Native Lore: The Magic Arrows
Native American Lore
There was once a young man who wanted to go on a journey. His
mother provided him with sacks of dried meat and pairs of moccasins, but his father said
"Here, my son, are four magic arrows. When you are in need,
shoot one of them!"
The young man went forth alone, and hunted in the forest for many
days. Usually he was successful, but a day came when he was hungry and could not find
meat. Then he sent forth one of the magic arrows, and at the end of the day there lay a
fat Bear with the arrow in his side. The hunter cut out the tongue for his meal, and of
the body of the bear he made a thank-offering to the Great Mystery.
Again he was in need, and again in the morning he shot a magic
arrow, and at nightfall beside his camp-fire he found an Elk lying with the arrow in his
heart. Once more he ate the tongue and offered up the body as a sacrifice. The third time
he killed a Moose with his arrow, and the fourth time a Buffalo.
After the fourth arrow had been spent, the young man came one day
out of the forest, and before him there lay a great circular village of skin lodges. At
one side, and some little way from the rest of the people, he noticed a small and poor
tent where an old couple lived all alone. At the edge of the wood he took off his clothes
and hid them in a hollow tree. Then, touching the top of his head with his staff, he
turned himself into a little ragged boy and went toward the poor tent.
The old woman saw him coming, and said to her old man: "Old
man, let us keep this little boy for our own! He seems to be a fine bright-eyed little
fellow, and we are all alone."
"What are you thinking of, old woman?" grumbled the old
man. "We can hardly keep ourselves, and yet you talk of taking in a ragged little
scamp from nobody knows where!"
In the meantime the boy had come quite near, and the old wife
beckoned to him to enter the lodge.
"Sit down, my grandson, sit down!" she said, kindly,
and, in spite of the old man's black looks, she handed him a small dish of parched corn,
which was all the food they had.
The boy ate and stayed on. By and by he said to the old woman:
"Grandmother, I should like to have grandfather make me some arrows!"
"You hear, my old man?" said she. "It will be very
well for you to make some little arrows for the boy."
"And why should I make arrows for a strange little ragged
boy?" grumbled the old man.
However, he made two or three, and the boy went hunting. In a
short time he returned with several small birds. The old man took them and pulled of the
feathers, thanking him and praising him as she did so. She quickly made the little birds
into soup, of which the old man ate gladly, and with the soft feathers she stuffed a small
"You have done well, my grandson!" he said; for they
were really very poor.
Not long after, the boy said to his adopted grandmother:
"Grandmother, when you see me at the edge of the wood yonder, you must call out 'A
Bear! there goes a Bear!"
This she did, and the boy again sent forth one of the magic
arrows, which he had taken from the body of his game and kept by him. No sooner had he
shot, than he saw the same Bear he had offered up, lying before him with the arrow in his
Now there was great rejoicing in the lodge of the poor old couple.
While they were out skinning the Bear and cutting the meat in thin strips to dry, the boy
sat alone in the lodge. In the pot on the fire was the Bear's tongue, which he wanted for
All at once a young girl stood in the doorway. She drew her robe
modestly before her face as she said in a low voice:
"I come to borrow the mortar of your grandmother!"
The boy gave her the mortar, and also a piece of the tongue which
he had cooked, and she went away.
When all of the Bear meat was gone, the boy sent forth a second
arrow and killed an Elk, and with the third and fourth he shot the Moose and the Buffalo
as before, each time recovering his arrow.
Soon after, he heard that the people of the large village were in
trouble. A great Red Eagle, it was said, flew over the village every day at dawn, and the
people believed that it was a bird of evil omen, for they no longer had any success in
hunting. None of their braves had been able to shoot the Eagle, and the chief had offered
his only daughter in marriage to the man who should kill it.
When the boy heard this, he went out early the next morning and
lay in wait for the Red Eagle. At the touch of his magic arrow, it fell at his feet, and
the boy pulled out his arrow and went home without speaking to anyone.
But the thankful people followed him to the poor little lodge, and
when they had found him, they brought the chief's beautiful daughter to be his wife. Lo,
she was the girl who had come to borrow his grandmother's mortar!
Then he went back to the hollow tree where his clothes were hidden
and came back a handsome young man, richly dressed for his wedding.
Page created by;Cherokee Wolf
May 14. 1999