Tales of the North American Indians
Determination Of The Seasons
Once Porcupine and Beaver quarrelled about the seasons. Porcupine wanted five winter months. He held up one hand and showed his five fingers. He said, Let the winter months be the same in number as the fingers on my hand.” Beaver said, “No,” and held up his tail, which had many cracks or scratches on it. He said, “Let the winter months be the same in number as the scratches on my tail.” Now they quarrelled and argued. Porcupine got angry and bit off his thumb. Then, holding up his hand with the four fingers, he said emphatically, “There must be only four winter months.” Beaver became a little afraid, and gave in. For this reason porcupines have four claws on each foot now.
Since Porcupine won, the winter remained four months in length, until later Raven changed it a little. Raven considered what Porcupine and Beaver had said about the winters, and decided that Porcupine had done right. He said, “Porcupine was right. If the winters were made too long, people could not live. Henceforth the winters will be about this length, but they will be variable. I will tell you of the gaxewisa month, when people will meet together and talk. At that time of the year [Page 39] people will ask questions (or propound riddles), and others will answer. If the riddle is answered correctly, then the person who propounded it must answer, “Fool-hen.” Raven chose this word because the fool-hen has a shorter beak than any other gamebird. “If people guess riddles correctly at this time of year, then the winter will be short, and the spring come early.”