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Thunder Son [archive]

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Thunder Son


Long, long ago there was a woman who lived alone at the edge of her village. This young woman washed and combed her long, brown hair with oils from animals, and her body was plump with their meat. She carried heavy chopped wood to her home alone, nuturing her strength every day. Her skin was smooth as corn silk, for she washed in the cold river water only once in a great while. Her clothes were washed in the river and left to dry while lying on the bushes in the hot sun.

She was beautiful. She knew she was beautiful. She was too beautiful to have just any man. She stayed by herself with her own admiration. She worked alone in the cornfields and returned, noticing her reflection in the water baskets that she carried. She lived alone in her beauty. Then one day she met a man.

This man was like no one she had ever known. His strength shone in his deep, piercing, brown-black eyes. This man had followed her from the river back to her home. His long, black hair blew behind him as he walked beside her. He took the water baskets from her hands. His sleek, muscular body rippled as he walked beside her. His power echoed with his long stride.

The feathers tied in his hair lifted with each step. His voice echoed through the air as he spoke. "Maiden, let me help you with your water-carrying. Let me invite you to my home to meet my family."

She followed him. She would not look into his eyes, yet she smiled. He walked beside her to his mother's wegiwa. He introduced her to his two sisters, and they asked her to remain. She stayed with these people, for they appreciated her and needed her company. She accepted this strong man as her man and became one of them.

Her man would go out hunting all day while the women worked in the fields. He brought home plenty of meat, for he was an excellent hunter. The women were magical in their growing of corn, so there was always much corn bread, corn stew, and cornmeal. Life was good in this way.

One day, the man came back later than usual - his hands bloody with cuts, his hair tangled in snarls, his moccasins torn. He told his story: "The hunt this day was difficult - the deer was quick. I shot and only wounded it. I prayed and followed it, but the deer ran to the sacred stream and ate plants that heal. Then it rolled in the sacred mud and the wound disappeared. I knew that I was not to kill this one. I returned to the hunting field and prayed to find another deer."

"The deer that came across the field was an older stag. It stared at me, and I knew that this stag would be the one killed. It was a fine deer with horns of great honor and a sleekness of spirit. Then the stag lept over the hedge and was gone. I was fast, and agile, and soon found the tracks leading over the edge of a high cliff. But I did not notice the cliff, only the tracks."

"My body was badly bruised, hands cut, legs ripped as I freed myself from the hedge of thorns that saved me. I limped home without meat."

He was tired. He lay down on his bedroll with his head on his beautiful woman's lap. She stroked his hair, feeling the weariness of his spirit. She noticed that his body was transforming. His breathing slowed as he turned into a gigantic snake. The beautiful woman felt the hair she was stroking shrink to scales that covered his head. She carefully inched her way out from under his massive, fanged head to escape outside.

His mother saw this woman's fearful expression. "We are Serpent-People. We are good and wish you well. My son truly loves you; yet if you feel that you can no longer stay here, then you should run away. But go quickly, for if my son wakes and knows that you have run from him, he will try to find you and bring you back. Run, run, and go quickly. Do not look back."

The beautiful woman ran. Her legs moved quickly at first; then as she thought about her good man, his kindness, his abilities, she slowed. Her mind argued with her heart. She sat down to rest. She was tired and decided to close her eyes and pray. She had a dream. She dreamt her pride was what brought her into this problem and that her wisdom would get her home. She awoke in a thunderstorm.

Thunder Spirit called to her, and the deep, rolling voice was deafening. She jumped up with her hands over her ears. The great voice echoed across the land: "RUN, RUN, RUN!!! THE SNAKE-MAN IS BEHIND YOU!!! HE SHALL CATCH YOU!!!" The beautiful woman ran with the fear of her soul pounding in her head. She heard the terrible rustling of the serpent-man.

She let her legs move her across the mountains, and soon she came to a lake near her home. There, standing around the lake, were three handsome men. The tallest put out his hand, telling her to stop. He lifted his long, shining spear at the serpent, threw it, and pierced the snake. All at once a roaring black cloud surrounded the three men. The tallest spear thrower was a Thunderman.

The Thundermen took the woman to their father's home on an island. She married the third son, who was kind, quiet, and thoughtful. She gave birth to a son. The boy grew strong and used his thunder well. The woman asked Thunder Father if she could go home for a visit and take her son with her to meet her people. Thunder told her that she could take her son as long as he never used arrows. His son's arrows would turn to lightning and destroy people. The woman agreed.

At first their life went well. Thunderboy was quiet and stayed close to his mother. The other children stayed away from him for they did not know him. Then they began to jeer at him and laugh at him, saying that he did not know how to use an arrow or a bow. This made Thunderboy very angry. He took a bow and an arrow and shot wide. It hit some trees and started a terrible fire. His grandfather swooped down and carried the boy to the sky where he is unable to hurt men.

The woman stayed with her people. She lives alone and works with other women. Her beauty is no longer of interest to her, and she warns others to look into the heart for beauty, for the day the serpent was pierced her heart was pierced also.

Additional Reading

  Indian legends and stories
  Shawnee people
  Woodland Indians
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