Texts by and about Natives: Texts

5. Livingston Farrand, "How Sisemo Won Thunder's Daughter"

“How Sisemo Won Thunder’s Daughter,” in Livingston Farrand, Traditions of the Quinalt Indians, Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 4, part III (New York: [n.p.], 1902), 113-14.

Thunder had a daughter who married a man named Sisemo, at which Thunder was greatly displeased; for he thought the young man was worthless and that his family was too common. So he decided to set Sisemo certain tasks, and told him to go up into the mountains and get snow from five mountain-tops. The young man went, and returned with only a handful, which he gave to his father-in-law. The latter was furious when he saw how little there was, and scolded Sisemo for not bringing more; but the young man only said, “Eat it and see. You will find there is plenty.” So Thunder ate and ate, but there was still as much as ever. Then he was angry because his son-in-law had got the better of him, and he threw the snow outdoors in a rage. And the handful of snow spread, and covered the house and trees. And Thunder was in despair again, and begged Sisemo to take it and carry it back whence it came. So the young man gathered it up, and there was only a handful, and he took it back to the mountains where he had found it.

When he came home again, Thunder told him to go and get him two mountain lions, that he wished them for pets. Sisemo went back into the woods, and soon re-appeared with two mountain lions tied together, which he gave to his father-in-law. But as soon as Thunder took them, they began to fight, and frightened him. He tried to play with them, but they tore and bit him until he was nearly dead; and he begged Sisemo to take them back to the mountains again, which he did.

When he returned and Thunder was well again, he told the young man to go and get him two bears to play with. Sisemo went off, and soon came back with two bears tied together; but when Thunder tried to play with them they rose on their hind-legs and made for him, and Thunder was frightened, and told Sisemo to take them back again. And he did so.

After that, Thunder told him to come with him to split a big cedar log. Thunder split one end of the log and put in wedges. Then he told Sisemo to get into the cleft and hold the sides apart. As soon as he was in the cleft, Thunder knocked out the wedges, and Sisemo was caught. Them Thunder laughed at him, and boasted over him, and at last left him there and went home. But he had hardly entered the house when he heard some one come to the door, and throw down something heavy. When he opened the door there was Sisemo with the great log, which he had brought in from the woods. At that, Thunder was very much surprised, and hardly knew what to tell him to do next.

At last he told him to go down to the Underworld, and there he would find a ball of light which the Underworld people rolled to make lightening and to play with. And he told Sisemo to get the ball and bring it to him. Sisemo went down; but the people there saw him, and guarded the ball. Then he

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changed himself into fog, but still they could see him; then into smoke, but still they knew him. He turned into all sorts of things; but each time the people recognized him, and would not let him near the ball. At last he changed himself into something, no one knows what, that they could not see; and the people thought he had disappeared, and began to play with the ball again. Sisemo waited his chance between the two crowds that were rolling the ball; and when at last it came near him, he caught it and dashed away with it on the trail to the upper world. And as he ran off with the ball, it began to grow dark in the lower world and the people could not see. So they gathered pitchwood for torches, and pursued Sisemo by the light of their torches. They were beginning to overtake him; but Thunder and his friends were on the watch, and they got water and poured from above and it made rain in the lower world, which put out the torches. So the people gave up the chase and went back, while Sisemo came on and reached home with the ball.

Then Thunder was very glad, and he told Sisemo he could have his daughter, and he would not harass him anymore. And of the ball of light he gave some to the humming-bird for its throat, and some to the woodpeckers for their crests, and to all the birds and animals which have red for a color; but the most of it he put under his armpits. And now, whenever Thunder is angry, he raises his wings, and lightning is seen, and his talk is the thunder which we hear to-day.

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