Iktomi and the Ducks
May Tricksters: Week #4
This Tale is from the Native American Tribes of the Plains, South Western and Western areas of the United States. Ikto’mi is a man with spider-like characteristics and features. He does everything backwards.
In our tale this week Iktomi says to the gray wolves, “Don’t come and eat my duck feast.” Of course, as soon as the wolves hear that there is a duck feast they promptly arrive to eat his ducks. Iktomi makes the same mistake again by telling the wolves that they hadn’t eaten his buried baking ducks under the coals. So the wolves dig up the ducks and eat them too. By calling to the gray wolves and telling them what they shouldn’t do the wolves quickly react and do it anyway. They come and eat his ducks.
But, at the beginning of the story when Iktomi tells the ducks they don’t want to know what is in his blanket the ducks stop what they are doing and demand to know what Iktomi has in his blanket. This time his backward speak works in his favor. He is able to get the ducks inside his straw hut, and get them dancing with their eyes closed.
He tells them not to peek, not to open their eyes until he tells them to do so or their eyes will turn red forever. After the ducks open their eyes and fly away their eyes do turn red … his curse does comes true.
This is trickster magic. Backward speak, trickery, spells and the unexpected happen all throughout the trickster encounters.
One message this tale gives is the same trick doesn’t always bring the desired results. The Trickster needs to consider the possible outcomes before using the backward speak. Since the backward speak convinced the ducks to do exactly what Iktomi wants them to do, it worked to his favor. But when he uses the backward speak with the wolves, it doesn’t. Actually the trick worked the same, but the outcome was not what Iktomi desired. He really did not want the wolves to eat his ducks.
There is a Blue’s song that speaks to this very situation. The title of the song is … “Don’t advertise your man.” The message is, if you tell everyone how great your man is then some other woman will go behind your back and win him away from you. In the Iktomi tale he advertises his duck feast and the wolves eat all of his dinner. Next time, Don’t advertise your duck feast.