The Story of Jumping Mouse

There have been at least four (incomplete) versions of the Amerindian Jumping Mouse Story in circulation in English since about 1970. Here are three of them:

Version (1) was told to Robin Ridington by his friend and teacher, Chuck Storm, Hyemeyohsts. Robin Ridington told the story, with notes, to the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Society in New Orleans, Nov. 22, 1969.

Version (2)

Version (3)

On the Jumping Mouse, biological information

Version (1)
Jumping Mouse -- This is a Plains Indian Sundance story.

One time there was a mouse who lived with other mice and this little mouse kept hearing a roaring in his ears. He couldn't figure out what it was. All the time, everywhere he went, as he went about his mouse's business, his little whiskers going, looking into nooks and crannies, gathering things, taking seeds from one place to another, he kept hearing this roaring and he wondered what it was. Sometimes he would ask the other mice, "I hear this roaring in my ears, what is it?" And the other mice always said, "We don't hear anything. You must be crazy, get back to work. Accumulate!" So he got back to work, being a mouse, and did all the things that mice do, but he couldn't get the roaring out of his ears and finally he resolved that he would try to find out what it was.

Very timidly he went just to the edge of where the mice were living around the roots of trees and bushes. As soon as he got outside of where the mice lived, he saw a raccoon and the racoon said, "Hello, little brother," and he looked up and said, "Hello, brother." And he said, "You know, I hear this roaring in my ears all the time and I wonder what it is." The racoon said, "Oh, that's easy. I know what that is, that's the great river and I go there every day to wash my food." Little Mouse was really excited because this was the first time that anyone had ever said that what he heard was real and so he started scheming in his mouse's way about how he would take the proof back to all the other mice and then they wouldn't think he was strange anymore. So racoon said, "Yes, I'll take you to the river," and little mouse followed along behind him.

Finally they got to the edge of the great river, to a little eddy on the great river, but little mouse had never seen anything like that before in his life, this fantastic expanse of water. Where mice live the only water they see is rainwater and dew. They don't see big bodies of water, and to little mouse it was just immense and he timidly went up to the edge of the water. He looked in and he freaked because he saw a mouse in there! He jumped back but nothing happened and he looked again and he saw, yes, it's a mouse in there. He'd seen his own reflection for the first time.

The racoon led him down to the bank of the river and at one place he put his hand in and tasted the water and finally the racoon said, "I have to go about my business and find food and wash it in the river, but I'll take you to a friend of mine." So racoon took little mouse to his brother, Frog.

There was a big green frog sitting on the edge of the river, sort of half in and half out. Little mouse said to him, "Hello, brother," and the frog replied, "Hello, brother." And they talked for awhile and the frog told him all about his life, about how he had been given the gift to live half in the water and half out of the water. He was all green on top and white underneath. He told little mouse, "When thunderbird flies you will always find me here but when winter- man comes I will be gone." That sounded pretty good to little mouse and then the frog said to him, "Do you want a medicine?" Little mouse said, "Sure, I'd like a medicine, yes." And then the frog said, "O. K., just crouch down as low as you can get and then jump up as high as you can jump."

So little mouse did that. He got down as low as he could go and then he jumped up as high as a mouse could jump. And when he jumped up he saw the sacred mountains and then he fell back down and fell into the water.

Nothing like this had ever happened to him before and he scurried out of the water and he was really mad. He said, "You tricked me, that's no medicine, I fell in the water." And the frog said, "Yes, you fell in the water. You're wet. But you're safe, you're alive, aren't you?" And little mouse said, "Yes, I am." And the frog said to him, "What did you see when you jumped up?" Little mouse said, "Oh, yes, yes. I saw the sacred mountains." And the frog said to him, "You have a new name. Your name is Jumping Mouse."

Jumping Mouse thanks the frog for having taught him and then he says, "It's time to go back to my people. I want to tell them about the sacred mountains." He has really changed. Instead of saying, "I want to prove to those bastards that the river really exists," now he is just excited. He's seen the sacred mountains and he wants to go back and share his vision with his people. He speaks in innocence because he has learned from the frog. He wants to go back in innocence to tell them about it, and in innocence he will be able to return. The frog tells him, "It's easy to go back to your people. Just keep the sound of the river behind you. The roaring that you heard is now your medicine. You know what it is and you can return to your people."

Mice are unable to go in a straight line because they can see close but with the medicine behind him Jumping Mouse can return. He has always heard it, but now he can navigate by it, he has a direction.

Jumping Mouse keeps the medicine behind him and goes back to where the other mice are living. He says to them, "You know that roaring in my ears? It was the great river and racoon took me there and I met a frog. The frog gave me a medicine and I jumped up and I saw the sacred mountains." But they looked at him really strangely because he was all wet. He had forgotten entirely about falling in the river but they started whispering among themselves. They said, "An animal must have had him in its mouth. There must be something wrong with him. There must be some pollution, something terrible that he was in the jaws of death and wasn't taken. Very dangerous person." They didn't even hear what he said about the sacred mountains.

Poor Jumping Mouse was just crestfallen at this because he had really wanted to tell them about what he had seen so they could see it too, but they couldn't. You cannot see through the eyes of another without giving him your eyes, and they were unable to do that. He stayed with them for a while because they were his people, but finally he resolved that he would go on and find the sacred mountains.

He told them about his resolve and they said, "You're insane, you can't do it, the spots will get you." They knew, all mice know, that out on the prairie eagles can swoop down and get mice. But mice do not know eagles. They are too distant from them and so they only see them as spots in the sky. They can see close into the little things of the earth but when they look up and far away they only see spots. And this is a paradox, but eagles when they are close to the ground only see things as a blur. The mice's fear of spots is real because eagles are real and really get mice, and Jumping Mouse was terrified but went on. Out onto the prairie he went, his whiskers feeling, dodging this way and that, feeling the spots pressing down on his back. The prairie is where the great animals meet and travel far and it is an alien place for a mouse. Jumping Mouse went out into it with his fear and finally he came to a circle of sweet sage.

The circle of sage was a haven, a cover from the spots, and sweet sage is a plant that you cannot eat but which is used by the Indians for incense, prayer, something healing and beautiful. There in the sweet sage was an old, old mouse. Long braids, an old mouse. Jumping Mouse was joyous to meet someone of his own kind he could talk to out in this alien place. The clump of sage was a haven and a paradise for mice. There were seeds and roots to crawl into and everything a mouse could want there. He went up to the old mouse and he said, "Grandfather, I heard a roaring in my ears and I have been to the great river." The old mouse said, "Yes, I too heard the roaring and I too have been to the great river." Jumping Mouse was really excited because for the first time he had found a mouse who had shared his experience. So they talked about the river and the common things they knew. Jumping Mouse was more and more excited and he said, "And then I met the frog and he told me to jump up and I jumped up and I saw the sacred mountains." The old mouse was silent for a long time and finally said, "My grandson, the great river is real and we have both been there and tasted its water, but the sacred mountains are just a myth. They don't exist." Jumping Mouse was just crushed and disappointed by this and the old mouse said to him, "Stay with me and grow old with me here. This is a perfect place for mice and we have both been further than any other mouse."

Jumping Mouse resolves to go on and the old mouse is really upset. He says, "You can't do that, the spots will get you." But Jumping Mouse is resolved and he leaves the old mouse in the sage. He goes out onto the prairie and he is really afraid. He can feel the spots, just feel them pressing in. Knows that they are there every moment; his little whiskers are going fast and finally he gets out to the middle of the prairie and comes to a stand of chokecherry bushes. Chokecherries are good to eat but they make you fantastically thirsty. The more you eat, the more thirst you have.

Jumping Mouse is out of breath and thankful for a safe haven and cover from the spots and as he lies there panting, he hears a great sighing slowly, up and down. And he looks up and sees that it is a great animal. Jumping Mouse thinks, "I am so small and this great being is so large," and he forgets his fear in his awe and goes up to the animal and says, "Hello, great brother," and it replies, "Hello, little brother," and Jumping Mouse asks, "Who are you?" and he says, "I am a Buffalo and I am dying." When he hears this, little mouse is overcome with sadness that this great being that he has just met is dying and he says to him, "What can I do to make you well? Is there any medicine that will make you well?" And the buffalo says, "I have talked with my medicine and it has told me that there is only one thing that will make me well, and that is the eye of a mouse, and there is no such thing as a mouse."

Jumping Mouse was just freaked by this and he ran back, his little whiskers going, his tail behind him until he reached some cover. But from a safe place he heard the breathing again, getting slower and slower, and he felt a tremendous compassion for the buffalo. "I am so small," he thought, "and the buffalo is so great and so beautiful." Finally he came out from his hole, taking two steps forward and one step back, his tail dragging, but resolved to speak to his great brother. "I want to tell you something," he said, " there is such a thing as a mouse and I am a mouse."

"Thank you very much, little brother," the buffalo replied. "I will die happy knowing that there is such a thing as a mouse. But it is too much to ask of you to give one of your eyes." But Jumping Mouse told him, "No, I am so small and you are so great that I would like to give you one of my eyes and make you well." And immediately as he said that, one of his eyes flew out of his head and the Buffalo jumped up, strong and powerful, his hooves pounding on the earth and his great head dancing and hooking. He was strong and he said, "I know who you are. You are Jumping Mouse and you have been to the river and jumped up and seen the sacred mountains. You are on your way to them. I can guide you across the prairie, for I am one of the great beings of the prairie. Run underneath me. I know you are afraid of the spots, and I will protect you from them. You will be safe and I will take you across the prairie right to the edge of the sacred mountains. But I can't take you farther than that because I am a creature of the prairie and I must stay here to give away to the people. If I go up onto the sacred mountains it will be too steep and I will fall and crush you."

So Jumping Mouse runs underneath the buffalo across the prairie, his hooves just pounding, dust flying, shaking the earth and little mouse is frightened at the great power of the buffalo. He knows he is safe but this is worse, trying to keep up with a goddam buffalo! Finally they get to the edge of the prairie and he is really exhausted and he comes creeping out from underneath the great buffalo, thankful to be alive. He looks up at the great gift and he says, "That was really something!" And the buffalo says, "You didn't need to worry, little brother. I am a buffalo and I know where I place every footstep. I am a great dancer and light on my feet. I could see you underneath me all the way and you were perfectly safe."

So the buffalo left Jumping Mouse at the edge of the sacred mountains, and he looks around. Who should he see now but a wolf, sitting there - a big beautiful wolf, just sitting on his haunches, kind of looking around one place or another. And he goes up to him and he says, "Hello, brother Wolf." And the wolf says, "Wolf, wolf, yes, I'm a wolf, wolf, yes, wolf," and then he sort of sits back and a beatific grin comes across his and he doesn't say any more. His mind wanders, slips away. And Jumping Mouse can't figure that out. What the hell's going on? So he comes up again and he says, "Hello, brother wolf," and the wolf says "Wolf, wolf, yes wolf, wolf yes, I'm a wolf, yes," and his voice trails off as his mind slips again.

So Jumping Mouse wonders what is going on and he goes a little distance away and he listens to the beating of his heart; the sound of his heart is beating like a drum inside him. And he remembered all the thing that have happened to him. He remembered that when the buffalo was dying the thing that would make him well was the eye of a mouse and he figures that's good medicine. "I've got good medicine, a lot of power in the eye of a mouse." And he resolves that he will give his other eye to the wolf and that will make him well. So he goes up to the wolf and he says, "Brother wolf," and the wolf begins to say, "Wolf, wolf" but Jumping Mouse stops him and says, "I want to give you one of my eyes," and immediately his eye, his last eye, is gone and he's blind, and the wolf jumps up and says, Yes, I'm a wolf. I know who you are. You are Jumping Mouse. You have been to the great river, the frog has shown you the sacred mountains, the buffalo has brought you to me, and I can guide you to the medicine lake at the top of the sacred mountains."

Little mouse is blind now, and all he has is his whiskers. He can touch but he has given up all his old ways of seeing. He can only touch things close now. The wolf takes him up from the prairie, through the pines, "stands-in-place," Finally they get to the open country at the top of the mountain. There are no trees there, no cover, nothing for a mouse. They get to the edge of the medicine lake and the wolf tells him, "We are here. We are at the medicine lake." And he sits Jumping Mouse down by it.

Jumping Mouse takes his hand and puts it in the water and tastes it, and it's good, it's beautiful. And then the wolf describes to him what he can see in the medicine lake. He says, "In the medicine lake are reflected all the lodges of the people. The whole world is reflected there. The medicine lake is the reflection. It is a symbol of the reflection. They sit there and Jumping Mouse knows that it is time for the wolf to go about his business and travel to other parts of the world. It is time for the eagles to get him. It is an open place and as soon as his guide is gone the eagles will see him and come. He is blind and he can't see them. The wolf feels tremendous compassion and feeling for Jumping Mouse his brother, and his heart stretches out to him, and the wolf cries. Then he leaves and Jumping Mouse is left alone, blind, nothing but looking within, and he can feel the spots on his back, just pressing in, hard. And then he hears the rush of wind and wings and then there is a fantastic shock and everything is black.

The next thing he knows, he can see colours. He can see! He can see colours. And he's amazed, astounded, he doesn't know if he's dreaming or what is happening. But he's alive and he can see colours. Then he sees a blur of colours moving toward him, something green and white moving his way and from the colours comes a voice. "You want a medicine?" And Jumping Mouse says, "Yes, I'd like a medicine." And the voice says, "Just get down as far as you can and jump up as high as you can jump." So little mouse gets down as low as he can and jumps up as high as he can jump, and when he does, the wind catches him and swirls him up and up and up in the air. And the voice calls out from below him, "Grab hold of the wind!" So little mouse reaches out and grabs hold of the wind as hard as he can, and the wind takes him higher and higher until everything begins to get clearer and clearer. Crystal clear, and he can see all the great beings of the prairie, the buffalo, the wolf on the mountain, and he looks down into the medicine lake and there are all the lodges of the people reflected, and on the edge of the medicine lake he sees his friend the frog. He calls down to him, "Hello, brother Frog," and the frog calls back to him, "Hello, brother Eagle."

Appendix - Animalia Miscellanea

Family Zapodidae: Jumping Mice

[Federal Register:
May 13, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 92)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Page 26517-26530]

The US Fish and Wildlife Service determines the meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) to be a threatened species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The meadow jumping mouse, small to medium-sized with long tails and long feet adapted for jumping. in the family Zapodidae, is known to occur in seven counties in Colorado and two counties in Wyoming. The meadow jumping mouse lives primarily in heavily vegetated riparian habitats. Habitat loss and degradation caused by agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial development imperil its continued existence.

Color -- back - greyish clay to yellowish-brown tawny-olive with an indistinct mid-dorsal band of darker hair and paler sides, large hindlegs and hindfeet, and a sparsely haired long tail.

Color -- sides - lighter than back from Clay Color to Cinnamon-Buff; lateral line distinct and clear Ochraceous-Buff; belly white, sometimes faint wash of clear Ochraceous-Buff; tail bicolored, brownish to light brownish-black above, grayish-white to yellowish-white below.

Zapus hudsonius subsists on seeds, small fruits, fungi, and insects, and hibernates from October to May It is adapted for digging, creates nests of grasses, leaves, and woody material several centimeters below the ground, and is primarily nocturnal.

Procyon Lotor - Raccoon

The most distinguishable physical characteristics of the Raccoon are its black mask across the eyes and bushy tail with anywhere from four to ten black rings. The forepaws resemble slendor human hands and make the raccoon unusually dextrous. Both their forepaws and hindpaws have five toes.

Raccoons will eat almost anything including nuts, fruits, berries, grass, leaves, seeds, wild grapes, cherries, apples, persimmons, berries, acorns, peaches, plums, figs, citrus fruits, watermelons, beech nuts, walnuts, insects, crustaceans, worms, birds' eggs, fish, frogs, some small mammals, kitchen scraps, and garbage. Muskrat kits, crayfish, and corn are primary seasonal sources of food.

Geographic Range - Paleo-arctic, Oriental: Raccoons are found across southern Canada south to northern South America.

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