give you all the feathers you may desire if you will help me to escape," concluded he.

The old Bat carried her basket by a slender spider's thread. He was afraid to trust himself in such a small basket suspended by a thread, but she reassured him, saying: "I have packed mountain sheep in this basket, and the strap has never broken. Do not look while we are descending; keep your eyes shut as tight as you can."

He began to open his eyes once during the descent, but she warned him in time to avoid mishap. They went to the foot of the rock where the old Eagles lay. Jonayaíyin filled her basket with feathers but told her not to go out on the plains where there are many small birds. Forgetting this admonition, she was soon among the small birds who robbed the old Bat of all her feathers. This accounts for the plumage of the small bird klokin, which somewhat resembles the color of the tail and wing feathers of the bald eagle.

The Bat returned four times for a supply of feathers, but the fifth time she asked to have her basket filled, Jonayaíyin was vexed. "You cannot take care of your feathers, so you shall never have any. This old skin on your basket is good enough for you."

"Very well," said the Bat, resignedly, "I deserve to lose them, for I never could take care of those feathers."

(800 words)

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