Old Man Steals the Sun's Leggings
Firelight - what a charm it adds to
storytelling. How its moods seem to
keep pace with situations pictured by the
oracle, offering shadows when dread is abroad,
and light when a pleasing climax is reached;
for interest undoubtedly tends the blaze, while
sympathy contributes or withholds fuel, according to its dictates.
The lodge was alight when I approached
and I could hear the children singing in a
happy mood, but upon entering, the singing
ceased and embarrassed smiles on the young
faces greeted me; nor could I coax a continuation of the song.
Seated beside War Eagle was a very old
Indian whose name was Red Robe, and as
soon as I was seated, the host explained that
he was an honored guest; that he was a Sioux
and a friend of long standing. Then War
Eagle lighted the pipe, passing it to the dis-
tinguished friend, who in turn passed it to
me, after first offering it to the Sun, the father,
and the Earth, the mother of all that is.
In a lodge of the Blackfeet the pipe must
never be passed across the doorway. To do
so would insult the host and bring bad luck
to all who assembled. Therefore if there be
a large number of guests ranged about the
lodge, the pipe is passed first to the left from
guest to guest until it reaches the door, when
it goes back, unsmoked, to the host, to be
refilled ere it is passed to those on his right
Briefly War Eagle explained my presence
to Red Robe and said:
"Once the Moon made the Sun a
pair of leggings. Such beautiful work had never been
seen before. They were worked with the colored quills of the
Porcupine and were covered with strange signs, which none but
the Sun and the Moon could read. No man ever saw
such leggings as they were, and it took the
Moon many snows to make them. Yes, they
were wonderful leggings and the Sun always
wore them on fine days, for they were bright
to look upon.
"Every night when the Sun went
to sleep in his lodge away in the west, he used the
leggings for a pillow, because there was a
thief in the world, even then. That thief and
rascal was OLD-man, and of course the Sun
knew all about him. That is why he always
put his fine leggings under his head when
he slept. When he worked he almost always
wore them, as I have told you, so that there
was no danger of losing them in the daytime;
but the Sun was careful of his leggings when
night came and he slept.
"You wouldn't think that a person
would be so foolish as to steal from the Sun, but
one night OLD-man - who is the only person
who ever knew just where the Sun's lodge
was - crept near enough to look in, and
saw the leggings under the Sun's head.
"We have all travelled a great
deal but no man ever found the Sun's lodge. No
man knows in what country it is. Of course
we know it is located somewhere west of here,
for we see him going that way every afternoon, but OLD-man knew
everything - except that he could not fool the Sun.
"Yes, OLD-man looked into the
lodge of the Sun and saw the leggings there - saw
the Sun, too, and the Sun was asleep. He
made up his mind that he would steal the
leggings so he crept through the door of the
lodge. There was no one at home but the
Sun, for the Moon has work to do at night
just as the children, the Stars, do, so he thought
he could slip the leggings from under the
sleeper's head and get away.
"He got down on his hands and
knees to walk like the Bear-people and crept into the
lodge, but in the black darkness he put his
knee upon a dry stick near the Sun's bed.
The stick snapped under his weight with so
great a noise that the Sun turned over and
snorted, scaring OLD-man so badly that he
couldn't move for a minute. His heart was
not strong - wickedness makes every heart
weaker - and after making sure that the Sun
had not seen him, he crept silently out of the
lodge and ran away.
"On the top of a hill OLD-man
stopped to look and listen, but all was still; so he sat down
"'I'll get them tomorrow night
when he sleeps again'; he said to himself. 'I need
those leggings myself, and I'm going to get
them, because they will make me handsome
as the Sun.'
"He watched the Moon come home
to camp and saw the Sun go to work, but he did not
go very far away because he wanted to be
near the lodge when night came again.
"It was not long to wait, for
all the OLD- man had to do was to make mischief, and only
those who have work to do measure time.
He was close to the lodge when the Moon
came out, and there he waited until the Sun
went inside. From the bushes OLD-man saw
the Sun take off his leggings and his eyes
glittered with greed as he saw their owner
fold them and put them under his head as
he had always done. Then he waited a
while before creeping closer. Little by little
the old rascal crawled toward the lodge,
till finally his head was inside the door. Then
he waited a long, long time, even after the
Sun was snoring.
"The strange noises of the night
bothered him, for he knew he was doing wrong, and
when a Loon cried on a lake near by, he shivered
as with cold, but finally crept to the sleeper's
side. Cautiously his fingers felt about the
precious leggings until he knew just how they
could best be removed without waking the
Sun. His breath was short and his heart was
beating as a war-drum beats, in the black dark
of the lodge. Sweat, cold sweat, that great
fear always brings to the weak-hearted - was
dripping from his body, and once he thought
that he would wait for another night, but
greed whispered again, and listening to its
voice, he stole the leggings from under the
"Carefully he crept out of the
lodge, looking over his shoulder as he went through the
door. Then he ran away as fast as he could
go. Over hills and valleys, across rivers and
creeks, toward the east. He wasted much
breath laughing at his smartness as he ran,
and soon he grew tired.
"'Ho!' he said to himself, 'I
am far enough now and I shall sleep. It's easy to steal from
the Sun - just as easy as stealing from the
Bear or the Beaver.'
"He folded the leggings and put
them under his head as the Sun had done, and went to
sleep. He had a dream and it waked him with
a start. Bad deeds bring bad dreams to us
all. OLD-man sat up and there was the Sun
looking right in his face and laughing. He
was frightened and ran away, leaving the
leggings behind him.
"Laughingly the Sun put on the
leggings and went on toward the west, for he is always busy.
He thought he would see OLD-man no more, but it takes more than
one lesson to teach a fool to be wise, and OLD-man hid in the
timber until the Sun had travelled out of sight. Then he ran
westward and hid himself near the Sun's lodge again,
intending to wait for the night and steal the
leggings a second time.
"He was much afraid this time,
but as soon as the Sun was asleep he crept to the lodge
and peeked inside. Here he stopped and looked
about, for he was afraid the Sun would hear
his heart beating. Finally he started toward
the Sun's bed and just then a great white
Owl flew from off the lodge poles, and this
scared him more, for that is very bad luck
and he knew it; but he kept on creeping until
he could almost touch the Sun.
"All about the lodge were beautiful
linings, tanned and painted by the Moon, and the
queer signs on them made the old coward
tremble. He heard a night-bird call outside
and he thought it would surely wake the Sun;
so he hastened to the bed and with cunning
fingers stole the leggings, as he had done the
night before, without waking the great sleeper.
Then he crept out of the lodge, talking bravely
to himself as cowards do when they are afraid.
"'Now,' he said to himself, 'I
shall run faster and farther than before. I shall not
stop running while the night lasts, and I
shall stay in the mountains all the time when
the Sun is at work in the daytime!'
"Away he went - running as the
Buffalo runs - straight ahead, looking at nothing,
hearing nothing, stopping at nothing. When
day began to break OLD-man was far from
the Sun's lodge and he hid himself in a deep
gulch among some bushes that grew there.
He listened a long time before he dared to go
to sleep, but finally he did. He was tired
from his great run and slept soundly and for a
long time, but when he opened his eyes -
there was the Sun looking straight at him,
and this time he was scowling. OLD-man
started to run away but the Sun grabbed
him and threw him down upon his back.
My! but the Sun was angry, and he said:
"'OLD-man, you are a clever thief
but a mighty fool as well, for you steal from me and
expect to hide away. Twice you have stolen
the leggings my wife made for me, and twice
I have found you easily. Don't you know
that the whole world is my lodge and that
you can never get outside of it, if you run
your foolish legs off? Don't you know that
I light all of my lodge every day and search
it carefully? Don't you know that nothing
can hide from me and live? I shall not harm
you this time, but I warn you now, that if
you ever steal from me again, I will hurt you
badly. Now go, and don't let me catch you
"Away went OLD-man, and on toward
the west went the busy Sun. That is all.
"Now go to bed; for I would talk
of other things with my friend, who knows of war as
I do. Ho! "