Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden
In this tale, Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden are two beautiful, talented individuals that are thought to be gifted by the gods. They fall in love and marry, yet their infatuation for each other only deepens, and they in turn neglect their duties, traditions, and religious obligations.
When White Corn Maiden suddenly dies, Deer Hunter is inconsolable. He refuses to accept her death and, long story short, convinces her to return with him, promising he’ll always love her and be with her, no matter what.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that White Corn Maiden is still dead, and dead people don’t exactly make pleasant bedmates. Her body continues to deteriorate, and Deer Hunter tries to avoid her, but White Corn Maiden holds him to his promise and follows him around wherever he goes.
In the end, having drawn the ire of the gods, they are put into the sky as a pair of stars. The brighter one being Deer Hunter, having been in the prime of his life; and the dimmer one White Corn Maiden, having died, yet forever following her husband through the sky.
It breaks my heart a little bit paraphrasing this story so crudely, because it really is beautiful and if you can (and have the inclination) it’s really worth seeking out to read in its entirety.
I love this story because it touches upon so much that I love in mythology and folklore. Like Orpheus and Eurydice, it’s portrays the mourning husband who refuses to let his dead wife go. I don’t know why that resonates with me so much (I’ve loved that Greek myth ever since I first heard about it, when I was around 12 or so I think). Maybe I just like the idea of loving someone so much that the laws of nature no longer have a say in the matter. It’s a beautiful notion, and, like my strong childhood desire for Narnia to actually exist, I suppose I want it to be true.
I also love myths that tell how constellations came to be, which this one has.
Lastly, this story is wonderful because it’s a little bit creepy. White Corn Maiden is dead. Her skin turns ashen; she develops an unpleasant odor. It’s both gross and interesting, and I love the contrast between the grotesque and beautiful. I give it 10 stars out of five. Truly love it.
Source: Erdoes, Richard, Ortiz, Alfonso, “Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden”, American Indian Myths and Legends, Pantheon Books, 1985. Translated from the Tewa by Alfonso Ortiz.