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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Nihancan and the Dwarf's Arrow

Nihancan the spider was out travelling in search of some mischief he could do to please himself. Along a creek he found a patch of sweet berries, and while he was eating them he heard the sound of someone cutting wood. The sound seemed to come from a grove of cotton woods across the creek. "I must go over there," Nihancan said to himself "I have heard that dwarfs who make wonderful arrows live in that place. It is time that I played a trick on them."

He crossed a stream, and among the cotton woods he found a dwarf making an arrow out of an immense tree that had been cut down. "Well, little brother," said Nihancan, "what are you making?"

"You have eyes to see," replied the dwarf, who continued shaping the tree into an arrow as long as ten men and as thick as a man's body.

"I have heard about your ability to shoot very large arrows," Nihancan said. "But surely you do not expect me to believe that so small a person as you can lift so large a tree. Let me see you shoot it. I will stand over there against that hillside and you can shoot at me."

"I do not want to do that, Nihancan," the dwarf answered, "for I might kill you."

At that, Nihancan laughed and began taunting the dwarf, who remained silent until Nihancan said scornfully: "Just as I thought, you are unable to lift the arrow, and so cannot shoot at me. I shall go on my way.

Then the dwarf said: "I will shoot." Nihancan went toward the hillside and asked in a mocking voice: "Shall I stand here?"

"No, farther away," said the dwarf. "You might get hurt there."

Nihancan went on, and asked again: "Shall I stand here?" But the dwarf continued to tell him to go farther off. At last Nihancan called out: "I will not go any farther. I am as far as your voice reaches." He was now on the hillside, and as he turned to look back he was astonished to see the dwarf pick up the huge tree with one hand.

At once he became frightened and shouted: "Don't shoot at me, little brother. I know you are able to do it. I was only pretending not to believe you."

"Oh, you trickster spider," retorted the dwarf, "I know you are only pretending now. I am going to shoot."

"Please do not shoot!" cried Nihancan, but the dwarf answered him: "I must shoot now. When once I have taken up my bow and arrows I must shoot, or I will lose my power."

Then the dwarf lifted his great arrow and aimed and shot. As Nihancan saw the huge tree coming toward him through the air, he began to yell and run first one way and then another. He did not know where to go, for whichever way he went the arrow turned and headed in the same direction. It continued to come nearer and nearer, its point facing directly toward him. Then he threw himself on the soft ground. The tree struck him and forced him deep into the earth, so that only his head was left outside. He struggled to escape, but the arrow wedged him in.

In a short time the dwarf came up to Nihancan, and after scolding him for doubting his strength, he helped him out and gave him some medicine for his bruises. After that Nihancan went on his way, and he never came back to that place again to play tricks on the dwarfs.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.