British Guiana - Black Tiger, Wau-Uta, And The Broken Arrow
There was once a man who had two brothers-in-law. While he was one of the unluckiest of mortals, they invariably returned home of an afternoon with plenty of game. They said, "As he has no luck, we will lose him away" [i. e. get rid of him]. So one day they took him into the bush: all three went in together, but soon they told him to go in one direction while they went in another, arranging to meet at a certain place. The route which the two wicked brothers instructed him to follow led to the lair of Tobe-horoanna, but the intended victim did not know this. He went on and on and came to a big path, which caused him to exclaim, "Where am I going now?" While thus talking to himself, he heard a great rushing noise approaching, and wondered what it was. He had not long to wonder, because he saw the Tobe-horoanna coming. He ran as fast as he could toward an immense tree, with Black Tiger after him. Running round and round the trunk, the one after the other, the man just managed to reach the animal's hind-quarters and cut off both its heels. Tiger then sat down, for it could not walk at all now. Next the man shot it through the neck with his arrow, and after finishing the job with a knife went back home. Now his two brothers-in-law, knowing well how poor a hunter he was and whither they had sent him, never for one moment doubted that they had seen the last of him. Hence, on his arrival at the house, they were greatly surprised, and made excuses to hide their guilty intentions, saying: "We went to the place where we told you, but you were not there. We shouted for you, but we received no answer. So we thought you were dead, and came away. But we were just coming to look for you again," and more of similar tenor. Of course all this was a lie. And when the man told them that he had actually killed the Tobe-horoanna, the two brothers-in-law, as well as their old father, could hardly believe him, but insisted upon his taking them to the place. They all went together, and when at a distance they saw Black Tiger on the ground all except him who had killed it were afraid to go near. He told them again that it was "all dead, dead," but they were still afraid, so, to show them that he spoke true, he boldly went up and trampled on the carcass. It was only now that the old man would approach; his two sons continued to be afraid, and then the whole party returned home. Upon arrival there, the old father-in-law gave him another daughter, so that he had two wives now, the brothers-in-law built him a bigger house, and he was henceforth recognized as Ai-ja´mo [i. e. chief, head-man] of the settlement. But our friend was very anxious to have a reputation for being clever in hunting all other animals, in addition to the glory he had earned in ridding the country of Tobe-horo-anna. Whom could he consult better than Wau-uta, the Tree-frog? So he went along until he found the tree wherein she resided, and stepping underneath, he commenced calling upon her to help him; and he continued calling until the day began to darken. But there came no answer. Yet he went on calling and begging her to show him all the things that he was so anxious to learn, and now that night came on, he started crying. He knew full well that if he cried long enough she would come down, just as a woman does when, after refusing a man once, she finally takes pity when she hears him weeping. As he stood wailing underneath the tree, what should come trooping up but a whole string of birds, all arranged in regular order, according to size, from the smallest to the largest? The little Doroquara [Odontophorus] came first, and pecked his feet with its bill, to make him clever in hunting it, and so on in turn with all the other birds, up to the very largest. Wau-uta, you see, was now beginning to take pity on him, but of course he did not know that. When all the birds had finished with him, all the Rats came in the order of their size, to be followed by the Acouri, Labba, Deer, Bush-hog, and so on up to the Naba [tapir]. As they passed, each one put out its tongue, licked his feet, and went on, so as to give him luck in hunting its kind. In a similar manner, next came the Tigers, from the smallest to the largest, all going through the same performance and passing on. Last of all, the snakes put in an appearance, did the same thing, and crept past. Of course, time was required for this performance and it was not until daybreak that it was brought to a completion, when the man finally ceased his weeping. With the daylight he saw a stranger approach. This was Wau-uta, who was carrying a curious looking arrow. "So it was you making all that noise last night and keeping me awake, was it?" "Yes," replied the man, "it was." "Well," said Wau-uta, "look down your arm from your shoulder to your hand." He looked accordingly, and saw it was covered with fungus; he looked at his other arm, which was just the same. It was this same fungus that had always given him bad luck, so he promptly scraped it all off. Wau-uta's arrow was very curious looking, as said before. It had been broken into three or four pieces, which had been subsequently spliced. Wau-uta now gave it to the man in exchange for her own, and bidding him put it to his bow, told him to shoot at a thin vine rope hanging a long way off: the arrow hit the mark. Replacing the arrow on the bowstring, Wau-uta instructed him to shoot into the air, and in whatever direction he sent his arrow, so soon as it came to earth it stuck into something—first of all a doroquara, and so on in the same rotation of birds that had pecked his feet, right up to the powis; every time a different bird, and yet he himself could see nothing when he started the arrow on its flight. As he went on shooting into the air in all directions, he found that he had hit a rat, an acouri, etc., until there fell to his arrow a beautiful tapir. Continuing to shoot as directed, he knocked over the tigers and snakes according to their proper order. When all this was finished, Wau-uta told him he might keep this broken arrow, for which she would accept his in exchange, but on condition that he must never divulge to anyone that it was she who had taught him to be so good a marksman. They then said good-by and parted company. Our friend returned home to his two wives, and soon gained as great a reputation for stocking his babracote as he already bore for his bravery in killing the Tobe-horoanna. All did their level best to discover the secret of his success: they asked him repeatedly, but he refused to tell. So they bided their time, and induced him to attend a big paiwarri feast. The same old story: Drink proved his undoing; he let loose his tongue, and divulged what had happened. Next morning, after regaining consciousness he went to fetch his arrow, the one that Wau-uta had given him, but he found it replaced by his own that he had given in exchange. From that time he lost all his luck.
An Inquiry into the Animism and Folk-Lore of the Guiana Indians, Walter E. Roth, from the Thirtieth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1908-1909, pp. 103-386, Washington D.C., 1915, and is now in the public domain.[ British Guiana ][ South America ]