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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "Iya, the camp-eater"

Iya, the camp-eater

From the tall grass came the voice of a crying babe. The huntsmen who were passing nigh heard and halted.

The tallest one among them hastened toward the high grass with long, cautious strides. He waded through the growth of green with just a head above it all. Suddenly exclaiming "Hunhe!" he dropped out of sight. In another instant he held up in both his hands a tiny little baby, wrapped in soft brown buckskins.

"Oh ho, a wood-child!" cried the men, for they were hunting along the wooded river bottom where this babe was found.

While the hunters were questioning whether or no they should carry it home, the wee Indian baby kept up his little howl.

"His voice is strong!" said one.

"At times it sounds like an old man's voice!" whispered a superstitious fellow, who feared some bad spirit hid in the small child to cheat them by and by.

"Let us take it to our wise chieftain," at length they said; and the moment they started toward the camp ground the strange wood-child ceased to cry.

Beside the chieftain's teepee waited the hunters while the tall man entered with the child.

"How! how!" nodded the kind-faced chieftain, listening to the queer story. Then rising, he took the infant in his strong arms; gently he laid the black-eyed babe in his daughter's lap. "This is to be your little son!" said he, smiling.

"Yes, father," she replied. Pleased with the child, she smoothed the long black hair fringing his round brown face.

"Tell the people that I give a feast and dance this day for the naming of my daughter's little son," bade the chieftain.

In the meanwhile among the men waiting by the entrance way, one said in a low voice: "I have heard that bad spirits come as little children into a camp which they mean to destroy."

"No! no! Let us not be overcautious. It would be cowardly to leave a baby in the wild wood where prowl the hungry wolves!" answered an elderly man.

The tall man now came out of the chieftain's teepee. With a word he sent them to their dwellings half running with joy.

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