Tale of The Coward, The Son Of The Moon

In the beginning, when the people first came out of the earth, a little boy was taken out with his grandparents, but his mother and father were left behind in the earth. The old people loved the child dearly and cared for him, but because they were old they were poor, and so the boy was often hungry. Sometimes other little boys took him to their lodges and fed him, and then the old people were happy; for they did not mind being hungry themselves, so long as their grandson had something to eat. He grew rapidly and soon became old enough to hunt game; then the old people always had plenty to eat, for he was successful on the hunt. One time, when he came home from a long hunt, he found his grandmother sick, and in a few days she died. The boy grieved for his grandmother, but remained with his grandfather to comfort and provide food for him. One day the grandfather, who was an old man, dropped dead. Then the boy, left all alone, gave up to his grief and spent days and nights in mourning. He wandered far away into the timber to mourn, and in his grief and loneliness he prayed that he might die. While he was praying one evening, just as the sun was going down, he heard some one calling him. He turned and saw a man coming, and when the man came near he opened out his arms to embrace the boy, and said: “I will be your father, and I will look upon you as my own son. One time you wished for me, and now I have come to claim you as my own. I am the Moon, who keeps watch over everything in this world. Go back to your people now and some time I will come for you. In the meantime remember that I will always watch over you and give you power.”

The young man went back to his home and wept no more, for he did not feel so lonely and forsaken, now that he had a father. After a time a girl came to his lodge and asked to become his wife. He accepted her and they lived together. One time while they were at dinner he said: “Some one is coming with news for the chief.” The person was then several days’ journey from the village, and so his wife saw that her husband had great power. One time he was told by a mother to watch her child while she went out to get water. She told him that the child was asleep, and if it woke up to give it a buffalo bone to suck. When the mother was gone he woke the child up and cut its leg off. When the mother returned she saw her child lying dead upon the blankets, and saw the young man sitting beside it playing with its leg. She ran and called the people and they came and killed the young man. Soon after they heard that he was living with another family not far away. The people went to the place where they had buried him and saw that he had come out of the grave. Then they went to the family with whom it was reported he was living, and they found him there alive and looking just the same as before they had killed him.

One time the tribe went on the war-path and fought another tribe. All the men went except this man. The chief asked him why he did not go with the others to fight the enemy and kill a man instead of a little child. Coward, for so the people called him, said that his father had not told him to have trouble with people. The chief asked him who his father was, but he did not answer. He arose, took up a war club, and went out to fight. The enemy shot many arrows at him, but soon they saw that the arrows flew off from him, and they knew that he was wonderful and could not be killed. They turned to run, and as they ran he killed many with his war club. The next day he became sick and began to shake all over. Finally he vomited all the arrow heads that had pierced his body, then he bathed himself and was well. After that the people knew that he had some great power. Many years after he told his people that he was going away, and that evening when the Moon came up he pointed to it and said: “There is my father.” Then he arose from the earth and went up to the Moon.

Caddo, Legends,

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

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