Tale of Splinter Foot Boy

An orphan boy who lived alone with his grandmother was a famous hunter and often went out on a long hunt with his friends. One time, while they were a long way from home, the boy was wounded by a stick that pierced his leg and broke off inside of it. His leg festered and swelled up so that he could not walk and his friends had to carry him home. His leg continued to swell until it was as large as his body; then the skin broke, but instead of the stick coming out, a child came. The boy was angry and would not look at the child or have anything to do with it. His grandmother took pity upon the baby and cared for it.

One day while she was away the boy took the child and carried it to the lake, where he left it to starve or be eaten by the wild animals. He was afraid to return to his grandmother’s home for fear she would know that he had thrown his child away, and so he went far off and lived alone. The child lay on the shore of the lake for a long time, and as he lay there he grew to be a good-sized boy. Finally many birds flew over the lake, and when they were about half way across the lake, the water appeared to leap up to the sky and draw the birds down. Every day the boy saw the water leap up to the sky whenever any birds flew past, and one time he saw a big water monster in the water. He saw the monster draw so many birds into the water that he was afraid it would kill all the birds in the land, and he wished that he could kill it. While he was thinking about a way to kill the monster, he felt some one hit him on the back. He turned around and there behind him stood a boy about his own age. He was Medicine-Screech-Owl, but the boy did not know who he was or anything about him. Medicine-Screech-Owl asked the boy what he was thinking about, and the boy told him that he was thinking how he could kill the water monster that ate up all of the birds. Medicine-Screech-Owl told the boy that he would help him kill the monster. He showed him where the old woman, his grandmother lived, and then he told him to go to her house and get six arrows and a bow and six grains of corn from six kinds of corn and then return to the lake.

When the boy went to the old woman’s house she was surprised and happy to see him, for she had been very lonely since the orphan boy and his son had disappeared, and had given up all hope of ever seeing them again. The boy told her what he wanted, and she gave him all he asked for. Then he returned to the lake, where he found MedicineScreech-Owl waiting for him. Medicine-Screech-Owl took three grains of each of the six kinds of corn and threw them into the air. They became birds and flew out across the water, and the water monster leaped up to draw them down. As he leaped up Medicine-Screech-Owl cried to the boy to shoot it. He shot the first arrow, but it did not go near the monster. The second went nearer, and so did the third, fourth, and fifth, and the sixth pierced it through. The great monster rolled over on its side and floated on the water, and then they could see how large it was. Medicine-Screech-Owl said that it was the largest water monster in the world. He told the boy to take his bow and pull the animal to dry land, but the boy knew that he could not move the monster with his little bow, and so did not try. To his surprise MedicineScreech-Owl took his bow, that was even smaller, and pulled the great monster to the bank. When he had done this he disappeared, and then the boy went back to his grandmother’s house and told her about the boy he had met at the lake and how they had killed the big water monster. The old woman knew that the boy’s companion was MedicineScreech-Owl, and she also knew that he had given the boy wonderful power, though she said nothing.

The next day the boy went to the lake again. He found the water very low, since the monster had been pulled out of the lake, and it was so clear that he could see many fish swimming about. He dived down to catch some of the fish, and a big sword-fish swam up to him and went right through him. The boy, though severely wounded, did not die, but shot the fish with his bow and arrow. The next day he again went to the lake to fish, but found that all the water had gone. In the mud he saw two large shells. He carried them home and cut them so that he could put them over the holes that the sword-fish had made when it cut its way through him. He wore one in front and one behind, so that no one could see the wounds that the fish had made. The shells had the power to hear any sound in the whole world, and whenever he wanted to hear anything he removed the shells from the holes and put them to his ears. With the power of hearing every sound in the world and the power given to him by Medicine-Screech-Owl, he became a great medicine-man and the people began to fear him and planned to kill him. When he heard that they were going to kill him he told his grandmother that they would leave the people, but that he would do them harm some time because they had planned to kill him, and so made it necessary for him and his grandmother to leave. They went to a high mountain near the village, and made their grass house on the very top of it. He found two fierce dogs and placed them at his door to guard the house.

The boy knew who the people were who had planned to kill him, because he had heard them talking by means of his wonderful shells. Soon they died, one after another, until the people of the village began to suspect that the boy was bewitching them and causing them to die. Many of the warrior tried to steal up to his home on the mountain and kill him, but with the magic shells he could always hear them coming, and would set the dogs on them, so that they could never approach.

He kept on bewitching so many people that finally Medicine-Screech-Owl decided that he would have to interfere. He started up the trail to the boy’s house, but first he blew his breath so hard that it took the magic power of sound from the shells, so that the boy could not hear him coming. When he was almost at the top of the mountain he blew his breath again and the dogs rolled over asleep, and when he passed them they were so sound asleep that they did not wake up and bark or give any warning of approach. He passed the dogs; then he blew his breath again and the old woman fell over asleep. Again he blew his breath, and the boy fell down asleep. Medicine-Screech-Owl then entered the house and took the shells off of the boy. He walked around; looking at everything, then went away. When he was almost down the mountain he blew his breath and the boy woke up. He missed his shells at once and began to look everywhere for them. He called his grandmother to come and help him look, but she did not wake up. Finally he shook her so hard that he shook all of Medicine-Screech-Owl’s breath out of her, and then she woke up and helped him look for his shells. He went outside and found the dogs asleep; then he knew that some one had been to his house and stolen his shells. He called the dogs, but could not wake them, and so he took a club and knocked the breath out of them. They woke up and at once scented Medicine. Screech-Owl’s tracks and started after him. The boy followed, and they soon came to a big circle of fire. In the midst of the burning circle stood Medicine-Screech-Owl, and he was wearing the shells. The boy had no power that would take him through fire, and so he had to return without his shells. Medicine-Screech-Owl kept the shell for some time, and then he took then back to the boy, but before he gave them to him he made him promise that he would not bewitch the people any more.

Caddo, Legends,

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

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