The Old Stump
Source: Thirty Indian Legends
Long ago there was an old woman called Grizzly Bear. She had neither
husband nor children, and lived all alone in a lodge on the hillside.
As the days went by, she became very lonely, and so she made up her
mind to find a daughter for herself. She took some pitch and fashioned
a girl out of it. Then she put this figure out beside the river, and
it began to move and speak.
"You are my daughter now," Grizzly Bear said to the girl, "and you
shall live with me in my lodge. Every day you may bathe in the river,
but, when you have finished, you must come at once into the shade of
the lodge, instead of drying yourself in the sunshine."
The girl promised to do this and for three days she obeyed her mother's
commands, but on the fourth day she thought she would see what would
happen to her, if she sat on the bank in the sunshine. So, when she
had finished bathing, she seated herself on a stone by the river. The
sun was very hot, and in a few minutes the young girl had melted and
When Grizzly Bear learned what had happened, she felt very sorrowful,
but she was still determined to find another daughter for herself.
This time she took some clay and fashioned a girl from it. When the
girl moved and spoke, she told her she might bathe in the river every
day and might seat herself in the sunshine to dry, but she must not rub
herself while in the water. This command the girl obeyed for three
days. On the fourth day, she thought she would see what would happen
to her if she rubbed herself while she was in the water. So, when she
went in to bathe, she began to rub herself and at once broke into
pieces and melted away.
When Grizzly Bear saw what had happened, she again was very sorrowful,
and this time she made up her mind to make a daughter who could not
destroy herself. So, taking a block of wood, she fashioned a girl from
it. When the wood came to life, Grizzly Bear told her that she might
bathe every day in the river and bask in the sun if she liked.
The daughter did this for three days, and on the fourth, as she was
standing by the riverside, she saw a large trout leap out the water.
"What a beautiful trout," said the girl to herself. "How I wish I had
Three times the trout leaped out of the water, and the fourth time it
landed on the shore by her feet. At once it changed into a handsome,
"Come with me," he said to the girl. "I have a beautiful home beneath
the water. Come with me and be my wife, and you shall live happy all
the rest of your days."
The girl said she would go. Then he told her to get on his back and to
shut her eyes as he leaped into the water. She must keep them shut
until he told her to look. She promised to obey him, but, scarcely
were they beneath the water, when she opened her eyes to see where they
were. At once she found herself alone on the bank of the river.
The next day the same thing happened. She opened her eyes before they
had reached the underwater world, and again she found herself alone on
the bank. This happened once more on the third day, but on the fourth
she succeeded in keeping her eyes closed until her husband told her to
She found herself in a beautiful country, much like the one she had
come from. There were homes and gardens and children here, and she
knew she would be very happy.
As the years went by, two children were born, a boy and a girl. One
day they came to their mother and told her that the other children had
taunted them with having no grandmother.
"Yes, you have a grandmother," she replied. "She lives in a lodge near
the river. You may go above the water to-day and visit her home, but
you must make sure first that she is digging roots on the hillside, for
she must not see you."
The children promised and went at once above the water. They saw the
lodge, and an old woman digging roots. Very quietly, they made their
way to the home of their grandmother. They found some food on the
table and helped themselves. Then they went back to tell their mother
all they had seen.
Three days they did this, but Grizzly Bear had missed the food each
day, and knew that no one but grandchildren would enter her lodge this
way and take her food. So, the fourth day, she commanded an old stump
to look like an old woman digging roots, and to move as the children
passed. Going back to her lodge, she prepared some powerful medicine,
and then hid herself behind some deerskins.
In a little while the children entered and began to eat the food. The
old woman quickly sprang out and threw the medicine over them. The boy
was completed covered with it, while only a few drops fell on the girl.
At once the boy changed into his proper form, and was a handsome young
Indian; while the girl was changed into a little black dog.
Grizzly Bear told the boy that she was his grandmother, and that he
must live with her now, but she did not tell him that the dog was his
sister. She only said, "You must take great care of this little dog,
and never beat or ill use it."
The boy promised, and every day he would go forth with his bow and
arrows to shoot birds, while the little dog ran beside him. One day he
was shooting red-headed woodpeckers. Three times he had killed a bird,
and the little dog ran ahead and ate it before he could reach her. The
boy became very angry at this, and, when she did it for the fourth
time, he struck her a hard blow with his arrow.
At once the dog cried, "Why are you treating me thus, and I am your
sister?" As soon as she had said this, she ran away. The boy
followed, but before he could catch it, the dog had turned into a
chickadee and had flown away. The sorrowing boy returned to his
grandmother, and told her everything that had happened.
"Why did you not tell me that the dog was my sister?" he asked.
"If I had told you," she replied, "you would have been more sorrowful
than you are now." Then she added, "Listen to me, my grandson; when
you are shooting, if an arrow should lodge in a tree where it is too
high for you to reach, do not climb to get it."
The boy promised to remember this command, and three times when an
arrow pierced a tree above his reach, he gave it up as lost, but the
fourth time he forgot the command. Seeing his arrow only a few inches
above his head in the bark of the tree, he began to climb for it. Just
as his hand touched it, the arrow moved farther up. He climbed higher
and, as he reached it, again it moved up. This went on until the arrow
and the boy were out of sight in the clouds.
Neither the boy nor his sister was ever seen again, and Grizzly Bear,
who had been watching from the ground, was left there all alone. And
there she still stands, looking just like the stump of an old tree, but
the Indians know who it is, and as they pass by, they place an offering
on the withered stump.
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