Tale of The Death Of The Cannibals

There was a village called Tall-Timber-on-Top-of-Hill, and the people decided to move from that village to another. They were all ready to go when a baby was born to a young woman whose husband had died. The woman could not make the long journey with the new baby, and the people were unwilling to wait for her, so they decided to go on and leave her to follow when she was strong enough to carry the child. The woman remained alone in the deserted village for many days. She was afraid to be there alone, and counted the days until she could start to the new village. One night as she sat with only her child in the grass lodge she heard some one outside, and a strange voice begged admission. She was frightened, but let the man in, and said: “Are you from my people?” “No,” said he, “though I often go around their village at night. Do not be frightened, and I will tell you who I am. People call me Spotted-Wolf. I have come here to see you and your child and to beg you not to start too soon on your journey, for there are many dangerous animals on the way.” The woman replied: “I know, but I want to go to my people. It is lonely here, and I am afraid.” Spotted-Wolf said: “I am afraid something will happen to you if you go now. Take this tobacco, and if you meet danger and need help throw some of it to the four directions and call to me and I will come and help you.” The woman took the tobacco; then Spotted-Wolf arose and went to his home.

After a few days the woman decided to start on her journey. She put her child on her back and started. After she had traveled three days she saw in her way a strange-looking being. She went on, and as she came nearer she was not certain whether it was a wild animal or a person; but in a moment it dropped on the ground and rolled over twice, and then she saw that it was a wild animal. Again she looked and saw that it had taken the form of a person. Then she knew that it was a cannibal, for those creatures first appear as human beings; then they turn into wild animals and eat people. She was frightened so that she could not go on, for she thought that she and her child would be eaten by the cannibal. She thought of Spotted-Wolf and took some tobacco out of her bag and threw it to the south, the east, the west, and the north; and as she threw it she prayed that Spotted-Wolf would come and help her. Soon she heard the howl of a wolf in the south, then another in the east, another in the west, and another in the north. The cannibal stopped growling at her and looked frightened. In a moment big spotted wolves were coming from the four directions. They killed the cannibal, and the wolf from the south conducted the woman and her child in safety to the village of her people.

There is another kind of cannibal, though not so dangerous as the one who first appears as a human being, then turns to an animal. These cannibals live as human beings and eat people only after they are dead. Whenever they hear of any one who is sick and about to die they pretend to be sick, too, and when they hear that the sick person is dead, they pretend to die, too, and are buried; but in the night they jump out of their graves and steal the dead person before the spirits can take him away.

One time there was an old medicine-man and he had noticed how certain people got sick whenever they heard of any one else being sick, and how they died when the sick person died, and then how they always came to life again. He watched one of these beings for a long time; then he pretended to be very sick and caused it to be rumored about that he was about to die. Soon he heard that the person he had been watching was sick. Then the medicine-man pretended that he was dead, but before he pretended to die he told his sons to put a bow and some arrows in his grave, and told them not to put much earth over him when they buried him. As soon as the person heard that the medicine-man was dead, he pretended to die also, and was buried. That night he jumped out of his grave and went to get the medicineman. The medicine-man heard him coming, and so he jumped out of his grave and shot an arrow through the cannibal and killed him, so that he never came back to life again. Then the medicine-man told the people what he had done, and ever since that bows and arrows are always put in the graves with the dead, that they may shoot the cannibal.

Caddo, Legends,

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

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