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Why The Opossum Plays Dead

This version of the legend comes from Katherine Judson's 1914 collection Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes.

The Ancient of Opossums thought that he would reach a certain pond very early in the morning, so that he might catch the crawfish on the shore. But someone else reached there first, and when Opossum reached there the crawfish were all gone.

The person did this every day. Oposssum did not know who it was, so he lay in wait for him. He found it was the Ancient of Raccoons.

They argued about the crawfish and the pond. They agreed to see which could rise the earlier in the morning, go around the shore of the pond, and catch the crawfish.

Raccoon said "I rise very early. I never sleep until daylight comes."

Opossum said the same thing. Then each went home.

Now Opossum lay down in a hollow log and slept a long time. He arose when the sun was very high and went to the pond. But Raccoon had been there ahead of him and had eaten all the crawfish. Raccoon sand the Song of the Raccoon as he was going home. Opossum stood listening. He, too, sang. He sang the Song of the Opossum, this:

Hí na kí-yu wes-sé-di

He met the Raccoon who had eaten all the crawfish.

"Ha!" said Raccoon. "I have been eating very long, and I was going home, as I am sleepy."

Opossum said "I, too, have been eating so long that I am sleepy, so I am going home."

Opossum was always telling a lie. People say this of the Opossum because if one hits that animal and throws it down for dead, soon it gets up and walks off.

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 Native American animal mythology
 Legends about opossums
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