[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Native American Marriage Tales unit. Story source: Tales of the North American Indians by Stith Thompson (1929).
The magpie came to them as messenger sent by Merciless-man to ask the young men for their daughter in marriage. He was a round rock. The magpie knew what this rock had done and warned the men not to consent to the marriage. He said, "Do not have anything to do with him, since he is not a good man. Your daughter is beautiful, and I do not like to see her married to the rock. He has married the prettiest girls he could hear of, obtaining them somehow. But his wives are crippled, one-armed, or one-legged, or much bruised. I will tell the rock to get the hummingbird for a messenger because that bird is swift and can escape him if he should pursue."
So the magpie returned and said that the young men refused the marriage. But the rock sent him back to say: "Tell them that the girl must marry me nevertheless." The magpie persuaded him to send the hummingbird as messenger instead of himself.
Then the hummingbird went to carry the message to the young men but, on reaching them, told them instead: "He is merciless and not the right man to marry this girl. He has treated his wives very badly. You had better leave this place."
So he went back without having tried to help the rock. He told the rock that he had seen neither camp nor people.
"Yes, you saw them," said the rock; "you are trying to help them instead of helping me. Therefore you try to pretend that you did not see them. Go back and tell them that I want the girl. If they refuse, say that I shall be there soon."
The hummingbird went again to the men and told them what the rock wished and said: "He is powerful. Perhaps it is best if you let your daughter go. But there are two animals that can surely help you. They can bring her back before he injures her. They are the mole and the badger."
"Yes," they said, now having confidence in these animals. So the hummingbird took the girl to the rock. He reached his tent, which was large and fine, but full of crippled wives.
"I have your wife here," he said.
"Very well," said the rock, "let her come in. I am pleased that you brought her; she is pretty enough for me."
Soon after the hummingbird had left with the girl, the mole and the badger started underground and made their way to the rock's tent. In the morning the rock always went buzzing out through the top of the tent; in the evening he came back home in the same way. While he was away, the two animals arrived. The girl was sitting with both feet outstretched.
They said to her, "Remain sitting thus until your husband returns." Then they made a hole large enough for the rock to fall into and covered it lightly.
In the evening the rock was heard coming. As he was entering above, the girl got up, and the rock dropped into the hole while she ran out of the tent, saying: "Let the hole be closed."
"Let the earth be covered again," said the mole and the badger. They heard the rock inside the earth, tossing about, buzzing, and angry. The girl returned to her fathers.
They traveled all night, fleeing. In the morning the rock overtook them.
As they were going, they wished a canyon with steep cliffs to be behind them. The rock went down the precipice, and while he tried to climb up again, the others went on.
It became night again and in the morning the rock was near them once more.
Then the girl said: "This time it shall happen. I am tired and weary from running, my fathers." She was carrying a ball and, saying "First for my father," she threw it up and, as it came down, kicked it upwards, and her father rose up. Then she did the same for the others until all had gone up.
When she came to do it for herself, the rock was near. She threw the ball, kicked it, and she too rose up.
She said, "We have passed through dangers on my account; I think this is the best place for us to go. It is a good place where we are. I shall provide the means of living for you."
To the rock she said, "You shall remain where you overtook us. You shall not trouble people any longer but be found wherever there are hills."
She and her fathers reached the sky in one place. They live in a tent covered with stars.