Two of the most important characters in Navajo mythology are twin miracle-performing sons of White-Shell Woman, Ylkaists¡n, chief goddess. This plate pictures the leader of the two the first conceived and the first-born, whose father is the sun. His name means “Slayer of Alien Gods,” from an, alien; ye, gods; to kill. By him, with the assistance of Tobadzschin, his twin brother, were killed numerous bird, animal, rock, and human monsters, typifying evils, who wantonly destroyed human life.
When the Spirit People came upon this earth from below they made six sacred mountains, four on the distant horizon at the cardinal points and two in the centre, Chaali and Tzalhnahodaahla. On the eastern slope of Chinli, brought forth as the daughter of Earth and Sky, was born Ylkaiestsan, White-Shell Woman. First Man took her to his home near Tzalhnahodahla, where she matured in twelve days into a beautiful woman with supernatural powers. Later she lived in a home of her own at the foot of this mountain. It was while there that she gave birth to twin boys who became saviours of their people, slaying alien gods who were fast depopulating the earth.
Yalkai Estsa¡n would often lie on the eastern slope of the mountain as the sun rose through the morning, and when the day grew warm would seek the shade of jutting rocks from which trickled shining drops of water. Quite unknown to herself she had conceived one day from the sunbeams and the dripping water. When she became aware that she was to become a mother Yalkaiastsa¡n was made very happy, for she did not enjoy living alone. Soon she found herself the proud possessor of twin boys. The first-born and the stronger came to be known in his youth as Nayainazgana, Slayer of Alien Gods; the other was always known as Tobadzaschaina, Born From Water. Their prenatal life covered a period of only twelve days, and maturity was attained in thirty-two days after passing through eight changes, one of which came every four days.
At that time the earth was infested with great giants, foreign gods, who were rapidly destroying the people. Of these, Yatso, Big God, as large as a mountain, was the only one in human form. The others were Man-eating Bird, Rolling Stone, that crushed all in its path, Tracking Bear, and Antelope, who killed without mercy. Fearing lest some of these monsters learn of the presence of her boys, YÃ³lkai Ä”stsÃ¡n kept them hidden away on the mountain side, but they chafed under confinement, so she made them bows and arrows and let them play about, but admonished them not to stray far from home. The boys promised to obey, but not long afterward, because in reply to their questions their mother told them she did not know who their father was, they became sulky and broke their promise, going off toward the east. They would go and search for someone who knew. When on a small knoll a long way from home they heard a whispered “Sh-h.”
“Are you afraid, my younger brother?” asked Nayaitnazgana.
“No!” was the quick response.
Four times they heard the whisper, and then two of the Wind People appeared. “We saw you travelling eastward,” said they, “and came to caution you. The land is cursed with alien gods who kill for pleasure; beware of them! Why do you journey thus alone without your father?”
“Our father! Alas, we know nothing of him and are now starting on a search to learn. Do you know who he is?” asked the boys.
“Yes, the Sun is your father; but if you think to find him you will have to travel far eastward and cross the wide, wide waters.”
Nayaitnazgana turned to his younger brother and said, “Satsala, let us go.”
The Sun was then overhead. Being in fact of a holy nature, the boys covered distance rapidly and by mid-afternoon had passed well beyond the limits of their homeland. There they came upon an old woman sitting beside a ladder projecting from a hole. She asked them who they were and whither they were going. They told her to the Sun, whose sons they were, but whom they had never seen.