Tale of How Owl Fooled The Girls Who Wanted To Marry The Chief

One time there lived an old man and woman who had two beautiful twin daughters. These girls heard of a chief who lived in another village, and rumors of his great wealth and his fame as a great chief had traveled far. The girls asked their parents if they might not go to the chief and offer themselves in marriage. Their parents consented, and so the girls started to the chief’s village. They did not know just where the village was, but they started in the direction that they thought it was, and decided to ask the first person they met to direct them. They traveled along for a time and then met a man with a turkey in his hand coming down the road. They stopped him and began to talk to him. “We want to marry this famous chief, for we hear that he is good and very wealthy, but we do not know him. We have never seen him, we have not even been to his village, and perhaps we would not know him if we should see him.” The man grinned to himself and said: “I am the chief and I live just a little way from here; I have been away attending a council. Well, I must say that I am willing, but wait here while I run on home and tell my grandmother.”

The girls waited. They thought it strange that so great a chief should have to tell his grandmother, but they said nothing. The man, who was no other than Owl, ran on to his home, and calling his grandmother, said: “Clean up the lodge and put it in order. I am going to bring home two girls whom I am playing a joke on. They think I am the rich chief and want to marry me.” After they had cleaned the lodge, for it was very disorderly, Owl said: “I am going to put this turkey which I have brought home over my bed; when you get up in the morning ask me which turkey you shall cook and pretend to point to one, and I will say, ‘No, take this.’ Then the girls will think that we have many turkeys and many good things to eat.”

Owl went back for the girls and brought them to his grandmother’s lodge. They were pleased, for everything looked neat and nice, and so they married Owl. Every day Owl came in with a turkey, and he always pretended to have been out hunting. Really he had been at the council, and the chief gave him the turkey for allowing him to sit on his back. At all the councils the chief always sat on Owl’s back, and so he gave Owl a turkey every time to repay him for his trouble and the pain of holding him so long. After many moons the twins grew weary of nothing but turkey and they began to suspect something, so one day they followed Owl when he went away. They followed and saw him go to a large grass lodge. They peeped through an opening, and there they saw Owl sitting in the middle of the lodge with the chief sitting on his head. They gave a scream. Owl recognized their voices and jumped up, throwing the chief off his head, and ran home. He gave his grandmother a terrible scolding for letting the girls follow him and find him out. The girls felt so ashamed when they discovered how they had been fooled, that they slipped off to their home and told their father and mother their experience.

Owl sat in his lonely lodge and thought for a long time about the twin sisters, and the longer he thought the more angry he became, because he had been fooled at his own joke. Finally, he said to his grandmother: “We must kill the people, and in order to do that we must gather all the water, from the smallest to the largest rivers and the springs and the lakes. We will have to dig a big hole here, and when we finish the hole we will begin to dam the waters out from all the rivers, springs, and lakes.” They worked long and hard, and the people did not notice that the creeks, lakes, and springs were getting low until they were dry.

The water was gone and the people were dying of thirst, while Owl splashed and swam about in the water in the big hole where he had all the waters of the earth. Every one went out to search for water, and Crow, who was snow white then, went with the others. He came to a field where the grass was all dried and withered for want of water, and big grasshoppers were jumping about in the grass. Crow ran after them and made such a loud noise in trying to catch them that all the people heard. They thought that he had found water, and so they ran in great haste. When they found that Crow had not found water they were all disappointed and angry at him for fooling them. Coyote jumped on Crow and rolled him about in the black earth until he was black, and ever since that time the crow has always been black as night. After that

Coyote made a rule that if any one made a loud noise and aroused the people’s expectations he must either lead them to water or take a hard whipping. Turtle was traveling along one day searching for water, as they all were. He went down to the river bed, where the water had been, and he fell into a large crack in the dried mud. He began to halloo for help. The people heard him and all ran down to the river bed, for they thought surely he had found water; but when they found he was only calling for help, Coyote took him out of the crack and gave him a hard whipping. He whipped him so hard that he cracked his shell, and to this day turtles bear the markings of the cracks on their shells.

One time some one was going along looking for water, when he heard a big splashing noise, and he knew that it was the sound of water. He went until he came to the hole where Owl sat playing in the water. He went back and told the people. They gathered in council to decide how they could get the water from Owl. They were about to give up when Flea said that he would go to Owl’s lodge and try to free the water. He went, and as he entered the lodge Owl’s grandmother was about to take a bath. She had a big jar full of water sitting in front of her. Flea slipped up to her, crawled up her leg, and bit her; she gave a big kick and upset the jar. When Owl saw the water running in every direction he opened his eyes wide in astonishment, and they have always looked that way ever since. All the people felt very grateful to Flea, and Coyote put him on his back that he might have a good warm home.

Caddo, Legends,

Dorsey, George A. Traditions of the Caddo. Washington: Carnegie Institution. 1905.

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