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p. 122



SOME of the folk-stories told in Isleta were evidently invented in other pueblos, whence the Tée-wahn have learned them in their trading-trips. There is even a story from the far-off towns of Moqui, three hundred miles west of here and ninety miles from the railroad. The Moquis live in northeast Arizona, in strange adobe towns, 2 perched upon impregnable islands of rock, rising far above the bare, brown plain. They are seldom visited and little known by white men. All the other Pueblo towns and tribes have changed somewhat in the present era of American occupation; but the Moquis remain very much as they were when the first Spaniard found them--three hundred and fifty years ago. They retain many customs long extinct among their kindred, and have some of which no trace is to be found elsewhere. One of the minor differences, but one which would be almost the first to strike a stranger, is the absence of captive eagles in Moqui; and this is explained by the following folk-story:

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The Eagle is Kah-báy-deh (commander) of all that flies, and his feathers are strongest in medicine.

So long ago that no man can tell how long, there lived in Moqui an old man and an old woman, who had two children--a boy and a girl. The boy, whose name was Tái-oh, had a pet Eagle, of which he was very fond; and the Eagle loved its young master. Despite his youth, Tái-oh was a capital hunter; and every day he brought home not only rabbits enough for the family, but also to keep the Eagle well fed.

One day when he was about to start on a hunt, he asked his sister to look out for the Eagle during his absence. No sooner was he out of sight than the girl began to upbraid the bird bitterly, saying: "How I hate you, for my brother loves you so much. If it were not for you, he would give me many more rabbits, but now you eat them up."

The Eagle, feeling the injustice of this, was angry; so when she brought him a rabbit for breakfast the Eagle turned his head and looked at it sidewise, and would not touch it. At noon, when she brought him his dinner, he did the same thing; and at night, when Tái-oh returned, the Eagle told him all that had happened.

"Now," said the Eagle, "I am very tired of staying always here in Moqui, and I want to go home to visit my people a little. Come and go along with me, that you may see where the Eagle-people live."

"It is well," replied Tái-oh. "To-morrow morning we will go together."

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In the morning they all went out into the fields, far down in the valley, to hoe their corn, leaving Tái-oh at home.

"Now," said the Eagle, "untie this thong from my leg, friend, and get astride my neck, and we will go."

The string was soon untied, and Tái-oh got astride the neck of the great bird, which rose up into the air as though it carried no weight at all. It circled over the town a long time, and the people cried out with wonder and fear at seeing an Eagle with a boy on his back. Then they sailed out over the fields, where Tái-oh's parents and his sister were at work; and all the three began to cry, and went home in great sorrow.

The Eagle kept soaring up and up until they came to the very sky. There in the blue was a little door, through which the Eagle flew. Alighting on the floor of the sky, he let Tái-oh down from his back, and said:

"Now, you wait here, friend, while I go and see my people," and off he flew.

Tái-oh waited three days, and still the Eagle did not return; so he became uneasy and started out to see what he could find. After wandering a long way, he met an old Spider-woman.

"Where are you going, my son?" she asked.

"I am trying to find my friend, the Eagle."

"Very well, then, I will help you. Come into my house."

"But how can I come into so small a door?" objected Tái-oh.

"Just put your foot in, and it will open big enough for you to enter."

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So Tái-oh put his foot in, and, sure enough, the door opened wide, and he went into the Spider's house and sat down.

"Now," said she, "you will have some trouble in getting to the house of your friend, the Eagle, for to get there you will have to climb a dreadful ladder. It is well that you came to me for help, for that ladder is set with sharp arrow-heads and knives of flint, so that if you tried to go up it, it would cut your legs off. But I will give you this sack of sacred herbs to help you. When you come to the ladder, you must chew some of the herbs and spit the juice on the ladder, which will at once become smooth for you." 1

Tái-oh thanked the Spider-woman and started off with the sack. After awhile he came to the foot of a great ladder, which went away up out of sight. Its sides and rungs were bristling with keen arrow-heads, so that no living thing could climb it; but when Tái-oh chewed some of the magic herb and spat upon the ladder, all the sharp points fell off, and it was so smooth that he climbed it without a single scratch.

After a long, long climb, he came to the top of the ladder, and stepped upon the roof of the Eagles' house. But when he came to the door he found it so bristling with arrow-points that whoever might try to enter would be cut to pieces. Again he chewed some of the herb, and spat upon the door;

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and at once all the points fell off, and he entered safely, and inside he found his Eagle-friend, and all the Eagle-people. His friend had fallen in love with an Eagle-girl and married her, and that was the reason he had not returned sooner.

Tái-oh stayed there some time, being very nicely entertained, and enjoyed himself greatly in the strange sky-country. At last one of the wise old Eagle-men came to him and said:

"Now, my son, it is well that you go home, for your parents are very sad, thinking you are dead. After this, whenever you seen an Eagle caught and kept captive, you must let it go; for now you have been in our country, and know that when we come home we take off our feather-coats and are people like your own."

So Tái-oh went to his Eagle-friend and said he thought he must go home.

"Very well," said the Eagle; "get on my neck and shut your eyes, and we will go."

So he got on, and they went down out of the sky, and down and down until at last they came to Moqui. There the Eagle let Tái-oh down among the wondering people, and, bidding him an affectionate good-by, flew off to his young wife in the sky.

Tái-oh went to his home loaded down with dried meat and tanned buckskin, which the Eagle had given him; and there was great rejoicing, for all had given him up as dead. And this is why, to this very day, the Moquis will not keep an Eagle captive, though nearly all the other Pueblo towns have all the Eagle-prisoners they can get.


122:1 Pronounced Móh-kee.

122:2 See "Some Strange Corners of Our Country." The Century Co., New York.

125:1 This recalls a superstition of the Peruvian mountain Indians, ancient and modern. The latter I have often seen throwing upon a stone at the crest of a mountain pass the quid of coca-leaves they had been chewing. They believe such use of this sacred herb propitiates the spirits and keeps off the terrible sorache, or mountain-sickness; and that it also makes veins of metal easier to be worked--softening the stone, even as it did for Tái-oh.

Next: XIX. The North Wind and the South Wind