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Sources on Iktomi

Iktomi (pronounced as eek-toe-mee), known as Iktome or Inktomi or Unktomi or Unktome, is the hero of many American Indian tales. He is a trickster in Lakota tribe of American Indians. Iktomi means spider.

His appearance is that of a spider, but he can take any shape, including that of a human. When he is a human he is said to wear red, yellow and white paint, with black rings around his eyes.

Iktomi is a spider fairy. He wears dark brown skin leggings with long soft fringes on either side, and tiny beaded moccasins on his feet. He is a man with spider like traits, clever but untrustworthy. His counterpart is Coyote. He appears with different names and his stories details change with the times and to suit different regions.

He wears brown deerskin leggings with long soft fringes on either side, and tiny beaded moccasins on his feet. His long black hair is parted in the middle and wrapped with red, red bands. Each round braid hangs over a small brown ear and falls forward over his shoulders.

He even paints his funny face with red and yellow, and draws big black rings around his eyes. Iktomi dresses like a real Dakota brave. In truth, his paint and deerskins are the best part of him—if ever dress is part of man or fairy.

Iktomi is a wily fellow. His hands are always kept in mischief. He prefers to spread a snare rather than to earn the smallest thing with honest hunting. Why? he laughs outrightly with wide open mouth when some simple folk are caught in a trap, sure and fast.

Iktomi is a shapeshifter. He can use strings to control humans like puppets. He has also the power to make potions that change gods, gain control over people and trick gods and mortals.

He never dreams another lives so bright as he. Often his own conceit leads him hard against the common sense of simpler people.

Poor Iktomi cannot help being a little imp. And so long as he is a naughty fairy, he cannot find a single friend. No one helps him when he is in trouble. No one really loves him. Those who come to admire his handsome beaded jacket and long fringed leggins soon go away sick and tired of his vain, vain words and heartless laughter.

Thus Iktomi lives alone in a cone-shaped wigwam upon the plain.
There are a few stories translated about him and Coyote.

Iktomi can be compared to the African trickster figure Anansi, and to some extent, the transcultured Yoruba Ellegua, also depicted as a trickster disguised in red.

This introduction has been taken from the book's first story "Iktomi and the Ducks"
Old Indian Legends / by Zitkala-Sa.  Boston, Ginn and Company. 1901. 14 stories




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Created by Sushma Gupta on November 27, 2013
Modified on 07/19/23