Tales from the Hoh and Quileute

From: Reagan, Albert, and L.V.W. Walters, 1933, "Tales from the Hoh and Quileute", Journal of American Folklore, V. XLVI, pp. 297-346.

(Neah bay Indians believe that the lightning is caused by two monstrous feathered snakes which dart out from under Thunderbird's breast when he flies forth in anger.)

When it is stormy weather the thunderbird flies through the skies. He is of monstrous size. When he opens and shut his eyes, he makes the lightning. The flapping of his wings makes the thunder and the great winds. Thunderbird keeps his meat in a dark hole under the glacier at the foot of the Olympic glacial field. This is his home. When he moves about in there, he makes the noise there under the ice.

(Told by Frank Bennett. A Hoh myth A. B. R.)

Some men were hunting on the Hoh mountains. They found a hole in the side of the mountain. They said, "This is thunderbird's home. This is a supernatural place." Whenever they walked close to the hole they approached his place. He did not want any person to come near his house. He caused ice to come out of the door of his house. Whenever people came near there, he rolled ice down the mountain side while he made the thunder noise. The ice would roll until it came to the level place where the rocks are. There it broke into a million pieces, and rattled as it rolled farther down the valley. Everyone was afraid of Thunderbird and of the thunder noise. No one would sleep near that place over night.

(Told By Luke Hobucket.)

Thunderbird lives in the sky. He makes the lightning by his rapid flight through the air. He makes the big noise by the flapping of his wings. He eats whale for food. One time Thunderbird got a big whale in his talons and carried him to Beaver Prairie and ate him there. The whale fought very hard before he was killed. Thunderbird and Whale fought so hard that they pulled up the trees there by their roots. And no trees have ever grown in that place to this day.

(Told by Luke Hobucket. Mr. Hobucket said that Thunderbird represented good and that Mimlos-whale represented evil.)

There was the great flood. At that time. Thunderbird fought with Mimlos-Whale. The battle lasted a long time. For a long time the battle was undecided. Thunderbird in the air could not whip Mimlos-whale in the water. Thunderbird would seize Mimlos-whale in his talons and try to carry Mimlos-whale to his nest in the mountains. Mimlos-whale would get away. Again Thunderbird would seize him. Again Mimlos-whale would escape. The battle between them was terrible. The noise that Thunderbird made when he flapped his wings shook the mountains. They stripped the timber there. They tore the trees out by their roots. Then Mimlos-whale got away. Again Thunderbird caught Mimlos-whale. Again they fought a terrible battle in another place. All the trees there were torn out by their roots. Again Mimlos-whale escaped.

Many times they fought thus. Each time thunderbird caught Mimlos-whale there was a terrible battle, and all the trees in that place were uprooted. At last Mimlos-whale escaped to the deep ocean, and Thunderbird gave up the fight. That is why the killer whale still lives in the ocean today. In those places where Thunderbird and Mimlos-whale fought, to this day, no trees grow. Those places are the prairies on the Olympic Peninsula today.

(Told by Luke Hobucket)

A man was living at Beaver Prairie. He was an elk hunter. He went off hunting very early one morning, but soon he came back. He told the people, "I saw a very big bird sitting just a little way above the ground in a tree. That was thunderbird. Here is a feather that I took from Thunderbird's wing." The feather was as long as a canoe paddle. He had had to bend it in order to put it into his arrow quiver when he brought it home with him. After he showed the feather to the people, he said, "I also saw a very big whale on the prairie. It had been carried there by thunderbird. Thunderbird was resting in the tree, because Whale was so heavy."

The man sent word to all the Quileute people living at the mouth of the river. "Come up! We will cut up Whale. He is so large that thunderbird cannot carry him further." All the beach and river Indians came at once to the prairie. There were from three to six people in each whaling canoe. They came to cut up the whale. When they reached that place, Whale was lying there dead in the lower part of the prairie. It was just as that man had said. The people began to measure off the parts each wanted. One family took the saddle. Another family took the head. In this fashion they divided the whole whale. By evening they had it all cut in pieces. All over the ground, pieces of blubber were piled. It was evening. The people were hungry. They cooked some of the whale meat and ate it. It tasted all right. It was good to eat.

It got dark and the clouds overhead became very black. Thunderbird was coming back. He was very angry because the people had stolen his food. Lightning flashed from his eyes. It began to rain a little, not so much at first. Then the rain changed to hail. The hail was larger than a man's fist. It killed and mangled all the people there on the prairie Thunderbird was very angry with those people, because they had taken the whale. After the storm all those people were turned into stone. All the meat and blubber that they had piled there was turned into stone. Thus a ridge was made of great rock blocks from one end of the prairie to the other. The ridge is still there today. Even Whale's ribs and his great head may still be seen.


Thunderbird was very angry one time. He caused the ocean to rise. When the water began to cover things, the Quieute got into their boats. The waters rose for four days. They rose until the very tops of the mountains were covered with water. The Quileute in their boats sailed wherever the wind currents carried them. Thay had no way to direct themselves. There was no sun. There was no land. For four days the water receded. But now the people were much scattered. When they reached land, some of the people were at Hoh; so they lived there from that time on. Others landed at Chemakum and stayed there. Only a few succeeded in finding their way back to Quileute.


Back to the List of Stories