Native American Legends of Arizona
By Charles M. Skinner in 1896
Horned Toad and Giants
The Spider Tower
The Weird Sentinel at Squaw Peak
Horned Toad and Giants
The Moquis have a legend that, long ago, when the principal mesa that they
occupy was higher than it is now, and when they owned all the country from
the mountains to the great river, giants came out of the west and troubled
them, going so far as to dine on Moquis. It was hard to get away, for the
monsters could see all over the country from the tops of the mesas. The
king of the tribe offered the handsomest woman in his country and a
thousand horses to any man who would deliver his people from these giants.
This king was eaten like the rest, and the citizens declined to elect
another, because they were beginning to lose faith in kings. Still, there
was one young brave whose single thought was how to defeat the giants and
save his people.
As he was walking down the mesa he saw a lizard, of the kind commonly
known as a horned toad, lying under a rock in pain. He rolled the stone
away and was passing on, when a voice, that seemed to come out of the
earth, but that really came from the toad, asked him if he wished to
destroy the giants. He desired nothing so much. "Then take my horned crest
for a helmet."
Lolomi -- that was the name of him -- did as he was bid, and found that in
a moment the crest had swelled and covered his head so thickly that no
club could break through it.
"Now take my breastplate," continued the toad. And though it would not
have covered the
Indian's thumb-nail, when he put it on it so increased in
bulk that it corseleted his body and no arrow could pierce it.
"Now take the scales from my eyes," commanded the toad, and when he had
done so Lolomi, felt as light as a feather.
"Go up and wait. When you see a giant, go toward him, looking in his eyes,
and he will walk backward. Walk around him until he has his back to a
precipice, then advance. He will back away until he reaches the edge of
the mesa, when he will fall off and be killed."
Lolomi obeyed these instructions, for presently a giant loomed in the
distance and came striding across the plains half a mile at a step. As he
drew near he flung a spear, but it glanced from the
Indian's armor like hail from a
rock. Then an arrow followed, and was turned. At this, the
giant lost courage, for he fancied that Lolomi was a spirit. Fearing a
blow if he turned, he kept his face toward Lolomi, who maneuvered so
skillfully that when he had the giant's back to the edge of a cliff he
sprang at him, and the giant, with a yell of alarm, fell and broke his
bones on the rocks below. So Lolomi killed many giants, because they all
walked back before him, and after they had fallen the people heaped rocks
on their bodies. To this day, the place is known as "the Giants' Fall."
Then the tribe made Lolomi king and gave him the most beautiful damsel for
a wife. As he was the best king they ever had, they treasured his memory
after he was dead, and used his name as a term of greeting, so that "Lolomi"
is a word of welcome, and will be until the giants come again.
The Spider Tower
In Dead Man's Canyon -- a deep gorge that is lateral to the once populated
valley of the Rio de Chelly, Arizona
-- stands a stark spire of weathered sandstone, its top rising eight
hundred feet above its base in a sheer uplift. Centuries ago an inhabitant
of one of the cave villages was surprised by hostiles while hunting in
this region, and was chased by them into this canyon. As he ran he looked
vainly from side to side in the hope of securing a hiding-place, but
succor came from a source that was least expected, for on approaching this
enormous obelisk, with strength well-nigh exhausted, he saw a silken cord
hanging from a notch at its top.
Hastily knotting the end about his waist, that
it might not fall within reach of his pursuers, he climbed up, setting his
feet into the roughness of the stone, and advancing, hand over hand, until
he had reached the summit, where he stayed, drinking dew and feeding on
eagles' eggs, until his enemies went away, for they could not reach him
with their arrows, defended as he was by points of rock.
The foemen having gone, he safely descended by
the cord and reached his home. This help had come from a friendly spider
who saw his plight from her perch at the top of the spire, and, weaving a
web of extra thickness, she made one end fast to a jag of rock while the
other fell within his grasp -- for she, like all other of the brute tribe,
liked the gentle cave-dwellers better than the remorseless hunters. Hence
the name of the Spider Tower.
The Weird Sentinel at Squaw
There is a cave under the highest butte of the Squaw Peak range,
Arizona, where a party of Tonto
Indians was found by white men in 1868. The white men were on
the war-path, and when the Tonto fell into their hands they shot them
unhesitatingly, firing into the dark recesses of the cavern, the fitful
but fast-recurring flashes of their rifles illuminating the interior and
exposing to view the objects of their hatred.
massacre over, the cries and groans were hushed, the hunters strode away,
and over the mountains fell the calm that for thousands of years had not
been so rudely broken. That night, when the moon shone into this pit of
death, a corpse arose, walked to a rock just within the entrance, and took
there, its everlasting seat.
Long afterward a man who did not know its story entered this place, when
he was confronted by a thing, as he called it, that glared so fearfully
upon him that he fled in an ecstasy of terror. Two prospectors
subsequently attempted to explore the cave, but the entrance was barred by
"the thing." They gave one glance at the torn face, the bulging eyes
turned sidewise at them, the yellow fangs, the long hair, the spreading
claws, the livid, mouldy flesh, and rushed away. A Western newspaper,
recounting their adventure, said that one of the men declared that there
was not money enough in Maricopa County to pay him to go there again,
while the other had never stopped running -- at least, he had not returned
to his usual haunts since "the thing" looked at him. Still, it is haunted
country all about here. The souls of the Mojave roam upon Ghost Mountain,
and the "bad men's hunting-grounds" of the Yuma and Navajo are over in the
volcanic country of Sonora. It is, therefore, no unusual thing to find
signs and wonders in broad daylight.
of America, updated May, 2017.
About the Author: Charles M. Skinner (1852-1907) authored the
complete nine volume set of Myths and Legends of Our Own Land in
1896. This tale is excerpted from these excellent works, but is not
verbatim, as some editing have occurred.
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