Navajo Ye’iitsoh (Big Giant)
In Navajo culture there is no monster more fearsome or powerful than Ye’iitsoh (the Big Giant). A creature from the early part of the world who made his living killing and eating humans, he devoured so many people humanity nearly went extinct. For a time it was thought that no one could defeat him. However, he was confronted by two brothers: Na’idigishi (He Who Cuts Life Out of the Enemy, right mask) and Naayee’Neizghani (Monster Slayer, mask left). The brothers, who were children of the sun, used lighting and sun-beam arrows given to them by their father. Only after striking the beast three times with the aid of the sun god, Jóhonaaʼéí, and Níłchʼi, the wind god, were they able to fell the monster.
Cherokee Uktena (Giant Serpent)
A colossal horned snake as thick around as a tree, Uktena was a man who was given the task of killing the sun. To accomplish this he was changed into a snake. He failed and was sent to live with the other dangerous beasts, far from people. He was greater than the other predators, scaring them into the watery depths. Uktena was thought invincible, as anyone who looked into his eyes would be blinded, thus wandering straight into the snake’s jaws. The only man to challenge Uktena and live was Aganunitsi. He bested the giant snake with an arrow so precise it dislodged an enchanted diamond from Uktena’s forehead which gave Aganunitsi great power, making him the most powerful and revered miracle worker in all his tribe.
Arapaho Cannibal Dwarves
Man-eating dwarves (ha”tcaciihi teihiiha”) appear throughout much of Native American folklore. The Arapaho’s Cannibal Dwarves are depicted as being three-feet tall with large bellies and a heavy build. Despite their diminutive stature, they were fast runners. No human could outpace them; tragic, as they wound up being the dwarves’ meals. Sometimes, when a woman was caught, she was forced to marry them. The cannibals’ demise is told through the Arapaho legend in which mankind sets fire to the dwarves’ villages. Thinking they could escape, the man-eaters climb trees instead of jumping into the water, a misjudgment that sealed their fate.
This edition of Fairy-Tale Files is brought to you by Fairy Tale Review intern Nathaniel Hurley and poetry editor Jon Riccio.