The Boy Who Became A God
by Katharine Berry Judson
Myths and Legends of California and the Old
Navajo (New Mexico)
The Tolchini, a clan of the Navajos, lived at Wind Mountains. One of them
used to take long visits into the country. His brothers thought he was
crazy. The first time on his return, he brought with him a pine bough; the
second time, corn. Each time he returned he brought something new and had
a strange story to tell. His brothers said: "He is crazy. He does not know
what he is talking about."
Now the Tolchini left Wind Mountains and went to a rocky foothill east of
the San Mateo Mountain. They had nothing to eat but seed grass. The eldest
brother said, "Let us go hunting," but they told the youngest brother not
to leave camp. But five days and five nights passed, and there was no
word. So he followed them.
After a day's travel he camped near a canon, in a cavelike place. There
was much snow but no water so he made a fire and heated a rock, and made a
hole in the ground. The hot rock heated the snow and gave him water to
drink. Just then he heard a tumult over his head, like people passing. He
went out to see what made the noise and saw many crows crossing back and
forth over the canon. This was the home of the crow, but there were other
feathered people there, and the chaparral cock. He saw many fires made by
the crows on each side of the caeon. Two crows flew down near him and the
youth listened to hear what was the matter.
The two crows cried out, "Somebody says. Somebody says."
The youth did not know what to make of this.
A crow on the opposite side called out, "What is the matter? Tell us! Tell
us! What is wrong?"
The first two cried out, "Two of us got killed. We met two of our men who
Then they told the crows how two men who were out hunting killed twelve
deer, and a party of the Crow People went to the deer after they were
shot. They said, "Two of us who went after the blood of the deer were
The crows on the other side of the caeon called, "Which men got killed?"
"The chaparral cock, who sat on the horn of the deer, and the crow who sat
on its backbone."
The others called out, "We are not surprised they were killed. That is
what we tell you all the time. If you go after dead deer you must expect
to be killed."
"We will not think of them longer," so the two crows replied. "They are
dead and gone. We are talking of things of long ago."
But the youth sat quietly below and listened to everything that was said.
After a while the crows on the other side of the canon made a great noise
and began to dance. They had many songs at that time. The youth listened
all the time. After the dance a great fire was made and he could see black
objects moving, but he could not distinguish any people. He recognized the
voice of Hasjelti. He remembered everything in his heart. He even
remembered the words of the songs that continued all night. He remembered
every word of every song. He said to himself, "I will listen until
The Crow People did not remain on the side of the canon where the fires
were first built. They crossed and recrossed the canon in their dance.
They danced back and forth until daylight. Then all the crows and the
other birds flew away to the west. All that was left was the fires and the
Then the youth started for his brothers' camp. They saw him coming. They
said, "He will have lots of stories to tell. He will say he saw something
no one ever saw."
But the brother-in-law who was with them said, "Let him alone. When he
comes into camp he will tell us all. I believe these things do happen for
he could not make up these things all the time."
Now the camp was surrounded by pinon brush and a large fire was burning in
the centre. There was much meat roasting over the fire. When the youth
reached the camp, he raked over the coals and said. "I feel cold."
Brother-in-law replied, "It is cold. When people camp together, they tell
stories to one another in the morning. We have told ours, now you tell
The youth said, "Where I stopped last night was the worst camp I ever
had." The brothers paid no attention but the brother-in-law listened.
The youth said, "I never heard such a noise." Then he told his story.
Brother-in-law asked what kind of people made the noise.
The youth said, "I do not know. They were strange people to me, but they
danced all night back and forth across the canon and I heard them say my
brothers killed twelve deer and afterwards killed two of their people who
went for the blood of the deer. I heard them say, 'That is what must be
expected. If you go to such places, you must expect to be killed.'"
The elder brother began thinking. He said, "How many deer did you say were
Elder brother said, "I never believed you before, but this story I do
believe. How do you find out all these things? What is the matter with you
that you know them?"
The boy said, "I do not know. They come into my mind and to my eyes."
Then they started homeward, carrying the meat. The youth helped them.
As they were descending a mesa, they sat down on the edge to rest. Far
down the mesa were four mountain sheep. The brothers told the youth to
The youth hid in the sage brush and when the sheep came directly toward
him, he aimed his arrow at them. But his arm stiffened and became dead.
The sheep passed by.
He headed them off again by hiding in the stalks of a large yucca. The
sheep passed within five steps of him, but again his arm stiffened as he
drew the bow.
He followed the sheep and got ahead of them and hid behind a birch tree in
bloom. He had his bow ready, but as they neared him they became gods. The
first was Hasjelti, the second was Hostjoghon, the third Naaskiddi, and
the fourth Hadatchishi. Then the youth fell senseless to the ground.
The four gods stood one on each side of him, each with a rattle. They
traced with their rattles in the sand the figure of a man, drawing lines
at his head and feet. Then the youth recovered and the gods again became
sheep. They said, "Why did you try to shoot us? You see you are one of
us." For the youth had become a sheep.
The gods said, "There is to be a dance, far off to the north beyond the
Ute Mountain. We want you to go with us. We will dress you like ourselves
and teach you to dance. Then we will wander over the world."
Now the brothers watched from the top of the mesa but they could not see
what the trouble was. They saw the youth lying on the ground, but when
they reached the place, all the sheep were gone. They began crying,
saying, "For a long time we would not believe him, and now he has gone off
with the sheep."
They tried to head off the sheep, but failed. They said, "If we had
believed him, he would not have gone off with the sheep. But perhaps some
day we will see him again."
At the dance, the five sheep found seven others. This made their number
twelve. They journeyed all around the world. All people let them see their
dances and learn their songs. Then the eleven talked together and said,
"There is no use keeping this youth with us longer. He has learned
everything. He may as well go back to his people and teach them to do as
So the youth was taught to have twelve in the dance, six gods and six
goddesses, with Hasjelti to lead them. He was told to have his people make
masks to represent the gods.
So the youth returned to his brothers, carrying with him all songs, all
medicines, and clothing.