The Old Man At The Beginning


The following is a folk myth that my friend told me. We both went to school together in Oregon, from middle school through high school so I’ve known him for a while. My friend is still at home for college so I asked him to tell me a folk story that he had heard in his childhood. This is a direct transcribed script of what was said in the story, with the various “umm’s” and “uhh’s” omitted.


“Okay, this is one of the only good folk stories I actually know. So I’m just a little bit Native American right, a little bit of the Crow tribe from the Wyoming area I think. This is the only story that I think I ever heard about… probably because it’s pretty important, you know, creation stories and all that. It goes like this. In the beginning the world was just covered in water. And then there was this old guy, I think he was just named Old Man in the story for some reason, not important enough to give an actual name I guess. Anyway, he was looking around, I don’t know if he had a boat or something, but he saw some ducks off in the distance. For some reason the ducks had red eyes, don’t ask me why, I just remember it cause like, why do ducks have red eyes. Anyway he goes up to them and is like ‘is there only water in this world?’ 

And the ducks are like, ‘that’s all we’ve seen but you could try checking underneath.’ 

Then the Old Man tells the youngest duck to dive down and look for land. The youngest duck is down there for a while so the Old Man says, ‘he must have drowned.’

But then the younger duck comes back up and has a ball of mud in his bill. The old guy takes the mud and blows on it three times. They say that the mud grew and filled the earth and that’s how the land got there. I think they believe the Old Man made the land for them.”


Of the three folklore pieces that I got from my friend, this was the only one that I didn’t have prior knowledge of going into it. And when I say I don’t have a clue what he was talking about, I mean I thought he was just telling me some made up story. He didn’t know the name of the story, so I had to do some digging into what it might be called. After a while of searching, I found that the Crow people had a deity they would call Old Man Coyote, and that was the man in this story. 

To the Crow people, this was a story that described how the land came to be. To us nowadays, we would see this as a piece of folklore categorized as myth. The Crow people took this story as something that probably actually happened, though my friend obviously does not believe it to be true. Because of this importance in their religion, the Old Man At The Beginning can be considered a sacred narrative of the people. In all my searching for this story, I could only find about three other sources of the story. Despite its rarity, my friend actually told a decent retelling of the story, only missing a few things from the other sources. For another reference, see