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Ioway Cultural Institute : Culture : Myths and Legends

Illustration: "Only Stories" by Lance Foster
Hand-signed notecard with quality graphic reproduction
is available for purchase at Lance Foster's website.

The Bee King and the Snake's Daughters

An old Ioway story.

There was once an old witch who had a snake for a husband, and even he was too good for her. She lived in a lodge by a stream, and he under a rock hard by, and nobody but the moon and the owl knew that they were married.

In time they had two daughters beautiful in the face as the most beautiful of maidens, but with cold and scaly bodies. The daughters played on the land and in the water, happily and without knowing that they were not as other girls; but their mother knew, and if strangers appeared, covered them closely with fine garments curiously embroidered.

When they were grown no man could see them and not love them, no man could touch them and not hate them, so their lovers all became enemies, and they raged furiously and came to hate all human kind.

No man took them to his lodge, therefore, in accordance with their father's advice, they married snakes. After that they laid all day in the sun and smiled, that they might entrap the unwary, for each had a poisoned arrow given her by her father on her wedding night -- an arrow endowed with such deadly cunning and power that it never failed to kill whosoever it was aimed at, and always flew back to its owner's hand after it had done its deadly work.

Each had also a bow strung with her mother s hair. This bow told her who was coming, and, if he was a charmed man, the one spot where he could be fatally struck.

Now, this was very terrible, so after awhile all knew of the witch's daughters, and hated them exceedingly because of their hapless victims. Everything in the land went on very badly, for when one place was shunned the snake's daughters secretly removed to a new one.

Finally, the king of the bees went by. He was ruler of the trees as well as the bees, so those bows of wood dared give no warning of his approach, nor tell his name and title, for he held up his hand before them in token of silence.

The strings of the bows hissed like serpents, but that told nothing but that an enemy was by.

When the sisters saw him they smiled and beckoned.

He approached, smiling in turn. Instantly they fitted the venomed arrows to the strings, but the bows bent like grass and the arrows fell. Hissing louder than the bowstrings' the sisters picked up the arrows and flung them like darts.

The strange, ugly man before them laughed till the sky and the earth rang with the sound, and caught the arrows in his hands.

When the sisters saw their weapons were powerless they tried to fly, but were given no time to get away, for the king had a stone nose, and the breath from it worked enchantment. He breathed on the arrows, and flung them at the sisters. They were pierced to the heart, but did not die as women do. From their wounded bodies came no blood, only water, stagnant and dark. As it poured out they fell. Their fall was heavy, the ground shook under them, the trees near by staggered as if their roots were loosened from the soil.

Where the sisters fell they laid. No one buried them, but no matter, they did not harm the air. Their father and mother did not bury them because they did not know where they were, and did not find them for a long time; neither did their husbands; but the birds did, and the wolves and the worms; nevertheless, none of these creatures molested them. The reason was, the sisters were changed into stone by their own arrows.

Many have seen them, and know this to be true.

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