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American Indian "Poor Boy" Heroes of Myth and Legend

List of Native American Poor Boy Heroes

One popular type of folk hero in Plateau and Plains Indian traditions is the Poor Boy, a neglected or mistreated child who grows up to become a great chief. Sometimes his origin story is mysterious (such as springing to life from a clot of blood or descending from the heavens,) and other times it is simple (such as an orphan being raised by a poor old woman.) The other villagers behave shamefully towards the Poor Boy and his adopted mother/grandmother, frequently ridiculing them, refusing to share food with them, or even physically abusing them. Eventually the tribe begins to suffer from natural disasters or monster depredations, and it is the Poor Boy who saves them, winning the respect of all, the leadership of the tribe, and/or the hand of the young lady he is enamored of.

The name of the Poor Boy hero frequently changes over the course of the story-- in the beginning of the story he often has an insulting nickname, and at the end of the story he has assumed a chiefly name. He is usually best known by his original name, though.

Blood-Clot Boy (Blackfoot)
Burnt Belly (Pawnee)
Dirty Boy (Interior Salish)
Found-In-Grass (Arapaho)
Rabbit Boy (Sioux)
Wets-The-Bed (Wichita)

Native American Hero Stories

*Blood Clot Boy * Kut-o'-yis:
    Blackfoot saga of the hero Kutoyis (Blood Clot Boy).
*Rabbit Boy:
    Lakota Sioux legend about a powerful young hero raised by rabbits.
*Dirty Boy:
    Okanagan legend about a poor boy who marries the chief's daughter.

Recommended Books about Heroes in Plains Indian Mythology

Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians:
    Collection of traditional Blackfoot legends and folktales.
Indian Legends from the Northern Rockies:
    Anthology of folklore from the Blackfoot and other Northern Plains tribes.
Spirits, Heroes & Hunters from North American Indian Mythology:
    Illustrated collection of Native American hero myths from many different tribes.

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