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Was It The First Turtle?

Source: The Book Of Nature Myths

Once upon a time there was a great fight between two tribes of Indians.
It was so fierce that the river ran red with blood, and the war-cries
were so loud and angry that the animals of the forest ran away in
terror. The warriors fought all day long, and when it began to grow
dark, all the men on one side had been killed but two warriors, one of
whom was known as Turtle. In those days there were no such animals as
turtles in the ponds and rivers, and no one knew why he was called by
that name. At last Turtle's friend was struck by an arrow and fell to
the ground.

"Now yield!" cried the enemies.

"Friend," said Turtle, "are you dead?"

"No," said his friend.

"Then I will fight on," said Turtle, and he called out, "Give life again
to the warriors whom you have killed with your wicked arrows, and then I
will yield, but never before. Come on, cowards that you are! You are
afraid of me. You do not dare to come!"

Then his enemies said, "We will all shoot our arrows at once, and some
one of them will be sure to kill him." They made ready to fire, but
Turtle, too, made ready. He had two thick shields, and he put one over
his back and one over his breast. Then he called to his fierce enemies,
"Are you not ready? Come on, fierce warriors! Shoot your arrows through
my breast if you can."

The warriors all shot, but not an arrow struck Turtle, for the two
shields covered his breast and his back, and whenever an arrow buzzed
through the air, he drew in his head and his arms between the shields,
and so he was not harmed. "Why do you not aim at me?" he cried. "Are you
shooting at the mountain, or at the sun and the moon? Good fighters you
are, indeed! Try again."

His enemies shot once more, and this time an arrow killed the wounded
friend as he lay on the ground. When Turtle cried, "Friend, are you
living?" there was no answer.

"My friend is dead," said Turtle. "I will fight no more."

"He has yielded," cried his enemies.

"He has not," said Turtle, and with one great leap he sprang into the
river. His enemies did not dare to spring after him.

"Those long arms of his would pull us to the bottom," they said; "but we
will watch till he comes up, and then we shall be sure of him."

They were not so sure as they thought, for he did not come up, and all
that they could see in the water was a strange creature unlike anything
that had been there before.

"It has arms and a head," said one.

"And it pulls them out of sight just as Turtle did," said another.

"It has a shield over its back and one over its breast, as Turtle had,"
said the first. Then all the warriors were so eager to watch the strange
animal that they no longer remembered the fight. They crowded up to the
shore of the river.

"It is not Turtle," cried one.

"It is Turtle," declared another.

"It is so like him that I do not care to go into the water as long as it
is in sight," said still another.

"But if this is not Turtle, where is he?" they all asked, and not one of
the wise men of their tribe could answer.

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Previous: The Story Of The First Whitefish

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