Native American language
Native American culture
Tumaxale, A Culture Hero
This version of the legend comes from Pliny Earle Goddard's 1916 collection Beaver Texts.
There were once two brothers who were traveling together. When they
came to a large lake they decided to separate, one going along the shore
in one direction and one in the other.
One of them, Tumaxale, had not gone far before he came to a trail which
had been used by people. He followed this trail between two mountains
until it came out again on the large lake. He passed along where sky and
water were seen on either side, and walked across on an old beaver dam.
He saw a pretty girl sitting nearby, whom he addressed as sister, asking
her why she was there. The girl, as soon as she saw someone approach,
began to cry. " Why do you cry, sister? " the young man asked. " A large
beaver lives here that can only be pacified by giving him a human being.
I have been given to him," she replied. " He said he would come to get me
this evening when the sun is half way down that big mountain." Saying
that he would watch for the beaver, he left the girl on the top of the mountain
where he told her to wait for him. The girl told him that the beaver
came out just at the edge of the water where the beaver dam made a bend.
The young man sat there watching for the beaver and keeping track of the
sun, and said to himself, "My sister said he will come out when the sun
reaches that point."
The water began to move. Although the lake was a large one it was all
set in motion. The beaver himself looking like a mountain came out at the
turn of the dam. When the young man saw the beaver he said to himself
that he was too big; but he also remembered how bad he was, and shot him,
the arrow striking just behind the ear. He then ran away, Oh how he ran.
He came up where the girl was sitting and the rising water came right up
toward them. The water receded, and they followed it back until they came
to the beaver dam. Because the beaver was so large he cut it up in little
pieces and threw them all over the country. "You will be only so large,"
he said. The pieces were as large as a man's little finger and there became
as many beaver as there were pieces which were scattered over the world.
They two started after the people who were living on ahead. " I will sit
here and wait for you, sister," he said. " Go to your relatives." As soon
as they saw her coming they all started to cry, thinking they would not live. "
My brother killed it," she told them. "Where is your brother?" they
asked. " He is sitting right there," she said. " And what is your brother's
name? " they asked her. " His name is Tumaxale (he goes along the shore),"
she told them. They were all glad he had done that, and did not want to
let him go away. Each one of them asked him to be a son-in-law. He
stayed there a short time, but concluded he would not remain in one place.
He told them he was going out. They warned him there were bad people
there. He went up to them and clubbed them all to death, leaving not one
of them alive.
He walked along the road until he came to a large place where he slept.
There was a narrow place between two hills where it was the custom to set
snares. He set a snare there and went to bed. It was very dark and
daylight did not return. He kept climbing up the hill to look for the dawn,
but there was not a sign of it. The darkness had lasted so long his wood
was all gone. Although it was still night he went back where he had set the
snare. He found it was the sun that had been caught, but it was so hot he
could not go near it. "Let all the animals come here quickly," he said to
himself. They all came running there, but could do nothing. The 'very
last, a mouse, came running back all burned. He had gnawed the rope off.
The young man ran back along his own road to the place where the sun had
been caught and took his snare again.
He went on the way he had been going. Winter came on him again.
As he was walking along, he came to a place where someone had drawn a
sleigh along. Tumaxale had slept there and hung up a lynx. Some one
had eaten some of the lynx in his absence. He started to follow him.
He saw he had gone along there that day. He was again carrying a big
lynx. When they saw him coming they prepared a tipi for him. He
asked them to roast the lynx he was carrying. " My grandchild, did you
ever eat this?" someone asked. "I only make use of its fat," he replied.
She gave it to him. " I live on this kind only," he said. He drank only
the soup of it.
Then they lay down for the night. That one was not a proper man.
He looked carefully at the man's feet as he lay there. His moccasins were
hanging up at his feet. He put the other man's moccasins in the place of
his own. Then the man with whom he was staying thought he would take
down his guest's moccasins, but he really took down all his own, put
them in the fire and lay down again. In the morning he got up before the
other man and quickly took down his own moccasins. " Here, grandchild,
those are my moccasins," the guest called to him. He passed them to him
and began to cry. He sat there without any moccasins. Tumaxale only
had two pair of moccasins but they did not wear out. He went entirely
around the edge of the sky without wearing them out. He gave him one of
the two pair of his own moccasins. He was pleased, and gave him one of his
own arrows. He too was pleased. "When you are about to lie down
tonight we will shoot at the end of a stump," he said.
Then he went on the way he had been going. He dropped the lynx
which he had been carrying for food. Suddenly he came to a trail that had
been used by people. There he shot at a stump. The arrows were pointing
up. "Do not get it," he was told. He thought it was quite close and
stepped up toward it. The arrow went further and further up until he
followed it clear to the sky. Then he went on after it until he came where
some people were living. The people to whom he came lived on nothing
but caribou. He thought it was on this world.
After he had remained there a short time he thought he would go to his
own country. Then the old woman made a line of caribou skin for him.
She made a large amount of the line and then she made a hole for hirn through
the ground. She put him in a skin and gave him a knife. " When you
think you are on the earth cut through the skin," she told him. Finally,
he thought he must be on the earth. He tried to swing himself but he did
not move. He cut through the skin to find himself on a big bird's nest.
He said, " Grandmother your line," as he had been told to do; and she drew
the line up.
Then he started to go far away.- He was on a large bird's nest. Three
young birds were sitting in it. He came up to them and began to ask
questions. The two larger ones said they did not like this man who had
been given them. For that reason he knocked them down with a club.
One of them told him what he asked. "You are not going to live," he
warned the man. "When does your father come back?" he asked the bird. "
There is hail and a big wind when he comes back," the young bird said. "
And your mother, when does she get back? " he asked again. " She comes
when there is rain and a big wind," was the reply.
The man made ready for them. There was hail and the father returned. "
I smell an animal here," he said. "Well, what have you been leaving
here?" the young one replied. "I certainly smell something alive," he said
and went around the edge of his nest looking for it. He knocked him down
with a club.
Again, the mother was coming back. Again, " I smell something alive,"
she said. Again, she started around the edge of the nest. Again, he
knocked her down. He took the small one and it went about with him. "
You will be just this small," he told it. He traveled around with it until
it was just large enough to fly. They came to a river and the man put the
bird on the bank. " Do you see a fish swimming about at the bottom of the
river?" he asked the bird. "Yes," he replied. "Well, jump on it," he
told the bird. He jumped on the fish, caught it, and took it out of the water. "
Why don't you eat it?" he asked the bird. " Is it good?" he asked again. "
Yes," was the reply. "As long as the world exists you shall eat them.
You shall live on them," the man said.
Again he started on the way he was going. Suddenly, he came where
there was a road used by people. He traveled along on this road, camping
on it until he came where an old woman was living. When he came to her
she said, "Grandchild, how have you been traveling? Grandchild, these
people are bad. You will not live. My three daughters have all kinds of
bad things living in their bodies with which they kill people." He killed
all the things that lived in them. That is why the old man was very angry.
Then the young man said, "I will make arrows." "Well, let him go for
them," the old man said. "Grandmother, what does he mean?" he asked. "
Grandchild, he means a bad place. It is there he is in the habit of going,"
she replied. "What kind of a place is it?" he asked. "At a place where
saskatoons grow there are large snakes. It is there he goes. That is the
place he means," she said. Then he went there. He made himself stone
leggings and went among the saskatoons with them. The snakes all rushed
at him and caught him by the legs. He clubbed the snakes, took the arrow-
shafts, and went back.
"Get the polishing stone from your father for me," he said. "Let him
get the polishing stones where I usually get them," the old man said. He
wentto his grandmother to ask about it. " Grandchild, it is a difficult place.
There is an elk there who is a person. He walks back and forth on the top
of a cutbank. He has something that chases people and barks after them
like a dog. You can't get up to him without his knowing it," she told him.
He got up to him and was ready for him. "I saw you first," he said. "You go down the bank first." The man refused, but nevertheless was
forced to run down the bank and he kicked at him. " Why didn't you run
straight along the road?" he asked. They ran along again and he kicked
at him but did not hit him. He threw him down and he fell down the bank.
The elk's wife down below killed him. She thought it was a stranger she
was killing but it was her own husband. The woman came up to him from
below, and began running about. He knocked her down and killed her with
his club. He took the polishing stone and went home with it.
The young man put his arrows in the fire, " I will put feathers on them,"
he said to himself. "Go to your father and get feathers for me," he said. "
Let him get feathers where I always get them," the old man replied.
Again he went to his grandmother, "Grandchild, he means a hard place.
Big eagles live there," she told him. That they might not get his scent
he approached them from the windward. He killed all the birds with his
club, took the feathers, and went home with them.
Again he said, "Get sinew for me from your father." "Let him get it
where I always get it," said the old man. Again, he went to his grandmother, "
Grandmother, where does he mean?" he asked. "Grandchild, it is a
difficult place. There is a big buffalo living on a large prairie. One cannot
get to him without his knowledge. Snipes which make a noise when he
does not see a person sit on the ends of his horns. As soon as he came where
the buffalo lay the birds saw him and flew up. He made them go down
again. They flew up again without cause. "Why do you mislead me?"
he asked. "We were deceived by the leaves," they replied. He lay down
again. The man transformed himself into a rodent and made himself a
road to the buffalo. He made roads in many directions. Then he gnawed
the hair off well below the animal's shoulder and stabbed him there. He ran
away along his own road. He killed him, took sinew for himself, and went
home with it.
"Go to your father and get pitch for me," he said. "Let him get pitch
where I always get it," the old man replied. Then he went to his grandmother. "
Grandmother, what does he mean?" "Grandchild, there are
trees which are like animals. These large trees are growing together and it
is only in between them that pitch is to be had. That is what he means."
Then he made mittens of stone for 'himself and put them on. When he
came there he threw in a stick. The trees struck against each other. He
pulled his hand out leaving only his mitten. After that he took the pitch
Now he had killed all the things the old man used to dream about.
This caused him to be very angry.
Then he told his three daughters that they should go for berries and
they went off for them. "My son-in-law, some grizzly bears used to live
over there. Let us go after them," the old man said. They two started
to go there and went on until they came to a large prairie on a point of land. "
This is where they used to be," he said. They went down to the river.
There were three bears standing together on the prairie. " You watch for
them here," the old man said. The young man lay in wait for them while
the old man scared them down there. The three bears ran toward him and
as they came up he put an arrow into each one as it passed. Then he
called for his wife, and told her that the young man had killed all their
Tumaxale then chased him entirely around the world. As he was about
to kill the old man, he jumped into the water. He called for a pelican and
one lighted there and drank up all the water. They looked for him everywhere
on the lake bottom and could not find him. He called for small
diving birds. When they came he instructed them to go to the pelican.
When they lighted by him he said, " You seem to like my belly. I myself
was looking for the skull of the black water beetles." They all stabbed the
pelican right in his mouth and flew away. The mean old man was completely
After that he started on in the direction he had been going. Not far
from there he met an old man whose head was gray. He was a pitiful
looking man. " Who is he? " he said to himself. It was his younger brother.
They were boys when they separated. When they saw each other, the other
one also said to himself, "Who is that?" They began to tell each other
what they had been doing, and then they realized they were brothers.
More stories to read:
Native American hero legends
Legends about beavers
Native American monster tales
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