Heroes: Dug-From-Ground

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


An old woman was living with her granddaughter, a virgin. The girl used to go to dig roots and her grandmother used to say to her, "You must not dig those with two stalks."

The girl wondered why she was always told that. One morning she thought, "I am going to dig one," so she went across the river and began digging. She thought, "I am going to take out one with a double stalk."

When she had dug it out, she heard a baby cry. She ran back to the river, and when she got there, she heard someone crying "mother" after her.

She jumped into the boat and pushed it across. When she got across, the baby had tumbled down to the other shore.

She ran up to the house and there she heard it crying on that side. She ran into the house, then she heard it crying back of the house.

At once she sat down and then she heard it tumble on the roof of the house. The baby tumbled through the smoke-hole and then rolled about on the floor. The old woman jumped up and put it in a baby basket. The young woman sat with her back to the fire and never looked at the child.

The old woman took care of the baby alone. After a time it commenced to sit up and finally to walk. When he was big enough to shoot, the old woman made a bow and he began to kill birds. Afterward he killed all kinds of game and, because his mother never looked at him, he gave whatever he killed to his grandmother.

Finally he became a man. The young woman had been in the habit of going out at dawn and not returning until dark. She brought back with her acorns as long as her finger.

One time the young man thought "I am going to watch and see where she goes."

The young woman had always said to herself, "If he will bring acorns from the place I bring them, and if he will kill a white deer, I will call him my son."

Early one morning the son saw his mother come out of the house and start up the ridge. He followed her and saw her go along until she came to a dry tree. She climbed this and it grew with her to the sky. The young man then returned saying, "Tomorrow I am going up there." The woman came home at night with the usual load of long acorns.

The next morning the man went the way his mother had gone, climbed the tree as he had seen her do, and it grew with him to the sky. When he arrived there he saw a road. He followed that until he came to an oak, which he climbed, and waited to see what would happen. Soon he heard laughing girls approaching. They came to the tree and began to pick acorns from allotted spaces under it.

The young man began to throw down acorns. "That's right, Bluejay," said one of the girls.

Then another said, "It might be Dug-from-the-ground. You can hardly look at him, they say, he is so handsome."

Two others said, "Oh, I can look at him; I always look at this walking one (pointing to the sun); that is the one you can hardly look at."

He came down from the tree and passed between the girls. The two who had boasted they could look at him turned their faces to the ground. The other two who had thought they could not look him in the face were able to do so.

The young man killed the deer, the killing of which the mother had made the second condition for his recognition as a son. He then filled the basket from his mother's place under the tree and went home. When the woman saw him with the acorns as long as one's finger, she called him her son.

After a time he said, "I am going visiting."

"All right," said the grandmother, and then she made for him a bow and arrows of blue-stone, and a shinny stick and sweat-house wood of the same material. These he took and concealed by putting them under the muscles of his forearm. He dressed himself for the journey and set out.

He went to the home of the immortals at the edge of the world toward the east. When he got down to the shore on this side, they saw him. One of them took out the canoe of red obsidian and stretched it until it was the proper size. He launched it and came across for him.

When he had landed, the young man placed his hand on the bow and as he did so, the boat gave a creak, he was so strong. When they had crossed, he went to the village. In the middle of it he saw a house of blue-stone with a pavement in front of black obsidian.

He went in and heard one say, "It is my son-in-law for whom I had expected to be a long time looking."

(900 words)

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