Native North American Mythologies

Native American Hero Myths

Who is Water Pot Boy?

The Tewa Indians living among the Hopi near the village of Walpi in northern Arizona have a hero story that contains many elements of the archetypal, or monomythic, world hero. These elements include the miraculous conception, the virgin birth, the search for the father, the descent into the Underworld, and rebirth.

A woman of the village had a beautiful daughter who refused to get married. She asked the daughter to help her make water pots, and one day the daughter was mixing clay by stomping on it to smooth it out. While she was doing so, some of it somehow entered her, and she became pregnant. Not believing the daughter when she claimed not to have had any contact with a man, the mother became angry, and her anger became horror when the young woman gave birth to boy who was not built like a boy but like a water pot. But the girl’s father, strangely, was pleased with his water pot grandson. It took only about twenty days after his birth for Water Pot Boy to be able to play with the other children of the village, who loved playing with him. The boy’s mother cried a lot over the fact that her strange little son had no legs or arms. He did have eyes and ears and a mouth for feeding at his top. One day when his grandfather was about to go off rabbit hunting, Water Pot Boy begged to go along. But the grandfather laughed and asked how a water pot boy could hunt without arms or legs. Still, the boy pleaded so hard that the grandfather gave in, and the boy rolled along beside him as they hunted below the mesa where they lived. When Water Pot Boy spied a rabbit, he rolled after it out of his grandfather’s sight. Suddenly he banged against a rock and broke into many pieces. Out of the pieces sprang a fine boy dressed beautifully in lots of good leather, feathers, and turquoise. Now free to hunt properly, the boy quickly caught several rabbits and returned to his grandfather. The grandfather, of course, did not recognize his grandson in his new form. “Have you seen Water Pot Boy?” he asked. “And who are you?” “I am Water Pot Boy,” said the boy, “your grandson.” It was only after the boy explained what had happened in the collision with the rock that the grandfather believed him. Then the two went happily home. At first the boy’s mother thought the handsome boy was a suitor and went off to hide. But she was happy when her father explained everything.

There came a day when Water Pot Boy asked his mother about his father. His mother explained that she had no idea who the father could be as she had never been with a man. Still, the boy was determined to go in search of his father and asked his mother to help him prepare for his journey. “I think I know where he is,” said the boy, who now left his village and headed toward Horse Mesa Point. There he met a man standing near a spring. The man asked him where he was going, and the boy explained that he was looking for his father. “In fact,” said the boy,” I think you are my father.” The man tried to frighten the boy by glaring at him, but the boy kept looking directly at the man until the man relented, smiled, and embraced his son. The man took the boy over to the spring and they entered it together, diving down to where the man introduced him to all of his dead relatives. After a while the boy left the spring and returned to his village to explain things to his mother. Soon his mother became sick and died, and the boy went back to the spring, where he found his mother with the other shades of their relatives. His father greeted him and explained that in reality he was Red Water Snake and that he had made the boy’s mother die so that they might live happily together in the spring with their relatives. The boy decided to join them, too, and they all live there together to this day.


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