Story of the Day: Naiyenesgani and the Monster Fish

Did you know there is a legend about a giant octopus that lives in Lake Thunderbird? You can read about that Norman, Oklahoma legend here: Mythical Lake Monsters of America. This is an Apache legend about a monster fish and the hero Naiyenesgani who saved the people from the fish, enlisting the aid of the sun as his helper. It's also an aetiological story, explaining why fish have gills. The story comes from Jicarilla Apache Texts edited by Pliny Earle Goddard (1911), and it is part of the Apache Tales unit.

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A monster fish which lived in a lake swallowed anyone coming near it.

Naiyenesgani came there and was swallowed by the fish which swam to the center of the lake and lay in deep water. Naiyenesgani, sitting inside of the fish, began singing ceremonial songs, that the fish might move to the shore of the lake. When he had finished his songs, he cut off the heart of the fish which raced with him toward the shore, throwing the smaller fish and water far away. It fell with him at the shore of the lake.

Naiyenesgani, with his obsidian knife, cut openings in the neck of the fish through which he went out, carrying the heart in his hand. He gave it to the sun, saying, "Here, carry this where he cannot get it again."

That is why a fish has a series of openings on the sides of its neck.

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