JUMPING MOUSE FOLKLORE
Once there was a mouse.
He was a busy mouse, searching everywhere, touching his whiskers to the grass and looking.
He was busy as all mice are, busy with mice things. But once in a while, he would hear an odd
sound. He would lift his head, squinting hard to see, his whiskers wiggling in the air, and he
would wonder. One day he scurried up to a fellow mouse and asked him, “Do you hear a roaring
in your ears, my brother?”
“No, no,” answered the other mouse, not lifting his busy nose from the ground. “I hear nothing. I
am busy now. Talk to me later.”
He asked another mouse the same question and the mouse looked at him strangely. “Are you
foolish in your head? What sound?” he asked and slipped into a hole in a fallen cottonwood
The little mouse shrugged his whiskers and busied himself again, determined to forget the
whole matter. But there was that roaring again. It was faint, very faint, but it was there! One day,
he decided to investigate the sound just a little. Leaving the other busy mice, he scurried a little
way away and listened again. There it was! He was listening hard when suddenly, someone said
“Hello little brother,” the voice said, and Mouse almost jumped right out of his skin. He arched
his back and tail and was about to run.
“Hello,” again said the voice. “It is I, Brother Raccoon.” And sure enough, it was! “What are you
doing here all by yourself, little brother?” asked the Raccoon. The mouse blushed and put his
nose almost to the ground. “I hear a roaring in my ears and I am investigating it,” he answered
“A roaring in your ears?” replied the Raccoon as he sat down with him. “What you hear, little
brother is the river.”
“The river?” Mouse asked curiously. “What is a river?”
“Walk with me and I will show you the river,” Raccoon said.
Little Mouse was terribly afraid, but he was determined to find out once and for all about the
roaring. “I can return to my work,” he thought, “after this thing is settled, and possibly this thing
may aid me in all my busy examining and collecting. And my brothers all said it was nothing. I
will show them. I will ask Raccoon to return with me and I will have proof.”
“All right Raccoon, my brother,” said Mouse. “Lead on to the river. I will walk with you.”
Little Mouse walked with Raccoon. His little heart was pounding in his breast. The Raccoon was
taking him upon strange paths and little Mouse smelled the scent of many things that had gone
by his way. Many times he became so frightened he almost turned back. Finally, they came to
the river! It was huge and breathtaking, deep and clear in places, and murky in others. Little
Mouse was unable to see across it because it was so great. It roared, sang, cried, and
thundered on its course. Little Mouse saw great and little pieces of the world carried along on its
“It is powerful!” little Mouse said, fumbling for words.
“It is a great thing,” answered the Raccoon, “but here, let me introduce you to a friend.”
In a smoother, shallower place was a lily pad, bright and green. Sitting upon it was a frog,
almost as green as the pad it sat on. The frog’s white belly stood out clearly.
“Hello, little brother,” said the frog.
“Welcome to the river.”
“I must leave you now,” cut in the raccoon, “but do not fear, little brother, for frog, will care for you
now.” And the raccoon left, looking along the river bank for food that he might wash and eat.
A little mouse approached the water and looked into it. He saw a frightened mouse reflected
“Who are you?” a little mouse asked the reflection. “Are you not afraid of being that far out into
the great river?”
“No,” answered the frog, “I am not afraid. I have been given the gift from birth to live both above
and within the river. When Winter Man comes and freezes this medicine, I cannot be seen. But
all the while Thunderbird flies, I am here. To visit me, one must come when the world is green. I,
my brother, am the keeper of the water.”
“Amazing!” the little mouse said at last, again fumbling for words.
“Would you like to have some medicine power?” frog asked.
“Medicine power? Me?” asked the little mouse. “Yes, yes! If it is possible.”
“Then crouch as low as you can, and then jump as high as you are able! You will have your
medicine!” Frog said.
Little Mouse did as he was instructed. He crouched as low as he could and jumped. And when
he did, his eyes saw the sacred mountains.
Little mouse could hardly believe his eyes. But there they were! But then he fell back to earth,
and he landed in the river!
The little mouse became frightened and scrambled back to the bank. He was wet and frightened
nearly to death.
“You have tricked me,” the little mouse screamed at the frog!
“Wait,” said the frog. “You are not harmed. Do not let your fear and anger blind you. What did
“I,” the mouse stammered, “I saw the sacred mountains!”
“And you have a new name!” Frog said. “It is Jumping Mouse.”
“Thank you. Thank you,” Jumping Mouse said, and thanked him again. “I want to return to my
people and tell them of this thing that has happened to me.”
“Go. Go then,” Frog said. “Return to your people. It is easy to find them. Keep the sound of the
medicine river to the back of your head. Go opposite to the sound and you will find your brother
Jumping Mouse returned to the world of the mice. But he found disappointment. No one would
listen to him. And because he was wet, and had no way of explaining it because there had been
no rain, many of the other mice were afraid of him. They believed he had been spat from the
mouth of another animal that had tried to eat him. And they all knew that if he had not been food
for the one who wanted him, then he must also be poison for them.
Jumping Mouse lived again among his people, but he could not forget his vision of the sacred
The memory burned in the mind and heart of Jumping Mouse, and one day he went to the edge
of the place of mice and looked out onto the prairie. He looked up for eagles. The sky was full of
many spots, each one an eagle. But he was determined to go to the sacred mountains. He
gathered all of his courage and ran just as fast as he could onto the prairie. His little heart
pounded with excitement and fear.
He ran until he came to a stand of sage. He was resting and trying to catch his breath when he
saw an old mouse. The patch of sage the old mouse lived in was a haven for mice. Seeds and
many things to be busy with.
“Hello,” said the old mouse. “Welcome.”
Jumping Mouse was amazed. Such a place and such a mouse. “You are truly a great mouse.”
Jumping Mouse said with all the respect that he could find. “This is truly a wonderful place. And
the eagles cannot see you here, either,” Jumping Mouse said.
“Yes,” said the old mouse,” and one can see all the beings of the prairie here: the buffalo,
antelope, rabbit, and coyote. One can see them all from here and know their names.”
“That is marvelous,” Jumping Mouse said. “Can you also see the river and the great
“Yes and no,” the old mouse said with conviction. “I know the great river, but I am afraid that the
great mountains are only a myth. Forget your passion to see them and stay here with me. There
is everything you want here, and it is a good place to be.”
“How can he say such a thing?” thought Jumping Mouse. “The medicine of the sacred
mountains is nothing one can forget.”
“Thank you very much for the meal you have shared with me, Old Mouse, and also for sharing
your great home,” Jumping Mouse said. “But I must seek the mountains.”
“You are a foolish mouse to leave, there is danger on the prairie! Just look up there!” the old
mouse said, with even more conviction. “See all those spots! They are eagles, and they will
It was hard for Jumping Mouse to leave, but he gathered his determination and ran hard again.
The ground was rough. But he arched his tail and ran with all his might. He could feel the
shadows of the spots upon his back as he ran. All those spots! Finally, he ran into a stand of
chokecherries. Jumping Mouse could hardly believe his eyes. It was cool there and very
spacious. There was water, cherries, and seeds to eat, grasses to gather for nests, holes to be
explored, and many, many other busy things to do. And there were a great many things to
He was investigating his new domain when he heard very heavy breathing. He quickly
investigated the sound and discovered its source. It was a great mound of hair with black horns.
It was a great buffalo. Jumping Mouse could hardly believe the greatness of the being he saw
lying there before him. He was so large that Jumping Mouse could have crawled into one of his
great horns. “Such a magnificent being,” thought Jumping Mouse, and he crept closer.
“Hello, my brother,” said the buffalo. “Thank you for visiting me.”
“Hello great being,” said Jumping Mouse. “Why are you lying here?”
“I am sick and I am dying,” the buffalo said.
“And my medicine has told me that only the eye of a mouse can heal me. But little brother, there
is no such thing as a mouse.”
Jumping Mouse was shocked. “One of my eyes!” he thought. “One of my tiny eyes.” He scurried
back into the stand of chokecherries. But the breathing came harder and slower.
“He will die.” thought Jumping Mouse. “If I do not give him my eye. He is too great a being to let
He went back to where the buffalo lay and spoke. “I am a mouse,” he said with a shaky voice.
“And you, my brother, are a great being. I cannot let you die. I have two eyes, so you may have
one of them.”
The minute he said it, Jumping Mouse’s eye flew out of his head and the buffalo was made
whole. The buffalo jumped to his feet, shaking Jumping Mouse’s whole world.
“Thank you, my little brother,” said the buffalo. “I know of your quest for the sacred mountains
and of your visit to the river. You have given me life so that I may give it away to the people. I will
be your brother forever. Run under my belly and I will take you right to the foot of the sacred
mountains, and you need not fear the spots. The eagles cannot see you while you run under
me. All they will see will be the back of a buffalo. I am of the prairie and I will fall on you if I try to
go up the mountains.”
Little Mouse ran under the buffalo, secure and hidden from the spots, but with only one eye it
was frightening. The buffalo’s great hooves shook the whole world each time he took a step.
Finally, they came to a place and Buffalo stopped.
“This is where I must leave you, little brother,” said the buffalo.
“Thank you very much,” said Jumping Mouse. “But you know, it was very frightening running
under you with only one eye. I was constantly in fear of your great earth-shaking hooves.”
“Your fear was for nothing,” said Buffalo, “for my way of walking is the Sun Dance Way, and I
always know where my hooves will fall. I now must return to the prairie, my brother. You can
always find me there.”
Jumping Mouse immediately began to investigate his new surroundings. There were even more
things here than in the other places, busier things, and an abundance of seeds and other things
mice like. In his investigation of these things, suddenly he ran upon a gray wolf who was sitting
there doing absolutely nothing.
“Hello, brother Wolf,” Jumping Mouse said.
The wolf’s ears came alert and his eyes shone. “Wolf! Wolf! Yes, that is what I am, I am a wolf!”
But then his mind dimmed again and it was not long before he sat quietly again, completely
without memory as to who he was. Each time Jumping Mouse reminded him who he was, he
became excited with the news, but soon would forget again.
“Such a great being,” thought Jumping Mouse, “but he has no memory.”
Jumping Mouse went to the center of his new place and was quiet. He listened for a very long
time to the beating of his heart. Then suddenly he made up his mind. He scurried back to where
the wolf sat and he spoke.
“Brother Wolf,” Jumping Mouse said….
“Wolf! Wolf,” said the wolf ….
“Please Brother Wolf,” said Jumping Mouse, “please listen to me. I know what will heal you. It is
one of my eyes. And I want to give it to you. You are a greater being than I. I am only a mouse.
Please take it.”
When Jumping Mouse stopped speaking his eye flew out of his head and the wolf was made
Tears fell down the cheeks of the wolf, but his little brother could not see them, for now, he was
“You are a great brother,” said the Wolf, “for now I have my memory. But now you are blind. I am
the guide into the Sacred Mountains. I will take you there. There is a great Medicine Lake there,
the most beautiful lake in the world. All the world is reflected there: the people, the lodges of the
people, and all the beings of the prairies and skies.”
“Please take me there,” Jumping Mouse said. The Wolf guided him through the pines to the
Medicine Lake. Jumping Mouse drank the water from the lake. The Wolf described the beauty to
“I must leave you here,” said Wolf, “for I must return so that I may guide others, but I will remain
with you as long as you like.”
“Thank you, my brother,” said Jumping Mouse. “But although I am frightened to be alone, I know
you must go so that you may show others the way to this place.”
Jumping Mouse sat there trembling in fear. It was no use running, for he was blind, but he knew
an eagle would find him here. He felt a shadow on his back and heard the sound that eagles
make. He braced himself for the shock. And the eagle hit! Jumping Mouse went to sleep.
Then he woke up. The surprise of being alive was great, but now he could see!
Everything was blurry, but the colors were beautiful.
“I can see! I can see!” said Jumping Mouse over and over again.
A blurry shape came towards Jumping Mouse. Jumping Mouse squinted hard, but the shape
remained a blur.
“Hello, brother,” a voice said. “Do you want some medicine?”
“Some medicine for me?” asked Jumping Mouse. “Yes! Yes!”
“Then crouch down as low as you can,” the voice said, “and jump as high as you can.”
Jumping Mouse did as he was instructed. He crouched as low as he could and jumped! The
wind caught him and carried him higher.
“Do not be afraid,” the voice called to him. “Hang on to the wind and trust!”
Jumping Mouse did. He closed his eyes and hung on to the wind, and it carried higher and
higher. Jumping Mouse opened his eyes, and they were clear, and the higher he went, the
clearer they became. Jumping Mouse saw his old friend upon a lily pad on the beautiful
Medicine Lake. It was the Frog.
“You have a new name,” called the Frog. “You are Eagle!”