The Rooster, the Mockingbird and the Maiden

In the old days many Hopis lived at Oraibi, with birds and animals living as equals among them. At the northwest part of Bakvatovi pueblo lived a beautiful maiden who persistently refused all offers of marriage. The young men of Oraibi brought gifts to her, hoping to win her as a wife, but she returned their presents and sent them away.

Far away to the north a powerful chief heard of her beauty and made the long journey to Oraibi to win her consent to marry. He brought with him a bundle of presents, which he set down outside her house before entering to introduce himself. He found the girl grinding cornmeal.

Without stopping her work, she looked up at the handsome visitor, but said nothing.

"Why do you not talk to me?" he asked.

"Who are you, going around here?" she replied.

"I came to ask you to marry me," he said. "I left my bundle of gifts outside. Go and look at them."

The girl stopped her grinding, went outside, and found a large basket woven of bright yellow reeds. She brought it into the house, and opening it found two yellow bridal robes, a pair of yellow moccasins, and a wide yellow belt. After looking at the gifts for a moment, she put them back into the basket and handed it to the young chief "I do not want them," she said. "I do not want you. You may go now."

The young man bowed his head, picked up the basket, and left.

Now, over on another side of Oraibi lived a Rooster, a very proud Rooster, who could assume the appearance of a man whenever he chose to do so. That afternoon he heard about the visit of the chief from the north, and he thought it strange that this beautiful maiden had sent the powerful chief away. So curious was he that he made preparations to visit her that very evening. Changing himself into a handsome youth, the Rooster dressed in a red shirt figured with black lines. He also wore turquoise ear pendants, and on top of his head a bunch of red feathers. When he went up into the girl's house he found her drying cornmeal in a pot over a fire, and he could tell at once that she was pleased by his appearance.

The Rooster acted like a perfect gentleman, seating himself by the side of the fireplace and complimenting her on the fine art objects she had assembled in the room. Pleased by his remarks, the girl began chatting merrily with him. When he arose and boldly asked her to marry him, the girl told him to return in four days and she would do so.

Being a very proud Rooster, he was not surprised that the girl had accepted him instead of sending him away as she had all her other suitors. "Very well," he said, "I shall return in four days."

Now, there was a Mockingbird who lived in a peach orchard somewhat south of that pueblo. On the third day after the Rooster visited the beautiful girl, the Mockingbird heard about it. This Mockingbird was a strong rival of the Rooster, and he was extremely provoked to learn that the girl had agreed to marry him. Like the Rooster, the Mockingbird possessed the power to change himself into a man. He did so immediately, dressed himself splendidly, and hurried over to visit the maiden. He had made himself so handsome, and his voice was so musical that the girl was quite bewitched by him. She went to tell her mother that she had changed her mind. She would marry the Mockingbird instead of the Rooster. "Very well," her mother said, "if you think you can trust him."

Meanwhile the Rooster, who had grown so enamoured of the girl that he spent most of his time watching her house in hopes of catching a glimpse of her, happened to see the Mockingbird go up to the pueblo Bakvatovi. After a while the Rooster's curiosity turned to jealousy and he ran up to the door of the girl's house and knocked. Without waiting to be admitted, he entered and found the Mockingbird sitting by the fireplace. "What are you doing here?" he shouted at the Mockingbird.

"I have come to marry this maiden," the Mockingbird replied.

"Not so," the Rooster said. "Tomorrow it is I who shall marry her. You are not worthy of her. I own all these people here in Oraibi. They are mine. When I crow in the morning they all get up.

"I am worth more than you," retorted the Mockingbird. "When I twitter and sing in the morning I make the sun come up."

"Very well," the Rooster said. "Let us compete with each other and see who is worth the most. In three days we shall have a con- test and see who can make the sun rise. Until then no one shall marry the maiden."

The Mockingbird agreed and they both left the girl's house. When the Rooster returned home he sat down and thought of how he could beat the Mockingbird by making the sun rise. He knew there was no use asking for help from the god of the eagle clan, the Great Thunderbird, because he favoured Mockingbirds. Finally the Rooster decided to go to Moenkopi and ask the wisest of the Roosters and Hens who lived there to teach him how to make the sun rise.

It was a long distance to Moenkopi, and by the time the Rooster reached Bow Mound he was so weary that he feared he could go no farther. He sat down on a stone beside a paho shrine to rest, and when he did so an opening appeared in the shrine and he heard a voice say: "Come in." He entered and was greeted by several beautiful girls, one of whom brought him a tray of shelled corn. He picked and ate it like Roosters eat, and when he was no longer hungry, the girl said: "You were tired from running so far. Now you have the strength to reach your destination." The Rooster thanked the girls and went out. Feeling somewhat revived, he continued his journey, running very fast until he reached Moenkopi.

There he came to a steep bluff which he descended by a ladder to a large rock with an opening closed by a heavy door. The Rooster crowed repeatedly until the door was opened and a voice invited him to enter. Inside he found many Roosters and Hens of all ages. They seemed pleased that he had come to see them, offered him a place to sit, and brought him some shelled corn.

"What circumstance brings you to honour us with your presence?" the chief Rooster asked politely.

"At Oraibi a Mockingbird and I are contending over a maiden," the Rooster replied. "We are contesting to see which of us has the most power. When I crow in the morning all the people get up, but when the Mockingbird sings the sun comes up. I want you to teach me how to make the sun rise and bring light to the world."

"Very well," the Rooster chief said. "We shall at least try. The Mockingbird is very powerful and he has the help of the Great Thunderbird, but we shall at least try."

When evening came the Roosters and Hens gathered and sang into the night. After they finished singing four long songs the Roosters all crowed. Then they sang four more songs, and crowed again. After singing three more songs they crowed a third time. By now the yellow dawn was appearing, and after they sang two more songs, the sun rose above the rim of the earth.

"We have done what needed to be done," the chief Rooster said. "Now you can go home and show the Mockingbird that you can make the sun come up."

The Rooster started back to Oraibi, running very fast. Again, when he reached Bow Mound he fell exhausted by the paho shrine and went inside. "I am too worn out to run any farther," he said to the girls. "I shall never get home in time." They laughed at him and brought him some shelled corn. "Of course you will get home in time," they assured him. "We shall dress you up and then you will get home in time." While he was eating they stood behind him so he could not see them fastening dry corn husks to his tail feathers.

When he started running toward Oraibi, the corn husks rattled loudly. He was so frightened by the rattling that he ran very fast, never looking back, all the way to his house. When he went inside, he found the corn husks on his tail and removed them.

He rested all night and the next morning he felt very strong. Late in the day he walked through the pueblo to the peach orchard where the Mockingbird lived and told him to come over to his house that night for the contest. After the Rooster left, the Mockingbird went to see the Great Thunderbird and informed him that the time had come to prove his power over the sun.

That evening the Mockingbird came to the Rooster's house to await the next dawn. All through the night the Rooster sang and crowed until the first yellow of daylight appeared. Then he finished the last two songs he had learned at Moenkopi and began crowing with all his might. About this time, however, the Great Thunderbird flew up and spread his large wings across the eastern sky, completely covering up the dawn. No matter how loud the Rooster crowed, the sun did not hear him and would not rise. The Mockingbird laughed at the Rooster. "You have failed," he said. "Now it is my turn. Come to my house tonight and I will show you how it is done."

That evening the Rooster went to the Mockingbird's house. After darkness fell the Mockingbird sang four long songs and then whistled. He waited a while and sang three more songs and whistled, and the dawn began to appear. He then sang his last two songs, and very slowly the sun rose above the rim of the earth. "You see," the Mockingbird cried triumphantly, "only I can make the sun come up."

"Yes," the Rooster admitted, "you have great powers. You know how to make the sun rise. You have won the Bakvatovi maiden for your wife."

And so the Mockingbird married the beautiful girl. Later on, the Rooster also found himself a wife, one not nearly so beautiful. By and by children were born. Those of the Mockingbird talked and jabbered constantly like their father, but the children of the Rooster were kind and gentle and did not talk so much.

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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