The Flight Of Tsanunewa And Defeat Of Hehku
Source: Creation Myths Of Primitive America
After each name is given that of the creature or thing into which the
personage was changed subsequently.
=Ahalamila=, gray wolf; =Bohkuina=, silver-gray fox; =Chichi=, fish
hawk; =Demauna=, pine marten; =Gagi=, crow; =Haka Kaina=, flint;
=Hehku=, horned serpent; =Jihkulú=, big owl; =Jupka=, butterfly of the
wild silkworm; =Kaítsiki=, ground squirrel; =Kechowala=, bluejay;
=Malewula=, wolf; =Malwila=, meadow lark; =Manjauchu=, gopher;
=Mapchemaina=, the first people now turned into birds, beasts, and
other things; =Matauwila=, beaver; =Matdasi=, spring salmon; =Míniau
Marimi=, fire-drill woman; =Tillipka=, crane; =Periwiri Yupa=, acorn
of the black oak; =Petaina=, skunk; =Topuna=, mountain lion;
=Tsanunewa=, elk; =Tsuwalkai=, red flint; =Pútokya=, skull people,
i. e. people who could turn themselves into a head.
* * * * *
A long time ago, when Jupka and Bohkuina were sitting in the
sweat-house Jigulmatu, Jupka called to him people of the Mapchemaina;
he called Demauna, Wirula, Matauwila, Topuna, Ahalamila, Manjauchu,
Kechowala, Malwila, Gagi, and many others. He did not make them; he
just called, and they came from different parts of the earth to him.
He gave them their names and said,--
"Hereafter all who live in the world will call you as I do now."
One side of Jigulmatu was filled with these people called up by Jupka.
"This is Jigulmatu, my small sweat-house," said Jupka, "but I am going
to make my Igunna" (great house); and later he made Wahkalu (Mount
Shasta), made it to be his great house, but he lived at Jigulmatu till
he made the Yana, and went to Jigulmatu often afterward.
At this time Tsuwalkai Marimi, an old woman, had reared a small boy.
His name was Tsanunewa. She called the boy grandson, and he called her
his grandmother. He was an orphan. All his kindred were dead; all had
been killed one after another, and he was alone when the old woman
found the boy and reared him.
"I want to go west and catch mice," said Tsanunewa one day to her.
"I don't want you to go away from the house. I don't want you to trap
mice; you might go astray; you might get killed," said the old woman.
Tsanunewa began to cry. He cried and teased till at last she said:
"Go, if you wish, but be careful; you may get hurt. The traps may fall
on you; something may kill you."
The old woman made acorn bread for him, and showed him how to set rock
traps and other traps, and how to bait them with acorns.
"Stay around the house," said she. "You must not go near that rocky
mountain off there. That is a bad place, a very bad place; it is
dangerous. You must not go to it."
The boy started, went some distance from the house, then stood still
and looked at the rocky mountain.
"I will go to that place," thought he; "I will go where my grandmother
told me not to go. Why is she afraid? Why did she tell me not to go
there? I will run and see."
He hurried off to the mountain, went up on the rocks, looked around
all the time; he remembered his grandmother's words, and said to
"I should like to know who is here; I should like to know what
frightens my grandmother."
He went around the mountain, saw no one, set all his traps, big traps
and little ones; he stayed there till near sunset. After that he ran
"I am afraid to eat to-night," said he. "If I eat, perhaps the mice
will not like the acorns in my traps."
"You must not eat," said his grandmother; "I do not wish you to eat
anything. You must not touch salmon this evening. You may eat a little
just at midnight. Now go and play around the house; all the mice will
see you; they are out playing and will go to your traps."
Hehku Marimi lived at that mountain. She killed all the people who
went there to trap. It was she who had killed Tsanunewa's kindred.
Next morning at daybreak Tsanunewa went to see his traps. He looked at
the first, second, third, fourth; he had not caught anything. The
traps were empty, just as he had left them. He found nothing till he
reached the last one; he saw that there was something in that trap. He
stood and looked at it; saw Hehku Marimi; she was there in the last
trap. She had made herself small and gone in. She looked ugly, and
Tsanunewa was frightened. He ran home as fast as he could; he was
pale, and trembling.
"Why are you frightened?" asked his grandmother. "What have you
"I have caught something. I don't know what it is. I am terribly
afraid of it."
"I told you yesterday not to go to that mountain. I knew that trouble
would come if you went there. I will go myself and see what you have
Tsuwalkai Marimi was ready to run to the mountain and look at the
trap. She wanted to know what was in it.
"You, my grandson, stay here at home," said she; "perhaps the thing
that you have caught is not dead yet. I will look at it."
The old woman started, but as she was going out she said: "Maybe Hehku
is in your trap. If she is, she will get out, run here and kill us
both perhaps; kill you, surely, if she finds you. Save yourself, my
grandson. If you see her coming, run west, run very hard, run till you
come to a great river. On the other side of it is Mipka's house; shout
to him, call him uncle, tell him to take you over; say that you are
running for your life, that he must save you."
While the old woman was talking, she looked and saw Hehku far off at
"My grandson," cried she, "Hehku is coming! She will kill you. Run! I
will stay here and stop her a while."
Tsanunewa looked and saw Hehku. Then he ran west; ran till he reached
the great river. He stopped at the edge of it and shouted.
Hehku had made herself small the night before, and gone into
Tsanunewa's trap purposely. The boy thought that she was angry because
he had trapped her. She wanted him to think so. She went into the trap
to have an excuse to kill him as she had killed all his kindred. When
Tsanunewa ran home to his grandmother, frightened because he had seen
Hehku, Hehku went out of the trap, crushed red rottenstone, painted
her face, made it blood color. She had a big cap made of skulls,
skulls of people she had killed. She put the cap on her head then, and
started. She started, ran quickly, singing as she went,--
"I am following Tsanunewa; I am on his track.
I am following Tsanunewa; I am on his track."
She sang till she came to the door. There she stopped, said "Whu!" and
drew a long breath.
"Tell me, old woman," cried she, "tell me where Tsanunewa is; I have
come to this house on his track."
"I have not seen that boy," said Tsuwalkai Marimi. "I do not know
where he is. I am alone, all my people are dead; you killed them."
"I will not hurt you," said Hehku; "I will not touch you, but tell me
where the boy is; tell me which way he went. He went west, I think. I
will follow till I catch him."
She started and ran very fast; raised a great wind as she went. She
ran with her hands clasped behind her, and sang,--
"I am following Tsanunewa; I am on his track.
I am following Tsanunewa; I am on his track."
The boy ran swiftly, ran with all his strength; was at the great river
first. Mipka was at the other side.
"Save me, my uncle!" cried Tsanunewa; "put your leg over the water,
put it over quickly. Hehku is hunting me. I am running for my life.
Save me, my uncle, save me!"
Mipka came out, saw the boy on the opposite bank, stretched his leg
over the water; the boy ran across on it. Hehku came to the river just
after Tsanunewa had run into the house, and Mipka had drawn his leg
back again. Inside was a large log with a small hole in the heart of
it. Tsanunewa crept into that hole and hid quickly.
"Hehku will not find me here," thought he. But Hehku saw him from the
other bank, knew where he was hidden.
The old man hurried after Tsanunewa. Hehku reached the river when
Mipka stepped across the door.
"Old man," cried she, "put your leg over the water. Let me cross. Put
your leg over the water!"
Mipka stood inside the door; seemed not to hear.
"Put your leg over the water!" cried Hehku.
"Creep out and run west for your life," said Mipka to Tsanunewa. "Run;
I will stop Hehku; I will keep her here for a while. Run to
Matauwila's; he may be able to save you."
Tsanunewa crept out through the western end of the sweat-house and
"Old man, put your leg over the river. Let me cross on it!" cried
Hehku. She was very angry now, but Mipka refused for a long time.
At last he stretched his leg from inside the door to the opposite bank
of the river. He did this hoping that Hehku would run in on his leg,
be speared in the doorway and die there. Mipka had long and very sharp
spears fixed in above the doorway to kill people whom he hated.
But Hehku jumped off his leg at the river side. She would not go in at
the door; she climbed to the roof of the sweat-house.
"Old man, give me Tsanunewa. I saw him run into your house. Old man,
give me Tsanunewa or tell me where he is."
"I cannot tell where he is. He is not in my house," said Mipka.
"Tell me, old man, where that boy is, or I will kill you. I do not
want to go into your house, but if I go in I will kill you. Only tell
me where Tsanunewa is. If you hide that boy I will kill you."
"If you think Tsanunewa is here, come down, come in, look through my
house," said Mipka.
Sharp spears were pointing upward toward this door in the roof of the
sweat-house. Hehku was very angry; she slipped down in a hurry. The
spear-points went into her body and killed her. She fell dead on the
floor of the sweat-house. She lay a while dead there; then came to
life and stood up again. She caught Mipka right away, and they
fought, fought a long time, fought till she swallowed him down at one
While Hehku and Mipka were fighting a long battle in the sweat-house,
Tsanunewa had run far away toward the west. He was now in sight of
Matauwila's sweat-house. When he was near enough to call, he
"Grandfather, I am running for my life; save me!"
Matauwila ran out and helped the boy into the sweat-house.
"Grandfather, I want you to set traps in this house, set traps all
around in it. Hehku is hunting me; she will kill me if she catches
Matauwila made four rows of double traps in the house.
"I will catch Hehku," said Matauwila, "but you would better run west;
run till you come to the house of the Chichi brothers."
The boy ran away to the west. He was hardly out of sight when Hehku
came. She made a great wind as she ran to the house.
"Old man," cried she, "where is Tsanunewa? Tell me where that boy is.
I have tracked him to your house. Tell me where he is, or I will kill
"Come in," said Matauwila; "but you will not find the boy here. Come
in. Sit down in my house, look all over it. Come in, but you'll not
find the boy. Come in."
The central pillar of Matauwila's house was large and very smooth.
Hehku could not hold to it, but fell down and dropped into the first
trap. She broke right through that, and went through the three other
lines of double traps.
When Hehku burst through the traps, her body was flashing red fire
from every part of it, she was so angry. This fire from her body
Hehku ran after the boy again; ran with her hands clasped behind her.
She ran that way always, and sang as she ran,--
"I am following Tsanunewa; I am on his track.
I am following Tsanunewa; I am on his track."
The boy rushed to the house of the Chichi. There were two brothers of
The Chichis had two smooth rocks which looked like ice, but were more
slippery than any ice (rock crystals). One of these was at the eastern
door, the other at the opening on the roof.
"Grandfathers, save me!" cried Tsanunewa, running up to the door of
the house. "Grandfathers, save me!" cried he, running in.
Hehku was close behind now; she had almost caught him. When she
reached the door, she stepped on the crystal rock, slipped, and fell.
One Chichi closed the door in her face then. She sprang up, climbed
the side of the house, went to the door in the roof, stepped on the
second crystal in front of that door, slipped, and fell headlong; fell
into the sweat-house. She sprang up, caught one Chichi, fought with
him. His brother helped that one. The two fought a long time against
Hehku till she caught each by the arm, held them both with one hand,
and pounded them with the crystal from the lower door which she held
in her other hand. At last she said, "Whu!" and swallowed both at one
mouthful. While she was fighting with the Chichi brothers, Tsanunewa
ran on, ran to the west. Hehku was tired now.
"I cannot run farther," said she. She went to the housetop and cried,
"I wish this house to stretch out after that boy and catch him."
She sat on the housetop, and the house stretched out westward,
stretched more quickly than any one could run, and carried her after
Tsanunewa. The boy had run very far; he was near Jupka's house now.
"Uncle!" cried he, "I want to come in quickly. I am almost dead. Hehku
is chasing me. Hide me, my uncle, hide me. Save me, my uncle, save me,
or Hehku will kill me."
"Why are you frightened?" asked Jupka. "I should like to see the
person who is chasing you. I should like to see any one dare to hurt
you. Come in, my nephew, come in."
"Carry me, uncle. I am too tired to walk alone. Carry me. Hehku is
hunting me; she has almost caught up with me."
Jupka took the boy, carried him in. The sweat-house was full of
Mapchemaina people, all those people called in by Jupka.
Hehku jumped off the house of the Chichi brothers, which had brought
her almost to Jigulmatu. She was rested.
"Go back now to your own place," said she to the house; and it shrank
back to its own place.
"Tell me, old man," said she to Jupka, "tell me where Tsanunewa is. I
saw him go into your sweat-house. I want him."
"Come in," said Jupka. "Come if you like. Why are you hunting that
boy? What do you want of him?"
"Do not speak in that way to me," said Hehku. "Tell where the boy is."
"Come in, I will give you a husband," said Jupka. "I will give you a
husband; let the boy go. Take Demauna."
Hehku shook her head.
"Well, I will give you Wirula for husband; let the boy go."
Hehku shook her head a second time.
He offered every one in the house except himself. She refused one,
then another and another; refused all.
"Tell me where that boy is," said she. "I want him; I want no one
else. I want nothing more from you. Just tell me where that boy is. I
want none of your people; the only one I want is Tsanunewa."
Jupka had put the boy under his own hair, under the hair at the back
of his head, and kept him hidden there.
"I must know what you are going to do with that boy," said Jupka to
Hehku Marimi. "I am not willing to give him to you; he is too small
to be your husband. I want to keep him here in my sweat-house."
After that he went aside and said to Tsanunewa, "If you like this
woman, I will let you go with her; if you do not wish to go, I will
"I will not go with her; she would kill me on the road. She wants to
kill me; that's why she is hunting me, that's why she came here."
"Bring out that boy!" cried Hehku; "I want to see him. I want to go
home; I want to take him home with me."
"This is a bad woman. I have heard much of her. Give her the boy, put
him down; let us see what she will do with him," said each of those
But Jupka kept Tsanunewa hidden, would not give him up.
"I know that woman," repeated each of the Mapchemaina: "she is bad.
When she is angry, fire flashes from her body. She kills every one.
You would better let the boy go and save us."
"Spread robes out," said Jupka. "Let her come in here; let her sit
down. We will hear what she says."
Jupka rubbed the boy's face and body, made him smooth, and from being
small he was large, full-grown, and very beautiful. Jupka seated him
on the robe. Every one could see him.
Hehku came in and sat on the robe. When she took her place, fire
flashed from her through the whole sweat-house. She took off her cap
made of skulls and put it at her side.
The people looked down. All were afraid except Jupka. They thought
she would kill them right there in a moment. When Jupka saw the fire,
he took tobacco from a small pouch which he kept in his ear, and while
lying stretched out he began to smoke without putting fire on his
pipe. The tobacco burned when he drew his breath through it. The smoke
rose and then settled down. It grew dark in the sweat-house, and the
fire from Hehku's body died away. She stopped her mouth and nose so as
not to breathe Jupka's smoke.
"Go to sleep," said Jupka to Hehku Marimi.
She would not obey. She kept her mouth and nose closed, sat awake and
would not sleep.
"Lie down; let us talk," said Tsanunewa. He thought, "If she lies down
the smoke will kill her."
"I will not lie down," said Hehku.
"Why not? Lie down. We will talk together."
"I never sleep," said Hehku. "I am Mapchemaina. I never sleep at
night, I never sleep in the day. I do as my father does; he hunts at
night and hunts during daylight."
Jupka filled his pipe again with another tobacco which he kept in his
ear, and again he puffed smoke which was very strong, the strongest
smoke of all. "This will do," said he, "this will make her sleep, I
The smoke rose first, then came down and settled like a thick cloud
right on Hehku's head.
"Why this woman tries to trick me?" thought Jupka; "I know more than
When this strong smoke settled down, Hehku began to nod; her head
went first to one side, then to the other; soon it turned backward
little by little. Jupka took a large roll of gray wolfskins, slipped
it behind her, and she dropped on it sound asleep; lay as though
["We have never seen this tobacco here," said the narrator of the
story. "It was turned to rock long ago; this was done far in the East,
way off where the sun rises. The rock is there now, and it is called
Talpapa--white tobacco rock. This is Mapchemaina tobacco." The first
tobacco Jupka used was moiyu, the Yana tobacco that we have in our
"If Hehku dreams, she will beat me when she wakes, if she is wise; but
I will not let her dream," said Jupka. He blew his breath on her face;
she could not dream after that.
Hehku used to dream bad things which came to pass later on. She used
to dream of killing people, but after Jupka blew his breath on her
face she could not dream in his sweat-house. Next day, when she woke,
she was very angry at Jupka. She stood up, walked out of the
sweat-house, went to the east; went quickly, went to that same rocky
mountain where Tsanunewa had set his mousetraps.
"Make a good fire and sweat," said Jupka to the Mapchemaina.
All sweated and bathed in the river, and that day Hehku became a
Putokya, a skull person. She stayed one night at the rocky mountain;
dreamed of gambling with Jupka and all the people at Jigulmatu.
Hehku had a sister, Miniau Marimi. She took this sister as a
companion. Both started, went together, and never stopped till they
reached Oaimatu, a great hollow mountain northeast of Jigulmatu. Hehku
brought a pipe with her, and made tobacco of dried brains. "My smoke
will be stronger than Jupka's," thought Hehku. She spent one night in
the hollow mountain, and dreamed again of gambling in Jupka's
sweat-house. She rose early, and was in Jigulmatu at daylight. She
stood with Miniau Marimi on the roof of the sweat-house, and sang to
"I shall win, I shall win, I shall win surely."
"Jupka, I wish to go into your sweat-house," said she. "When I go in,
you will like me, you will like to see me. I am nice to look at."
She changed; made herself very beautiful then. No one could know her;
no one could know that that woman was the Hehku who had hunted
At sunrise all the people in Jupka's sweat-house heard steps above,
heard walking on the sweat-house. The two women were there. Hehku came
to the roof-door and said,--
"Jupka, put away your things; clear your house. I want to come down
and gamble with you. I dreamed last night that I played with you."
Jupka was lying with his head to the north. He made no answer. Hehku
"Sit on the west side," said Jupka to the two sisters; and he told
Malewula to spread out two robes, one of cinnamon, the other of black
bearskin. All the people held down their heads. None looked at the
women except Malewula.
"I should be glad to give these women something to eat," said
Malewula, "but I don't know what they like; let us offer them
He roasted venison, put it before them in a basket; they wouldn't eat
it, wouldn't taste or touch it. Then he brought dried salmon in small
pieces; the women turned away their faces. Next he put salmon flour
and mountain-pine nuts before them; they wouldn't eat, turned aside
"Take this food away," said Hehku; "we don't wish to eat. I came here
to see people, I came here to gamble."
The Mapchemaina said nothing for a long time. At last Kaitsiki spoke
"I do not know how to gamble, I cannot play," said he.
"I do not like to hear you talk so. I know you," said Hehku. "I know
that you gamble a great deal. I know that you began to gamble long
Kaitsiki made no answer. He went to get gambling-sticks (counters). He
brought grass and fixed everything for the play. They sat down, Hehku
on the west, Kaitsiki on the east.
"What will you play for, what will you bet?" asked the woman.
Kaitsiki took his shell necklace, hung it up, and said, "I will begin
Hehku handled the Jupaiauna; it was hers, and made of a finger-bone.
Kaitsiki guessed "north" the first time, and lost; after that he
guessed north once and south once, lost both times; after that he lost
his ten sticks.
"Take the necklace and hang it on our side," said Hehku to Miniau.
When Hehku put her hands out, she held them together in front before
opening them, and sang "Wahau Putokya jinda Marimi" (You will not win
against Putokya Marimi); and the bone went to the side opposite the
one guessed. The singing made it go. When Kaitsiki guessed "north," if
the bone was in Hehku's right hand, the south side, it stayed there;
if it was in her left hand, the north side, it went to her right. In
this way no one could ever win against Hehku.
"Play again," said Hehku.
Kaitsiki bet and lost. He lost one thing after another till he bet his
last, a belt of red-headed woodpecker scalps. It was very beautiful.
Hehku was glad.
"This is the bet," said she, "that Perriwiri Yupa always makes. He
bets a girdle like this when I play with him."
"I will guess south all the time now," said Kaitsiki. He lost five
times, then changed his mind, guessed north.
All the Mapchemainas looked on, watched the play, but said nothing.
They knew what was coming; knew that Kaitsiki would lose. He guessed
north five times; lost his girdle.
"I have nothing more to bet; you have won all I had," said Kaitsiki.
"Bet yourself," said Hehku. "I will bet all I have won from you."
Kaitsiki bet himself. He guessed south first, and lost.
"Oh, if I had only bet north!" said he. Next time he bet north, and
"Oh, if I had said south!"
He went on in this way till he lost his ten counters and himself.
Hehku threw the finger-bone on the ground; the earth shook; there was
a noise like thunder. The bone flew up, struck Kaitsiki, killed him.
Miniau Marimi threw him out through the roof to the north of the
"I will play now," said Ahalamila, sitting down in the place left by
Kaitsiki. He guessed, lost, guessed on and played till he lost
everything; bet himself, lost, was killed and thrown north of the
sweat-house. Petaina played next, lost everything, was killed and
thrown out. All in the sweat-house except Jupka played and lost, one
after another, first all they had and then themselves. After Petaina
came Matdasi, Tsurewa, Jihkulu, and then Tsanunewa, who remained at
Hehku danced with delight when Tsanunewa lost. She threw him out of
the sweat-house herself, then played with others till none were left
Jupka rose up then and said: "Now we will try. I will guess once; that
will finish the play and settle all."
"I am willing," said Hehku.
Jupka brought a blue stone and sat on it. He had a walking-stick made
of the heart of sugar-pine; this he put at his side.
Hehku arranged the bone, put it in her left hand, and Jupka said
"lililim" (let it be north) but said the word in such a way that
another would think he said "ililim," and Hehku thought so, too; the
bone remained in her left hand. She brought both hands from behind her
back, opened them, and was going to throw the bone to kill Jupka.
"Stop! What did I say?" asked Jupka.
"No, I said 'lililim;' look north and see."
Hehku looked north and saw Wahkalu (Mount Shasta), Jupka's Igunna, his
great new house which he made by saying "lililim." Wahkalu was white,
shining. Hehku had never seen anything so beautiful, so great. She had
never seen it before, neither had any one else.
The bone was there in her open left hand on the north side, she could
not deny. She could not change her play, she could not help herself.
Jupka seized the bone, threw it to the floor. The earth trembled;
there was a roar like thunder; the bone bounded up and killed Hehku.
Jupka threw her out of the sweat-house.
"You must play too," said Jupka to Miniau Marimi.
He put the bone behind his back; she guessed, lost her life, and was
thrown out of the sweat-house.
Jupka walked away southward, went to the creek, washed and swam. When
he came out of the water, he grew very beautiful and large. He took
then the stem of a wild rose-bush and went home; he went to the north
side of the sweat-house. There he found the bodies of the Mapchemainas
who had played with Hehku and lost. He gave each a blow of the
rose-bush, and all came to life; all went to the sweat-house, not one
At dawn the dead Hehku began to move and sing. At clear daylight she
stood up, struck Miniau with her right foot. That moment she rose up
alive. The two women started for the rocky mountain. Hehku was raging.
She was terribly angry because Jupka had beaten her.
"I had all," said she, "but Jupka fooled me; now I have nothing."
She grew so angry that she turned into a great head and bounded off to
the east. She went a whole mile every jump she made. She screamed with
rage and shouted as she went, and her sister Miniau (the fire-drill)
kept pace with her.
Haka Kaina heard the noise and said, "I wonder what troubles Putokya
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