Shane's World Right Arrow Catfishology Right Arrow Catfish Legends & Lore, Part 1 • How the catfish got a flat head • Article © Heok Hee Ng, uploaded January 01, 2002

This is an evocative native American (I think Lakota) story that explains why catfishes have a flat head, are armed with spines and are nocturnal.

"Long ago, when fish and animals could talk, the chief of the catfish called council. He said to all, "Hau, brothers. I am very tired of eating things from the mud at the bottom of the lake. I think we should have meat as do the wolves. Let us watch for the moose when he wades into the lake to eat the lily pads and let us spear him and kill him for meat. He comes when the sun is at the edge of the sky, so we will hide among the lilies and grasses and spear him when he comes."

The other old catfish agreed and the whole tribe hid along the lake where the lilies and pads grew the thickest.

When the sun was at the edge of the sky, the moose came. He did not go into the lake right away but ate at the edge where the sweet grasses were. At last he entered the lake and the chief catfish said, "Now, he is in! I will spear him as soon as he gets further from the shore where the water is deeper."

They all waited until the moose was in deep water and then the catfish chief speared him as hard as he could! The big moose bellowed with pain and jumped around in the water. He was hurt and frightened at the same time. "Ho!", he said. "Ho! What is this? Who has speared me in my leg? I will find out who has done this!"

He then stuck his head right down into the water until he could see beneath the surface. There, in the grasses, he saw the catfish tribe getting ready to spear him again. They were going to kill him for his meat! This made him very angry! His eyes turned red and his heart was bad toward the catfish tribe. He bellowed his war cry and said, "Ho! Listen to me! Catfish has speared me in my leg! I will make war on them! I will trample this tribe into the mud! Ho! Hear me! I will go to war!"

He began to jump up and down all over the edge of the lake and trample all the catfish he could find. He crushed them with his big hooves and trampled them deep into the mud, shouting, "Ho! Catfish speared me in the leg! Ho! I will trample his tribe into the mud!"

He did not stop until all the catfish were trampled into the muddy bottom of the lake. Then he left satisfied he had avenged the wrong done to him. After the moose left, some of the catfish managed to wriggle out of the mud and get away. Now there are catfish in all lakes and rivers but every one has a flat head because of the war from the big moose that flattened the heads of their grandfathers.

In old times there were very large catfish but now they are very small. They still all carry spears. To this day, they are black and are flatheaded and they are so afraid that they stay hidden in the daytime and only swim at night, which serves them right for trying to kill the big moose long ago."

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