Zuni Folktales by Frank Hamilton Cushing
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THE COCK AND THE MOUSE
NOTE.—While on their pilgrimage to the "Ocean of Sunrise" in the summer of 1886, three Zuñis—Pálowahtiwa, Waíhusiwa, and Héluta-with Mr. Cushing, were entertaining their assembled friends at Manchester-by-the-Sea with folk tales, those related by the Indians being interpreted by Mr. Cushing as they were uttered. When Mr. Cushing's turn came for a story he responded by relating the Italian tale of "The Cock and the Mouse" which appears in Thomas Frederick Crane's Italian Popular Tales. About a year later, at Zuñi, but under somewhat similar circumstances, Waíhusiwa's time came to entertain the gathering, and great was Mr. Cushing's surprise when he presented a Zuñi version of the Italian tale. Mr. Cushing translated the story as literally as possible, and it is here reproduced, together with Mr. Crane's translation from the Italian, in order that the reader may not only see what transformation the original underwent in such a brief period, and how well it has been adapted to Zuñi environment and mode of thought, but also to give a glimpse of the Indian method of folktale making.—Editor.
Once upon a time there were a cock and a mouse. One day the mouse said to the cock: "Friend Cock, shall we go and eat some nuts on yonder tree?" "As you like." So they both went under the tree and the mouse climbed up at once and began to eat. The poor cock began to fly, and flew and flew, but could not come where the mouse was. When it saw that there was no hope of getting there, it said: "Friend Mouse, do you know what I want you to do? Throw me a nut." The mouse went and threw one and hit the cock on the head. The poor cock, with its head all broken and covered with blood, went away to an old woman. "Old aunt, give me some rags to cure
my head." "If you will give me two hairs I will give you the rags." The cock went away to a dog. "Dog, give me two hairs; the hairs I will give the old woman; the old woman will give me rags to cure my head." "If you will give me a little bread," said the dog, "I will give you the hairs." The cock went away to a baker. "Baker, give me bread; I will give bread to the dog; the dog will give hairs; the hairs I will carry to the old woman; the old woman will give me rags to cure my head." The baker answered: "I will not give you bread unless you give me some wood." The cock went away to the forest. "Forest, give me some wood; the wood I will carry to the baker; the baker will give me some bread; the bread I will give to the dog; the dog will give me hairs; the hairs I will carry to the old woman; the old woman will give me rags to cure my head." The forest answered: "If you will bring me a little water, I will give you some wood." The cock went away to a fountain. "Fountain, give me water; water I will carry to the forest; forest will give wood; wood I will carry to the baker; baker will give bread; bread I will give dog; dog will give hairs; hairs I will give old woman; old woman will give rags to cure my head." The fountain gave him water; the water he carried to the forest; the forest gave him wood; the wood he carried to the baker; the baker gave him bread; the bread he gave to the dog; the dog gave him the hairs; the hairs he carried to the old woman; the old woman gave him the rags; and the cock cured his head.
Thus it was in the Town of the Floods Abounding, long ago. There lived there an old woman, so they say, of the Italia-kwe, who, in the land of their nativity, are the parental brothers of the Mexicans, it is said. Now, after the manner of that people, this old woman had a Tâkâkâ Cock which she kept alone so that he would not fight the others. He was very large, like a turkey, with a fine sleek head and a bristle-brush on his breast like a turkey-cock's too, for the Tâkâkâ-kind were at first the younger brothers of the Turkeys, so it would seem.
Well, the old woman kept her Cock in a little corral of tall close-set stakes, sharp at the top and wattled together with rawhide thongs, like an eagle-cage against a wall, only it had a little wicket also fastened with thongs. Now, try as he would, the old Tâkâkâ Cock could not fly out, for he had no chance to run and make a start as turkeys do in the wilds, yet he was ever trying and trying, because he was meat-hungry—always anxious for worms;—for, although the people of that village had abundant food, this old woman was poor and lived mainly on grain-foods, wherefore, perforce, she fed the old Tâkâkâ Cock with the refuse of her own eatings. In the morning the old woman would come and throw this refuse food into the corral cage.
Under the wall nearby there lived a Mouse. He had no old grandmother to feed him, and he was particularly fond of grain food. When, having eaten
his fill, the old Cock would settle down, stiff of neck and not looking this side nor that, but sitting in the sun kâ-tâ-kâ-tok-ing to himself, the little Mouse would dodge out, steal a bit of tortilla or a crumb, and whisk into his hole again. Being sleepy, the Tâkâkâ Cock never saw him, and so, day after day the Mouse fared sumptuously and grew over-bold. But one day, when corn was ripe and the Cock had been well fed and was settling down to his sitting nap, the Mouse came out and stole a particularly large piece of bread, so that in trying to push it into his hole he made some noise and, moreover, had to stop and tunnel his doorway larger.
The Cock turned his head and looked just as the Mouse was working his way slowly in, and espied the long, naked tall lying there on the ground and wriggling as the Mouse moved to and fro at his digging.
"Hah! By the Grandmother of Substance, it is a worm!" cackled the Cock, and he made one peck at the Mouse's tail and bit it so hard that he cut it entirely off and swallowed it at one gulp.
The Mouse, squeaking "Murder!" scurried down into his sleeping-place, and fell to licking his tail until his chops were all pink and his mouth was drawn down like a crying woman's; for he loved his long tail as a young dancer loves the glory of his long hair, and he cried continually: "Weh tsu tsu, weh tsu tse, yam hok ti-i-i" and thought: "Oh, that shameless great beast! By the Demon of Slave-creatures, I'll have my payment of him! For he is. worse than an owl
or a night-hawk. They eat us all up, but he has taken away the very mark of my mousehood and left me to mourn it. I'll take vengeance on him, will I!"
So, from that time the Mouse thought how he might compass it, and this plan seemed best: He would creep out some day, all maimed of tail as he was, and implore pity, and thus, perchance, make friends for a while with the Tâkâkâ Cock. So he took seed-down, and made a plaster of it with nut-resin, and applied it to the stump of his tail. Then, on a morning, holding his tail up as a dog does his foot when maimed by a cactus, he crawled to the edge of his hole and cried in a weak voice to the Tâkâkâ:
"Ani, yoa yoa! Itâ-ak'ya Mosa,
Ethl hâ asha ni ha. Ha na, yoa, ha na!"
Look you, pity, pity! Master of Food Substance,
Of my maiming,
Of my hunger,
I am all but dying. Ah me, pity, ah me!
Whereupon he held up his tail, which was a safe thing to do, you see, for it no longer looked like a worm or any other eatable.
Now, the Tâkâkâ was flattered to be called a master of plenty, so he said, quite haughtily (for he had eaten and could not bend his neck, and felt proud, withal), "Come in, you poor little thing, and eat all you want. As if I cared for what the
like of you could eat!" So the Mouse went in and ate very little, as became a polite stranger, and thanking the Cock, bade him good-day and went back to his hole.
By-and-by he came again, and this time he brought part of a nutshell containing fine white meat. When he had shouted warning of his coming and entered the corral cage, he said: "Comrade father, let us eat together. Of this food I have plenty, gathered from yonder high nut-tree which I climb every autumn when the corn is ripe and cut the nuts therefrom. But of all food yours I most relish, since I cannot store such in my cellar. Now, it may be you will equally relish mine; so let us eat, then, together."
"It is well, comrade child," replied the Cock; so they began to eat.
But the Cock had no sooner tasted the nut than he fairly chuckled for joy, and having speedily made an end of the kernel, fell to lamenting his hard lot. "Alas, ah me!" he said. "My grandmother brings me, on rare days, something like to this, but picked all too clean. There is nought eatable so nice. Comrade little one, do you have plenty of this kind, did you say?"
"Oh, yes," replied the Mouse; "but, you see, the season is near to an end now, and when I want more nuts I must go and gather them from the tree. Look, now! Why do you not go there also? That is the tree, close by."
"Ah me, I cannot escape, woe to me! Look at my wings," said the Cock, "they are worn to
bristles—and as to the beard on my breast, my chief ornament, alas! it is all crumpled and uneven, so much have I tried to fly out and so hard have I pushed against the bars. As for the door, my grandmother claps that shut and fastens it tightly with thongs, be you sure, as soon as ever she finishes the feeding of me!"
"Ha! ha!" exclaimed the Mouse. "If that's all, there's nothing easier than to open that. Look at my teeth; I even crack the hard nuts with these scrapers of mine! Wait!" He ran nimbly up the wicket and soon gnawed through the holding-string. "There! comrade father; push open the door, you are bigger than I, and we will go nutting."
"Thanks this day," cried the Cock, and shoving the wicket open, he ran forth cackling and crowing for gladness.
Then the Mouse led the way to the tree. Up the trunk he ran, and climbed and climbed until he came to the topmost boughs. "Ha! the nuts are fine and ripe up here," he shouted.
But the Tâkâkâ fluttered and flew all in vain; his wings were so worn he could not win even to the lowermost branches. "Oh! have pity on me, comrade child! Cut off some of the nuts and throw them down to me, do! My wings are so worn I cannot fly any better than the grandmother's old dog, who is my neighbor over there."
"Be patient, be patient, father!" exclaimed the Mouse. "I am cracking a big one for you as fast as I can. There, catch it!" and he threw a fat
nut close to the Cock, who gleefully devoured the kernel and, without so much as thanks, called for more.
"Wait, father," said the Mouse. There! Stand right under me, so. Now, catch it; this is a big one!" Saying which the Mouse crawled out until he was straight over the Cock. "Now, then," said he, "watch in front!" and he let fall the nut. It hit the Cock on the head so hard that it bruised the skin off and stunned the old Tâkâkâ so that he fell over and died for a short time, utterly forgetting.
"Té mi thlo kô thlo kwa!" shouted the Mouse, as he hurried down the tree. "A little waiting, and lo! What my foe would do to me, I to him do, indeed!" Whereupon he ran across, before ever the Cock had opened an eye, and gnawed his bristles off so short that they never could grow again. "There, now!" said the Mouse. "Lo! thus healed is my heart, and my enemy is even as he made me, bereft of distinction Then he ran back to his cellar, satisfied.
Finally the Cock opened his eyes. "Ah me, my head!" he exclaimed. Then, moaning, he staggered to his feet, and in doing so he espied the nut. It was smooth and round, like a brown egg. When the Cock saw it he fell to lamenting more loudly than ever: "Oh, my head! Tâ-kâ-kâ-kâ-â-â!" But the top of his head kept bleeding and swelling until it was all covered over with welts of gore, and it grew so heavy, withal, that the Tâkâkâ thought he would surely die. So off
to his grandmother he went, lamenting all the way. Hearing him, the grandmother opened the door, and cried: "What now?"
"Oh, my grandmother, ah me! I am murdered!" he answered. "A great, round, hard seed was dropped on my head by a little creature with a short, one-feathered tail, who came and told me that it was good to eat and—oh! my head is all bleeding and swollen! By the light of your favor, bind my wound for me lest, alas, I die
"Served you right! Why did you leave your place, knowing better?" cried the old woman. "I will not bind your head unless you give me your very bristles of manhood, that you may remember your lesson!"
"Oh! take them, grandmother!" cried the Cock; but when he looked down, alas! the beard of his breast, the glory of his kind, was all gone. "Ah me! ah me! What shall I do?" he again cried. But the old woman told him that unless he brought her at least four bristles she would not cure him, and forthwith she shut the door.
So the poor Cock slowly staggered back toward his corral, hoping to find some of the hairs that had been gnawed off. As he passed the little lodge of his neighbor, the Dog, he caught sight of old Wahtsita's fine muzzle-beard. "Ha!" thought he. Then he told the Dog his tale, and begged of him four hairs—"only four!"
"You great, pampered noise-maker, give me some bread, then, fine bread, and I will give you
the hairs." Whereupon the Cock thought, and went to the house of a Trader of Foodstuffs; and he told him also the tale.
"Well, then, bring me some wood with which I may heat the oven to bake the bread," said the Trader of Foodstuffs.
The Cock went to some Woods near by. "Oh, ye Beloved of the Trees, drop me dry branches!" And with this he told the Trees his tale; but the Trees shook their leaves and said: "No rain has fallen, and all our branches will soon be dry. Beseech the Waters that they give us drink, then we will gladly give you wood."
Then the Cock went to a Spring near by,—and when he saw in it how his head was swollen and he found that it was growing harder, he again began to lament.
"What matters?" murmured the Beloved of the Waters.
Then he told them the tale also.
"Listen!" said the Beings of Water. "Long have men neglected their duties, and the Beloved of the Clouds need payment of due no less than ourselves, the Trees, the Food-maker, the Dog, and the Old Woman. Behold! no plumes are set about our border! Now, therefore, pay to them of thy feathers—four floating plumes from under thy wings—and set them close over us, that, seen in our depths from the sky, they will lure the Beloved of the Clouds with their rain-laden breaths. Thus will our stream-way be replenished and the Trees watered, and their Winds in the Trees will drop
thee dead branches wherewith thou mayest make payment and all will be well."
Forthwith the Tâkâkâ plucked four of his best plumes and set them, one on the northern, one on the western, one on the southern, and one on the eastern border of the Pool. Then the Winds of the Four Quarters began to breathe upon the four plumes, and with those Breaths of the Beloved came Clouds, and from the Clouds fell Rain, and the Trees threw down dry branches, and the Wind placed among them Red-top Grass, which is light and therefore lightens the load it is among. And when the Cock returned and gathered a little bundle of fagots, lo! the Red-top made it so light that he easily carried it to the Food-maker, who gave him bread, for which the Dog gave him four bristles, and these he took to the old Grandmother.
"Ha!" exclaimed she. "Now, child, I will cure thee, but thou hast been so long that thy head will always be welted and covered with proud-flesh, even though healed. Still, it must ever be so. Doing right keeps right; doing wrong makes wrong, which, to make right, one must even pay as the sick pay those who cure them. Go now, and bide whither I bid thee."
When, after a time, the Cock became well, lo! there were great, flabby, blood-red welts on his head and blue marks on his temples where they were bruised so sore. Now, listen:
It is for this reason that ever since that time the medicine masters of that people never give cure
without pay; never, for there is no virtue in medicine of no value. Ever since then cocks have had no bristles on their breasts-only little humps where they ought to be;-and they always have blood-red crests of meat on their heads. And even when a hen lays an egg and a tâkâkâ cock sees it, he begins to tâ-kâ-kâ-â as the ancient of them all did when he saw the brown nut. And sometimes they even pick at and eat these seeds of their own children, especially when they are cracked.
As for mice, we know how they went into the meal-bags in olden times and came out something else, and, getting smoked, became tsothliko-ahâi, with long, bare tails. But that was before the Cock cut the tail of the tsothliko Mouse off. Ever since he cried in agony: "Weh tsu yii weh tsu!" like a child with a burnt finger, his children have been called Wehtsutsukwe, and wander wild in the fields; hence field-mice to this day have short tails, brown-stained and hairy; and their chops are all pink, and when you look them in the face they seem always to be crying.
Thus shortens my story.
Next: The Giant Cloud-Swallower