Home page

      THE JOURNEY OF THE ELDER BROTHER

by Aileen O'Bryan

The Elder Brother took a long journey. He covered the whole country-mountains, plains, and all. When he was on the side of La Plata Mountains he saw a fire on the mesa, which is a part of Mesa Verde. He saw this fire at night. Now this boy knew of three strong medicines, so when he got to the place where be had seen the fire, and found people living there, he was not afraid, for he had a plan.

Among these people there were two beautiful maidens who turned away many suitors from all parts of the country. The reason was that it was believed that only young men with superpower were to marry the two maidens, and there were no such young men to be found. Their father decided that whoever could shoot an arrow into a little hole far up in the side of the cliff would be the persons to marry his daughters.

All the hunters and warriors gathered there with their bows and arrows. They all tried, but not one could shoot into the hole in the cliff. Then there came two old men, one was the Bear and the other was the Big Snake. The warriors asked: "Where do you come from?" And when all the other men saw the two old men with their bows and arrows they all laughed and said: "Whoever heard of old men shooting that far." But one shot at the hole far up on the side of the cliff and the arrow went into the hole. Then the other old man shot and his arrow went into the hole also. It was decided however that they were too old to have the maidens. The father said: "Whoever shoots an arrow over the cliff will have my daughters." All the other men tried and failed; but the two old men shot at the same time and their arrows went, side by side, clear over the cliff. But it was again decided that they were too old to have the maidens.

Now at that time there was a strong people living at the place now called Aztec. For their chief they had a tall, strong warrior whom everyone in the country feared. He was a great warrior and whatever he said was law.

The uncle of the maidens said: "Whoever kills the Great Warrior of Aztec will have my two nieces." He said that it would be 3 days from that time before they would start the war against the Great Warrior.

At the end of the third day the Elder Brother joined these people. He gathered together a party of warriors and they started out for Aztec. The two old men followed behind them. The people tried to persuade the old men to go back. They said that the two were too old to fight; but the old men would not listen to them.

The first night the two old men camped not far behind the warriors. One slept on one side of the fire and the other on the opposite side.

[40. Recorder's note: The story of the Younger Brother was not given.]

And on this first night an old woman came in sight of the warriors. She had with her a group of boys. They camped near the warriors, and they made a. frightful noise all the night long. The warriors could hear them, but they could not pass them for they sang the chants against the enemy. The second night the camp was again made and the old woman and her boys camped nearby, and the boys made a fearful racket. The two old men also camped near; and one slept on one side of the fire and the other on the other side. On the third night the old woman and her boys camped just opposite the warriors, and the boys played and fought and yelled all the night long. The two old men camped nearby as before, and they slept peacefully.

On the fourth night the Elder Brother and his warriors made their camp, and the old woman and the boys camped just ahead of them. That night one of the boys broke a bough from a cedar tree toward the east side, and he laid it down and said: "May I kill the Great Warrior!" Another boy broke a bough from a piñon tree on the west side, and he laid it across the cedar branch and said: "May I kill the Great Warrior!" Then all the rest of the boys jumped up and taking stones piled them on the two boughs, and each said as had the first two: "May I kill the Great Warrior!" There was a very great pile of stones.

The Elder Brother was angry. He said: "Go kill one of those boys."

But these were Holy Beings, the grandsons of the old Hard Flint Woman, Beshyhl he dot'tlinth, and the boys were the Beshyhl he dot'linthe, the Flint Knife Boys. They came from the land of the Flint Mountain near Dulce.

The next morning the young boys bathed themselves in mud.[49] They jumped off a cliff, rolled down the slopes and had a fine time. Then the boys went to the Elder Brother and said: "Now kill us all." And there was lightning flashing from their toes, knees, sides of the body, arms, head, and tongues. When the Elder Brother saw this he begged them saying: "I was only teasing. It is all right for a grandfather to tease his grandchildren." So they turned and went away.

Soon they were approaching Kin teel,[50] Aztec. The Flint Knife Boys were striking their flint knives and the flashes shot up into the sky. The Elder Brother went against the town and the enemy came out.

The Flint Knife Boys and the Elder Brother and his warriors killed all the enemies and took their scalps. The old woman filled

[49. Informant's note: The origin of the Mud Ceremony, which is sometimes given with the Scalp Dance. These Flint Knife Boys are very sacred, and appear in different ceremonies.

50. Interpreter's note: There is different spelling for this place: Kin teel, Khintqeldae. It is not to be confused with Kin tqel, Wide Ruins, Arizona.]

her basket full of scalps before they marched away. As they neared home they made camp and they lined up all the scalps, but the Great Warrior's scalp was not to be found, nor was the scalp of the warrior chief next in rank among those that they had with them.

Now the two old men had drawn the two great warriors and they had killed them. Soon they joined the others and they brought out their two scalps. Everyone knew that they were the scalps of the Great Warrior and of his chief. They returned home, but still the uncle of the two maidens refused to let the two old men take the two girls.

The people held the Great Scalp Dance. While this was going on the uncle of the two maidens said to them: "Go to where the young men are singing and choose whichever young men you would like to be your husbands." So the maidens went to where the young men were singing and they got in the middle of the group.

Now the two old men were camped in a brush shelter, one lay on one side of the fire and the other on the other side. Toward nightfall they got up and the old man Bear said to the old man Snake: "Our two young girls are in the pot." (Today they mean a girl dances who has a husband. The reason a maiden dances, except in certain ceremonials, is that she is ready for marriage.) So the Bear rolled a cigarette made of a certain herb, and he drew the smoke from it and blew it in the direction of the singing where the maidens were dancing among the young men. The Snake did the same thing. When the two maidens smelled the smoke the elder said: "Sister, what a beautiful, sweet odor." The younger maiden said: "Let us go and see where it comes from." When they got to the place from which the sweet odor had come they found two handsome young men, one on one side of the fire and the other on the other side. Each youth wore a beautiful robe which covered him. The two sisters thought that these handsome young men were their husbands, so the elder maiden went to the Bear and the younger went to the Snake.

In the morning, when the elder sister awakened, she had her arm around the Bear's neck, and his arm was around the girl. He was still asleep and all his ugly teeth showed. She awakened her sister. A great Snake was coiled around the body of the young girl; their heads were together, and her hand was on the Snake.

The two sisters went through the singing to the four directions, and they went to the river.

After the two young women had crossed the river (the Mancos River) they climbed to the top of La Plata Mountains. They went to the Bear People who lived there. The Bear People said: "Where are you from, sister-in-law?" As the young women were ashamed of their acts they said nothing and left. They traveled on and on until

they came to the mountain called Tse dzil. A community of big snakes lived there. They asked the two young women: "Where are you going, sister-in-law?" Again they were ashamed and they left that place also. From there they went to a mountain called Dził 
se'he' dził et. There also lived another branch of the Bear People; and again they were called "sister-in-law."

Now the two old men followed their brides. They used the smoke from their magic cigarettes to tell them which way the young women had gone. Whichever way the smoke drifted, that way they followed.

The sisters traveled to the mountain called Tsoodzil, Mt. Taylor, and they were called "sister-in-law" by the Big Snake People who lived there. They left the place because of their shame and they went to the mountain called Tschosh gaeye, above Tqo hache, and there they were greeted as "sister-in-law" by members of the Bear family. It was after this that they decided to part. One went one way, the other went the other way. The old man Bear followed the Elder Sister, and the old man Snake followed the younger one.[51]