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By the Prophet of the Earth

By L.S.M. Curtin






LEGENDS

CORN AND TOBACCO LEGEND (1)
(Informant: Domingo Blackwater)

The Pima were very fortunate because they arrived in this land where grew tall corn and good tobacco; but all the people had a big quarrel, and for punishment the corn went East, where they say it now grows best, and the tobacco went West. The Pima grabbed some of each, so now they have a little of both. * * * *

CORN AND TOBACCO LEGEND (2)
(Informant: Stephen Jones)

Tobacco (viff) boasted that he was the most important item in smoking, but the Corn (hoony) claimed he was still more important, as no tobacco could be smoked without cornhusks.

* * * *

HOW RATTLESNAKE GOT ITS FANGS (1)
(Informant: Emma Howard)

The Creator made the rattlesnake (kaw-oi) very beautiful, as it is to this day (if you have noticed), but He gave the serpent nothing with which to protect himself. When the people first came, they played with the snake, rolling him up, throwing and catching him like a ball, and even twisting him around their necks and tying him in a knot.

The snake spoke to his Creator, complaining that he was being tormented and that his ribs ached, and said, "Do something to help me!" The Creator told the serpent to open his mouth, and two fangs were placed in it. The next person who toyed with the rattler was bitten and died within an hour. This news was spread among all the people and they never tried to play with a snake again. (Here the story was cut because it was too long.)

Domingo Blackwater's wife's grandfather would play with snakes and could take a coiled sidewinder into his cupped palm. Some old people were able to do this, because they had no fear, but it cannot be done by those of the younger generation.

* * * *

HOW RATTLESNAKE GOT ITS FANGS (2)
(Informant: Emma Howard)

When appealed to for help, the Creator placed two sunbeams in the serpent's mouth and they became his fangs. Not knowing this, the rabbit gave him a scornful kick and was immediately bitten. The news of the rabbit's death frightened the people, who ever after have feared and respected the serpent.

* * * *

HOW ROADRUNNER (D'ADAI)
GOT RED ON HIS HEAD

(Informant: George Webb)

A long time ago an old woman had a pet rattlesnake (kaw-oi), and when it died she had no fire with which to cremate her pet. The roadrunner, offering to procure some for her, flew up to the sun, the journey taking four days. On his return trip, a thunderstorm arose and lightning struck him right on the head, but he brought back the fire. That is how the roadrunner got red on his head.

Lewis Manuel's legend of the roadrunner differs from the above: The bird procured the fire from the sun, and was returning on a trail through the mountains when wihom ('the Lightning Man who shoots' and who is very mean) took his gun and shot. Because of "the ups and downs" he could hit the roadrunner on only one side. Lightning Man shot again, but the mountains prevented the bird from being killed, and he was just wounded on the other side. That is how the roadrunner got his red markings.

* * * *

SAHUARO WINE
(Informant: Stephen Jones)

A long, long time ago all the birds got together and made sahuaro fruit wine (ha-ashan navait), of which they drank much. A very small bird like a swallow, but larger than a sparrow, became drunk first and fell to the ground. Everyone walked on him and flattened out his head, so that now he is called komalk maw-okam ('flat head').

The mockingbird (shook) was the next to become drunk. He then began to talk and is still talking.

The whip-poor-will, who has a large mouth, wanted to impress the girls by spitting, and he secretly used a straw for this purpose with great success. The grasshopper (shaw-o) was jealous, and, suspecting something, he determined to expose the secret, so he began to dance, hoping to make the whip- poor-will laugh. As he failed in this, the grasshopper, in desperation, finally pulled off one of his legs, put it on his shoulder, and continued dancing. He looked so funny that the bird laughed, the straw fell out, revealing his big mouth. The girls were disgusted and left him. (A small mouth, like long hair, is a sign of beauty among the Pima.)

Copyright © 1884. The Arizona Board of Regents

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The University of Arizona Press, 4/2/97 2:30PM