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The Windmaker






Source: Thirty Indian Legends

Once there was a tribe of Indians who had always lived in the
mountains. Their village was built at the foot of a very large
mountain, and their lodges were made from branches of the pine-trees,
covered with the skins of animals.

One day one of their hunters followed a bear's track for many miles.
By evening he found himself a great distance from the village. He
noticed that the hills around him were much smaller than those he had
left, so he made up his mind to continue in the direction he had been
going, which was eastwards, to see if the hills would grow smaller as
he went. He rested during the night, and when the sun rose next
morning, he continued walking towards the east. For several days he
travelled, and at last he found himself on the edge of a very large
plain. Miles and miles of green prairie lay before him, and he
wondered what was beyond, on the other side of this vast plain.

He travelled back joyfully to the village and told the others of the
tribe what he had discovered. As they listened they became anxious to
see this great prairie and what lay beyond it. So they went to their
chief and begged him to let them all go and travel until they should
reach the other side of the prairie. The chief told them that this was
a wrong thing to ask, because they were mountain Indians and so would
never be happy away from the mountains. Still they begged and coaxed,
and at length he said:

"I shall grant your request, my children, because my greatest wish is
to see you happy. To-morrow we shall all make ready for our journey to
this great prairie. I shall go with you, although it grieves me very
much to leave my mountains, but your wish shall be granted."

By evening the next day the tribe was ready for the journey. They had
taken down their lodges, and the branches of the pine-trees and the
skins of the animals were packed on the mountain ponies. The chief
rode in front on a small, white pony. His face looked very sad as they
set out.

For many days they travelled, and at length they reached the edge of
the prairie, as the hunter before them had done. They were all much
astonished to see the great plain of green grass, and they told their
chief that this land was much more beautiful than their mountains. He
did not make them any reply. For several days they travelled across
the prairie in the daytime and camped at night. Each morning they said
as they prepared to move forward, "To-day we shall surely reach the
other side of this prairie."

Each night, however, found them with as many miles in front of them as
there were behind them. At last they grew weary, and began to wonder
how long they would have to travel before they could see what was
beyond this prairie. They had made their camp for the night on the
bank of a river. This river was too wide and deep for them to cross,
and they did not know what they would do. During the night a strange
thing happened. Their lodges were caught as if by unseen hands, lifted
high in the air, and tossed into the river. The little children clung
to their mothers in terror, while these unseen hands seemed trying to
pull them away and toss them after the lodges. The Indians, terrified,
gathered around their chief.

"What is this?" they cried. "What is this awful thing that has such
strength and which we cannot see?"

"It is the wind, my children," said the chief. "Far up on the mountain
lives the Windmaker. This is his message to us, to tell us that he is
angry, because we have left our mountain home. Let us all go back to
our home and be happy once more."

But the Indians murmured at this. They did not wish to go back to the
mountains. They wished to see what was beyond the great prairie. The
chief sadly shook his head and said, "Well, my children, you must
suffer what the Windmaker sends us."

Then up spoke a young warrior named Broken Arrow. He had long wished
for a chance to show the chief that he was brave, for he loved the
chief's daughter and knew he could not wed her until he had proven his
bravery.

"Oh, chief," he said, "let me go to this Windmaker. Let me shoot my
sharpest arrows at him, so that I may kill this wicked one who is
causing so much sorrow."

The chief smiled at the brave youth and said, "My son, you may go, but
it is a useless quest. This Windmaker cannot be killed."

Broken Arrow replied proudly, "We shall see. My arrows carry far and
fly straight. This Windmaker shall feel their point."

The women of the tribe put food in a bag and several pairs of
moccasins, and the young warrior set out on his journey. Day and night
he travelled, and at last, after his food was all gone and his last
pair of moccasins was nearly worn out, he reached the foot of the great
mountain where the Windmaker lived. Looking up, he saw the monster,--a
great, gray creature that seemed a part of the mountain itself. His
head was crowned with snow-white hair that lay around his shoulders
like drifts of snow. His huge ears stood out from the sides of his
head, and as he waved them, a breeze came down the mountain side that
almost took the warrior off his feet. Fitting an arrow into his bow,
he let it fly. It was aimed for the Windmaker's heart, and was going
straight there, when the monster moved one ear and the arrow flew to
one side. The same fate overtook the next arrow, and the next. Still
the warrior shot bravely on, but as each one came near the monster he
waved his ears and blew it aside. At last every arrow had been spent,
and the Windmaker was uninjured. There was nothing for the young
warrior to do but to go back and tell of his failure. Sadly he turned
away, and after many days' travelling he arrived at the camp, faint
with hunger, and with bare and bleeding feet.

The chief smiled proudly as he saw him. "Welcome, my son," he said.
"Do not feel sad. You have done nobly, and have proven to me how great
a warrior you are. You shall be my son, and I am proud to call you
that."

After the wedding feast that night, the chief told the Indians that on
the morrow he was going to the mountain to see if he could kill the
Windmaker.

When they heard this, there was great weeping, and they begged him not
to go. But he was firm, so they said, "Then we shall go with you.
Where our chief goes, we go too, and we shall watch you fight this
wicked one."

So, after many days' travelling, they all reached the foot of the great
mountain where the Windmaker lived. Looking up, they could see him
just as Broken Arrow had told them they would. The chief turned to
them and said, "My children, you must remain here at the foot of this
mountain, while I climb up to the top. There is no use in trying to
shoot this great monster, for he will but blow my arrows away, so I
must climb up and strike him with my tomahawk."

Again they begged him not to go, but again he was firm, and they sadly
watched him begin to climb up the rocky side of the mountain. Little
by little, he ascended the steep, rough hill, until at last he was
almost at the feet of the Windmaker. All this time the monster had
been perfectly still. Then suddenly, just as the chief was within
reach of him, he waved both his ears, and a terrible gale tore down the
mountain side, carrying rocks and stones with it. It caught the chief,
lifted him off his feet and carried him down. When he reached the
bottom he lay as if insensible for a few moments. Then, recovering his
breath, he began to climb again. Once more the Windmaker let him
nearly reach his feet before he made a movement. This time he sent a
current of air against a large boulder resting on a narrow ledge. The
chief leaped just in time, for it fell with a terrible noise on the
very spot where he had stood.

Angered by this, the chief grasped his tomahawk more firmly, and
dashing up a few paces, aimed a blow at the monster's feet. But before
it fell, the Windmaker waved both ears again. With a roar like thunder
the gale swept down, carrying the brave chief with it. It tossed him
in the air, turned him around two or three times, and hurled him into a
clump of fir-trees at the foot of the mountain. The Indians ran
frantically to the spot and picked him up, but he was quite dead. They
buried him sadly where he had fallen, at the foot of the tender firs.
Then they went quietly back to their village in the mountains and have
been content to live there ever since.





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