Wishing to dispel fear, the ancient people sought an explanation for the booming phenomenon of thunder. This tale illustrates why the Haudenosaunee people never fear the rumbling that often accompanies spring rains.
Long, long ago a man and his wife and their daughter lived alone on an island in the country of the Haudenosaunee. The family raised corn, beans and squash in their large garden. One day, as the family toiled outside the sky grew very dark. Clouds blocked the sun as they gathered swiftly overhead.
The father yelled to his wife and daughter telling them to seek shelter in their long house before the heavy downpour ensued. The mother also yelled for her daughter, telling her to quit her work and come into the house.
After issuing their warning the parents fled to their home. Before they could make it half way home heavy rain began to fall. Lightening illuminated the sky and thunder rumbled above them. When they reached their home they waited for their daughter. The couple believed their child was following behind. When she did not arrive they thought she had sought shelter in the forest to escape the storm.
As the rain abated, the parents returned to the field to look for their child. But, the search was in vain. Their calls went unanswered. With heavy hearts, they went back to their home. “The Thunder People have taken her away from us,” said the mother, as she wiped away her tears.
The mother’s fears were not unfounded. Before the storm hit the island, the daughter was indeed working in the field. She heard her parents’ cries to stop her work and come home. She dropped her hoe and started to follow them.
But her flight was impeded. Without any warning a sudden heavy mist surrounded her, and she became very dizzy. Suddenly, she felt herself being lifted up into the sky. Dazed and unable to resist she was carried far up above the earth. The girl eventually found herself in a strange land. Upon being placed back on the ground, she saw a little man – the one who had brought her to this strange place.
The little man took her by the hand and led her to a long council house. Upon entering the house, the girl saw many other little men, all of whom stared at her unabashedly. At the far end of the house, the chief of the little people sat. The little chief appeared to be very angry when he saw the girl and her escort.
“Son,” said the chief, “why would you bring an earth person to our country?”
“Father,” replied the son, “I saw her working in the field and fell instantly in love with her. I had to have her for my own, so I brought her to our country.”
The chief’s anger remained. He told his son that the girl should stay upon the earth, that her ways were very different. “She cannot eat snails, bugs and worms as we do,” said the chief. “But if you insist on keeping her with you, you must return to earth and bring back food for her. Remember, the ways of the Thunder People are different from the ways of the Earth People.”
The son loved the girl, and agreed to provide her with food. Every day he would travel down to earth to secure food for the girl who had become his wife.
For one year the earth girl lived in the country of the Thunder People. Her husband doted upon her, fulfilling her every wish. She was very happy. Even though she missed her parents she never felt lonesome.
Then one day, the chief came to the girl telling her she would soon give birth to a son. “You must return to your island home, as your son should not be born in this land. Before you go, there is one thing I must warn you. After the boy is born, you must guard him well, warning everyone never to strike him. If someone should strike the boy you will lose him forever.”
Immediately following the chief’s warning the girl was once again surrounded by a heavy mist. Again she became dazed and found herself traveling at great speed back toward earth. In just a short period of time, she opened her eyes to find herself back in her homeland in front of her parents’ house. The girl’s parents were elated. They thought they had lost their child forever. The girl shared her strange experience with her parents, informing them that she would soon give birth to a son.
The prediction of the Thunder People’s chief came true. The girl did have a son. The boy was smaller than an earth child and many of his habits were different from an ordinary boy’s. Sometimes the boy’s behavior perplexed his family. For instance, whenever a thunderstorm approached the island the boy would become very excited. He would run outdoors and laugh and play about in the storm. As he romped in the rain, the thunder seemed to roar louder and more frequently. Lightning flashes accompanied the thunder brightening up the sky.
The boy’s grandmother did not like his preoccupation with the storm. She did not like him running out into the inclement weather. Whenever a storm approached, she would attempt to shut the boy up in the house. Her efforts were to no avail, however, as he always managed to escape.
One day as a storm threatened, the grandmother locked the boy inside the house. She scolded the boy and forbade him to go outside. The boy became very angry. He ran around the house breaking everything in his path. The grandmother warned him to control his temper, but this only made him angrier.
A strange thing happened when the boy became angry. Faint sounds, reminiscent of distant thunder came from his body. The angrier he became, the louder the sound. His grandmother insisted he stop the noise and his tantrum. The boy ignored her, and continued to wreak havoc upon the house.
The grandmother was enraged. She took a stick and struck the boy across his legs. Instantly, there was a blinding flash of lightening followed by deafening thunder. A heavy mist consumed the room. The grandmother was terrified and fled to a corner to wait out the disturbance. When the mist cleared the boy was gone. Far off in the distance she heard a faint roll of thunder.
When the boy’s mother returned, and saw that her son was gone she knew what had happened. She cried to her mother: “You struck my son and now his father has taken him to live with the Thunder People. We shall never see him again.”
The Thunder Boy stayed with his father’s people, but he never forgot his mother and the fact he was half- Haudenosaunee. The Thunder People remember this fact and remain friends with the Haudenosaunee and do not bother them.
In the early spring at the arrival of the first thunder it is believed to please the Thunder People if tobacco, sacred to the Haudenosaunee People, is thrown upon the fire.