Indian Lore - The Frog In The Moon

The Indian says "frog in the moon," instead of "man in the moon." In various legends told by the Indians the frog is in some way connected with nights luminary. A statement is made that Coyote and the Eagle once concluded to go to the land of souls and bring them back to earth. They arrived there in due course of time, but during the day. According to the belief of the Indian the spirits of the departed are only active at night and through this the adventurerers were obliged to wait until evening's shadows fell. As the last rays of setting sun grew dim upon the western horizon the spirits began to appear for dance and frolic, but on account of the light that the moon gave, it must be done away with before well laid plans could be accomplished. The frog, whom the spirits had no fear of, came close to where Coyote was secreted, and by him killed, Coyote dressing himself in its skin. With this disguise he was allowed to approach the moon without having his designs suspicioned. Within suitable distance, he quickly grabbed the luminary and swallowed it when all was darkness. The spirits being secured, Coyote hung up the frog skin along with the moon, and there it remains plain and perfect to Indian eyes.

Another story told is to the effect that when Coyote was roaming the earth putting down sin and oppression, that the frog in fear of being punished for some wrong doing, jumped to the moon and has remained there ever since, coming to plain view every time there is a "new moon" to see if he is being pursued.

According to some, the whippoorwill, wanting a light suitable for its pursuits, determined to make a moon, and used the frog as material. By what magic this was brought about the Indian does not state. Still, the feat was accomplished. His frogship was thus transformed and hung in the heavens, frog side out.

Among some of the tribes, farther north, there is a legend told of fairy days, when two Indian maidens sat one evening, "Watching the westward going starts pass shortly out of sight." and of all the glittering multitude, two, one red, one white-shining with peculiar brightness, attracted their attention. One of the maidens said the red is mine the other chose the white. The night waned and they retired to the family lodge. While they slept the stars admired, assumed human form, descended from their heaven's home, and bore away the damsels to a country strange and beautiful. Here to one of the brides was born a wonderful child - none other than the Moon. In defiance, however, of all the white man's ideas of its feminine claims and attributes, it was a boy. The other twin was blessed with no children, and grew jealous of their more fortunate neighbors, and when the parents of the Moon were not looking, he was stolen and taken back to earth and left in the midst of a dense forest. Soon after he was so left, he was discovered by the Woodpecker. This individual was the original canoe maker. Upon finding the child he was afraid to take it home with him, and yet did not want to part with it. He therefore hollowed out an immense cedar "stick," or tree, which he lined with woven mats made of rushes, over which he placed the softest furs. Here the child was hidden until he could consult his wife in relation to what further he should do in the matter. Upon her seeing the babe she became fondly attached to it, and took it home with her.

The daughter of this couple was the Lark, a creature envious by nature, and, of course, jealous of the attentions shown the new acquisition to the family circle. When the Moon had grown up so as to understand, she began to twit him about his parentage, calling him a "stick" child, making disparaging illusions to his hiding place in the tree, and that he had no mother. The Moon scanned the faces of his foster parents and of the Lark, but found no likeness to himself in their countenance or resemblance otherwise, and it so weighed upon his mind that he concluded to run away. After wandering a long distance, he heard some children singing. Being tired and dispirited, he wished himself a berry, so that he could be eaten and thus lost; a flower to be plucked, fade and perish; then a dog, but hardly had this wish been conceived before he was transformed into such animal, when he went bounding to where the children were and joined with them in their frolics. The chief's daughter became attached to him, and from thence he was her constant companion. One evening she became enamored, but never saw him except when the shades of night began to gather. After a time they were married, but she did not know that her husband and her playfellow of the hours of day were identical. In due course of time four children were born to them - three dogs and one a girl, half human half dog. The old chief, her father, was so exasperated in consequence that he banished her to the sea shore far away.

One day the mother was out digging clams, and on nearing the lodge, heard loud laughter coming therefrom. This she could not understand, as its only occupants she found to be her off-spring, and the girl the only one who could talk. Taking her to one side for an explanation, she learned that as soon as she would leave the lodge the father would lay aside his hairy robe and then remove those of the three dog children, when they would all assume human form. She believed that she could dispel the enchantment hanging over them, and told the girl not to tell of her approach the next time she went for clams, but, instead, claim that she was far away. On her going out again, the robes were laid aside as usual. While they sported and laughed, the mother quietly stole near the lodge, and, at an opportune moment crept within, seized the discarded robes and threw them into the fire, when they were burned. Her husband thus stood forth a noble chieftain and her dog sons handsome young men.

The Moon's mother bewailed the loss of her son for many snows, weeping over his little bed until it became so wet that she wrung from it a flood which, when falling, became rounded and more brighter than any tear since. Before it reached the earth, the Great Spirit stopped its fall, and willed that it should float in space, and a loving mother's tear drops became the present sun. The mother sent many messengers to find her son, the Moon, but they were all killed by the che-aht-ko's or giants. One day the Bluejay came to her, telling her that he knew where her son could be found, and that he would go and bring him to her if she would provide him with a blue robe or blanket. She gave him the brightest that was ever made, and, spreading his wings he soared away to earth, flying above the towering trees so that the che-aht-ko's could not reach him, safely reaching the lodge where lived the object of his search. The Moon understood all languages, and when the Jay twittered at his door, went to him and was told of his parentage. Upon consenting to go where his mother dwelt, the Jay took him and his family upon its back and earth lost forever, except the sight of one of them at night, a notable family, the father of which, coming near at the gathering of evening shades to show to his wife's relations that he still lives, but not close enough to hear the father of his better half speak for fear he will be cross, as in the days when he banished her from the paternal roof. Through the brighness inherited from his starry parent, comes the light to mankind, that illumes the hills and dales when the sun has gone to sleep.


Pillar Rock, situated down on the Columbia river, near Brookfield, at one time lived at Celilo, and was one of the ancient animal gods. He took a notion not to allow the salmon to pass that point, and in consequence the Indians living above where he did were unable to secure food, salmon in those days being their main article of subsistence. This went along for some time, but at last Coyote came traveling that way, putting a stop to the god's selfish and cruel actions. In explanation of his conduct, he claimed that he could not bear to see that salmon pass by him, and that he stopped them on that account and not to deprive the Indians of needed food. Coyote not being a believer in selfishness, tore down the obstruction made to prevent salmon from proceeding up the river, and then shouldered their builder and carried him down the river. On arriving at a point deemed suitable for his designs, he halted, turned his burden into stone and set him out in the river's channel; telling him that he should stand there forever, and that the salmon should sport and play around him when seeking the upper waters of the river, and he should not be able to prevent their progress. Selfishness brings about hardship to others, and often the downfall of those imbued with that characteristic.


There are two large rocks near the south head of Long Island, in Shoalwater bay called "E'-na-poo," or Louse Rocks, and the legend is that they were formerly a chief and his wife, who were not only of a vicious character, but very filthy and dirty. They are credited with being the first to introduce the festive louse into this section of the country, which soon secured a foothold upon the other Indians, much to their discomfort. The god Coyote came along one day and his person becoming infested with the vermin, he grew so wroth that he pronounced a curse upon their introducers, condemning them to become rocks as a punishment, placing them out in the bay where they could not come in contact with the Indians again. This couple doubtless left some descendants, for among the Indians living along the coast, are some who are the filthiest, dirtiest and most full supplied with companion vermin, of any creatures in the world.


Not far from Bethel, Polk county, a large number of fossil remains were found some years ago, which the Indians stated were the bones of a monster dragon inhabiting the Willamette valley in the ages past. At night it would come forth from concealment, hunt out the abodes of the people and devour them by families and communities, only ceasing its devastations when morning came, returning then because it could not bear the light of day. Coyote heard of the monsters doings and resolved not only to put a stop to them, but end the dragon's life as well. Knowing that it could not be lured from its hiding place in the daytime, and so that he would be better situated to accomplish its destruction, he set about to perform the task by the aid of strategy.

When the sun had reached its meridian, Coyote took his bow and arrows and went forth to the higher ground and there shot one of the arrows into the sun, then another into the lower end of the first, and so on, until he had a continuous string of them reaching to the earth. He then pulled the sun down to him, and submerged it in the waters of the Willamette river. The dragon, thinking that night had come, emerged from his den. At the proper time Coyote released the sun, which quickly returned to its place in the heavens, lighting up the earth. Blinded by its rays and consequently helpless, the dragon floundered about in the swamp near its den, and was easily dispatched by Coyote. The Indians never would frequent the immediate locality of the monster's death, and looked for evil to come upon the pale-face who dug out and carried away its remains.


Return to "Native Sons" Index
"A Place Called Oregon"