The Legend of the Indians

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1918

 The Legend of the Indians

According to the legend of the Klamaths and Modocs the mystic land of Gaywas was the domain of the powerful demon Llao, whose throne was on Llao Rock. His warriors were gigantic crawfish which swarmed the lake, and with their great claws seized all who dared to appear on the cliffs above. The spirit chieftain Skell, of the neighboring Klamath Marshes, waged bitter war against Llao, but Skell eventually was captured, and his heart, torn from his body, was given by Llao to his minions who used it as a ball, hurling it from cliff to cliff with their claws.

One of Skell’s watchful eagles suddenly swooped down and caught the heart in mid-air, passing it to a fleetfooted antelope, which carried it to safety. Then miraculously the body of Skell grew about his heart, and he again waged war against his enemy. He captured Llao and upon the highest cliff cut his body into quarters, which he cast into the lake where they were eaten by Llao’s monsters under the belief that it was Skell’s body. But when Llao’s head was thrown in they recognized it and would not eat it. So Llao’s head still lies in the lake and white men call it Wizard Island, one of the small islands that rise from its depths today. The Indians, even today, look upon the face of Crater Lake with uneasiness and awe.

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