Speelyai Fights Eenumtla

Speelyai fights Eenumtla Discussion

G.B. Kuykendall, M.D. (1843-?) was an early resident of the Pacific Northwest (1852?). He graduated from Willamette University and was appointed to the post of government physician at Fort Simcoe on the Yakima Indian Reservation. He became interested in ethology of the the natives of the North Pacific Coast, and published a number of popular articles. For the story "Speelyai fights Eenumtla", neither the tribe nor the informant is named. From other stories about Speelyai, we know that this tale is from the Yakama Tribe of the Columbia River Basin,

"Speelyai fights Eenumtla" (Kuykendall, 1889; reprinted in Bagley, 1930) like the previous story, details the lengthy epic battle in mythic time between the Transformer and the Thunder god. This inland version of the story clearly mentions shaking, but not water-level disturbances. "Speelyai fights Eenumtla" shares many story elements with "A story of the flood" but none with Swan's account. In this version of the story the culminating battle "shook the whole world". The battle is accompanied with thunder, lightning, and heavy rain while storm clouds darkened the sky. The Thunder god is finally vanquished, and is forbidden to thunder except on hot sultry days.

In general, the Yakama transformer myths in Kuykendall (1889) have different themes from the Hoh and Quileute transformer myths given by Reagan (1934). The similarities between the previous story and this one suggest a single widely experienced event. It is interesting to consider how widely traveled the various tribes might have been in 1700, how frequently they were in contact, and how stories might have been disseminated, shared, and compared between inland and coastal groups.

From: George Benson Kuykendall, 1889, History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington, Volume II, Part VI, Elwood Evans, North Pacific history company, Portland, Oregon, pp. 60-95.
Reprinted in: Clarence B. Bagley, 1930, "Indian Myths of the Northwest", Lowman and Hanford Co., Seattle, WA.


Eenumtla, or Thunder, was a very mighty god in the days of the Wat-tee-tash. He lived in the high mountains and clouds. His terrible roar filled every living thing with fear; and his searching gaze penetrated from his home in the clouds to every spot on the earth. The wink of his eye was the flashing of fire; and no living thing could hope to escape his notice. This thunder god abused his power, and made himself a tyrant. Seated high in the clouds, and always watching, whenever he saw anyone, he immediately spread dark clouds over him and thundered so violently as to make the world tremble; and with a flash of lightening his victim was stricken out of existence. The people were living in a state of continued terror, and scarcely dared come out of their houses for fear of being shot by the lightning.

The Indian god Speelyai (Coyote) came along one day and found the people in great consternation. He said to them: "What is the matter? Of what are you all so fearful?" They related how they lived in constant dread of the mighty Eenumtla, and scarcely dared to go out to fish, hunt or do anything. He told the terrified people he would break the power of the dreaded storm god. After much thought he failed to come to any conclusion as to the best mode of getting at the monster. As was his custom when in need of counsel or help, he called forth his sisters; and, when they had told him what to do, he said: "That is just what I thought, my sisters; that is my plan."

Following their directions, he transformed himself to a downy feather, and floated on the wind up to the thunder god, and over him, so as to get a good sight of him. He then came down in a whirlwind and alighted on a dry sunflower stalk, and sat there watching Eenumtla. During these movements the thunder god had been watching, and kept thinking: "That looks like a feather, and yet it looks like a man." He then raised up and took a better look. Being suspicious and in doubt, he said: "It probably is a feather that I knocked from someone the other day; and the wind has blown it here. I will try a little rain on it and see what it will do." So saying, he raised up and thundered and sent a shower of rain down. The magic feather did not move. When the rain ceased all of a sudden, Coyote, in the form of a feather, rose up in the air and began to peal out thunder and flash lightning and pour rain down at a terrible rate. Eenumtla was amazed and sorely perplexed that so small an object as a downy feather should do such a wonderful thing. "I thought I was the only Thunder in the world." Feeling jealous at this usurping of his power and dignity, he flashed lightning at the little down and thundered at it, and sent down a deluge of water at his insignificant enemy. The disguised god Coyote became very angry, and began to flash lightning in the very eyes of the thunder god himself, so that he began to dodge and blink. Determined not to be outdone by so puny an antagonist, Eenumtla the thunderer shot back hot lightning, sending the fire at his eyes; yet Coyote did not dodge nor wink, but answered with lightnings more fierce and thunders more loud. The contest waged hotter and hotter. The thunderer shot thunderbolts at Coyote, and tore up the earth about him; and he in turn answered lightnings with flashes more terrific, and hurled the thunder god from his seat in the clouds. The enraged combatants then raised high up over the world, and fought amid rollings and crushings of thunder, and the demoniac play of lightnings and thunderbolts; while the storm clouds darkened the sky, and rain deluged the earth with fearful violence.

They finally came together in a fearful last death grip, in the midst of thick clouds and tempestuous elements; they fell to the ground with such force that they shook the whole world. Coyote fell on top of Eenumtla the thunderer, and began to beat him unmercifully with his war clubs. The fallen giant pleaded for mercy; but coyote continued to pummel his antagonist until all the clubs were broken; and then he pronounced sentence upon the once haughty thunderer: "You shall no more make it your business to kill and terrify people. You may live, but can only thunder on hot, sultry days. You may flash lightning, but not to destroy." From that day the power of Eenumtla has been broken; and, though he sometimes terrifies, he seldom kills.


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