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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "Iktomi and the turtle"

Iktomi and the turtle

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 together.

"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 to eat!"

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.

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