The Woman and the Wolves: A Dakota Legend
This Dakota legend is about the effect of love and heartbreak on life. Lack of affection can make us passive about our destiny, while love makes us strong and confident.
This old Dakota legend tells the story of a beautiful young woman who lived in a Native American village. Her neighbors didn’t respect her. She was easily frightened and obeyed everyone without question to try and earn their respect.
One day, a young man from the tribe spoke to her kindly. She was immediately struck by this treatment because she had never experienced it before. She was also captivated by the young man. Little by little, they fell in love and eventually he asked her to marry him. The young woman’s father paid little attention to the request and approved their union without thinking much about it.
The young man promised to always treat her with kindness and respect. He also said he would love her for the rest of his life and would make her happy. However, shortly after they got married, the young man started to mistreat his new wife. The legend says that he humiliated and beat her. No one in the tribe stepped in to help, so she decided to run away and save herself from her sad life.
“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”
-Jean Shinoda Bolen-
A new home
The young woman trekked through fields and forests. She wanted to get as far away from her husband before he noticed her absence and started looking for her. She spent several days walking until she collapsed from exhaustion in a remote place.
The girl fell asleep. Suddenly, she heard a sound and woke up. In front of her was the feared wolf chief. She had heard of this wolf; people said he was wild and cruel. However, the pack leader simply looked at her and then slowly came closer. He told her that she could live with his pack if she wanted.
The girl hesitated, but something in her heart told her she could trust the wolf leader. She decided to follow him to where the rest of the wolves were waiting. They welcomed her with kindness and respect. The legend says that no one had ever treated her so well.
The power of love
According to the Dakota legend, the wolf leader asked her what she liked to eat. She answered that her favorite food was buffalo. So, he sent the other wolves to hunt buffalo so that she could eat buffalo meat. A few hours later, the wolves brought back a lot of food.
The leader of the wolf pack asked her how she ate the meat. She told him that she boiled it. All of the wolves set about looking for the things she would need to cook the meat and finally found the utensils that she needed.
Little by little, the young woman stopped being scared and uncertain. The wolves treated her with respect and affection, so much so that she was able to learn to love and respect herself. She felt at home and became another member of the pack.
One day, the wolf leader asked to speak to her again. He told her that the humans were getting ready to start a buffalo hunt. He said that if the wolf pack got in their way, the humans would surely kill them. The Dakota legend says that the wolf leader asked the young woman for help to avoid danger.
The value of gratitude according to the Dakota legend
The young woman came to the conclusion that she would have to intervene with the humans on the wolves’ behalf. She woke up at dawn and started walking back to her tribe. She arrived at the top of a hill and saw the group of hunters that were tracking the buffalo. They saw her as well and came closer. One of the men recognized her and told her others.
A lot of time had passed, about more than three years. The young woman’s mother and father were happy with the news. They had missed their daughter. They didn’t realize how much they loved her until they lost her. The young woman asked the group to spare the wolves from their hunt.
To convince them, she told them what the wolves had done for her. She also asked the hunters to give the wolves part of the bounty from the hunt. They accepted.
The Dakota legend says that after several days of hunting, the warriors came back with part of what they had killed. The young woman climbed to the top of the hill and howled, exactly like a real wolf. When she was done, she walked away from the meat. Then, thousands of wolves came to eat the food that the humans had left for them. The girl returned home and everyone saw that she was no longer the fearful girl that they had once known.