Laptissa’n and the Seven-Headed Monster

A Nez Perce myth from Folk Tales of Salish & Sahaptin Tribes- ed. Franz Boas- 1917

In the early days there was a chief who owned all kinds of property. He found the seven-headed monster running with his horses and his cattle. This kept up for several years, and the monster grew bigger and bigger. The chief thought it gave him a big name to have such an animal running in his stock, so he didn’t molest it.

Finally the monster began to kill off the stock. Then the chief wanted to kill the monster, but he did not know how to do it. He thought to himself, “Tomorrow I shall take half this band of Indians, and we shall just go and kill this monster.

(Shadow Wolves by nutty-acorn)

(Shadow Wolves by nutty-acorn)

So they went out to kill it, but when they came in sight of the monster, and fired at it, the monster attacked in turn, and began killing the Indians. It killed all who had gone out against it, except for the chief himself. After this, the chief was afraid to attack a second time, and resigned himself to the loss of his stock. Then the monster stopped killing stock and took to killing off Indians. It attacked the people in the village, and the chief made every effort to find a man who could win out over the monster.

Now there was a poor man in this band named Laptissa’n [Le Petit Jean]. This Laptissa’n told the chief that he would kill the monster if only the chief would furnish him with a mule. So the chief gave him a mule, and Laptissa’n went out. He did not know exactly what to do, but he began by riding round and round the monster on the mule. Finally he rode around so many times, that the monster grew weary watching, and fell asleep. Then Laptissa’n jumped off the mule, ran in, and cut the throat of the monster where the seven heads were joined to one neck.

(Sunset by kniggets)

(Sunset by kniggets)


The Man Who Tried To Catch The Night

A traditional myth from Central Africa:


Two men once had a great argument concerning their skill in trapping and hunting. One boast let to another until they began to exaggerate, and at last one said that he could make such skillful basket traps that he could even catch the night.

When he was challenged to do so, he carefully plaited a basket trap of the most closely woven reeds, and in the evening set it in a dark corner of the forest, saying, “If I cannot catch the night with my own hands, I will enclose it in my basket trap.”

When the wind moaned in the treetops he shouted, “Who are you?”

The answer was, “I am the dusk,” but although he ran until he knocked his shins against the trees in the falling light, he caught nothing.

Sitting still beside his basket trap he heard the wind rustling in the reeds and shouted, “Who are you?”

“I am the twilight,” rustled the wind, but although he ran until he scratched himself in the thorns, he caught nothing.

Returning to his trap once more he kept watch, and hearing the wind make the branches creak against each other he called, “Who are you?”

“I am bedtime,” creaked the branches in the wind, but though he ran until he became tangled in thick vines, he caught nothing.

Wearily he groped his way back to the trap, and after waiting until his eyelids drooped he was suddenly awakened again by the wind raising ripples in the stream.

“Who are you?!” He called desperately.

“I am midnight,” replied the stream, and though he ran until he fell into a pool, he caught nothing.

Drenched and cold, he wished that he had not been so boastful, but still hoped that he might catch the night. Again he took up his position beside the trap, and when the wind blew up a storm of rain and thunder he shouted, “Who are you?!?!”

A rift appeared in the clouds and a star shone out saying, “I am the star that heralds the dawn.”

Photo courtesy of NASA

Photo courtesy of NASA

The tired trapper climbed the highest tree, but could not reach the star, or the heavy clouds, or the violent flashes of lightning that darted here and there from the sky. Venturing out onto too thin of branch in the rain and darkness he slipped and fell into a thorn bush.

Painfully he untangled himself and turned to his basket trap. As he peered into it in the darkness, it was so dense a black inside that he hurriedly tied it up, saying, “If I can’t catch the night in my hand, at least I have got it in my basket.” Then, away in the distance he heard the first cock heralding the dawn in the village. Joyously setting out for home he opened his trap in front of his friends by the first rays of the morning sun. To his shame there was nothing but daylight in it. As his friends laughed at him, they said, “Another time you will have more wisdom than to boast of that which is impossible.”

A moral to this story is that if you think that you are going to catch the night, the reverse is more likely to be true, that the night has caught you in its trap. God is just as that. For it is dark & it is light & moves from one to the other, this is the planet we live on & why it is actually so temperate- otherwise 1/2 of the world would burn as the other 1/2 froze to death. Also don’t look directly into it… I hear you go blind which could be part of my problem in trying to reach someone from the human race to talk to about such pressing issues as your soul, where you come from, crime & forgiveness, who God is and that sort of thing that you might have been sorely missing the last couple thousand years or more. Information is a useful thing sometimes.

Misana- Who was swept away to the Land of Beads

One of my favorite myths about the end of the world coming from the end of the world- Point Hope, Alaska. If you ever have to tell your children about me- the real story is a bit much for kids- just tell them this until they are at least 12.

The was once a young man who was called Misana. He was so young that he had just begun to get a small beard, yet he was a powerful hunter, who hunted walrus in all kinds of weather. But one day he, together with a comrade, was overtaken by a land gale with a snowstorm, and the waves broke over them so that they had to let themselves drift before the wind, away from land, out to the open sea. They grew weary and tried to bind their kayaks together to get some rest, but the waves were so high that they threatened to crush the kayaks, which could no longer maneuver quickly. So once more each had to struggle for his own life, and almost immediately afterwards they kayak of Misana’s comrade overturned and came up no more.

Misana did not whether he was drifting. He merely tried to hold himself up against the seas and take good care that his paddle was not wrestled from his grasp. Farther and farther he drifted out, till he came to a big ice floe; he let himself be washed up on it and got a little rest, but it was not long before the waves ate up the big ice floe, and again he had to go on in his kayak. How long he had drifter around he did not know, but when the storm cleared up a little he could just glimpse the high land of King Island like a little dot in the horizon. Now that he knew where he was he seemed to gain new strength, and he set his course for the mainland from which he had come. He paddled and paddled until he was near enough to discern the trees on the coast, but then came the same land storm again, sweeping over him thick with snow, and against his will he had to let himself be borne seaward by the waves. Now and then he could rest a little on the ice floes he encountered. In one place, where he had approached a big ice field which for some time withstood the storms, he caught a little baby seal and got food just when his hunger was beginning to overwhelm him. He now understood that it was necessary to make his provisions hold out as long as possible, and therefore satisfied himself with merely taking a mouthful at a time, when he could no longer restrain his hunger.

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