Heroes: Dirty-Boy

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


The people of a certain region were living together in a very large camp. Their chief had two beautiful daughters of marriageable age. Many young men had proposed to them, but all had been refused. The chief said, "Whom do my daughters wish to marry? They have refused all the men."

Sun and Star, who were brother and sister, lived in the sky, and had seen all that had happened. Sun said to his sister, "The chief's daughters have rejected the suits of all our friends. Let us go down and arrange this matter! Let us try these girls!" They made clothes, and at night they descended to earth.

During the darkness they erected a lodge on the outskirts of the camp. It had the appearance of being very old and of belonging to poor people. The poles were old and badly selected. The covering was tattered and patched, and made of tule mats. The floor was strewn with old dried brush and grass, and the beds were of the same material. Their blankets consisted of old mats and pieces of old robes; and their kettles and cups were of bark, poorly made. Star had assumed the form of a decrepit old woman dressed in rags, and Sun that of a dirty boy with sore eyes.

On the following morning the women of the camp saw the lodge and peered in. When they returned, they reported, "Some very poor people arrived during the night, and are camped in an old mat lodge. We saw two persons inside — a dirty, sore-eyed boy, and his grandmother, a very old woman in ragged clothes."

Now, the chief resolved to find husbands for his daughters. He sent out his speaker to announce that in four days there would be a shooting-contest open to all the men, and the best marksman would get his daughters for wives. The young men could not sleep for eagerness.

On the third day the chief's speaker announced, "To-morrow morning every one shall shoot. Each one will have two shots. An eagle will perch on the tall tree yonder; and whoever kills it shall have the chief's daughters."

Coyote was there and felt happy. He thought he would win the prize. On the following morning an eagle was seen soaring in the air, and there was much excitement as it began to descend. It alighted on a tree which grew near one end of the camp. Then the young men tried to shoot it. Each man had two arrows.

The previous evening Sun had said to Star, "Grandmother, make a bow and arrows for me."

She said, "What is the use? You cannot shoot. You never used bow and arrows."

He replied, "I am going to try. I shall take part in the contest to-morrow. I heard what the chief said."

She took pity on him, and went to a red willow-bush, cut a branch for a bow, and some twigs for arrows. She strung the bow with a poor string, and did not feather the arrows.

Coyote, who was afraid some one else might hit the bird, shouted, "I will shoot first. Watch me hit the eagle." His arrow struck the lowest branch of the tree and fell down, and the people laughed. He said, "I made a mistake. That was a bad arrow. This one will kill the eagle." He shot, and the arrow fell short of the first one. He became angry, and pulled other arrows from his quiver. He wanted to shoot them all.

The people seized him and took away his arrows, saying, "You are allowed to shoot twice only."

All the people shot and missed. When the last one had shot, Sun said, "Grandmother, lift the door of the lodge a little, so that I can shoot."

She said, "First get out of bed."

She pulled the lodge mat aside a little, and he shot. The arrow hit the tail of the eagle. The people saw and heard the arrow coming from Dirty-Boy's lodge, but saw no one shooting it. They wondered. He shot the second arrow, which pierced the eagle's heart.

Now, Wolf and others were standing near Dirty-Boy's lodge, and Wolf desired much to claim the prize. He shouted, "I shot the bird from the lodge-door!" and ran to pick it up, but the old woman Star ran faster than he, picked up the bird, and carried it to the chief. She claimed his daughters for her grandson.

All the people gathered around, and made fun of Dirty-Boy. They said, "He is bedridden. He is lousy, sore-eyed, and scabby-faced." The chief was loath to give his daughters to such a person. He knew that Dirty-Boy could not walk.

Therefore he said, "Tomorrow there shall be another contest. This will be the last one; I cannot break my word. Whoever wins this time shall have my daughters."

(800 words)

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