Myths & Legends



Sioux: The Three Tests

Sioux: The Three Tests

The Sioux are groups of Native American tribes and First Nations peoples in North America. The Sioux comprise three major divisions based on language divisions: the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota.

Today the Sioux maintain many separate tribal governments scattered across several reservations, communities, and reserves in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Montana in the United States; and Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan in Canada.

The story that follow is recounted by Lewis Spence in The Myths of North American Indians.

A story of the valour where the boy gets the girl.
— Orly

There dwelt in a certain village a woman of remarkable grace and attractiveness. The fame of her beauty drew suitors from far and near, eager to display their prowess and win the love of this imperious creature—for, besides being beautiful, she was extremely hard to please, and set such tests for her lovers as none had ever been able to satisfy.

A certain young man who lived at a considerable distance had heard of her great charms, and made up his mind to woo and win her. The difficulty of the task did not daunt him, and, full of hope, he set out on his mission.

As he travelled he came to a very high hill, and on the summit he saw a man rising and sitting down at short intervals. When the prospective suitor drew nearer he observed that the man was fastening large stones to his ankles. The youth approached him, saying: "Why do you tie these great stones to your ankles?"

"Oh," replied the other, "I wish to chase buffaloes, and yet whenever I do so I go beyond them, so I am tying stones to my ankles that I may not run so fast."

"My friend," said the suitor, "you can run some other time. In the meantime I am without a companion: come with me."

The Swift One agreed, and they walked on their way together. Ere they had gone very far they saw two large lakes. By the side of one of them sat a man, who frequently bowed his head to the water and drank. Surprised that his thirst was not quenched, they said to him: "Why do you sit there drinking of the lake?"

"I can never get enough water. When I have finished this lake I shall start on the other."

"My friend," said the suitor, "do not trouble to drink it just now. Come and join us."

The Thirsty One complied, and the three comrades journeyed on. When they had gone a little farther they noticed a man walking along with his face lifted to the sky. Curious to know why he acted thus, they addressed him.

"Why do you walk with your eyes turned skyward?" said they.

"I have shot an arrow," he said, "and I am waiting for it to reappear."

"Never mind your arrow," said the suitor. "Come with us."

"I will come," said the Skilful Archer.

As the four companions journeyed through a forest they beheld a strange sight. A man was lying with his ear to the ground, and if he lifted his head for a moment he bowed it again, listening intently. The four approached him, saying: "Friend, for what do you listen so earnestly?"

"I am listening," said he, "to the plants growing. This forest is full of plants, and I am listening to their breathing."

"You can listen when the occasion arises," they told him. "Come and join us."

He agreed, and so they travelled to the village where dwelt the beautiful maiden.

When they had reached their destination they were quickly surrounded by the villagers, who displayed no small curiosity as to who their visitors were and what object they had in coming so far. When they heard that one of the strangers desired to marry the village beauty they shook their heads over him. Did he not know the difficulties in the way? Finding that he would not be turned from his purpose, they led him to a huge rock which overshadowed the village, and described the first test he would be required to meet.

"If you wish to win the maiden," they said, "you must first of all push away that great stone. It is keeping the sunlight from us."

"Alas!" said the youth, "it is impossible."

"Not so," said his companion of the swift foot; "nothing could be more easy."

Saying this, he leaned his shoulder against the rock, and with a mighty crash it fell from its place. From the breaking up of it came the rocks and stones that are scattered over all the world.

The second test was of a different nature. The people brought the strangers a large quantity of food and water, and bade them eat and drink. Being very hungry, they succeeded in disposing of the food, but the suitor sorrowfully regarded the great kettles of water.

"Alas!" said he, "who can drink up that?"

"I can," said the Thirsty One, and in a twinkling he had drunk it all.

The people were amazed at the prowess of the visitors. However, they said, "There is still another test," and they brought out a woman who was a very swift runner, so swift that no one had ever outstripped her in a race.


The Race

"You must run a race with this woman," said they. "If you win you shall have the hand of the maiden you have come to seek."

Naturally the suitor chose the Swift One for this test. When the runners were started the people hailed them as {278}fairly matched, for they raced together till they were out of sight.

When they reached the turning-point the woman said: "Come, let us rest for a little."

The man agreed, but no sooner had he sat down then he fell asleep. The woman seized her opportunity. Making sure that her rival was sleeping soundly, she set off for the village, running as hard as she could.

Meanwhile the four comrades were anxiously awaiting the return of the competitors, and great was their disappointment when the woman came in sight, while there was yet no sign of their champion.

The man who could hear the plants growing bent his ear to the ground.

"He is asleep," said he; "I can hear him snoring."

The Skilful Archer came forward, and as he bit the point off an arrow he said: "I will soon wake him."

He shot an arrow from the bowstring with such a wonderful aim that it wounded the sleeper's nose, and roused him from his slumbers. The runner started to his feet and looked round for the woman. She was gone. Knowing that he had been tricked, the Swift One put all his energy into an effort to overtake her. She was within a few yards of the winning-post when he passed her. It was a narrow margin, but nevertheless the Swift One had gained the race for his comrade.

The youth was then married to the damsel, whom he found to be all that her admirers had claimed, and more.



For another version of this tale, follow the link here.

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