The Greek Story of Callisto and Arcus
Zeus, the king of the Greek gods was known for his love of mortal women. One day, he saw a beautiful maiden named Callisto. He went down to the Earth, met her in a field, and seduced her. Callisto later gave birth to a son named Arcus. Now Zeus had a wife named Hera, and she didn't like Callisto and Arcus. One day when Callisto was out in the woods gathering fruit, she sent a pack of wolves to devour her. Zeus stepped in to protect her-he changed her into a great bear so she could defend herself. Arcus went out into the woods the next day to find out what happened to his mother. While hunting, he saw a large bear, which was actually his mother. When Callisto saw her son again, she was so happy she forgot she was a bear and stood up to give him a hug. Arcus took this as a sign of attack, so he drew his bow and prepared to shoot. Zeus stepped in again and changed him into a bear so the two of them could live happily. Hera, though, didn't like this either. So she sent a group of hunters to kill the bears. Zeus once again interfered. He grabbed each bear by its' tail and dragged both bears up into the sky. The bears tried to run away, but they couldn't break free from Zeus' grip, and each bear's tail grew in length. Hera still wasn't happy, so she asked Posidon to cast a spell on them so they would never be at peace. To this day, both bears continue to wander the sky, never setting below the horizon to rest.
Two Iroquois Legends
There are two ways you can see the three stars that form the handle of the Big Dipper. Some stories say the Great Bear has a long tail. Others say the bear is being pursed by three hunters.
The Bear and the Hunters:One autumn day, three hunters went out to gather food for the coming winter. The first hunter carried a bow and arrows. The second hunter carried a pot to cook their game in and the third carried a pile of firewood to build the fire. While hunting, they noticed a huge bear, one that could keep their village fed for a long time. The first hunter drew his bow and fired, hitting the bear in the side. Frightened, the bear ran. The three hunters knew they needed the food, so they chased the bear. But the bear kept running until he ended up into the sky. The three hunters ended up there with him. However, when the bear gets close to the horizon during autumn, the wound in his side opens and spills blood on the trees, changing the color of the leaves. The Native Americans knew that when the bear was low in the sky, it was time to gather food for the winter, even if the weather was still warm.
The Bear and the Mighty Chief:Long ago there lived a chief who was bigger and stronger than any man in his tribe. His favorate past time was hunting bear. However, there was one wise, old bear that always eluded him. So the chief vowed that when he finally caught that wise old bear, he'd make sure all knew about it. One day, as he was hunting, he saw that wise old bear. But instead of shooting the bear with his bow, be grabbed it by the tail and begain to swing the bear around over his head. When he had enough momentium built up, he threw the bear into the sky. AS the chief was spinning the bear around, the bear's tail grew longer and longer. The bear hit the sky so hard, he's been going around ever since.