Variations: Tse’tahotsiltali, Tse’tahotsilta’li, Tse’dahidziqa’li, Tse’daxodzi’ltali, Kicker, Kicking Monster
Tsetahotsiltali, “He [who] Kicks [people] Down the Cliff”, was among the many Anaye or “Alien Gods” slain by Nayenezgani. As with the rest of his brood, he was born from a human woman who, in the absence of men, had resorted to other means of stimulation.
Tsetahotsiltali was born at Tse’binahotyel, a high, wall-like cliff. He had no head, with only a long pointed end where the head should be. His mother, disgusted at the monster she had borne, put him in a hole in the cliff and sealed it with a stone. Tsetahotsiltali survived anyway.
As he grew, Tsetahotsiltali’s hair grew into the rock, anchoring him fast. He sat in place next to a well-beaten trail, his legs folded up, and anyone who passed by would be immediately kicked and sent tumbling down the cliff. Tsetahotsiltali’s children waited at the base of the cliff to dismember the offerings their father sent down. With three types of fruiting cactus growing nearby, a steady stream of victims was guaranteed. His spy was the turkey vulture.
That was where Nayenezgani found him. The hero followed the trail to the top of the high cliff, and beheld his enemy, much like a man in shape. Tsetahotsiltali was leaning back inoffensively, pulling at his whiskers, but Nayenezgani kept his eye closely on him as he walked past. Sure enough, Tsetahotsiltali kicked out suddenly, but Nayenezgani dodged the kick easily. “Why did you kick at me?” he asked the monster. “Oh, my grandchild”, said Tsetahotsiltali innocently, “I was tired and just wanted to stretch my legs”. Four times Nayenezgani passed by, and four times Tsetahotsiltali missed. Then the hero grabbed his stone knife and struck Tsetahotsiltali above the eyes, stabbing over and over until he was sure the monster was dead. But the body remained attached to the cliff, the thick cedar-root-like hairs holding it fast, so Nayenezgani had to chop through these as well before Tsetahotsiltali’s went tumbling down the same way his many victims had.
Immediately Nayenezgani heard a cacophony of squabbling voices. “I want the eyes!” “The liver’s mine!” “Give me an arm!” The sound of Tsetahotsiltali’s children fighting over their father’s body was a grim reminder of the fate Nayenezgani had escaped. The hero found another trail to the base of the cliff and beheld Tsetahotsiltali’s twelve hideous children, their father’s blood still streaming from their mouths. Only the bones and scalp of Tsetahotsiltali were left. Disgusted, Nayenezgani slew most of that vile brood. The survivors were spared, exiled, and, depending on the narrative, may have been transformed into Rocky Mountain sheep, owls, box turtles, or birds of prey.
Nayenezgani took Tsetahotsiltali’s scalp as a trophy and planted seeds in the surrounding area.
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.