The Hunter Who Became A Deer

One night a hunter killed a doe and soon afterward fell asleep near the carcass. The next morning, just at sunrise, the hunter was surprised and startled to see the doe raise her head and to hear her speak, asking him to go with her to her home. At first he was so surprised that he did not know what to reply, so the doe again asked him whether he would go. Then the hunter said that he would go with her, although he had no idea where she would lead him. So they started and the doe led the hunter through forests and over high mountains, until at last they reached a large hole under a rock, which they entered. Here the hunter was led before the King of all the deer, an immense buck, with huge antlers and a large black spot on his back. Soon the hunter became drowsy and finally he fell asleep. Now all around the cave were piles of deer’s feet, antlers, and skins. While the hunter was asleep the deer endeav­ored to fit to his hands and feet deer’s feet which they selected for the purpose. After several unsuccessful attempts the fourth set proved to be just the right size and were fastened firmly on the hunter’s hands and feet. Then a skin was found that covered him properly, and finally antlers were fitted to his head. And then the hunter became a deer and walked on four feet after the manner of deer.

Many days passed, and the hunter’s mother and all his friends thought he bad been killed. One day when they were in the forest they found his bow and arrows hanging on a branch of the tree beneath which he had slept beside the body of the doe. All gathered around the spot and began singing, when suddenly they saw a herd of deer bounding toward them through the forest. The deer then circled about the singers. One large buck approached closer than the others, and the singers, rush­ing forward, caught it.

To the great astonishment of all it spoke, whereupon they recognized the voice of the lost hunter. Greatly distressed, the hunter’s mother begged her companions to remove from her son the deer skin and antlers and feet, but they told her he would certainly die if they should do so. She insisted, however, saying she would rather bury her son than to have him remain a deer. So her friends began tearing away the skin, which already had grown to the hunter’s body, and, as they continued their efforts to remove it, the blood began to flow. Finally the hunter died. Then his body was taken back to the village and was buried with the cere­mony of a great dance.

Bushnell, David I., Jr. The Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb, St Tammay Parish Louisiana. Washington Government Printing Office. 1909.

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