The Spirits And The Lovers

: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian

At the distance of a woman's walk of a day from the mouth of the

river, called by the pale-faces the Whitestone, in the country of the

Sioux, in the middle of a large plain, stands a lofty hill or mound.

Its wonderful roundness, together with the circumstance of its

standing apart from all other hills, like a fir-tree in the midst of a

wide prairie, or a man whose friends and kindred have all descended to

the dust, has
made it known to all the tribes of the West. Whether it

was created by the Great Spirit or filled up by the sons of men,

whether it was done in the morning of the world, ask not me, for I

cannot tell you. Know it is called by all the tribes of the land the

Hill of Little People, or the Mountain of Little Spirits. No gifts can

induce an Indian to visit it; for why should he incur the anger of the

Little People who dwell in it, and, sacrificed upon the fire of their

wrath, behold his wife and children no more? In all the marches and

counter-marches of the Indians, in all their goings and returnings, in

all their wanderings by day or by night to and from lands which lie

beyond it, their paths are so ordered that none approaches near

enough to disturb the tiny inhabitants of the hill. The memory of the

red-man of the forest has preserved but one instance when their

privacy was violated, since it was known through the tribes that they

wished for no intercourse with mortals. Before that time many Indians

were missing each year. No one knew what became of them, but they were

gone, and left no trace nor story behind. Valiant warriors filled

their quivers with arrows, put new strings to their bows, new shod

their moccasins, and sallied out to acquire glory in combat; but there

was no wailing in the camp of our foes: their arrows were not felt,

their shouts were not heard. Yet they fell not by the hands of our

foes, but perished we know not how.

Many seasons ago there lived within the limits of the great

council-fire of the Mahas a chief who was renowned for his valour and

victories in the field, his wisdom in the council, his dexterity and

success in the chase. His name was Mahtoree, or the White Crane. He

was celebrated throughout the vast regions of the West, from the

Mississippi to the Hills of the Serpent, from the Missouri to the

Plains of Bitter Frost, for all those qualities which render an Indian

warrior famous and feared.

In one of the war expeditions of the Pawnee Mahas against the

Burntwood Tetons, it was the good fortune of the former to overcome

and to make many prisoners--men, women, and children. One of the

captives, Sakeajah, or the Bird-Girl, a beautiful creature in the

morning of life, after being adopted into one of the Mahas families,

became the wife of the chief warrior of the nation. Great was the love

which the White Crane had for his wife, and it grew yet stronger when

she had brought him four sons and a daughter, Tatokah, or the

Antelope. She was beautiful. Her skin was fair, her eyes were large

and bright as those of the bison-ox, and her hair black, and braided

with beads, brushed, as she walked, the dew from the flowers upon the

prairies. Her temper was gentle and her voice sweet.

It may not be doubted that the beautiful Tatokah had many lovers; but

the heart of the maiden was touched by none of the noble youths who

sought her. She bade them all depart as they came; she rejected them

all. With the perverseness which is often seen among women, she had

placed her affections upon a youth who had distinguished himself by no

valiant deeds in war, nor by industry or dexterity in the chase. His

name had never reached the surrounding nations. His own nation knew

him not, unless as a weak and imbecile man. He was poor in everything

which constitutes the riches of Indian life. Who had heard the

twanging of Karkapaha's bow in the retreat of the bear, or who had

beheld the war-paint on his cheek or brow? Where were the scalps or

the prisoners that betokened his valour or daring? No song of valiant

exploits had been heard from his lips, for he had none to boast of--if

he had done aught becoming a man, he had done it when none was by. The

beautiful Tatokah, who knew and lamented the deficiencies of her

lover, strove long to conquer her passion without success. At length,

since her father would not agree to her union with her lover, the two

agreed to fly together. The night fixed came, and they left the

village of the Mahas and the lodge of Mahtoree for the wilderness.

Their flight was not unmarked, and when the father was made acquainted

with the disgrace which had befallen him, he called his young men

around him, and bade them pursue the fugitives, promising his daughter

to whomsoever should slay the Karkapaha. Immediately pursuit was made,

and soon a hundred eager youths were on the track of the hapless pair.

With that unerring skill and sagacity in discovering footprints which

mark their race, their steps were tracked, and themselves soon

discovered flying. What was the surprise of the pursuers when they

found that the path taken by the hapless pair would carry them to the

mountain of little spirits, and that they were sufficiently in advance

to reach it before they could be overtaken. None of them durst venture

within the supposed limits, and they halted till the White Crane

should be informed of his daughter and her lover having placed

themselves under the protection of the spirits.

In the meantime the lovers pursued their journey towards the fearful

residence of the little people. Despair lent them courage to perform

an act to which the stoutest Indian resolution had hitherto been

unequal. They determined to tell their tale to the spirits and ask

their protection. They were within a few feet of the hill when, on a

sudden, its brow, on which no object had till now been visible, became

covered with little people, the tallest of whom was not higher than

the knee of the maiden, while many of them--but these were

children--were of lower stature than the squirrel. Their voice was

sharp and quick, like the barking of the prairie dog. A little wing

came out at each shoulder; each had a single eye, which eye was to the

right in the men, and to the left in the women, and their feet stood

out at each side. They were armed like Indians, with tomahawks, spears,

bows, and arrows. He who appeared to be the head chief--for he wore an

air of command, and had the eagle feather--came up to the fugitives and


"Why have you invaded the village of our race whose wrath has been so

fatal to your people? How dare you venture within the limits of our

residence? Know you not that your lives are forfeited?"

Tatokah, for her lover had less than the heart of a doe and was

speechless, related their story. She told them how they had loved, how

wroth her father had been, how they had stolen away and been pursued,

and concluded her tale of sorrow with a flood of tears. The little man

who wore the eagle feather appeared moved by what she said, and

calling around him a large number of men, who were doubtless the

chiefs and counsellors of the nation, a long consultation took place.

The result was a determination to favour and protect the lovers.

At this moment Shongotongo, or the Big Horse, one of the braves whom

Mahtoree had despatched in quest of his daughter, appeared in view in

pursuit of the fugitives. It was not till Mahtoree had taxed his

courage that Big Horse had ventured on the perilous quest. He

approached with the strength of heart and singleness of purpose which

accompany an Indian warrior who deems the eyes of his nation upon him.

When first the brave was discovered thus wantonly, and with no other

purpose but the shedding of blood, intruding on the dominions of the

spirits, no words can tell the rage which appeared to possess their

bosoms. Secure in the knowledge of their power to repel the attacks of

every living thing, the intrepid Maha was permitted to advance within

a few steps of Karkapaha. He had just raised his spear to strike the

unmanly lover, when, all at once, he found himself riveted to the

ground. His feet refused to move, his hands hung powerless at his

side, his tongue refused to utter a word. The bow and arrow fell from

his hand, and his spear lay powerless. A little child, not so high as

the fourth leaf of the thistle, came and spat on him, and a company of

the spirits danced around him singing a taunting song. When they had

thus finished their task of preparatory torture, a thousand little

spirits drew their bows, and a thousand arrows pierced his heart. In a

moment innumerable mattocks were employed in preparing him a grave,

and he was hidden from the eyes of the living ere Tatokah could have

thrice counted over the fingers of her hand.

When this was done, the chief of the little spirits called Karkapaha

before him, and said--

"Maha, you have the heart of a doe. You would fly from a roused wren.

We have not spared you because you deserve to be spared, but because

the maiden loves you. It is for this purpose that we will give you the

heart of a man, that you may return to the village of the Mahas, and

find favour in the eyes of Mahtoree and the braves of the nation. We

will take away your cowardly spirit, and will give you the spirit of

the warrior whom we slew, whose heart was firm as a rock. Sleep, man

of little soul, and wake to be better worthy the love of the beautiful


Then a deep sleep came over the Maha lover. How long he slept he knew

not, but when he woke he felt at once that a change had taken place in

his feelings and temper. The first thought that came to his mind was

of a bow and arrow, the second was of the beautiful maiden who lay

sleeping at his side. The little spirits had disappeared--not a

solitary being of the many thousands who, but a few minutes before,

had filled the air with their discordant cries was now to be seen or

heard. At the feet of Karkapaha lay a tremendous bow, larger than any

warrior ever yet used, a sheaf of arrows of proportionate size, and a

spear of a weight which no Maha could wield. Karkapaha drew the bow as

an Indian boy bends a willow twig, and the spear seemed in his hand

but a reed or a feather. The shrill war-whoop burst unconsciously from

his lips, and his nostrils seemed dilated with the fire and impatience

of a newly-awakened courage. The heart of the fond Indian girl

dissolved in tears when she saw these proofs of strength and these

evidences of spirit which, she knew, if they were coupled with

valour--and how could she doubt the completeness of the gift to effect

the purposes of the giver?--would thaw the iced feelings of her father

and tune his heart to the song of forgiveness. Yet it was not without

many fears, tears, and misgivings on the part of the maiden that they

began their journey to the Mahas village. The lover, now a stranger to

fear, used his endeavours to quiet the beautiful Tatokah, and in some

measure succeeded. Upon finding that his daughter and her lover had

gone to the Hill of the Spirits, and that Shongotongo did not return

from his perilous adventure, the chief of the Mahas had recalled his

braves from the pursuit, and was listening to the history of the pair,

as far as the returned warriors were acquainted with it, when his

daughter and her lover made their appearance. With a bold and fearless

step the once faint-hearted Karkapaha walked up to the offended

father, and, folding his arms upon his breast, stood erect as a pine,

and motionless as that tree when the winds of the earth are chained.

It was the first time that Karkapaha had ever looked on angry men

without trembling, and a demeanour so unusual in him excited universal


"Karkapaha is a thief," said the White Crane.

"It is the father of Tatokah that says it," answered the lover, "else

would Karkapaha say it was the song of a bird that has flown over."

"My warriors say it."

"Your warriors are singing-birds; they are wrens. Karkapaha says they

do not speak the truth. Karkapaha has a brave heart and the strength

of a bear. Let the braves try him. He has thrown away the woman's

heart, and become a man."

"Karkapaha is changed," said the chief thoughtfully, "but how and


"The Little Spirits of the mountain have given him a new soul. Bid

your braves draw this bow. Bid them poise this spear. Their eyes say

they can do neither. Then is Karkapaha the strong man of his tribe?"

As he said this he flourished the ponderous spear over his head as a

man would poise a reed, and drew the bow as a child would bend a twig.

"Karkapaha is the husband of Tatokah," said Mahtoree, springing to his

feet, and he gave the maiden to her lover.

The traditionary lore of the Mahas is full of the exploits, both in

war and in the chase, of Karkapaha, who was made a man by the Spirits

of the Mountain.