February 28, 2002

Beaver’s Tail – A Shoshone legend


Keywords: beaver legend otter legends shoshone indian legend SHOSHONE folklore Shoshone myths littlewolf american indian myth shoshone oral tradition

Once very long ago when animals could talk together. Beaver and Otter lived very close to each other in a big river that flowed at the foot of a high rocky hill.

Otter built a mud slide, into the river, a short slide, not far up for him to climb on his stubby legs. What fun he had struggling up, beside it, and then slipping down into the clear water.

One day Beaver came paddling by, with a big stick in his mouth.

” Hello there, Beaver my brother ” called Otter,” Why do you work so hard?. Build yourself a slide like mine and have a little fun “

Beaver said nothing, as his mouth was carrying the stick but he thought about Otters suggestion.

The next mornig Beaver swam up the river, on his way to a big grove of Aspen where he did his logging.

Otter spotted Beavers brown head as he glided smoothly through the water.

” Hey there “, called Otter, ” Still working?”.

” I certainly am. You might do better if you do a little yourself ” Then Beaver continued up the river. Later carrying a huge Aspen stick in his mouth, he swam downstream.

Otter watched as the industrious Beaver carried the stick to repair his dam.

Otter called out again,” Hello Brother Beaver, why don’t you build a slide and have fun like I do?”

Beaver ignored Otter.

Otter called out once more,” Bet you can’t build a good slide like mine “

Beaver dropped his stick. ” Of course I can “he snapped, ” but Beavers only build slides when they need them to pull logs into the water “

” Work, work nothing but work” sniffed Otter, ” You never do anything for fun “

” Of course I do ” said Beaver, ” We Beavers have fun in the spring and early summer when we visit our relatives. But now its nearly winter, and we must repair our dams and build our houses so we can be snug and safe during the long cold time “

” You sound so serious “, teased Otter, ” No time to play, no time at all “

Alright Brother Otter, I’ll build a slide and show you what I can do. My slide will be longer and better than any other you have ever seen “

So Beaver climbed out of the water and went up the stoney mountain. He slid down once. ” Ouch!, those rocks hurt,” he said ” I know what I’ll do “

Up he climbed again, this time he sat on his big tail as he slid. That worked better, so he did it over and over again. Then he jumped back into the river.

” Hows that for a slide Brother Otter “, he called

” Perfect ” replied Otter,, then he began to laugh.

” Whats the matter?, don’t you like my slide ”

” Yes, I said it was perfect, but look what you have done to your tale ”

Then Beaver looked over his shoulder. Alas his beautiful tail had no hair left on it, besides that it was flat like a paddle from so much sitting and sliding on it.

To this very day, Beaver and all his children and grandchildren and greatgrandchildren have smooth flat tails.


Littlewolf is an electrician from the UK who is interested in American Indian Studies.

Shoshone Legends
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