IKTOMI AND THE TURTLE
AN OLD INDIAN LEGEND
THE huntsman Patkasa (turtle) stood bent over a newly slain deer.
The red-tipped arrow he drew from the wounded deer was unlike the arrows
in his own quiver. Another's stray shot had killed the deer. Patkasa had
hunted all the morning without so much as spying an ordinary blackbird.
At last returning homeward, tired and heavy-hearted that he had no meat
for the hungry mouths in his wigwam, he walked slowly with downcast eyes.
Kind ghosts pitied the unhappy hunter and led him to the newly slain deer,
that his children should not cry for food.
When Patkasa stumbled upon the deer in his path, he exclaimed: "Good
spirits have pushed me hither!"
Thus he leaned long over the gift of the friendly ghosts.
"How, my friend!" said a voice behind his ear, and a hand fell on his
shoulder. It was not a spirit this time. It was old Iktomi.
"How, Iktomi!" answered Patkasa, still stooping over the deer.
"My friend, you are a skilled hunter," began Iktomi, smiling a thin smile
which spread from one ear to the other.
Suddenly raising up his head Patkasa's black eyes twinkled as he asked:
"Oh, you really say so?"
"Yes, my friend, you are a skillful fellow. Now let us have a little
contest. Let us see who can jump over the deer without touching a hair on
his hide," suggested Iktomi.
"Oh, I fear I cannot do it!" cried Patkasa, rubbing his funny, thick palms
"Have no coward's doubt, Patkasa. I say you are a skillful fellow who
finds nothing hard to do." With these words Iktomi led Patkasa a short
distance away. In little puffs Patkasa laughed uneasily.
"Now, you may jump first," said Iktomi.
Patkasa, with doubled fists, swung his fat arms to and fro, all the while
biting hard his under lip.
Just before the run and leap Iktomi put in: "Let the winner have the deer
It was too late now to say no. Patkasa was more afraid of being called a
coward than of losing the deer. "Ho-wo," he replied, still working his
short arms. At length he started off on the run. So quick and small were
his steps that he seemed to be kicking the ground only. Then the leap! But
Patkasa tripped upon a stick and fell hard against the side of the deer.
"He-he-he!" exclaimed Iktomi, pretending disappointment that his friend
Lifting him to his feet, he said: "Now it is my turn to try the high
jump!" Hardly was the last word spoken than Iktomi gave a leap high above
"The game is mine!" laughed he, patting the sullen Patkasa on the back.
"My friend, watch the deer while I go to bring my children," said Iktomi,
darting lightly through the tall grass.
Patkasa was always ready to believe the words of scheming people and to do
the little favors any one asked of him. However, on this occasion, he did
not answer "Yes, my friend." He realized that Iktomi's flattering tongue
had made him foolish.
He turned up his nose at Iktomi, now almost out of sight, as much as to
say: "Oh, no, Ikto; I do not hear your words!"
Soon there came a murmur of voices. The sound of laughter grew louder and
louder. All of a sudden it became hushed. Old Iktomi led his young Iktomi
brood to the place where he had left the turtle, but it was vacant.
Nowhere was there any sign of Patkasa or the deer. Then the babes did
"Be still!" said father Iktomi to his children. "I know where Patkasa
lives. Follow me. I shall take you to the turtle's dwelling." He ran along
a narrow footpath toward the creek near by. Close upon his heels came his
children with tear-streaked faces.
"There!" said Iktomi in a loud whisper as he gathered his little ones on
the bank. "There is Patkasa broiling venison! There is his teepee, and the
savory fire is in his front yard!"
The young Iktomis stretched their necks and rolled their round black eyes
like newly hatched birds. They peered into the water.
"Now, I will cool Patkasa's fire. I shall bring you the broiled venison.
Watch closely. When you see the black coals rise to the surface of the
water, clap your hands and shout aloud, for soon after that sign I shall
return to you with some tender meat."
Thus saying Iktomi plunged into the creek. Splash! splash! the water
leaped upward into spray. Scarcely had it become leveled and smooth than
there bubbled up many black spots. The creek was seething with the dancing
of round black things.
"The cooled fire! The coals!" laughed the brood of Iktomis. Clapping
together their little hands, they chased one another along the edge of the
creek. They shouted and hooted with great glee.
"Ahas!" said a gruff voice across the water. It was Patkasa. In a large
willow tree leaning far over the water he sat upon a large limb. On the
very same branch was a bright burning fire over which Patkasa broiled the
venison. By this time the water was calm again. No more danced those black
spots on its surface, for they were the toes of old Iktomi. He was
The Iktomi children hurried away from the creek, crying and calling for
their water-dead father.