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 (3), partially restored
The Vision Quest of Jumping Mouse
his version has been formatted as a Radio Play and is the most complete of the four versions.
The Little Mouse had Slept once again for Seven Moons. Now it was the first week of the month of the fifth Moon. It was time to resume his Busyness. This Mouse (Mus Musca consumerii) lived close to the earth with other Mice in a verge under a herbaceous canopy of Cottonwood, Coyote Willow (Salix exigua), Western Snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis), Choke Cherry (Prunus americana) (Prunus virginiana), and prairie grasses. When awake his life was filled with Mice Busyness, running left and right, to and fro, searching for, examining, gathering, exchanging, storing, and consuming Seeds. He wriggled his whiskers, Touching them to the ground and the grass, feeling-at-a-distance, sniffed the air, arched his tail, and sometimes did foolish things, for as with all Mice, he was nearsighted. Unless it was right under his nose, he couldn't see it very well.
Once in a while this Busy Mouse would hear an Odd Sound in his Ears and he would Wonder. He couldn't figure out what it was. Approaching a fellow Mouse, he would say:
"I hear this Roaring buzzing in my ears. Do you?"
"No, I'm too busy Gathering to pay attention to anything like that."
"You must be crazy. Have you seen a Doctor?"
So he went back to his Mouse Work, doing all the things that Mice do, but he couldn't get that faint Roaring out of his ears.
One day, at Dusk, he decided that he would Initiate a Search: He would Seek the Source of this Sound. Leaving his friends he went cautiously towards the Edge of that with which Mice were familiar, listening. With One Step He left the World of Mice. Would the Stories his Mother had told him protect him from Danger, in a World Beyond the World of Busyness?
He Walked Alone for a time. He was Listening Hard and Walking Softly when suddenly, a Masked Shadow Ahead of him on the Path said Hello.
"Hello, little Brother," the Voice of the Shadow said, "You wouldn't be a Muskrat, would you?"
The Questing Mouse almost Jumped right Out of his Skin. He
Arched his Tail and was about to Run, when he remembered the advice of
"introduce Yourself" she had said.
The Little Mouse gently touched the Shadow with his voice:
"Mouse", he stammered. "a Little Mouse".
"Hello, Brother Mouse" said the Shadow.
"It is I, Brother Raccoon, the Washer." (Procyon Lotor) "I see that you have learned that it is necessary to touch anyone you truly wish to speak with."
"What are you doing in this Place, all by yourself?"
"It is a lovely Night to Take a Walk, Brother Raccoon."
"Yes, it is a Good Night, either to Die or to Learn."
"I hear this Roaring in my ears all the time."
"I Wonder what it is and I am Investigating it."
"Perhaps I can help you. The Roaring (Nada in Sanskrit) sound you hear comes from the Great River. I go to it every morning to wash my food. If you wish to see it, you may Walk with Me."
What is a River? he wondered.
Busy Mouse now felt Excitement and Fear, two of the many emotions of Mice. This was a Confirmation. The Sound he heard was real.
"Does this Sound have a Name?" the Little Mouse asked.
"Esta Nada" replied the Raccoon absentmindedly lapsing into Spanish.
If I can get Proof of the Existence of this thing called a River then my disbelieving friends will have to think differently. Maybe I can get a piece of it and bring it back in my carry net. I can return to Mouse Work after this matter is settled. Perhaps I may discover something that will aid me in my Gathering and Storing, Buying and Selling. Maybe Brother Raccoon will return with me and explain to all the Mice that what I heard was not like a Shape in the Clouds.
As Busy Mouse Walked with Brother Raccoon his Heart pounded. This Raccoon was taking him upon Strange Trails. He could smell the Scent and Feel the Presence of many beings that had passed this way. But the world was alive with colour and movement and fragrance and was very beautiful.
As they Walked, the Roaring in the Ears of the little Mouse became the Great Sound of the Great River. Finally they came to its Edge. Busy Mouse had never experienced anything like this. It Roared, Cried and Thundered on its course. He could Not See across it. It Moved, carrying past him on its surface big and little pieces of the world. It was the most powerful thing he had ever seen. Approaching as closely as he dared he looked down into it, and Jumped Back. He had seen a puzzled frightened Mouse looking at him. He had seen his own reflection for the first time.
"The Great River reflects what you Feel and what you Think."
"If you radiate Fear, it reflects Fear."
"If you radiate Joy, it reflects Joy."
"But the images are distorted, stretched, rippled. They are not a true reflection."
"Nor should one expect to find a True Reflection, this far from the Sacred Mountains."
"What are the Sacred Mountains?"
"I have no idea. Ask me something about Salads."
"Sometimes when I am washing my Food I see their Reflection in the River.
Who can Learn anything from such."
"Why do you Wash your Food?"
"Oh, you just have No Idea Where those Antelope Will Urinate."
The Raccoon encouraged him to put his hands into the Great River, to taste the water. The once Busy Mouse sat on a small Rock and for a long time just gazed at the Great River. It was Dawn. He felt different: fresh, alive, open and responsive. Watching a Self-Aware drop of Dew about to fall from the tip of a leaf into the river, as his Wonder Touched the Dewdrop's surface, the little Mouse heard its Song:
"Wet, tiny Dewdrop
Sparkling in the Sun
Falling in the River
Going Home to Mum."
"Twenty one syllables," said the Dewdrop, as it fell into the River.
"I can't see him anymore. Now they all look the same to me."
"My Mother will know Me"
said the Dewdrop, going Home.
It occurred to the Little Mouse, perhaps it was true?, that the Great Sound of the Great River was nothing less than the blending of the Songs of more Dewdrops than he could imagine. It was a very powerful idea and it made his small head a little dizzy. Later he would regret not listening as the Raccoon described Three Kinds of Dewdrops, those who Know they are going home, those who Imagine they are going home, and those who Doubt they are going homt. The Little Mouse watched as the Raccoon washed her food in the Great River.
"Can I help you wash those Leaves you have gathered?"
"No, You can't. You have no idea how fussy I am about how things taste."
"If you wish to learn more, it will be necessary for you to Open your Heart, for a Closed Heart will be as unaffected by wisdom as this stone, which although it has lain in this river for many Cycles of Moons, still has a Dry Heart."
The Raccoon had taught him all that she could.
"I cannot return with you, Little Mouse. I am your friend but
not Your Proof. You will speak to your own people with such Proof and
Evidence as you can manage yourself."
"Now I am going to introduce you to someone who knows more about the Great River than I do. I only Wash my Food in it. He Lives in it."
They Walked, until they came to a Place. There, sitting half in and half out of the water was a large Frog, green on top and white underneath. Very gently the Little Mouse touched the Frog, saying:
"Who are You? Are you not Afraid sitting In the Great River?"
"No, I do not feel fear. I have been given the Gift to live both Within and Without the Great River."
"I am Known as the Keeper of the Diamond Waters."
"Brother Racoon said that you could Walk on Water? Is that true?"
"Only in my Dreams."
"However, I am a Minor Source of Power."
"Would you like a Power?"
"Amazing! Can you give me some Power?"
"Yes. Listen carefully: Crouch down, as low as you can and then Jump Up, as High as you are Able!"
Trusting Brother Frog the Little Mouse did as he was Instructed. He crouched down as low as he could, and then jumped up as high as he was able, higher than several nearby Flowers, who watched him rise, and watched him fall.
As he Came Down he Fell into the shallows of the Great River. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Feeling Fear and Anger and Dripping with Water he scrambled out onto the bank.
"You Tricked Me! That's No Power!"
"You intended Rising but you didn't Intend Falling. Did you think the Air would catch you?"
"I Fell into Water!"
"Yes, you Fell into the Water, as you Came Down, as many people do when, for the first time they see a great distance into the Unknown, but do not let your Fear and Anger blind you. You are unharmed and alive and ... what did you see?"
"I ... I ... I saw the Sacred Mountains."
"And you have a new name, Jumping Mouse." (Zapus sp)
"... How can I thank you?"
"I've seen the Sacred Mountains,"
"I'll return to my people and share this Vision with them."
"I hope they will listen to you. Just keep the Sound of the Great River behind you. Now that you know what it is you can travel toward or away from it. Go in the direction opposite to this Sound and you will find your brother Mice."
These instructions were necessary because Mice have such limited vision that they cannot travel in a straight line. By using the Sound of the Great River, Jumping Mouse can Guide Himself. So, Jumping Mouse returned to the World of Mice. And he spoke to them, and he felt disappointment.
"You know that Roaring in my ears?"
"It was the Great River and Brother Raccoon took me there and I heard a Dewdrop's Song and I met a Teacher who gave me an Exercise and I Jumped Up and I saw the Sacred Mountains."
There was only an embarrassed silence. No one understood. They looked at him strangely, because his Fur was all Wet and Steaming. He had no way of explaining it because there had been no rain. He had not mentioned falling into the Great River. The Mice were afraid. A Belief Sprung Up among them that he had been spat from the Mouth of a Terrible Animal that had tried to Eat him. And they knew that if he had not been Food for the One who Wanted him, then he must be Unclean. They didn't remember that he had spoken about the Sacred Mountains.
"You should be able to turn it on and off"
Brother Frog had told him, referring to Enthusiasm. Jumping Mouse thought he meant Intriguing others with his experiences.
Jumping Mouse now experienced a Time of Extended Sadness.
There was so much he wanted to share with his fellow Mice, and they did not feel comfortable in his company. He realised that most Mice are caught up with possessions and once, only once, he tried to speak to them about it:
"In the World of Busyness and Money there is usually very
little room for spirituality, for the very act of possession has in
itself an unspiritual vibration. Nothing ever really belongs to us.
Every piece of matter in this forest, whether it be soil or
seed or insect, is not ours to buy and sell. We might think that
because we have paid money to buy something from another Mouse that we
now possess it, but that Mouse had no right to sell it, neither had we
the right to buy it, for the matter of this earth does not belong to
us, it is lent to us, in trust."
"Mice have created a material society, the basis of which is possessions, and this we support with our monetary, legal and judicial Mouse Centric systems. If these systems were to collapse, then the whole structure of Mouse Society would collapse. All that we truly possess is our consciousness. That is all that we take with us, when we die."
This was the longest, and the last attempt made by Jumping Mouse to detach his fellow Mice a little from their Busyness.
"All civilised Mice Buy and Sell",
they said, as they returned to Buying and Selling.
"Where did That come from?" said one
cute Mouse, refering to his Speech.
"One seldom can tell where Channeled Material comes from", said Jumping Mouse.
Jumping Mouse stayed with His People for a time, but he could not forget his Vision of the Sacred Mountains. Finally he decided to Initiate a Second Search: He would go, and find them.
"You're insane, you can't do it" they said discouragingly.
"The SPOTS will get you."
Jumping Mouse had forgotten about the SPOTS. It would be necessary to cross the Great Plains, a place of Beauty, Adventure and Danger, to get to the Sacred Mountains, and over the Great Plains there live Eagles which track and swoop down onto Mice. With their poor vision Mice do not really know them as Eagles, except in their last moments. They only see them as Spots in the Sky. Jumping Mouse's fear of Spots was real, because Eagles are real. As he looked up from the Edge of the World of Mice, he could see SPOTS, circling in the Sky above him.
It was His Intention to Find the Sacred Mountains. He would travel at Night, disadvantaging the SPOTS. Waiting till Sunset, Gathering all his Heart's Strength he ran at dusk as fast as he could out onto the Great Plains, his tiny heart pounding with Excitement and Fear, Dodging this way and that, his Whiskers sometimes Quivering, sometimes Still, feeling the Spots gazing down at his back.
"They should be asleep!"
The Great Plains are an alien place for a small Mouse.
He ran for a Long Time. At last he came to a Place, a stand of Sweet Sage. Here was a Fragrant Place where he could rest, unseen by the Spots, and try to Catch his Breath. He would also consider the question of his weight. Mice gather seeds and eat all summer, putting on weight to see them through the time of the Cold Moons. On this Journey there would not be enough time to Gather, and he would expend more than he collected. He might well reach the Sacred Mountains fit but thin, and then Winter would come.
Oh, there in the Sweet Sage was an Old Mouse, smoking a pipe filled with Sage. Jumping Mouse was joyous to meet someone of his own kind in this Place. This clump of Sweet Sage appeared to be a Haven, a Paradise for Mice. Nutritious seeds and nesting material of the finest kind were abundant. Very respectfully he reached out and touched the Old Mouse:
"Welcome, brother Mouse. What, if I may ask, brings you to My Lodge? You are looking a little thin for this time of year. Would you like a cup of Sage Tea? That reminds me of a story about the Time I was ..."
"Grandfather, I heard a Roaring in my Ears, and went to the Great River."
"Yes, I too once heard the Roaring and I too have been to the Great River."
Jumping Mouse was really excited because now for the first time he had found a Mouse who shared his experience. So they talked about the Great River and the Common Things they knew.
"And then I met a Teacher and he told me to Jump and I Jumped
and I saw the Sacred Mountains."
"My grandson, the Great River is Real and we have both Been There and Tasted its Water, but the Sacred Mountains are ... just a Warm-Blanket Myth. They Don't Exist."
How Can he Say such a Thing? How could he forget a Vision of the Sacred Mountains? Perhaps his Jump never Rose Above the Flowers. Perhaps he never Jumped. He must have Jumped, else why would he be living so far out on the Great Plains?
"Stay here with me. This is a perfect place for Mice Who Know. From here one can see and study the Beings of the Great Plains, the Buffalo, the Antelope, the Rabbit, and the Coyote. One can learn their Names."
I wonder for what Purpose he studies, if he has abandoned his Quest.
"I have other things to smoke besides this Sweet Sage, a good library and we can share stories of the things we have done. This place has everything you could want, and we have both Been Further than any other Mouse."
"Thank you very much for the cup of tea you have shared with me, and thank you also for sharing the comforts of your Lodge and your wisdom. But I must seek the Sacred Mountains."
"You are a Foolish Mouse! There is danger on the Great Plains. Just look up there. Those are SPOTS and they are waiting for you! And what will you do when Winter comes?"
Arching his tail Jumping Mouse leaves running, afraid but Aspiring. He can feel the SPOTS pressing on his back, Tickling his Fur with their Eyes. The ground is hot and rough. He runs with all of his Heart's Courage. might.
Eventually he comes to a thick stand of tall grasses and low shrubs where there is Shelter, many kinds of seeds, grass to gather for nests, Rare seeds that he could take back and sell to his people at Great Profit. There are also Choke Cherries. A Choke Cherry is an Astringent fruit that tastes very good, but the more you eat the hungrier you get, and eventually you get very sick and very hungry.
Jumping Mouse becomes aware of a great heavy sighing moaning wheezy noise. He is frightened. He doesn't know what it is. Exploring, he comes to a Great Dark Brown Mountain of Hair sighing slowly up and down. It is a Great Buffalo with large black horns, its feet tucked underneath it, it's Head on the Ground. Creeping closer he gently touches the Great Buffalo;
"Are you alright?"
"Hello, Little One, thank you for visiting me."
"Hello Great Being"
"Why are you lying there?"
"I went in search of Love, but all I found was these Choke Cherries, bitter black fruit of an aromatic stem. The more I ate, the hungrier I became. Now I am dying."
Jumping Mouse is overcome with Sadness. This Great Being that he has just met, is dying.
"Can I do anything to make you well?"
There is a Legend that says that only the Fire in the Eye of a Mouse can remedy my condition, and, alas, there is no such thing as a Mouse."
No such thing as a Mouse!
One of my Eyes!! One of my Tiny Eyes. I'd be willing to give her something I didn't need myself, or could soon replace, but one of my eyes.
This Great Being will die.
"There Are Mice. I am a Mouse."
"Thank you very much little brother. Now I will die happy knowing that there is Beauty in both the Large and Small Beings of This World."
"I have two Eyes. You may have the Fire in One of them to make you well."
As soon as he Ceased to Speak, Jumping Mouse became blind in one eye, and the Great Buffalo, Healed, leapt to her feet, Dancing, strong and powerful, her Hooves pounding the Earth, her great head weaving and hooking:
"Thank you, Jumping Mouse. Yes, I Know your Name, of your visit to the Great River, and of your Quest for the Sacred Mountains. If you wish to continue your Journey I can Guide you across the Great Plains and protect you. Run Underneath Me and you will be safe from the Spots. I will take you to the foot of the Sacred Mountains. I cannot take you any farther. In the Mountains I might slip, fall and Crush you! That would not count as an Alternative Death."
Jumping Mouse is Worried. It is early morning, yet the Buffalo is making preparations to leave. And he is talking of taking a trail that traverses nothing but dry uplands. The Buffalo, having understood his concerns, speaks:
"You have traveled far by the Light of the Moon. Now it will
be necessary to travel by the Light of the Sun. There is no
alternative, if you still Intend to find the Sacred Mountains."
"We will come to small streams from time to time."
"Perhaps we will encounter a Great Plains Thunderstorm."
"They seem to turn up whenever I make a Run to the Sacred Mountains."
Junkping Mouse notices too late that this Buffalo has "white socks"; her lower legs are covered with white hair , not brown or black. She is the White-Legged-Buffalo. There was a story his Mother had told him. This was no ordinary Prairie Buffalo.
The stand of Choke Cherries is situated on the edge of a steep Bluff. Far below there appears to be a dry river bed. The Buffalo begins to move, going right over the edge, they go down the steep slope.
Jumping Mouse runs Underneath the Great Buffalo, across the Great Plains, protected from Eagles, but with each step the Buffalo takes his whole world shakes ... hooves pounding around him, dust flying, the earth shaking, four powerful white legs flashing, and only one eye to guide him.
"I know I am safe from Spots, but this is Worse! If either of us makes a single wrong step, I am finished!"
The Sun has gone behind a cloud. It grows darker. There is a
strange electrical Presence in the Air. Jumping Mouse is startled when
of Lightning Strikes the Ground a short distance away. They are now
one of the Great Thunder Storms of the Prairie. He runs Under the
as the Buffalo runs Under the Electric Storm. The Lightning Bolts are
Splitting Dead Trees on either side of them. Above the thunderstorm
there was a large, brief, dim, luminous, red flash, visible whenevr a
strong bolt of lightning hit the ground.
It occurred to the Little Mouse, perhaps it was true?, that the Buffalo and the Lightning Bolts were both Showing Off. Why not Walk to the Sacred Mountains?
With that thought the Storm moved slowly away. There were several hundred square miles of Parched Prairie to be Watered.
Finally Jumping Mouse and the Buffalo Come to a Place. The Great Buffalo Stops. Jumping Mouse, exhausted, thankful to be alive, is shaking with the pounding of the journey and the electricity of the storm. Hoof-thunder subsides, rumbling.
"Great Holy Electric Mother of All Buffaloes!"
"You needn't have worried. My Way of Walking is that of a Sun Dancer. I always know where my hooves will fall, for I take responsibility for each step I take. I could see you underneath me all the way and you were perfectly safe."
"And that Electric Storm, those Lightning Bolts?"
"Storm? Lightning Bolts? I did notice some Fireflies."
The Great Buffalo returns to the Prairie, leaving Jumping Mouse alone, with only one eye, at the Edge of the Foothills of the Sacred Mountains. He looks around this Place. There are many things here that Mice especially like. He knows that he can make an immense fortune by returning to his people with them.
There is a chill in the air as he notices a large Gray Wolf, (Canis lupis, timber wolf, arctic wolf, tundra wolf) a big beautiful Wolf, sitting next to a bark basket of dried fish, with a very strange grin on his face, looking from one place to another, doing nothing, just sitting. Very gently Jumping Mouse touches the Wolf, saying:
"Hello Brother Wolf."
"Wolf? Wolf! Yes! That is what I am ... I am a Wolf?"
"Hello Brother Wolf."
"Wolf! Wolf! Yes, a Wolf, that is what I am a Wolf?"
Each time Jumping Mouse reminded him Who he Was, the Wolf became excited with the Good News, but his Mind was Weak and he had Lost much of the Power of Long Memory; he soon forgot again.
Such a Great Being, but he has no Memory of Who He Is.
"Is there any way I can help you?"
"I doubt it. I'm growing sadder, going madder and I'm bound to Starve."
"Starve? How can you Starve, with all this dried fish next to you?"
"Is that what it is? You are probably a Mouse and when you look at dried fish you may see Food. I ... I don't remember Who I am or know What to eat ... to me this so-called dried fish looks like River Gravel. I won't touch it."
"You cannot tell any longer with your own Senses what is nutritious and what is not?"
"Whatever happened to you?"
"I tried to change myself into a Being of Beauty, Goodness, Hospitality and Pleasant Conversation."
"I allowed the power to run down instead of up."
"Now I'm wasted and useless."
"Worst of all, I can't remember why I'm here."
Jumping Mouse Went to the Center of Sitting Quietly, as Brother Frog had taught him.
"I wish to give you, if it will be of any help
the Fire in my Eye."
When the Little Mouse Ceased to Speak, Tears fall down the cheeks of the Wolf. But Jumping Mouse can not see them for now he is Sightless in both eyes.
"Thank you. Yes, I am a Wolf, and a Guide, and I know your Name. You are called Jumping Mouse. You have been to the Great River, Brother Frog has shown you how to see the Sacred Mountains, you have crossed the Great Plains with the Great Buffalo. If you Intend to continue your Journey I will Guide you to the High Magic Lake, at the Top of the Sacred Mountains. What will happen to you after that is a Mystery."
Jumping Mouse is Blind now, and all he has is his Whiskers and his Ears. He can Touch and Listen but he has given up his Old Way of Seeing, having sacrificed his "I"s. The Gray Wolf Guides. They begin to climb, higher and higher into the Sacred Mountains, above the timber Line, where Now there are no Trees, no Bushes, no Cover for a Mouse. All seems calm and peaceful as they arrive at the Shore of the High Magic Lake.
"We are here. Sit down beside me and Listen. In
this Lake are reflected all the People, the Houses of all the People,
and all the Animals of the Skies, the Spirits of the Mountains and the
Beings of the Great Plains. This Whole World, and several others, are
reflected in this Lake. And over it hangs the Painted Air."
"Can any Mouse reach this Place?"
"If it is highly enough motivated and if this is its main concern, yes."
""Does this Place have a Name?"
"It is called Beyond Striving, Striving's End, the Cessation of Striving."
"I'm still striving.
"I doubt it. With what?. Towards what?"
"The eye-sight of the Mountain Eagle?"
"What happens to those whom you bring here?"
"I don't know. When I return they are gone. I never see them again."
It is the end of summer. The Wolf leaves. There are many who need to be shown the Way to this Lake. Jumping Mouse sits with his fear and Loneliness wrapped around him.. He knows that as soon as the Wolf is gone the Spots will come for him. He is blind and without any protection. He is unable to remember his mother or father. He sits silently, looking quietly within. He can feel the eyes of the Spots, pressing into his back. The silence and the darkness are very great.
High Overhead there is a Sound, the that-ones-mine whistle of an Eagle, then a descending softly whistling stream of wind, growing louder. There is a fantastic shock. There is an immense Stillness. There is Amazement, There is great Surprise at being alive. Astonishment. What is happening:
I can see Three Sixty, I can see colours ... There is a
Luminous green and white Being, Walking towards me on the Surface of
"Would you like a Power?" (said the Frog)
"Whatever" says Jumping Mouse.
"Then, if you are Ready for your Last Jump, Crouch down as low as you can and Jump Up as High as you are Truthful."
"as High as I am Able."
"as you are Truthful."
"Whatever" says Jumping Mouse.
ga re yin yang - whatever it is
gang - whatever
gang gi yang - whatever
gang dang gang - whatever
gang dang yang - whatever
So Jumping Mouse gets down as low as he can and jumps up as high as he is Truthful and when he does, a WIND springs up and catches him and swirls him up and up and up. A voice from below calls up to him:
"Grab hold of the Wind, and Trust!"
Jumping Mouse reaches out and grabs hold of the Wind as hard as he can, and the Wind takes him Higher and Higher, as everything becomes clearer and Clearer, perfectly Clear, and he can See.
I can see the Place where I Started,
the Great River,
all the Beings of the Great Plains,
the Old Mouse,
the Great Buffalo,
and the Gray Wolf,
and from the Magic Lake the reflections of the Houses of All the People,
and the Painted Air,
and there, far below, on the Edge of the Lake is my Teacher, Brother Frog:
"Hello, Brother Frog!"
"Hello, Brother Eagle!"