IKTOMI AND THE FAWN
IN one of his wanderings through the wooded lands, Iktomi saw
a rare bird sitting high in a tree-top. Its long fan-like tail
feathers had caught all the beautiful colors of the rainbow.
Handsome in the glistening summer sun sat the bird of rainbow
plumage. Iktomi hurried hither with his eyes fast on the bird.
He stood beneath the tree looking long and wistfully at the
peacock's bright feathers. At length he heaved a sigh and began:
"Oh, I wish I had such pretty feathers! How I wish I were not I!
If only I were a handsome feathered creature how happy I would be!
I'd be so glad to sit upon a very high tree and bask in the summer
sun like you!" said he suddenly, pointing his bony finger up toward
the peacock, who was eyeing the stranger below, turning his head
from side to side.
"I beg of you make me into a bird with green and purple
feathers like yours!" implored Iktomi, tired now of playing the
brave in beaded buckskins. The peacock then spoke to Iktomi: "I
have a magic power. My touch will change you in a moment into the
most beautiful peacock if you can keep one condition."
"Yes! yes!" shouted Iktomi, jumping up and down, patting his
lips with his palm, which caused his voice to vibrate in a peculiar
fashion. "Yes! yes! I could keep ten conditions if only you would
change me into a bird with long, bright tail feathers. Oh, I am so
ugly! I am so tired of being myself! Change me! Do!"
Hereupon the peacock spread out both his wings, and scarce
moving them, he sailed slowly down upon the ground. Right beside
Iktomi he alighted. Very low in Iktomi's ear the peacock
whispered, "Are you willing to keep one condition, though hard it
"Yes! yes! I've told you ten of them if need be!" exclaimed
Iktomi, with some impatience.
"Then I pronounce you a handsome feathered bird. No longer
are you Iktomi the mischief-maker." Saying this the peacock
touched Iktomi with the tips of his wings.
Iktomi vanished at the touch. There stood beneath the tree
two handsome peacocks. While one of the pair strutted about with
a head turned aside as if dazzled by his own bright-tinted tail
feathers, the other bird soared slowly upward. He sat quiet and
unconscious of his gay plumage. He seemed content to perch there
on a large limb in the warm sunshine.
After a little while the vain peacock, dizzy with his bright
colors, spread out his wings and lit on the same branch with the
"Oh!" he exclaimed, "how hard to fly! Brightly tinted
feathers are handsome, but I wish they were light enough to fly!"
Just there the elder bird interrupted him. "That is the one
condition. Never try to fly like other birds. Upon the day you
try to fly you shall be changed into your former self."
"Oh, what a shame that bright feathers cannot fly into the
sky!" cried the peacock. Already he grew restless. He longed to
soar through space. He yearned to fly above the trees high upward
to the sun.
"Oh, there I see a flock of birds flying thither! Oh! oh!"
said he, flapping his wings, "I must try my wings! I am tired of
bright tail feathers. I want to try my wings."
"No, no!" clucked the elder bird. The flock of chattering
birds flew by with whirring wings. "Oop! oop!" called some to
Possessed by an irrepressible impulse the Iktomi peacock
called out, "He! I want to come! Wait for me!" and with that he
gave a lunge into the air. The flock of flying feathers wheeled
about and lowered over the tree whence came the peacock's cry.
Only one rare bird sat on the tree, and beneath, on the ground,
stood a brave in brown buckskins.
"I am my old self again!" groaned Iktomi in a sad voice.
"Make me over, pretty bird. Try me this once again!" he pleaded in
"Old Iktomi wants to fly! Ah! We cannot wait for him!" sang
the birds as they flew away.
Muttering unhappy vows to himself, Iktomi had not gone far
when he chanced upon a bunch of long slender arrows. One by one
they rose in the air and shot a straight line over the prairie.
Others shot up into the blue sky and were soon lost to sight. Only
one was left. He was making ready for his flight when Iktomi
rushed upon him and wailed, "I want to be an arrow! Make me into
an arrow! I want to pierce the blue Blue overhead. I want to
strike yonder summer sun in its center. Make me into an arrow!"
"Can you keep a condition? One condition, though hard it be?"
the arrow turned to ask.
"Yes! Yes!" shouted Iktomi, delighted.
Hereupon the slender arrow tapped him gently with his sharp
flint beak. There was no Iktomi, but two arrows stood ready
to fly. "Now, young arrow, this is the one condition. Your flight
must always be in a straight line. Never turn a curve nor jump
about like a young fawn," said the arrow magician. He spoke slowly
At once he set about to teach the new arrow how to shoot in a
long straight line.
"This is the way to pierce the Blue overhead," said he; and
off he spun high into the sky.
While he was gone a herd of deer came trotting by. Behind
them played the young fawns together. They frolicked about like
kittens. They bounced on all fours like balls. Then they pitched
forward, kicking their heels in the air. The Iktomi arrow watched
them so happy on the ground. Looking quickly up into the sky, he
said in his heart, "The magician is out of sight. I'll just romp
and frolic with these fawns until he returns. Fawns! Friends, do
not fear me. I want to jump and leap with you. I long to be happy
as you are," said he. The young fawns stopped with stiff legs and
stared at the speaking arrow with large brown wondering eyes.
"See! I can jump as well as you!" went on Iktomi. He gave one
tiny leap like a fawn. All of a sudden the fawns snorted with
extended nostrils at what they beheld. There among them stood
Iktomi in brown buckskins, and the strange talking arrow was gone.
"Oh! I am myself. My old self!" cried Iktomi, pinching
himself and plucking imaginary pieces out of his jacket.
"Hin-hin-hin! I wanted to fly!"
The real arrow now returned to the earth. He alighted very
near Iktomi. From the high sky he had seen the fawns playing on
the green. He had seen Iktomi make his one leap, and the charm was
broken. Iktomi became his former self.
"Arrow, my friend, change me once more!" begged Iktomi.
"No, no more," replied the arrow. Then away he shot through
the air in the direction his comrades had flown.
By this time the fawns gathered close around Iktomi. They
poked their noses at him trying to know who he was.
Iktomi's tears were like a spring shower. A new desire dried
them quickly away. Stepping boldly to the largest fawn, he looked
closely at the little brown spots all over the furry face.
"Oh, fawn! What beautiful brown spots on your face! Fawn,
dear little fawn, can you tell me how those brown spots were made
on your face?"
"Yes," said the fawn. "When I was very, very small, my mother
marked them on my face with a red hot fire. She dug a large hole
in the ground and made a soft bed of grass and twigs in it. Then
she placed me gently there. She covered me over with dry sweet
grass and piled dry cedars on top. From a neighbor's fire she
brought hither a red, red ember. This she tucked carefully in at
my head. This is how the brown spots were made on my face."
"Now, fawn, my friend, will you do the same for me? Won't you
mark my face with brown, brown spots just like yours?" asked
Iktomi, always eager to be like other people.
"Yes. I can dig the ground and fill it with dry grass and
sticks. If you will jump into the pit, I'll cover you with sweet
smelling grass and cedar wood," answered the fawn.
"Say," interrupted Ikto, "will you be sure to cover me with a
great deal of dry grass and twigs? You will make sure that the
spots will be as brown as those you wear."
"Oh, yes. I'll pile up grass and willows once oftener than my
"Now let us dig the hole, pull the grass, and gather sticks,"
cried Iktomi in glee.
Thus with his own hands he aids in making his grave. After
the hole was dug and cushioned with grass, Iktomi, muttering
something about brown spots, leaped down into it. Lengthwise, flat
on his back, he lay. While the fawn covered him over with cedars,
a far-away voice came up through them, "Brown, brown spots to wear
forever!" A red ember was tucked under the dry grass. Off
scampered the fawns after their mothers; and when a great distance
away they looked backward. They saw a blue smoke rising, writhing
upward till it vanished in the blue ether.
"Is that Iktomi's spirit?" asked one fawn of another.
"No! I think he would jump out before he could burn into
smoke and cinders," answered his comrade.