II. The Stone Boy
"Ho, mita koda!" (welcome, friend!) was Smoky Day's greeting, as I
entered his lodge on the third day. "I hope you did not dream of a
watery combat with the Ojibways, after the history I repeated to you
yesterday," the old sage continued, with a complaisant smile playing
upon his face.
"No," I said, meekly, "but, on the other hand, I have wished that the
sun might travel a little faster, so that I could come for another
"Well, this time I will tell you one of the kind we call myths or fairy
stories. They are about men and women who do wonderful things--things
that ordinary people cannot do at all. Sometimes they are not exactly
human beings, for they partake of the nature of men and beasts, or of
men and gods. I tell you this beforehand, so that you may not ask any
questions, or be puzzled by the inconsistency of the actors in these old
"Once there were ten brothers who lived with their only sister, a young
maiden of sixteen summers. She was very skillful at her embroidery, and
her brothers all had beautifully worked quivers and bows embossed with
porcupine quills. They loved and were kind to her, and the maiden in
her turn loved her brothers dearly, and was content with her position as
their housekeeper. They were great hunters, and scarcely ever remained
at home during the day, but when they returned at evening they would
relate to her all their adventures.
"One night they came home one by one with their game, as usual, all but
the eldest, who did not return. It was supposed by the other brothers
that he had pursued a deer too far from the lodge, or perhaps shot more
game than he could well carry; but the sister had a presentiment that
something dreadful had befallen him. She was partially consoled by the
second brother, who offered to find the lost one in the morning.
"Accordingly, he went in search of him, while the rest set out on the
hunt as usual. Toward evening all had returned safely, save the brother
who went in search of the absent. Again, the next older brother went
to look for the others, and he too returned no more. All the young men
disappeared one by one in this manner, leaving their sister alone.
"The maiden's sorrow was very great. She wandered everywhere, weeping
and looking for her brothers, but found no trace of them. One day she
was walking beside a beautiful little stream, whose clear waters went
laughing and singing on their way. She could see the gleaming pebbles at
the bottom, and one in particular seemed so lovely to her tear-bedimmed
eyes, that she stooped and picked it up, dropping it within her skin
garment into her bosom. For the first time since her misfortunes she had
forgotten herself and her sorrow.
"At last she went home, much happier than she had been, though she could
not have told the reason why. On the following day she sought again the
place where she had found the pebble, and this time she fell asleep on
the banks of the stream, When she awoke, there lay a beautiful babe in
"She took it up and kissed it many times. And the child was a boy, but
it was heavy like a stone, so she called him a 'Little Stone Boy.' The
maiden cried no more, for she was very happy with her baby. The child
was unusually knowing, and walked almost from its birth.
"One day Stone Boy discovered the bow and arrows of one of his uncles,
and desired to have them; but his mother cried, and said:
"'Wait, my son, until you are a young man.' She made him some little
ones, and with these he soon learned to hunt, and killed small game
enough to support them both. When he had grown to be a big boy, he
insisted upon knowing whose were the ten bows that still hung upon the
walls of his mother's lodge.
"At last she was obliged to tell him the sad story of her loss.
"'Mother, I shall go in search of my uncles,' exclaimed the Stone Boy.
"'But you will be lost like them,' she replied, 'and then I shall die of
"'No, I shall not be lost. I shall bring your ten brothers back to you.
Look, I will give you a sign. I will take a pillow, and place it upon
end. Watch this, for as long as I am living the pillow will stay as
I put it. Mother, give me some food and some moccasins with which to
"Taking the bow of one of his uncles, with its quiver full of arrows,
the Stone Boy departed. As he journeyed through the forest he spoke to
every animal he met, asking for news of his lost uncles. Sometimes he
called to them at the top of his voice. Once he thought he heard an
answer, so he walked in the direction of the sound. But it was only a
great grizzly bear who had wantonly mimicked the boy's call. Then Stone
Boy was greatly provoked.
"'Was it you who answered my call, you longface?' he exclaimed.
"Upon this the latter growled and said:
"'You had better be careful how you address me, or you may be sorry for
what you say!'
"'Who cares for you, you red-eyes, you ugly thing!' the boy replied;
whereupon the grizzly immediately set upon him.
"But the boy's flesh became as hard as stone, and the bear's great teeth
and claws made no impression upon it. Then he was so dreadfully heavy;
and he kept laughing all the time as if he were being tickled, which
greatly aggravated the bear. Finally Stone Boy pushed him aside and sent
an arrow to his heart.
"He walked on for some distance until he came to a huge fallen pine
tree, which had evidently been killed by lightning. The ground near by
bore marks of a struggle, and Stone Boy picked up several arrows exactly
like those of his uncles, which he himself carried.
"While he was examining these things, he heard a sound like that of a
whirlwind, far up in the heavens. He looked up and saw a black speck
which grew rapidly larger until it became a dense cloud. Out of it came
a flash and then a thunderbolt. The boy was obliged to wink; and when he
opened his eyes, behold! a stately man stood before him and challenged
him to single combat.
"Stone Boy accepted the challenge and they grappled with one another.
The man from the clouds was gigantic in stature and very powerful. But
Stone Boy was both strong and unnaturally heavy and hard to hold. The
great warrior from the sky sweated from his exertions, and there came a
heavy shower. Again and again the lightnings flashed about them as
the two struggled there. At last Stone Boy threw his opponent, who lay
motionless. There was a murmuring sound throughout the heavens and the
clouds rolled swiftly away.
"'Now,' thought the hero, 'this man must have slain all my uncles. I
shall go to his home and find out what has become of them.' With this
he unfastened from the dead man's scalp-lock a beautiful bit of scarlet
down. He breathed gently upon it, and as it floated upward he followed
into the blue heavens.
"Away went Stone Boy to the country of the Thunder Birds. It was a
beautiful land, with lakes, rivers, plains and mountains. The young
adventurer found himself looking down from the top of a high mountain,
and the country appeared to be very populous, for he saw lodges all
about him as far as the eye could reach. He particularly noticed a
majestic tree which towered above all the others, and in its bushy top
bore an enormous nest. Stone Boy descended from the mountain and soon
arrived at the foot of the tree; but there were no limbs except those
at the top and it was so tall that he did not attempt to climb it. He
simply took out his bit of down, breathed upon it and floated gently
"When he was able to look into the nest he saw there innumerable eggs of
various sizes, and all of a remarkable red color. He was nothing but a
boy after all, and had all a boy's curiosity and recklessness. As he
was handling the eggs carelessly, his notice was attracted to a sudden
confusion in the little village below. All of the people seemed to be
running toward the tree. He mischievously threw an egg at them, and
in the instant that it broke he saw one of the men drop dead. Then all
began to cry out pitifully, 'Give me my heart!'
"'Ah,' exclaimed Stone Boy, exulting,' so these are the hearts of the
people who destroyed my uncles! I shall break them all!'
"And he really did break all of the eggs but four small ones which he
took in his hand. Then he descended the tree, and wandered among the
silent and deserted lodges in search of some trace of his lost uncles.
He found four little boys, the sole survivors of their race, and these
he commanded to tell him where their bones were laid.
"They showed him the spot where a heap of bones was bleaching on the
ground. Then he bade one of the boys bring wood, a second water, a third
stones, and the fourth he sent to cut willow wands for the sweat lodge.
They obeyed, and Stone Boy built the lodge, made a fire, heated the
stones and collected within the lodge all the bones of his ten uncles.
"As he poured the water upon the hot stones faint sounds could be heard
from within the magic bath. These changed to the murmuring of voices,
and finally to the singing of medicine songs. Stone Boy opened the door
and his ten uncles came forth in the flesh, thanking him and blessing
him for restoring them to life. Only the little finger of the youngest
uncle was missing. Stone Boy now heartlessly broke the four remaining
eggs, and took the little finger of the largest boy to supply the
"They all returned to earth again and Stone Boy conducted his uncles to
his mother's lodge. She had never slept during his entire absence, but
watched incessantly the pillow upon which her boy was wont to rest his
head, and by which she was to know of his safety. Going a little in
advance of the others, he suddenly rushed forward into her teepee,
exclaiming: 'Mother, your ten brothers are coming--prepare a feast!'
"For some time after this they all lived happily together. Stone Boy
occupied himself with solitary hunting. He was particularly fond of
hunting the fiercer wild animals. He killed them wantonly and brought
home only the ears, teeth and claws as his spoil, and with these he
played as he laughingly recounted his exploits. His mother and uncles
protested, and begged him at least to spare the lives of those animals
held sacred by the Dakotas, but Stone Boy relied upon his supernatural
powers to protect him from harm.
"One evening, however, he was noticeably silent and upon being pressed
to give the reason, replied as follows:
"'For some days past I have heard the animals talking of a conspiracy
against us. I was going west the other morning when I heard a crier
announcing a general war upon Stone Boy and his people. The crier was
a Buffalo, going at full speed from west to east. Again, I heard the
Beaver conversing with the Musk-rat, and both said that their services
were already promised to overflow the lakes and rivers and cause a
destructive flood. I heard, also, the little Swallow holding a secret
council with all the birds of the air. He said that he had been
appointed a messenger to the Thunder Birds, and that at a certain signal
the doors of the sky would be opened and rains descend to drown Stone
Boy. Old Badger and the Grizzly Bear are appointed to burrow underneath
"'However, I am not at all afraid for myself, but I am anxious for you,
Mother, and for my uncles.'
"'Ugh!' grunted all the uncles, 'we told you that you would get into
trouble by killing so many of our sacred animals for your own amusement.
"'But,' continued Stone Boy, 'I shall make a good resistance, and I
expect you all to help me.'
"Accordingly they all worked under his direction in preparing for the
defence. First of all, he threw a pebble into the air, and behold a
great rocky wall around their teepee. A second, third, fourth and fifth
pebble became other walls without the first. From the sixth and seventh
were formed two stone lodges, one upon the other. The uncles meantime,
made numbers of bows and quivers full of arrows, which were ranged at
convenient distances along the tops of the walls. His mother prepared
great quantities of food and made many moccasins for her boy, who
declared that he would defend the fortress alone.
"At last they saw the army of beasts advancing, each tribe by itself
and commanded by a leader of extraordinary size. The onset was terrific.
They flung themselves against the high walls with savage cries, while
the badgers and other burrowing animals ceaselessly worked to undermine
them. Stone Boy aimed his sharp arrows with such deadly effect that his
enemies fell by thousands. So great was their loss that the dead bodies
of the animals formed a barrier higher than the first, and the armies
retired in confusion.
"But reinforcements were at hand. The rain fell in torrents; the beavers
had dammed all the rivers and there was a great flood. The besieged all
retreated into the innermost lodge, but the water poured in through
the burrows made by the badgers and gophers, and rose until Stone Boy's
mother and his ten uncles were all drowned. Stone Boy himself could not
be entirely destroyed, but he was overcome by his enemies and left half
buried in the earth, condemned never to walk again, and there we find
him to this day.
"This was because he abused his strength, and destroyed for mere
amusement the lives of the creatures given him for use only."
as told by Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman) in INDIAN BOYHOOD