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The Flying Head
This version of the legend was told by the 18th-century Seneca leader Cornplanter.
There were many evil spirits and terrible monsters that hid in the mountain caves when the sun shone, but came out to vex and plague the red men when storms swept the earth or when there was darkness in the forest. Among them was a flying head which, when it rested upon the ground, was higher than the tallest man. It was covered with a thick coating of hair that shielded it from the stroke of arrows. The face was very dark and angry, filled with great wrinkles and horrid furrows. Long black wings came out of its sides, and when it rushed through the air mournful sounds assailed the ears of the frightened men and women. On its under side were two long, sharp claws, with which it tore its food and attacked its victims.
The Flying Head came offenest to frighten the women and children. It came at night to the homes of the widows and orphans, and beat its angry wings upon the walls of their houses and uttered fearful cries in an unknown tongue. Then it went away, and in a few days death followed and took one of the little family with him. The maiden to whom the Flying Head appeared never heard the words of a husband's wooing or the prattle of a papoose, for a pestilence came upon her and she soon sickened and died.
One night a widow sat alone in her cabin. From a little fire burning near the door she frequently drew roasted acorns and ate them for her evening meal. She did not see the Flying Head grinning at her from the doorway, for her eyes were deep in the coals and her thoughts upon the scenes of happiness in which she dwelt before her husband and children had gone away to the long home
The Flying Head stealthily reached forth one of its long claws and snatched some of the coals of fire and thrust them into its mouth-for it thought that these were what the woman was eating. With a howl of pain it flew away, and the red men were never afterwards troubled by its visits.
-- told by the Seneca leader Cornplanter
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