Pre-Columbian and Early American Legends of Bigfoot-like Beings





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Taos Tales
Elsie Clews Parsons. New York, Kraus Reprint Co. 1969



Seed-Marked Boy Destroys the Giant

(variant 2 of 4 variants)

Long ago, when the pueblos were first where they are now, everything was wild. They were always on the lookout, they never made fire at night, they did al their cooking in the daytime. They went out in daytime for firewood. Someone noticed that some people were missing, one or two every day. They wondered why. They did not know what became of them. The old men kept watch to see if it was enemies hiding. No one could find out for years what became of the missing persons.

There was an old man then that went out after firewood. He made a bundle of wood to carry on his back. He started home. He came to a place where he rested. While he was resting he saw some kind of a human walking, but he looked different--kind o' naked, long hair on his body like an animal, big feet, hands, big muscle arms, big head, mouth. The man got scared. This creature came up and grabbed the man. It was a giant. The giant killed him and took him to his cave.

It was late. The family missed the old man. The War captain and the officers went out to look for him. They came to where he had rested. They examined the place. They saw the footprints of the giant. They wondered what it could be. They tracked him to the foot of a hill--clear to the entrance of his cave. They saw blood on the edge of the cave. The finally decided it was a giant that had killed the man. They looked around. They found where the giant had thrown the bones and head. They saw lots of bones there. They did not know how to get the giant, but they were going to try to get him some way. Everyone who could carry weapons finally started out to fight the giant. They decided to cut brush and make a big fire at the mouth of the cave and smoke him out. The giant gnashed his teeth. He stuck his head out. The people stood back. Then the giant came out--furious. The people attacked him with bows and clubs. They could not kill him. Finally he ran away, angry.

The people kept shooting. There were arrows sticking in his body, but he did not mind. They chased him, followed his trail of blood on the gtround. They chased him to the north. He crossed the Lucero river. The blood is still there, you can see it in the rocks and on the earth. He went on to Questa. Finally they surrounded him near Questa. He went into a cave and died. You can see that red line there now today.1 The medicine men had helped on the last day of the fight. That is how they were able to hill him. It clouded up like a storm. There was a noise above (thunder). Lightning killed him.


    1The cannibal giant or giants appear to figure in some origin myth of Taos. In 1887 the Catholic priest at Taos related to Gatschet that about 700 years earlier the people up through a lake in the Don Juan valley, New Mexico and traveled southward, reaching the canyon of the Rio Colorado, Taos county, ten or twelve miles from Taos. Here they built a stone village, were attacked by giants and forced southward, leaving the canyons blood stained. They built another stone village on the Rio Lucero, on the flat-topped hill above Taos. Attacked again by the giants, they settled about 100 yards above Taos. After the Spaniards burnt this village, the people separated: one group went tot he eastward, another to El Paso, and the remainder rebuilt Taos as it is today (American Anthropologist, V (1892), 191-192).

The Lytton Girls Who Were Stolen By Giants

Once some people were camped on the hills near Lytton, and among them were two girls who were fond of playing far away from the camp. Their father warned them against the giants, who infested the country. One day they rambled off, playing as usual, and two giants saw them. They put them under their arms, and ran off with them to their house on an island in a large river, a long distance way. They treated them kindly, and gave them plenty of game to eat. First they brought them grouse, rabbits, and other small game; but when they learned that the girls also ate deer, they brought to them plenty of deer, and the girls made much buckskin. The giants were much amused when they saw how the girls cut up the deer, how they cooked the meat and dressed the skins. For four days the girls were almost overcome by the smell of the giants , but gradually they became used to it.

For four years they lived with the giants, who would carry them across the river to dig roots and gather berries which did not grow on the island. One summer the giants took them a long distance away, to a place where huckleberries were very plentiful. They knew the girls liked huckleberries very much. They left them to gather berries, and said they would go hunting and come back in a few days to take them home. The elder sister recognized the place as not many days' travel from their people's home, and they ran away.

When the giants returned for them, they found them gone, and followed their tracks. When the girls saw that they were about to be overtaken, they climbed into the top of a large spruce-tree, where they could not be seen. They tied themselves with their tumplines. The giants, who had lost their tracks, thought they must be in the tree, and tried to discover them. They walked all around and looked up, but could not see them. They thought, "If they are there, we shall shake them out." They shook the tree many times, and pushed and pulled against it; but the tree did not break, and the girls did not fall down. Therefore the giants left.

After they had gone, the girls came down and ran on. The giants were looking all around for their tracks, when at last they came to a place where the girls had passed. They pursued them; and when the girls saw that they would be overtaken, they crawled, one from each end, into a large hollow log on a side-hill. They closed the openings with branches which they tied together with their tump-lines. The giants lost their tracks again, and thought they might be in the log. They pulled at the branches, but they did not move. They peered in through some small cracks, but could not see anything. They tried to roll the log down the hill, to shake out whatever might be inside, but it was too heavy. After a while they left. When they were gone, the girls ran on as before, and after a time reached a hunting camp of their own people in the mountains. During their flight they had lived on berries and fool-hens. Their moccasins were worn out, and their clothes torn. They told the people how the giants lived and acted. They were asked if the giants had any names besides Tsawane'itEmux, and they said they were called Stsomu'lamux and TsekEtinu's.

The Whistling Cannibals

Once upon a time there was a mountain-goat hunter. While he was hunting he met a white bear, which he pursued. Finally he came near enough to shoot it, and he hit it. The bear, however, ran on, and finally disappeared in a steep rock. After a short time a man came out of the mountain, approached the hunter, and called him in. He followed, and found that there was a large house in the mountain. The person who called him asked him to sit down on the right-hand side of the house. Then the hunter saw four companies of people in the house, and saw what they were doing. In one corner were the Mela; in the second corner, the Nolem, who ate dogs; in a third corner, the Wihalaid, the Cannibals; and in the fourth one, the Semhalaid. The first group and the last group were very much afraid of the other two. The hunter stayed in the house for three days, as he thought, but in reality he had only been away for three years. Then the supernatural being sent him back, and ordered him to imitate all that he had seen in the mountain.

The White Bear took the hunter back to his home, and put him down on the top of a tree. There the people saw him. He slid down the tree on his back, attacked a man, and devoured him. Then he attacked another one, tore him to pieces, and ate him; and thus he killed many people. Finally the tribe succeeded in overpowering him, and they cured him by means of medicine. When he had quite recovered his senses, he taught them the dances of the four companies that he had seen in the mountain, and since that time the people have had the Cannibal dance and the Dog Eaters' dance.

(This is a great story of which the people were much afraid. They had four dances, which were very curious and important,--the Cannibal, who ate dead persons; the Dog Eater, who ate live dogs; the Destroyers, who broke up houses, canoes, and boxes; and those who threw hot ashes over the heads of people. They say that the great supernatural beings took some one and taught him how to act.)

There was a young prince in a village of the Gitqada whose name was Gather On The Water. One winter, when the time had come for his dance, his father called the companies of the Cannibals to let his son join them. Therefore one day these people took the young man, took him around the village, knocked at every house, and, after had been to every house, all the men shouted, and said that this young man had gone up into the air or that the supernatural power had taken him away to his home in the mountains. km They deceived many common people. These dancers were chiefs and princesses, and all the head men, old and young.

They took this young man and placed him in the trunk of a large tree secretly. They put a long ladder against the tree and sent the young man up. He went up the tree and entered a small hut. Then they took the ladder away from the tree, intending to come back at the end of ten days.

The young man staid on the tree; and the first night when he was there, some one came up to his hut and asked him, "What are you doing in there, young man?"

He replied, "I am a dancer."

Then the visitor laughed at him, and said, "That is not the way of your dance for the dancer to stay on a tree. Wait until I come again! I will show you the ways of a true dancer."

So he went away. After he had been away a short time, he came back with a dead child; and he said to the young man who lived in the hut on the tree, "Now open your mouth and eat this dead child!"

The young man was afraid. The person who held the dead child in his arms said again, "If you don't do it, I will eat you right here!"

Therefore the young man opened his mouth and swallowed the dead child's body whole.

The supernatural being asked him, "Do you feel satisfied now?" The young man replied, "No, I do not feel that I ate anything."

"Now come with me," said the supernatural being. The flew down to the village, and the supernatural being said to him, "Now shout and catch one of the people!" Then he shouted, "Hop, hop!" caught one of the young men, and ate him as a cat eats a mouse. Thus he did to the young men; and he acted like the supernatural being, which was glad to see that he had eaten a whole man. Then they went back to the tree; and the supernatural being said to him, "Whenever you feel hungry, take a person and eat him in front of the village." Then the being went away.

The people in the village always heard a terrible whistle on the tree behind the village, and everybody noticed that before he came down he shouted twice, and then he would fly down and kill some one in front of the village, and everybody was afraid of him. His fame spread all over the different villages, and all the Cannibals gathered and tried to kill him.

All these companies of dancers gathered in one house; and they prepared a mixture of poisonous herbs, urine, and other bad things, and they began to sing. While they were singing, they hear a cry from the tree. Then they heard a noise on the roof of the house in which they were assembled, and caught a person in the house. Then they threw the mixture over him and caught him. They were pouring the mixture into his mouth, and they made a heavy ring of red-cedar bark mixed with white for him, and they gave him a large grizzly-bear skin to be his garment, and they put a red band of red-cedar bark on each leg, and rings of cedar bark on each hand; and everybody was glad because they had tied him hand and foot.

While he was sleeping a terrible whistling was heard in his hair, although there was nobody with him. They watched over him for four nights. Then they did not give him any more medicine, and they all went to sleep. Now the great Cannibal threw off all his cedar-bark ties around his neck, and the large grizzly-bear skin, and he shouted and caught one of the men who was holding his foot bands of red-cedar bark, and he ate him right there. Then he flew up to his house on the tree, and the noise of the whistles struck terror to those in the houses.

He came down twice a day to catch people, and he ate them, and we went everywhere to devour people.

Then the chief said, "Let all the people of the village move tomorrow!" On the following morning they moved, leaving the young man behind; and he flew to every place, caught people, and devoured them. Once he few away, and alighted on a very high mountain on Nass River. Then he ran down, and saw a fish lying on a sandbar at low water. He started a little fire at the foot of a large tree, gathered some fuel, and roasted the fish by the fire. Then a supernatural being came to him and asked him, "What are you doing here?"

He replied, "I am roasting fish."

The supernatural being said, "This fish is not fit for you to eat. Are you not ashamed of yourself? Is that the way of dancers? Fly away to yonder place on the large tree!: Then he flew back to his own place.

He continued to eat live people as well as the bodies of the dead, and all the villages were in great distress on account of him.

They held a council in order to determine how to catch him. They made a large trap of wood; and in the night, after they had finished the trap, the companies of dancers assembled. They sang and beat time on their wooden drums, and beat with sticks on planks. He came down from the roof right into the house, and the trap shut and he was caught there. Then they all went to him, caught him, and threw the medicine over him, and they invited all the companies of their village and all the various companies assembled at the appointed time. They brought slaves to feed the dancers; and as they all came there, the dancer came forth and the gave slaves to him. He ate them all. Now his stomach was full of the flesh of many slaves, and he was satisfied. Then they put a large grizzly-bear skin on him, and a large ring of red-cedar bark on his neck and one on his head, and red-cedar bark rings on his hands and on his feet; and at the end of four days, in the morning, they beat a wooden drum and beat their sticks on the planks with thundering noise to drive away his supernatural power; and he went out alone, walking down to the beach; and at low water he sat down on a large rock, his face toward the village, and everybody came out to see him. Then the tide rose, and the rock on which he was seated was floating on the water; and when the tide was out, the rock grounded at the same place where it had been before. When the sun set, he walked up to the house where all the people were assembled. As soon as he came in, they all ran up to him. They took a heavy pole, threw him on the ground, and put his neck under the pole, trying to kill him; but the supernatural power came and helped him and delivered him from their hands. He escaped, and he would always come down to the village; but he did not take so many people as he had done before. He just killed some one, but id not eat him. Many years passed, and he still lived on the tree. After two generations passed, his voice ceased. That is the end.




Updated: June 18, 2000
© 2000 Andy Rennard, Bigfoot Field Researchers Organisation