SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
JEAN CHAUDHURI MONOLOGUE
Medicine and medicine men, 6
Stories and legends
"A Code of Law", 5
"How the Rabbit Stole the Fire", 3-5
"The Lion Tricks A Little Girl", 1-3
This tape will contain only stories, legends, and myth-
ology. The introduction and some of the stories I have
translated from Creek to English. The stories of the Seminoles
were to teach and to instill morality to the children. In
telling these stories, they described every experience and
emotion of man. The characters in the stories were animals.
The stories, legends, and mythology were told by the grand-
fathers or uncles during the night when everyone was feeling
comfortable. These stories were learned by the children.
They were told and retold by the storytellers of every camp.
The wisdom, adventure, use of herbs for medicine, courage and
cowardice, love, hate, respect, disrespect, and nature con-
tained in them were a part of the life and thought of the
Story Number One--
This story was told to me by a young Miccosukee
housewife who is bilingual. She speaks English and Miccosukee.
She is twenty-eight years old. She is a high school graduate.
She was born and raised at Big Cypress Indian Reservation. She
now resides at Hollywood Indian Reservation. Story Number One--
"The Lion Tricks a Little Girl."
A long time ago a little girl was warned not to go to the
canal and play because a lion would come by in his dugout boat,
and, if he saw her, he would force her to go with him to a world
unknown. The little girl promised she would not play by the
canal, but one day she wandered off alone, and then stopped
to play by the canal.
Who do you suppose stopped by in his dugout boat? No other
than the lion. The lion, with a very pleasant smile, said to
her, "Little girl, would you like to see some of my cute puppies
I have in the canoe? If you would like to have one, you may
choose whichever one you like, and then you may take it home
and play with it."
Out of curiosity, the little girl goes near the canoe.
She peeks in. In the canoe, he had his own droppings. But
the little girl, lost in fantasy, believed that the droppings
were actually little puppies. She gently and carefully got
into the dugout boat so she could be closer to the puppies.
Before she realized it, the lion was gliding through the
water, and it was impossible for her to get out of the canoe
and swim, and she began to cry and scream, but it was too late.
So, the lion took her to his home.
The little girl was frightened. While there at the lion's
home, deep silence covered her. She didn't know what to do or
what to say. As she looked around the lion's home, she noticed
an old woman setting on a stump. Her body was emaciated, and
in a minute, the old lady looked as though she would collapse.
Suddenly, the lion spoke to her and startled the little girl.
The lion said to the little girl, "I'm going out to look for
some firewood, and you must stay here with the old lady."
Then he vanished.
The little old lady said to the little girl, "Be very
careful, because he is very mean. I am his mother, but he
mistreats me, and he has been eating off of me. That is why
I almost all bones. I will give you some advice, and you
must carefully follow it, if you wish to ever see your parents
The little girl with a pleading look looked at the old
wrinkled face of the lady, and then she said, "I will do as
you say, as long as I can get away from the vicious lion. I
do want to see my parents again."
The old lady said, "Go find some honey, grease, sugar and
fire. When you have found all these things, put them in a dug-
out boat. There is one by the river which I had a long time
ago. I had hoped I would use it one day, but I am too old
to try and run away from my mean son. You must look carefully
when you look for the boat, because it is very easy to miss it,
since I have hidden it so well. After loading your dugout
boat, go away quickly. Don't try to come back here to say
good-bye, because the lion will be back here any time now.
If he knows that you are trying to escape, he will devour you.
But if he sees you, you must pour out the honey. It will
slow him down. If he is coming right up on you, pour out
the sugar. This will stop him for a while. But if he is
almost at your heels, pour the grease and set fire to it, and
it will burn the lion, and this will mean your freedom.
The little girl, eternally thankful for this advice,
immediately left the old lady. Looking back, feeling sorry
that the little old lady could not have left with her, she
started running through the swamps and running through the
Spanish glades, and she got to her boat. She was very tired.
She was so tired.
Suddenly, as she looked back, she suddenly saw the lion
leaping over the salt lakes and fast gaining on her. Just as
the old lady said, she poured out the honey, and this stopped
the lion for a while because it was awfully sticky. But then
he managed to set himself free. Once more, he began to gain
speed, and he was right behind her. She then quickly poured the
sugar and grease. This slowed him down, but she could feel
his presence so near that she finally did the last thing, and
that was to set the sugar and grease on fire. The grease and
sugar caught on fire quite fast, and the fire consumed the lion.
The little girl was safe from danger, and she quickly ran
toward her village, crying for her mother and father. When she
saw them, she blurted out her misfortune. Her parents were
awfully glad to see her, although they were sorry that she had
got into all sorts of trouble. They were so happy that they
did not punish her, but they told her never again to stray
away from the camp, and especially never to go to the canal
"I was just a little girl when my grandmother used to tell
me about legends, stories and wars," the storyteller told me.
"The sound of her voice was like magic that touched my spirit.
Listening to her stories about the hardship of my people, I would
yearn to be with them so I could have helped with their struggle
against the white men. Oh, how I used to love to set by her
and listen to her tell about great war heroes, but when my be-
loved, wonderful, dear grandmother ceased to be, stories also
ceased to be too. The memories of yesterday of my grandmother
are very precious to me," my informant told me.
Since I have been translating from Creek to English, I only
find it appropriate to translate from English into Creek. So
I'm going to translate "The Lion Plays a Trick on the Little
Girl" into Creek.
[Here the story is repeated in the Creek language. The English
narrative resumes with:]
It was customary, after finishing a story, to spit four
times, because it was believed, among the Creeks and Seminoles,
that if you didn't do this, you would become a humpback. So,
if you hear me saying, "Toff, toff, toff, toff," four times,
you know that I have finished my story.
Story Number Two--
This story was told to me by Mrs. Dee, a woman of about
eighty years old, and she belongs to the Bird Clan. She was
born, raised and lives on Brighton Indian Reservation; speaks
Creek only. She told me only one story, and she said that,
"I think one story for one day is enough." The name of the
story is "How the Rabbit Stole the Fire." [Indian words]
That is the title in Creek.
Since time began, there has been the mischievous rabbit,
the troublemaker. At one time, rabbit was a good singer and
leader of dances. He went to a stomp dance. The rabbit's
ability in singing and leading in dances were so good the
people let him lead in their dances. He made a wonderful
stomp dance leader. When he would chant, he made it very easy
for people to follow him. When he would sing his songs, he
made it easy for the shell-shakers to keep in time with him.
He would do all sorts of things to make the dances interesting.
Twice, he ran up to the fire and made the motion of feeding
the fire. The people thought he was great. He was so unique
in the way he led the dances. Rabbit loved to dance and dance
and dance. The third time he picked up one of the logs with fire
and ran directly towards the woods. The people became very
excited. They said, "My goodness, look, look. [Indian word]
has stolen their fire. [Indian word] has stolen the fire, and
he's taking it to the woods." Swift as lightning, he was
out of sight and out of the reach of the people.
The medicine man and the people were very angry and upset.
But through the magic powers of the medicine man, he made some
medicine out of herbs which brought rain so that it would put
out the fire, and the medicine worked. [Indian word], thinking
he had fire, found himself without fire because the rain put
Sometime later, the rabbit went to another dance. The
people were a little bit reluctant in letting him participate,
because they said, "[Indian word] is a thief. He steals fire."
But then, they decided it was rather foolish to deny another
to participate in their dances. So they let him lead the
The same thing happened as before. The rabbit stole the
fire, and the people became excited all over again. "Oh, no,
[Indian words]" (It means "The rabbit has taken the fire. He
has taken the fire.") Out of sight, the rabbit was gone. The
medicine man made strong medicine which brought the rain, and
it put out the fire again.
At this time the rabbit was becoming disgusted with the
medicine man and his rain. Another dance was being held, and
the rabbit showed up. The people were very determined not to
let the rabbit dance, but the rabbit always seemed to have friends,
and it was his friends who allowed him to lead in the dances.
The same thing happened. This time, rabbit cleverly hid inside
of a hole in the rock, and it kept the rain from putting out his
The rabbit enjoyed the game of stealing fire. He went to
another dance. Without a word, they let him lead in the
dances. This time, rabbit did a strange thing. He stuck
his head in the fire. His hair caught on fire, and he ran
out. The people chased after him but lost track of him. He
hid in his new hiding place, inside the hole in the rock that
he had prepared. It rained and rained, but he and his fire
were safe. The mischievous rabbit would come out of his hiding
occasionally to set fire to the grass, but the people used
their medicine to bring rain to put it out.
After four unsuccessful times in trying to set fire to
everything, the rabbit did not come out of the hole inside
of the rock. The people, thinking that the rabbit had used
up the fire, no longer bothered with him. But unfortunately,
he still had fire. The people did not know this, but the rabbit
left his place, taking the fire with him. He got into the ocean.
Carrying the fire, he swam away, going further and further into
the big waters. Suddenly, the people saw the smoke, and they
saw the rabbit taking the fire off forever. They could not
stop him because he was too far off. The rabbit had carried
the fire across their big borders and spread it. This is the
way everybody got fire, they say. Toff, toff, toff, toff.
I will translate this story into Creek. [There follows
a Creek translation of the preceding story.]
A Code of Law--
According to legend, the Seminoles were once a part of
the Muskogee Indians. They way they became separated was
because they broke the law of the people. It was tribal law
that if a man committed murder, then the murderer was put
to death as well as his immediate family. Once, long ago,
one member of the tribe murdered another-member, and his sen-
tence was death to him and his family. But unfortunately,
the murderer had too many close relatives and clansmen that
it was impossible to kill him and his relatives. So the tribal
council decided that this group of people must exit from the
larger group of people and go further south of the lands that
they were now living on--that they were banished forever, and
they were never to return to their birthplace. The murderer
and his relatives gladly accepted this invitation to go to
newer lands, and they started out to southern parts of Florida.
This is how the Seminoles became separated from the Muskogee
The laws of the tribe was very strict then, and they lived
by the tribal law, for they believed that the law was given to
them by the Creator and the tribal leaders. Based on the legend,
murder was punishable by death. When a murder took place, the
dead man's relatives were free to kill the murderers, or the
relatives of the victim may choose a friend or someone in high
respect to kill the murderer. In those days, that was tribal
[Here, Chaudhuri translates "A Code of Law" into Creek.]
One legend which I've heard time and again, which I've
heard in Oklahoma, but more so in Florida, and it's the legend
of Coacoochee--how he escaped from prison. And this legend
is told to me by Evie, who seems to really enjoy telling
legends, stories, and things that have happened in the past.
According to legend, when Coacoochee was captured with
Osceola, they were chained, beaten and imprisoned. They were
put in a very small cell. Coacoochee was constantly enter-
taining the thought of escaping, but it seemed always im-
possible. But the old folks say that Coacoochee had medicine
with him that was prepared by the medicine man, and this med-
icine would help him to escape. Every day he would sing his
morning chants. After singing a few songs, one day he squeezed
himself through the window, but our people say that it was
the medicine that worked the miracle. [Chaudhuri then repeats
the story of Coacoochee in Creek.]
Many of our stories, legends and everyday life among the
Seminoles...the medicine man used to play a significant role
in their lives. The medicine man fulfilled their spiritual
life and also their physical health, and herbs, roots and
barks played very much the role of providing medicine. And
so, each time you hear stories, legends, you will often hear
about medicine men and how medicine were used. These were
very important to our way of life.
This tape will contain only Creek lullabies that I have
heard as a child growing up.
[Singing in Creek]
We were sitting around one evening and one of her daughters
was translating the story to me. This story is about two
earth girls whose hearts were stolen by two girls from
Once a long time ago, there were two sisters on earth, and
they were the perfect example of what good virtue a Miccosukee
Indian woman had to have. They the garden and were
very hospitable to guests. They made sure....
[Singing in Creek]
This lullaby means:
"He's a little baby. He is a little boy, a little
boy, a little boy. This little boy, he went to
hunt turtles, he went to hunt turtles. He left,
he left. He is a little baby, he is a little boy,
a little baby boy, a little baby boy. He went to
hunt turtles, this little baby boy. "
This is what the lullaby speaks of.
The second song--[Singing in Creek]
This little song means:
"Little boy, little small boy, little boy, little boy.
Little big boy, little small boy, he is riding on
a horse, and he's on a hunt, this little boy. He's
on a hunt, this little boy."
And the song is repeated twice.
Now, for the third song--[Singing in Creek]
Now, for the fourth song. As you noticed, all these songs
are repeated twice. The translation for the song:
"Little baby, little tiny baby, little boy, little
tiny baby boy. He went a hunting, and he is back.
He went a hunting, and he is back. Little baby,
little tiny boy. He is a little baby, a little
tiny baby. He went on a hunt, but he is back.
He is back. Go to sleep. He is a little baby.
Go to sleep. He is a little baby. He went on a
hunt, and he is back, and he is back."
Now, for the fifth song--[Singing in Creek]
This song is translated:
"This is what one [says]. He is a little baby.
This is what they say. He is a little baby.
This is what one says. He is a little baby.
Go to sleep, go to sleep, little baby, little
boy. He is a little boy, a little baby. Close
your eyes. close your eyes, go to sleep. Go
to sleep, little baby, little baby. He is a little
baby, little baby, little baby. Close your eyes.
Close your eyes, close your eyes. He is a little
baby, little baby. Go to sleep."
Now, for the sixth lullaby--[Singing in Creek]
This song is translated:
"Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep. He went on
a turtle hunt, he went on a turtle hunt. He left,
he left. The turtles went to the water, the turtles
went to the water. He rode on the back of the turtles,
he rode on the back of the turtles. They went to
the water, they went to the water. Little boy,
little baby boy, little boy, little boy. He went on
the turtle hunt, he went on a turtle hunt. He rode
on the back of a turtle, he rode on the back of
a turtle. He went to the water, little baby, little
baby. He went on a turtle hunt. He left, he left."
The seventh lullaby--[Singing in Creek]
This lullaby says:
"He is sleeping. He is sleeping, little baby, little
baby. He is asleep, he is asleep. Mother is gone,
mother is gone. She will be back, she will be back.
Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep. Momma will
be back, momma will be back. Go to sleep, go to
sleep..." and this is repeated for the second time.
The eighth child's song is sung by _, and it's
sort of a happy song, and it usually puts the baby in a happy