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The Caddo Tale of Lion Bridegroom

There was a girl, a pretty girl, the boys came courting her. The girl would not listen to them. One day she went after water, she saw a boy across the creek, she went across and talked to him. He was a handsome boy in a fine buckskin suit. She went back to the river. She talked to him. She took him to her folks, they got married. In the fall people went hunting and the boy went out with his gun. He brought nothing back. The girl’s dogs were starved. They said, “Well, younger sister (tahai’), we are going to follow our brother (kinitsi)to see what he does that he brings back nothing to eat.” So they followed him. They went to the edge of the timber, they saw him lay down his cartridge belt, lay his gun against a tree, lie down and roll over several times and stand up as a lion. They ran back and told the woman to leave, he was not a man. “He will come back and eat us up.” So she went. She told the five dogs to stay in camp to bother him so he could not overtake her quickly. After she had gone on she heard the dogs barking. She could hear only three of them, the little five dogs (pito’si), the two big ones were killed already. Then one dog overtook her and said, “Only two of us are left.” She kept on going. Another caught up. He said, “There’s only one left. Don’t stop. I am going back.” It was getting dark. She saw a fire on the edge of the timber. When she got there she found a haiyoshötsi. He asked her what was the matter. She said someone was after her. He was picking a turkey. He told her to hide in the feathers. And he went on picking the turkey. He saw the thing coming. He got his bow and arrows. When it got close he shot and killed that lion. The woman stayed all night. Next morning she went home. They asked her what had become of her old man. She said, “He was not a person, but a lion. He killed all my dogs and would have eaten me up.” Her father said, “That is how you were punished for not marrying a Caddo; you got an animal for a husband.” Ever since that they have been careful to know who they marry.

The tale of “Lion Bridegroom” will be recognized as a version of a widespread Black-White tale combined with some reminiscence of the tale of Escape up the Tree. In the Caddo tales recorded by Dorsey there are a number of tales of Black or White provenience: Calf and Bull (p. 40), Playing Dead (p. 86), Frozen Tail (pp. 91-92), Bungling Host (pp. 93-95), In the Cow’s Belly (p. 99), Relay Race (pp. 104-105), Forty Thieves (pp. 105-106), and Escape up the Tree (pp. 59-60). The form of Escape up the Tree is particularly interesting for it is that of the Southeast variant of this tale which has migrated across the continent from Southeast to Northwest, witch and dogs figure instead of bulls or buffalo, the variant found among Kiowa and Pueblos. In the Pawnee variant all figure-witch, dogs, and buffalo.

Pueblo tale elements are also recognizable: the flood-sending water serpent (pp. 46-47) (Hopi), the dog who tells on the wife (p. 66) (Zuni, also Kiowa), the attempt of the woman’s people to get her away from her foreign husband (pp. 73-76) (Hopi, Tewa of First Mesa).

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