From the Navaho Age of Gods

In the Age of Gods: The next morning, after the Elder Brother had returned from killing the Giant Elk, he asked: "Mother, Grandmother, Where do the Giant Birds live?" They told him that they were to be found just north of La Plata Mountains, at a, place called Tse an' iska', A Tall Rock Standing. "It is a dangerous place," they said. "No one can go near there." The Elder Brother said: "In all the world there is no such thing as a dangerous place." So he made his plan.

note: The chant that the grandmother used was the one that the warriors used. It is sung also before going on a hunting trip. It is sacred. This part must never be told in the summertime; all the stories of the killing of monsters. This ceremony could be used against kin among the Navaho, should anyone be wicked enough to do it. Sometimes it has even been used between brothers and sisters; for, the Twins killed their elder brother, the giant, Yeitso. The remedy is to use the chants the Elder Brother sang when going against the monsters. There are hundreds of these chants. By reading the stories one can get an idea of the wording of the chants. The chants always tell the story of the deeds of the holy ones.

note: tse bida'i is the Winged Rock or Shiprock.

He put on the elkskin coat that he had made and laced the front of it. He placed the blood vessels which contained the Giant Elk's blood around his neck and laced the coat over them. Also he placed the two sacred feathers, which the Sun's mother had given him, one under each arm. He carried the black knife and the lightning bow and arrow and one of the horns of the Giant Elk; with these he started out.

When he neared the mountain, at a place where the town of Marvel now is located (this--Mesa Verde--side of Durango), all of a sudden he began to wonder if the Giant Birds had seen him.

The chant is like this:

I wonder if the lone eyes are watching me?
I wonder if the lone eyes are watching me?
I wonder if the lone eyes are watching me?
I am he who has killed the monsters.
The lightning is before me.
All is beautiful behind me.

(The chant continued: "I wonder what the big birds will do to me?" etc.)

As the Elder Brother approached La Plata Mountains he sang two other chants. And as he was singing he saw a black speck over the mountains. It was one of the Giant Birds. It swooped like a hawk after a chicken. The Elder Brother lay, face downward, flat on the ground. The bird scratched the back of his coat but did not get a hold. The elder Brother chanted:

The Big Bird has missed me.
The Big Bird has missed me.
I alone have been missed.
I alone have been missed.

The big bird circled around again and dived for him. He missed him again, and again the Elder Brother chanted as before. The fourth time he lay on his back, and when the big bird swooped down he caught the lacings of the coat in his talons. Then the Elder Brother sang:

The Big Bird got hold of me.
The Big Bird got hold of me.
I alone shall be saved.
I alone shall be saved.

He repeated this chant eight times, and he blew eight times on the bird. In this way the Elder Brother was carried to the home of the Giant Birds.

The Giant Bird carried him over a high peak, and over a great smooth rock and there he dropped him. But the Elder Brother landed safely by the help of the sacred feathers and the Giant Elk's horn. There he lay on his back and cut open the blood vessels around his neck, and out poured the blood. The Giant Bird called his two young ones, his two children, and he told them to go and eat. The two young birds approached the Elder Brother and made for his eyes, but he said: "Sash, Sash it!" and they backed away. (That is why an eagle flies backward when he first lands on the ground.) The young birds returned to their father and said: "He is alive, father." The Giant Bird told them to hush and go and eat. This happened four times. Each time the young birds called back to their father that they were afraid because the youth was still alive. Finally the Giant Bird flew away, but before he left he called to the young birds and told them if they were hungry to go ahead and eat.

note: The Giant Birds are called Tse na'hale. They are named after the fashion in which they carry a being to the top of the rock and let him fall against it.

When the young birds began to cry the Elder Brother told them to hush, that he would not harm them. So the young birds took him to their nest, and the three camped there that night. They had for their cover all the white flowers that grow on the mountains, made like a feather quilt.

The next morning the Elder Brother asked them when their father returned. They answered: "Our father returns when you see the Male Rain begin to fall." So when the Male Rain commenced falling at a certain time of the day the young birds looked up and said: "Our father is coming with a load." The Elder Brother looked into the sky but he could see nothing. He asked the young birds where their father would light, and they showed him the place. He went there and made ready, weapon in hand.

When the Giant Bird flew over the peak he threw a young man on the rock where he had thrown the Elder Brother the day before. The great bird circled and lighted just where the young birds said that he would. Before the Giant Bird's wings were closed the Elder Brother took aim and shot his arrow. The Giant Bird tumbled over with a great roar which was heard at a considerable distance, and then the echo was heard.

The two young birds began to cry, but the Elder Brother told them to hush, that he would not harm them, that he would save them. He asked them when their mother would return. They said: "When the Female Rain falls, then our mother will return." He waited, and he camped that night as before with the young ones. The next day when the Female Rain began to fall the young birds looked up and said: "Our mother is coming with a load." The Elder Brother asked them where the mother bird would light when she came home, and they told him the place. He went to the ledge indicated and sat under it and made ready his weapons. When the mother bird flew over the rock she threw down a beautiful maiden. The Elder Brother saw that she had lots of hair and strings of turquoise for earrings. Now as soon as the Giant Bird lighted the Elder Brother took aim and shot his lightning arrow. The Giant Bird tumbled over the rock with a great noise which was heard over the mountain. The two young birds began to cry, but the Elder Brother went to them and said: "I shall not harm you. You will be saved."

The Elder Brother called to the older of the two birds and said:

Sit here before me. From this day on you will not think as your father thought. The thoughts of your mother have also departed from you. You will forget all that has happened to you, and the spirits of your father and mother will not enter you again. The tribe which is called Dîné shall use you. They shall use your claws, your feathers, your bill, your eyes and your bile.

This he said to the elder bird, and he raised him up and told him to go. The young bird rose and flew up into the sky and out of sight. He was the eagle.

Then the Elder Brother called the younger bird and said: "You sit before me now." He prepared a smoke for himself. He puffed the smoke on his fingers and passed his hand over the bird crosswise. He told him that the thoughts of his father and his mother had departed from him, and that their spirits would not enter him again. "The tribe called Dîné shall use your feathers. When they are out alone and lost you will help them. In case of famine they will eat you for meat. Whatever you say will have a double meaning: it can be taken for a lie or for the truth." He raised the young bird and told him to go. He did not fly high but just over the rocks. He circled around, and the Elder Brother heard an owl hoot. He had said that the owl could be eaten as food. The Giant Birds had big eyes, so are the eyes of the owl.

After that the Elder Brother was alone on top of the great rock. He searched everywhere but there was no way to descend. Now this was the fourth day since he had left his home. The Younger Brother kept watch over the medicine sticks and they were all standing as at first. But the Elder Brother was really worried and lonesome. He sat on the high peak and looked in the direction of his home. He Could see a black cloud hanging over his homeland and he saw a black streak of rain and lightning flashing, and the rainbow shone on one side.

This is the chant he sang as he sat there:

Far in the distance the black cloud rises.
I am he who killed the monsters.
Far in the distance the black cloud rises.
The Male Rain rises up from the far horizon.
Lightning rises from the far horizon.
The rainbow rises from the far horizon.
They rise like the Most High Power Whose Ways Are Beautiful.
They rise far in the distance.
I am he who came to earth with the lightning.
The black vapor rises far in the distance.
The Female Rain rises far in the distance.
The lightning rises far in the distance.
The rainbow rises far in the distance.
They rise like the Most High Power Whose Ways Are Beautiful.
They rise far in the distance.

The Elder Brother circled the cliff and he saw the old Bat Woman carrying a basket way down below him. He called down from the top of the rock and said: "Grandmother, take me off the top of this rock in your basket." She mumbled something and hurried behind a rock for she was frightened as she had never heard anyone call from the home of the Giant Birds. He called down again, and she peered out from behind the rock. He said: "Grandmother there is no danger up here for I have killed the Giant Birds." Then he called again: "If you take me down you call have all the feathers from the Giant Birds." Then she called up: "You go over to the edge and dig a hole in the ground and put your head into it and wait until I come up. "So he did as she said. He stayed there with his head in the ground, and he heard her singing as she came up. It took a long time until she reached the top of the rock. She then said to the Elder Brother: "Get up, my child. What are you doing here?" When he stood up he saw the grandmother bat with her basket. "You may have all the feathers of the Giant Birds," said the Elder Brother, "if you take me down from this high peak." The grandmother bat said: "Very well. Get into my basket." He saw that it was made of tiny strings woven together, and be said: "Grandmother, those strings are too fragile to hold me up." Whereupon she filled her basket with heavy stones and danced around with it. When she dumped out the stones he got into the basket. She said to him: "You must close your eyes." To make sure of this she wrapped his head in the baby buffalo hide that she had received as her gift when she went to the home of the Great Gambler. So they started to climb down the cliff. It seemed a long time to the Elder Brother who began to open his eyes. He thought: where in the world is she taking me?

The Bat Woman started to fall. She hit over her shoulder with her walking stick and said: "Oh, you foolish-headed boy. You will wander where you do not belong." And she continued to lay on the stick. When they reached the ground the Elder Brother climbed out of the basket and asked: "What happened, Grandmother?" But she just shook her head.

They walked to the place where the Giant Birds had fallen to earth. There the Elder Brother filled the Bat Woman's basket with the feathers, those of the wings, tail and all. He covered the basket with the

note: He had to bide his eyes for the Bat Woman wore only a small apron which flapped as she climbed.

hide of the baby buffalo; and he told her that she must not go through the grove of sunflowers with her load. Then he gathered up the wing and tail feathers which he had put aside for himself, and started for his home.

As he had disobeyed the grandmother bat on their way down the cliff she decided to get even with him. She went straight for the sunflowers. A jackrabbit came up to her and said: "Grandmother, what have you in your basket?" He looked in and pulled out two tail feathers which he stuck through his headband. "Now I am quite fine," he said. (And that is why the jackrabbit has long ears.)

When the Bat Woman arrived in the sunflower patch thousands of little birds flew out of her basket. She tried to pull them back, but she lost them all. She called out to the Elder Brother: "Oh, Grandson, look, I have lost all my feathers." But the Elder Brother was well on his way, and he thought to himself: now who will take the trouble to reload her basket.

When the Elder Brother reached his home the Younger Brother met him and said: "I have watched the kethawns (medicine sticks) all the time you were gone. I saw the black stick smoking and I knew that you were in danger; but it went out and I knew that you had overcome the enemy." The Elder Brother left the wing and tail feathers of the Giant Birds outside and the Twins entered the hogan. The Elder Brother said: "Mother, Grandmother, Grandfather, I have killed the two Giant Birds." But First Woman answered: "There is no one able to kill them." He said: "But go and see. The feathers are outside." The grandmother went outside and took up the feathers and danced, saying: "It was for this I was made to live alone."