Variations: Ye-i-tso, Ye’i-tsoh, Ye’i-tsoh Lai’ Nayai
Yeitso, “Big Monster”, was the greatest, the most feared, and the largest of the Anaye, or the “Alien Gods” who were the bane of the Navajo. The giant met his end at the hands of the hero twins Nayenezgani and To’badzistsini. He was either an oldest son of the sun god Tsohanoai, or was born as the result of unnatural practices by a frustrated Navajo woman. In the latter case, his “father” was a stone.
Size was the primary distinguishing feature of Yeitso. His stride stretched as far as a man could walk from sunrise to noon. He lived near Tsoodzil (Mt. Taylor), at Tosato (Warm Spring, near Grants, New Mexico), and was the leader of the Anaye. He was covered with valued rocks and minerals: in addition to the scaly flint armor, like stone knives, coating his body, he had a perfect agate disc on his head, a perfect turquoise around his neck, and a perfect whiteshell over his shoulder. His face was intimidatingly striped. He carried a basket that functioned as quiver for lightning bolts. Coyote was his messenger.
Yeitso came close to discovering and devouring the hero twins in their infancy, but they were saved by the quick thinking of their mothers. Yolkai’Estsan hid the boys beneath piles of sticks, while Estsanatlehi confronted Yeitso. “There are no boys here” she told him. “Then whose footprints are these?” rumbled the giant. “Mine”, she said bravely. “I get so lonely that I make footprints and pretend I have company”. She made tiny prints with her hand as proof, and Yeitso lumbered off, disappointed.
The adult twins, after conferring with their father Tsohanoai, set out to confront Yeitso at Tsoodzil. They heard the sound of his footsteps, followed by his head appearing over an eastern hill. Then his head and chest showed up over a southern hill, and his body above the waist over a western hill before he appeared over Tsoodzil. He stomped down to the lake and drank from it four times, draining it visibly each time until it was almost completely dried out. Then he noticed the twins reflected in the water and bellowed. “What a pretty pair you are! Where have I been hunting not to have seen you before? Yiniketoko!” Yeitso and the twins exchanged taunts four times until Yeitso hurled four lightning bolts at them. The twins, riding on a rainbow, dodged the bolts easily before Tsohanoai struck the giant with lightning, which was followed up by four bolts of chain lightning from the twins. Yeitso’s scaly armor was shivered to pieces. The giant collapsed, tried to get up, fell back on his face, and moved no more.
The twins scalped Yeitso and threw his head to the East, where it became Cabezon Peak. The blood flowing from it would have revived Yeitso if it reached any of the other Anaye, so it was redirected with trenches dug by Nayenezgani’s knife. This is the origin of the ridges and cliffs of volcanic rock near Cabezon Peak today. As for Yeitso’s flint scales, they were used by the Navajo as armor, knives, and arrowheads.
Locke, R. F. (1990) Sweet Salt: Navajo folktales and mythology. Roundtable Publishing Company, Santa Monica.
Matthews, W. (1897) Navaho legends. Houghton Mifflin and Company, New York.
O’Bryan, A. (1956) The Diné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians. Bulletin 163 of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.
Reichard, G. A. (1950) Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism. Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York.