Woodpecker Flute Legend

This is probably the most commonly repeated legend, and has several variations – 

Once there was a young man, good looking, but very shy.  When he came of the age to be courting a wife he had difficulty approaching the young woman of his band.  One girl in particular he admired for she was graceful and modest, but she already had many suitors for her hand in marriage and the young man felt he had no chance of capturing her attention.

Now this young man’s parents had walked on, and he lived with his grand parents.  His grandmother noticed his attention to the young woman, and she tired of hearing his heavy sighs.  She told her husband to find something for the young man to do that would get him away from the village for awhile.

Grandfather told the young man that winter was coming, and some one needed to go hunting for a fat elk to provide smoked meat for the long winter months.  So the young man took his bow, and went to up the side of the mountain to where the elk people lived.  The first day out he saw a proud bull elk with large antlers but no matter how he stalked, the elk was always just out of bow shot and further around the mountain.  He tracked the elk for four days, and slept on the ground for four nights.

During the fourth night he heard a wonderful sound rising and falling on the night wind, and he thought about what it could possibly be.  In the morning he was gathering his things when he saw woodpecker working on a dead branch above his camp.  As he watched the wind rose, and he noticed the sound of the night before coming from the branch.  “Ah” he thought “The wind is moving through the holes that woodpecker has made! I wonder if my breath would work the same way?” Leaving a small gift of tobacco for the tree, he reached up and took the branch. After some trial he found that he could indeed cause the branch to make a pleasing sound. The young man returned to his village, and during the four days walking, he learned to play the branch by imitating the sounds of nature around him.  During the four nights of his cold camp he carved the likeness of the little bird that had made the first flute on the end of the branch.

The first night back in the village he went to a spot behind the young woman’s home, and played a song on the branch, but he was shy, and left before she could find him.  This happened for three nights, but on the fourth night he found the young woman waiting for him – She had fallen in love with the songs that he made for her. And so it happens that young men go to the mountain to make flutes, and learn to play them, so that the young women will know of their love.