IKTOMI is a spider fairy. He wears brown deerskin leggins

with long soft fringes on either side, and tiny beaded moccasins on

his feet. His long black hair is parted in the middle and wrapped

with red, red bands. Each round braid hangs over a small brown ear

and falls forward over his shoulders.

He even paints his funny face with red and yellow, and draws

big black rings around his eyes. He wears a deerskin jacket, with

bright colored beads sewed tightly on it. Iktomi dresses like a

real Dakota brave. In truth, his paint and deerskins are the best

part of him--if ever dress is part of man or fairy.

Iktomi is a wily fellow. His hands are always kept in

mischief. He prefers to spread a snare rather than to earn the

smallest thing with honest hunting. Why! he laughs outright with

wide open mouth when some simple folk are caught in a trap, sure

and fast.

He never dreams another lives so bright as he. Often his own

conceit leads him hard against the common sense of simpler people.

Poor Iktomi cannot help being a little imp. And so long as he

is a naughty fairy, he cannot find a single friend. No one helps

him when he is in trouble. No one really loves him. Those who

come to admire his handsome beaded jacket and long fringed leggins

soon go away sick and tired of his vain, vain words and heartless


Thus Iktomi lives alone in a cone-shaped wigwam upon the

plain. One day he sat hungry within his teepee. Suddenly he

rushed out, dragging after him his blanket. Quickly spreading it

on the ground, he tore up dry tall grass with both his hands and

tossed it fast into the blanket.

Tying all the four corners together in a knot, he threw the

light bundle of grass over his shoulder.

Snatching up a slender willow stick with his free left hand,

he started off with a hop and a leap. From side to side bounced

the bundle on his back, as he ran light-footed over the uneven

ground. Soon he came to the edge of the great level land. On the

hilltop he paused for breath. With wicked smacks of his dry

parched lips, as if tasting some tender meat, he looked straight

into space toward the marshy river bottom. With a thin palm

shading his eyes from the western sun, he peered far away into the

lowlands, munching his own cheeks all the while. "Ah-ha!" grunted

he, satisfied with what he saw.

A group of wild ducks were dancing and feasting in the

marshes. With wings outspread, tip to tip, they moved up and down

in a large circle. Within the ring, around a small drum, sat the

chosen singers, nodding their heads and blinking their eyes.

They sang in unison a merry dance-song, and beat a lively

tattoo on the drum.

Following a winding footpath near by, came a bent figure of a

Dakota brave. He bore on his back a very large bundle. With a

willow cane he propped himself up as he staggered along beneath his


"Ho! who is there?" called out a curious old duck, still

bobbing up and down in the circular dance.

Hereupon the drummers stretched their necks till they

strangled their song for a look at the stranger passing by.

"Ho, Iktomi! Old fellow, pray tell us what you carry in your

blanket. Do not hurry off! Stop! halt!" urged one of the singers.

"Stop! stay! Show us what is in your blanket!" cried out

other voices.

"My friends, I must not spoil your dance. Oh, you would not

care to see if you only knew what is in my blanket. Sing on! dance

on! I must not show you what I carry on my back," answered Iktomi,

nudging his own sides with his elbows. This reply broke up the

ring entirely. Now all the ducks crowded about Iktomi.

"We must see what you carry! We must know what is in your

blanket!" they shouted in both his ears. Some even brushed their

wings against the mysterious bundle. Nudging himself again, wily

Iktomi said, "My friends, 't is only a pack of songs I carry in my


"Oh, then let us hear your songs!" cried the curious ducks.

At length Iktomi consented to sing his songs. With delight

all the ducks flapped their wings and cried together, "Hoye! hoye!"

Iktomi, with great care, laid down his bundle on the ground.

"I will build first a round straw house, for I never sing my

songs in the open air," said he.

Quickly he bent green willow sticks, planting both ends of

each pole into the earth. These he covered thick with reeds and

grasses. Soon the straw hut was ready. One by one the fat ducks

waddled in through a small opening, which was the only entrance

way. Beside the door Iktomi stood smiling, as the ducks, eyeing

his bundle of songs, strutted into the hut.

In a strange low voice Iktomi began his queer old tunes. All

the ducks sat round-eyed in a circle about the mysterious singer.

It was dim in that straw hut, for Iktomi had not forgot to cover up

the small entrance way. All of a sudden his song burst into full

voice. As the startled ducks sat uneasily on the ground, Iktomi

changed his tune into a minor strain. These were the words he


"Istokmus wacipo, tuwayatunwanpi kinhan ista nisasapi kta,"

which is, "With eyes closed you must dance. He who dares to open

his eyes, forever red eyes shall have."

Up rose the circle of seated ducks and holding their wings

close against their sides began to dance to the rhythm of Iktomi's

song and drum.

With eyes closed they did dance! Iktomi ceased to beat his

drum. He began to sing louder and faster. He seemed to be moving

about in the center of the ring. No duck dared blink a wink. Each

one shut his eyes very tight and danced even harder. Up and down!

Shifting to the right of them they hopped round and round in that

blind dance. It was a difficult dance for the curious folk.

At length one of the dancers could close his eyes no longer!

It was a Skiska who peeped the least tiny blink at Iktomi within

the center of the circle. "Oh! oh!" squawked he in awful terror!

"Run! fly! Iktomi is twisting your heads and breaking your necks!

Run out and fly! fly!" he cried. Hereupon the ducks opened their

eyes. There beside Iktomi's bundle of songs lay half of their

crowd--flat on their backs.

Out they flew through the opening Skiska had made as he rushed

forth with his alarm.

But as they soared high into the blue sky they cried to one

another: "Oh! your eyes are red-red!" "And yours are red-red!"

For the warning words of the magic minor strain had proven true.

"Ah-ha!" laughed Iktomi, untying the four corners of his blanket,

"I shall sit no more hungry within my dwelling." Homeward he

trudged along with nice fat ducks in his blanket. He left the

little straw hut for the rains and winds to pull down.

Having reached his own teepee on the high level lands, Iktomi

kindled a large fire out of doors. He planted sharp-pointed sticks

around the leaping flames. On each stake he fastened a duck to

roast. A few he buried under the ashes to bake. Disappearing

within his teepee, he came out again with some huge seashells.

These were his dishes. Placing one under each roasting duck, he

muttered, "The sweet fat oozing out will taste well with the

hard-cooked breasts."

Heaping more willows upon the fire, Iktomi sat down on the

ground with crossed shins. A long chin between his knees pointed

toward the red flames, while his eyes were on the browning ducks.

Just above his ankles he clasped and unclasped his long bony

fingers. Now and then he sniffed impatiently the savory odor.

The brisk wind which stirred the fire also played with a

squeaky old tree beside Iktomi's wigwam.

From side to side the tree was swaying and crying in an old

man's voice, "Help! I'll break! I'll fall!" Iktomi shrugged his

great shoulders, but did not once take his eyes from the ducks.

The dripping of amber oil into pearly dishes, drop by drop, pleased

his hungry eyes. Still the old tree man called for help. "He!

What sound is it that makes my ear ache!" exclaimed Iktomi, holding

a hand on his ear.

He rose and looked around. The squeaking came from the tree.

Then he began climbing the tree to find the disagreeable sound. He

placed his foot right on a cracked limb without seeing it. Just

then a whiff of wind came rushing by and pressed together the

broken edges. There in a strong wooden hand Iktomi's foot was


"Oh! my foot is crushed!" he howled like a coward. In vain he

pulled and puffed to free himself.

While sitting a prisoner on the tree he spied, through his

tears, a pack of gray wolves roaming over the level lands. Waving

his hands toward them, he called in his loudest voice, "He! Gray

wolves! Don't you come here! I'm caught fast in the tree so that

my duck feast is getting cold. Don't you come to eat up my meal."

The leader of the pack upon hearing Iktomi's words turned to

his comrades and said:

"Ah! hear the foolish fellow! He says he has a duck feast to

be eaten! Let us hurry there for our share!" Away bounded the

wolves toward Iktomi's lodge.

From the tree Iktomi watched the hungry wolves eat up his

nicely browned fat ducks. His foot pained him more and more. He

heard them crack the small round bones with their strong long teeth

and eat out the oily marrow. Now severe pains shot up from his

foot through his whole body. "Hin-hin-hin!" sobbed Iktomi. Real

tears washed brown streaks across his red-painted cheeks. Smacking

their lips, the wolves began to leave the place, when Iktomi cried

out like a pouting child, "At least you have left my baking under

the ashes!"

"Ho! Po!" shouted the mischievous wolves; "he says more ducks

are to be found under the ashes! Come! Let us have our fill this


Running back to the dead fire, they pawed out the ducks with

such rude haste that a cloud of ashes rose like gray smoke over


"Hin-hin-hin!" moaned Iktomi, when the wolves had scampered

off. All too late, the sturdy breeze returned, and, passing by,

pulled apart the broken edges of the tree. Iktomi was released.

But alas! he had no duck feast.