Why the Hoofs of the Deer Are Split
THE manito of the Indians taught them how to do many things. He told them how to build wigwams, and how to hunt and to fish. He showed them how to make jars in which to keep food and water. When little children came to be with them, it was the manito who said, "See, this is the way to make soft, warm cradles for the babies."
The good spirit often comes down from his happy home in the sky to watch the Indians at their work. When each man does as well as he can, the manito is pleased, but if an Indian is lazy or wicked, the spirit is angry, and the Indian is always punished in one way or another.
One day when the manito was walking in the forest, he said to himself, "Everything is good and happy. The green leaves are whispering merrily together, the waves are lapping on the shore and laughing, the squirrels are chattering and laying up their food for winter. Everything loves me, and the colors of the flowers are brighter when I lay my hand upon them."
Then the manito heard a strange sound. "I have not often heard that," said he. "I do not like it. Some one in the forest has wicked thoughts in his heart."
Beside a great rock he saw a man with a knife.
"What are you doing with the knife?" asked the manito.
"I am throwing it away," answered the man.
"Tell me the truth," said the manito.
"I am sharpening it," replied the man.
"That is strange," said the manito, "You have food in your wigwam. Why should you sharpen a knife?"
The man could not help telling the truth to the manito, and so he answered, but greatly against his will, "I am sharpening the knife to kill the wicked animals."
"Which animal is wicked?" asked the manito. "Which one does you harm?"
"Not one does me harm," said the man, "but I do not like them. I will make them afraid of me, and I will kill them."
"You are a cruel, wicked man," said the manito. "The animals have done you no harm, and you do not need them for food. You shall no longer be a man. You shall be a deer, and be afraid of every man in the forest."
The knife fell from the man's hand and struck his foot. He leaped and stamped, but the knife only went in deeper. He cried aloud, but his voice sounded strange. His hands were no longer hands, but feet. Antlers grew from his head, and his whole body was not that of a man, but that of a deer. He runs in the forest as he will, but whenever he sees a man, he is afraid. His hoofs are split because the knife that he had made so sharp fell upon his foot when he was a man; and whenever he looks at them, he has to remember that it was his own wickedness which made him a deer.