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18. THE TLĀNUW 1 (27)

One time a young man said, "If I had children and those birds took one of them I would kill them." People told him not to say such a thing, but he persisted. This youth grew up and married in course of time and had a child. One day, when the child was large enough to run about, it was playing around while its mother swept the yard, the father being off hunting. Then a tlānuwâ flew down and carried the child away. When the father came home and his wife told him what had happened he did not seem to be angry but said, "I am going to kill him." He lay down and fasted for seven days. Hitherto people had always failed to shoot this bird, because when they sent an arrow at it it caught the arrow in mid-air. After the seven days fast was completed the man went to a, creek or river near by, dived into it, and brought up a turtle. Taking this, he went to the top of the precipitous cliff on which the bird's nest was built, and, tying one end of a grapevine at the top, swung down to the nest. He tied the turtle to the end of the grapevine and hung it in front of the nest. Inside of the nest he found some young hawks (tlānuwâs) which he killed and threw into the water. Then he hid himself at the top of the cliff and waited for the return of the old birds. By and by they came back carrying an infant with them, and finding that something was wrong they flew round and round without alighting.

p. 247

[paragraph continues] Then they flew high up into the air, let the child they were carrying fall and beat it to pieces before it reached the earth. After that they dived into the water and pulled out a snake which they also carried high up in the air and treated as they had the child, letting the pieces fall into the water. After that one tlānuwâ flew up against the turtle, broke a wing upon it and fell into the water, and after a while the second bird did the same thing. Then the young man went down to the nest again, untied the turtle and carried it back to the place from which he had obtained it. He went to the other side of the river where the bank was low, made a canoe and pulled both tlānuwâs out of the water. He pulled off their feathers, which were a fathom long, and made a box for them. Afterwards some more tlānuwâs came, but they were red in color. They lighted on a tree near by, and he shot one and put its feathers into the box where he kept the others. After that a great many people in his town began dying of a bloody flux. He though to himself, "Those red feathers must be the cause of it." So he took the red feathers out and threw them into the water, and the disease was stopped. The person that saw these feathers was Watt Sam's father's great-great-grandmother. It was somewhere in the east.


246:1 Cherokee name for a sharp-breasted hawk that was supposed to kill by striking with its breast. My informant had forgotten the Natchez name. This is a very large bird, and my informant's grandmother claimed to have seen its feathers, which were "about a fathom" in length. It lived on a high cliff above some body of water and used to catch children as a hawk does chickens.

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