The Song Hunter

by Katharine Berry Judson

Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest


Navajo (New Mexico)

A man sat thinking. "Let me see. My songs are too short. I want more songs. Where shall I go to find them?"

Hasjelti appeared and perceiving his thoughts, said, "I know where you can get more songs."

"Well, I want to get more. So I will follow you."

They went to a certain point in a box canon in the Big Colorado River and here they found four gods, the Hostjobokon, at work, hewing cottonwood logs.

Hasjelti said, "This will not do. Cottonwood becomes water-soaked. You must use pine instead of cottonwood."

The Hostjobokon began boring the pine with flint, but Hasjelti said, "That is slow work." He commanded a whirlwind to hollow the log. A cross, joining at the exact middle of each log, a solid one and the hollow one, was formed. The arms of the cross were equal.

The song-hunter entered the hollow log and Hasjelti closed the end with a cloud so that water would not enter when the logs were launched upon the great waters. The logs floated off. The Hostjobokon, accompanied by their wives, rode upon the logs, one couple sitting upon each arm. Hasjelti, Hostjoghon, and the two Naaskiddi walked upon the banks to keep the logs off shore. Hasjelti carried a squirrel skin filled with tobacco, with which to supply the gods on their journey. Hostjoghon carried a staff ornamented with eagle and turkey plumes and a gaming ring with two humming birds tied to it with white cotton cord. The two Naaskiddi carried staffs of lightning. The Naaskiddi had clouds upon their backs in which the seeds of all corn and grasses were carried.

After floating a long distance down the river, they came to waters that had a shore on one side only. Here they landed. Here they found a people like themselves. When these people learned of the Song-hunter, they gave him many songs and they painted pictures on a cotton blanket and said,

"These pictures must go with the songs. If we give this blanket to you, you will lose it. We will give you white earth and black coals which you will grind together to make black paint, and we will give you white sand, yellow sand, and red sand. For the blue paint you will take white sand and black coals with a very little red and yellow sand. These will give you blue."

And so the Navajo people make blue, even to this day.

The Song-hunter remained with these people until the corn was ripe. There he learned to eat corn and he carried some back with him to the Navajos, who had not seen corn before, and he taught them how to raise it and how to eat it.

When he wished to return home, the logs would not float upstream. Four sunbeams attached themselves to the logs, one to each cross arm, and so drew the Song-hunter back to the box canon from which he had started. When he reached that point, he separated the logs. He placed the end of the solid log into the hollow end of the other and planted this great pole in the river. It may be seen there to-day by the venturesome. In early days many went there to pray and make offerings.