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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.


Mayan Wadahe: Mayan "the Earth" + wadahe "someone-stands-there")

This story, recorded in the 1920s by Skinner, comes as a courtesy from transcriber, Brandi Foster.

The name of this story is derived from the title of one of the characters who appears later in the tale, Maianwatahe, "World Man" or "Everywhere Being", a dwarf who is a god of plenty and of good hunting.

Children sent out to fast were adjured to try to dream of Maianwatahe or even of some article connected with him, as this would assure the boy of future success as a hunter.

Once there was a village in which a young man dwelt. The chief of this village had a daughter who was very fond of this youth, but the young man did not care for her. On this account the girl wept ceaselessly so the chief became very angry and called upon Ishjinki to help him punish the youth.

"Hau, Ishjinki," said the chief. "This young man refuses to marry my daughter and she cries over it. I want you to take this youth away to some unknown country and leave him there."

Early one morning Ishjinki came to the youth's lodge and said, "Young man, you are stout and strong. I want you to go with me in your canoe across the Great Water so that I can get some kinnikinick (natchikihi)."

To this the youth readily agreed so they got into his canoe and paddled out into the Great Water until the middle of the afternoon when they arrived at the opposite shore. Then Ishjinki said to his companion, "Now grandson, while I paddle along the bank, you jump ashore and I'll throw you a rope to tie the canoe fast." But when the young man had leaped ashore, Ishjinki paddled away and left him there. "Oh Grandfather, why do you abandon me?" cried the youth, but Ishjinki made no answer and was soon out of sight.

All the afternoon the boy wandered around, and towards evening he saw smoke rising. He went to the spot, and there he found a lone wigwam. No one was in sight, yet deer ribs stood roasting beside the fire, a panther skin was spread for a couch, and various implements lay there in disorder as though someone had just left them. The youth sat down by the fire to warm himself, but he did not touch any of the food.

He waited for the owner to come back. It grew dark and he lay down to sleep and yet the owner did not come.

Next morning the youth rose and left everything untouched. He wandered all day, hungry and faint, and at night he again saw smoke which led him to a lone wigwam. Here he found food and utensils spread out just as he had the day before.

This time the youth was nearly starved, so he said to himself, "I'll eat no matter what happens." He snatched a piece of meat from a spit and devoured it. When he had satisfied himself he paused to look around, and beside him he saw a little short man hiding behind a tree, laughing at him.

"Grandson," said the dwarf Maianwatahe, coming forth. "You should have done that yesterday. Those things which you see are all yours." The old man came up to the fire. "Eat all you want," said he.

The two slept together, and the next day they traveled in each other's company. Towards evening the little man took an arrow and shot it ahead of them, and when they got there, there lay a dead deer. The two companions butchered it and took the choicest part of the meat which they cooked and ate. Then they slept, and in the morning continued on their journey.

The fourth day they set out together again. Towards evening the little old man shot an arrow ahead, and when they reached the spot where it fell, there lay a dead deer. Thy butchered and prepared its meat and slept together again as before.

In the village where the youth had lived, his parents mourned him as dead. They took his property and disposed of it. The boy had had three pets, a screech owl (Pohri'nge), a barred owl (Ma'koke), and an eagle (Hkra). These birds they placed in a canoe and set it adrift.

In time the canoe was carried over to the shore where the boy was marooned.

As the boy and the dwarf were traveling the little old man said: "Let us go to the water, your animals have been sent to you by your parents who believe you are lost. Tomorrow we will find them and rescue them."

Next day they made their way to the shore and found the three birds. They took them out of the canoe and fed them and all traveled together.

The next day as they were journeying along, they came to a place where there was a low tangle of grape vines and many mice. The screech owl liked this place and said to the boy, "Master, you have raised me till now, but I'd like to live here. Let me stay, and if you need me at any time, call for me and no matter where you are I will hear you and come to your assistance." So the youth left the screech owl in the tangled place.

The next day the travelers came to a similar place where rabbits abounded. Here the Barred Owl desired to remain. "Master, you have raised me till now, but I'd like to live here. Let me stay, and if you need me at any time, call for me. I'll hear you and I'll be there." So the youth gave the Barred Owl its freedom.

The next day they came to a forest where wild turkeys were abundant. Here the eagle wanted to stay. "Master," he said, "you have raised me till now, but I'd like to live here. Let me stay, and if you need me, call for me, and I will hear you and I'll be there in that instant." So the youth permitted the eagle to remain.

Next day the dwarf said to the youth, "Now we will find a canoe. Let us prepare and take lots of food, for soon we shall be in a hard place." So they cooked much, and took plenty of fresh venison besides.

Next day they set out and soon came to the shore where they found a canoe. "Now," said the dwarf, "here is your boat. Go on, keep in the middle of the stream. I must leave you now, but I will hear you if you need help and call for me."

The boy paddled off, but had not gone far when he saw a giant walking along the bank, followed by his dog which was as big as a pony. The giant called to his dog, "Hoo! Hoo! Man-hunter, sick him!" Then he called to the boy, "Come here, I want to see you."

The youth obediently paddled over to the giant (Waruska). "Here," cried he, "take this and eat it," and he threw the giant some venison.

While the giant was eating the youth attacked him and his dog and killed them both. Then he paddled on. The dwarf, Maianwatahe, had taught him how to shoot his arrow ahead of him at nightfall and kill a deer. This he did, and when he was ready to stop for the night, there was the dwarf and his wigwam waiting for him. The dwarf said to the boy, "Tomorrow will be the hardest day you have had. You will have to pass through a whole village of giants. Don't listen to what they say, but keep to the middle of the stream and pass by as quickly as you can. Make yourself bundles of reeds, tie them with elmbark as thickly as you can, to each side of your canoe."

The youth obeyed his instructor, and when he was ready he called, "Oh my pets, I am going to be in trouble." Hardly had he said the words when the three birds arrived crying, "Master, what do you want?"

"I want you to help me go fast through the giant village," said the youth, so the birds took hold of thongs and pulled the boat swiftly through the water.

It was dark when they reached the village which extended along both sides of the stream, and the giants made torches so that they were able to see the young man and his pets. They began to shout, "Brother! Grandson! Come this way!" But the youth did not pay any heed to them. Then the giants took hooks which they had attached to ropes and threw these at him, but they only caught on the bundles of reeds that the dwarf had told him to tie to the gunwales of his canoe.

Whenever they caught one the giants shouted with glee thinking that they had caught the youth, and they would fight over the bundle in the dark until they found out their mistake, and so the youth succeeded in getting away. When he was past the village, the birds told him that he was safe.

The next day he killed a deer with his magic arrow, feasted his pets, and sent them home.

The next day the youth came to a village. He went to the last house on the outskirts and there he found an old lady. He asked her if he might stay there for the night, and she said that he might do so. As soon as he had seated himself the old lady ran out and shouted, "We have a visitor who has come to marry the chief's daughter."

When the chief heard this he was glad and sent for the stranger. When the youth arrived at the chief's lodge, the chief said, "I am happy that you have come to marry my girl, but I hope that you are a person endowed with supernatural power who can help us." The chief ordered food to be set before his visitor. When the meal was set before the youth he saw in disgust that it consisted of nothing but frogs and frogs' legs, for all the other game in the land had been killed off by giants who infested the country.

Next day the youth started off to see the country. It was customary for all the human inhabitants to feast him, but the old lady where he stayed told him he need expect nothing better than frogs' legs. "If you don't want to eat them, at least bring them home for me."

This the youth did.

In a few days the young man tired of this and decided to go hunting himself. He could see nothing anywhere, not even rabbits. The chief told him that there was one place, a lake, where there were many ducks and other waterfowl, but no one, even the giants themselves, was able to go to it. The youth, however, found his way to the shore and saw the water covered with waterfowl of all sorts, from swans to mudhens. He called upon his pet birds, who came to him immediately.

As soon as they arrived, the youth ordered them to get him some of the waterfowl. The three birds slew the ducks by thousands and brought them in. Eagle and Barred Owl slew the swans and geese, and Screech Owl killed mudhens until there was an immense pile on the bank. When they had finished the youth thanked, fed, and dismissed the pets. Then he picked out some of the best birds and took them to the chief, his father-in-law.

When the people saw him approaching with his game, they thronged around to ask him how he had taken them. He told his wife to go out and tell the people to help themselves to his catch, so every one went out and brought home a great store of fowls.

Next day the youth went out again, and so great was his power, that though the giants had killed off all the deer in the country, he was able find and kill some. Soon he had all the homes in the village well supplied with food.

Finally the young couple had a child. One day the Chief said to his daughter, "I know your husband has a home somewhere. Go with him, my daughter. I am glad to have so great a man as a son-in-law." So when the couple started, the chief gathered together all manner of presents from the people for them to take with them. Again the youth fixed the bundles of reeds along the sides of his canoe and called upon his pets to help him pass through the village of the giants. Again the giants saw him by means of their torches and threw their hooks at him but only succeeded in catching and pulling back the bundles of reeds, over which they quarreled.

When the young man and his family had safely passed the giants, he fed and thanked his birds. Then he told his wife, "I have pets that live all along the road and we must spend a night with each as we pass that way."

They came first to the place where the eagle lived. The bird was glad to welcome them, and caught turkeys for them to eat. The youth told his child that this was his pet who had always helped him in time of need.

The next place that they came to was where Barred Owl lived. Barred Owl hunted and brought in rabbits for them to feast upon, and the youth explained that the bird was one of his boyhood pets who always helped him in times of trouble.

Last of all they came to where Screech Owl lived, and the bird hunted and brought them mice to eat and said, "Alas, I can catch nothing that your son will want to eat, but at least I desire that he shall play with me." But the baby was afraid because the owl had such big eyes, and that is the reason that children have since been afraid of screech owls.

The next night they stopped at dark, and the youth shot an arrow ahead of him and killed a deer as he had been taught to do. When he had butchered it and made camp, Maianwatahe the dwarf appeared and said, "Now grandson, I have helped you all these years, and from now on I will give you the power to be a great hunter. You will reach your own home today." The little old man then gave the youth his magic arrows, his panther skin robe, and other objects and left him.

The young man told his wife and child to stay in camp while he searched for his people. It was not long before he discovered his father's lodge. He went up to the door and looked in and saw that his family was almost starved to death. The youth walked in and said, "Mother I have come back! Father I have come back!" His father looked up and said, "Why, you have not been anywhere, you had just stepped out."

(According to the ancient Iowa custom, a child had been adopted by the parents of the youth to fill the vacancy left in the family by his disappearance. The father, it was explained, thought that it was the adopted child who was speaking.)

"No father, it is I, your son whom Ishjinki took away and lost because he would not marry the chief's daughter. I have been away across the Great Water and have returned with a woman and a child. I am a chief now."

So the youth took his parents and the rest of the family to his camp where they were all fed and made happy, and that's when I came home.

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