Seneca - Brother Black and Brother Red
There was a lodge in the forest where very few people ever came, and there dwelt a young man and his sister. The youth was unlike other persons, for one half of his head had hair of a reddish cast, while the other side was black.
He used to leave his sister in the lodge and go away on long hunting trips. On one occasion the young woman, his sister, saw, so she thought, her brother coming down the path to the lodge. I thought you just went away to hunt," she said. "Oh I thought I would come back," said he.
Then he sat down on the bed with the sister and embraced her, acting as a lover. The sister reproached, him very angry and upset. But again he endeavored to fondle her in a familiar way - and again, of course, he was repulsed. This time he left.
The next day the brother returned and found his sister very angry indeed; she would not speak to him other than in the most cold and curt manner. He was bewildered, for previously they had always enjoyed good conversations together.
My sister," he said, "I do not understand why you treat me like this; it is not like you at all!"
"Oh you know very well why! You abused me so ... I would never have believed you could behave in such a manner," said the girl.
"I never abused you. What are you talking about?" he said.
"Oh how can you lie so! You know well that you returned yesterday and embraced me in a most improper way!" said the sister.
"My sister, I did not return here yesterday," declared the young man thoughtfully. "I am wondering though whether my friend, who resembles me very closely, visited with you yesterday and you thought that it was me."
"That is a poor story," replied his sister tartly. "Just make sure you never repeat what you did."
The brother went away again shortly after, saying that he would be gone for a full three days. Within a short time, however, the young woman saw him – or someone who looked just like him - hiding nearby, among the trees. His shirt and leggins were the same as her brother's, and his hair was exactly the same ... so she was quite certain that this was once again her brother, returned with mischief in mind. Soon the young man entered the lodge and tried to embrace her ... this time though she scratched his face with her nails, and he left, bleeding.
At the time her brother had said he would return, three days from when he left, he returned, his hunting having been successful, for he carried a deer. His sister would not speak to him, and turned away from him when he greeted her. He said, "My sister, I see you are angry with me. Has my friend visited again?"
"My brother, you have abused me physically, and now you abuse me by telling untruths as well ... I scratched your face when you sought to embrace me, and I can see that the signs of my fingernails are clearly there."
Her brother laughed, "My face? My face was torn by thorns as I hunted this deer which I have brought home. If you scratched my friend then that is why I will have been scratched too, but in my case it was by the thorns. Whatever happens to one of us happens to the other." But the sister would not believe this.
Again the brother went on a hunting trip, and again the familiar figure returned. This time the sister tore his hunting shirt from the throat down to the waistline. Moreover, she threw a bowlful of hot bear grease on the shirt. This caused him to leave very smartly!
Returning in due time, as he had said he would, the brought in his game and threw it down. Again the sister was angry and accused him, pointing to his grease-smeared and torn shirt, crying that this was all the evidence she needed to be certain that it was he and he alone who was abusing her.
"My sister," explained the brother, "I tore my shirt on a broken limb as I climbed a tree after a raccoon. Later, making soup from some bear meat, I spilled it on my shirt." Still the sister refused to believe him.
"Oh my sister," said the brother, deeply distressed, "I am much saddened that you will not believe me. Have we not lived together in harmony and respect all the years of our lives? My friend does look exactly as I do, and whatever happens to him happens to me. I will now be compelled to find him and bring him to you, and when I do I shall be compelled to kill him before you for his evil designs upon you, his disrespect to you. If you would believe me, nothing evil would befall us - but if I must do this then I myself shall die."
The sister said nothing at all ... she did not believe her brother.
The young man piled up dried meat, repaired the lodge, did all that was necessary so that there would be sufficient provisions and all would be well for a long winter ahead. When all was done, he went out into the forest unarmed, and returned with another young man who was the exact image of him; he did not just resemble him, he looked no different ... and the other young man's face bore the marks of fingernail scratches, and his clothing was torn and spotted exactly as the brothers.
Leading him to the lodge fire, the brother began to scold him in an angry manner. "You have betrayed me and our friendship, and you have abused and disrespected my sister," he said, "For this, I must take your life." Taking an arrow and fitting it swiftly to his bow, he shot his friend, his double, through the heart and killed him.
The sister saw her assailant fall to the floor, and then, in horror, watched as her brother sang his death song and fell, dead, with blood streaming from a wound in his chest over his heart.
Taken from The Red Swan, John Bierhorst, editor. University of New Mexico Press.1976.