Cherokee Legends

James Mooney's History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees: Containing the Full Texts of Myths of the Cherokee (1900 And the Sacred Formula)
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Agan-uni'tsi's Search For The Uktena

In one of their battles with the Shawano, who are all magicians, the Cherokee captured a great medicine-man whose name was gn-uni'ts, "The Ground-hogs' Mother." They had tied him ready for the torture when he begged for his life and engaged, if spared, to find for them the great wonder worker, the Uls't.

Now, the Uls't is like a blazing star set in the forehead of the great Uktena serpent, and the medicine-man who could possess it might do marvelous things, but everyone knew this could not be, because it was certain death to meet the Uktena. They warned him of all this but he only answered that his medicine was strong and he was not afraid. So they gave him his life on that condition and he began the search.

The Uktena used to lie in wait in lonely places to surprise its victims, and especially haunted the dark passes of the Great Smoky mountains. Knowing this, the magician went first to a gap in the range on the far northern border of the Cherokee country. He searched and found there a monster blacksnake, larger than had ever been known before, but it was not what he was looking for, and he laughed at it as something too small for notice.

Coming southward to the next gap he found there a great moccasin snake, the largest ever seen, but when the people wondered he said it was nothing. In the next gap he found a greensnake and called the people to see "the pretty slikw'y," but when they found an immense greensnake coiled up in the path they ran away in fear.

Coming on to U'twagn'ta, the Bald mountain, he found there a great diya'hl (lizard) basking, but, although it was large and terrible to look at, it was not what he wanted and he paid no attention to it. Going still south to Walsi'y, the Frog place, he found a great frog squatting in the gap, but when the people who came to see it were frightened like the others and ran away from the monster he mocked at them for being afraid of a frog and went on to the next gap.

He went on to Duniskwa`lg'y, the Gap of the Forked Antler, and to the enchanted lake of Atag'h, and at each he found monstrous reptiles, but he said they were nothing. He thought the Uktena might be hiding in the deep water at Tlanusi'y, the Leech place, on Hiwassee, where other strange things had been seen before, and going there he dived far down under the surface.

He saw turtles and water snakes, and two immense sun-perches rushed at him and retreated again, but that was all. Other places he tried, going always southward, and at last on Gah't mountain he found the Uktena asleep.

Turning without noise, he ran swiftly down the mountain side as far as he could go with one long breath, nearly to the bottom of the slope. There he stopped and piled up a great circle of pine cones, and inside of it he dug a deep trench. Then he set fire to the cones and came back again up the, mountain.

The Uktena was still asleep, and, putting an arrow to his bow, gn-uni'ts shot and sent the arrow through its heart, which was under the seventh spot from the serpent's head. The great snake raised his head, with the diamond in front flashing fire, and came straight at his enemy, but the magician, turning quickly, ran at full speed down the mountain, cleared the circle of fire and the trench at one bound, and lay down on the ground inside.

The Uktena tried to follow, but the arrow was through his heart. and in another moment he rolled over in his death struggle, spitting poison over all the mountain side. But the poison drops could not pass the circle of fire, but only hissed and sputtered in the blaze, and the magician on the inside was untouched except by one small drop which struck upon his head as he lay close to the ground; but he did not know it.

The blood, too, as poisonous as the froth, poured from the Uktena's wound and down the slope in a dark stream, but it ran into the trench and left him 'Unharmed. The dying monster rolled over and over down the mountain, breaking down large trees in its path until it reached the bottom. Then gn-uni'ts called every bird in all the woods to come to the feast, and so many came that when they were done not even the bones were left.

After seven days he went by night to the spot. The body and the bones of the snake were gone, all eaten by the birds, but he saw a bright light shining in the darkness, and going over to it he found, resting on a low-hanging branch, where a raven had dropped it, the diamond from the head of the Uktena. He wrapped it up carefully and took it with him, and from that time he became the greatest medicine-man in the whole tribe.

When gn-uni'ts came down again to the settlement the people noticed a small snake hanging from his head where the single drop of poison from the Uktena had struck; but so long as he lived he himself never knew that it was there.

Where the blood of the Uktena had filled the trench a lake formed afterwards, and the water was black and in this water the women used to dye the cane splits for their baskets.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Ataga'hi, The Enchanted Lake
A Cherokee Legend

Westward from the headwaters of Oconaluftee river, in the wildest depths of the Great Smoky mountains, which form the line between North Carolina and Tennessee, is the enchanted lake of Ataga'hi. (Gall place)

Although all the Cherokee know that it is there, no one has ever seen it, for the way is so difficult that only the animals know how to reach it. Should a stray hunter come near the place he would know of it by the whirring sound of the thousands of wild ducks flying about the lake.

On reaching the spot he would find only a dry flat, without bird or animal or blade of grass, unless he had first sharpened his spiritual vision by prayer and fasting and an all-night vigil.

Because it is not seen, some people think the lake has dried up long ago, but this is not true. To one who had kept watch and fast through the night it would appear at daybreak as a wide-extending but shallow sheet of purple water, fed by springs spouting from the high cliffs around.

In the water are all kinds of fish and reptiles, and swimming upon the surface or flying overhead are great flocks of ducks and pigeons, while all about the shores are bear tracks crossing in every direction. It is the medicine lake of the birds and animals, and whenever a bear is wounded by the hunters he makes his way through the woods to this lake and plunges into the water, and when he comes out upon the other side his wounds are healed.

For this reason the animals keep the lake invisible to the hunter.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Cherokee Creation Story

A Cherokee Legend

When the earth begun there was just water. All the animals lived above it and the sky was beginning to become crowded. They were all curious about what was beneath the water and one day Dayunisi, the water beetle, volunteered to explore it.

He went everywhere across the surface but he couldnt find any solid ground. He then dived below the surface to the bottom and all he found was mud.

This began to enlarge in size and spread outwards until it became the earth as we know it.

After all this had happened, one of the animals attached this new land to the sky with four strings.

Just after the earth was formed, it was flat and soft so the animals decided to send a bird down to see if it had dried. They eventually returned to the animals with a result.

The land was still to wet so they sent the great Buzzard from Galunlati to prepare it for them.

The buzzard flew down and by the time that he reached the Cherokee land he was so tired that his wings began to hit the ground. Wherever they hit the ground a mountain or valley formed. The Cherokee land still remains the same today with all the land forms that the Buzzard formed.

The animals then decided that it was too dark, so they made the sun and put it on the path in which it still runs today.

The animals could then admire the newly created Earth around them.

As retold by Sarah Steel, published in "Creation Stories" by M. Stewart: McMillian, 1998


Flint Visits the Rabbit
A Cherokee Legend

In the old days Twi'skl (Flint) lived up in the mountains, and all the animals hated him because he had helped to kill so many of them. They used to get together to talk over means to put him out of the way, but everybody was afraid to venture near his house until the Rabbit, who was the boldest leader among them, offered to go after Flint and try to kill him. They told him where to find him, and the Rabbit set out and at last came to Flint's house.

Flint was standing at his door when the Rabbit came up and said, sneeringly, "Siyu'! Hello! Are you the fellow they call Flint?" "Yes; that's what they call me," answered Flint. "Is this where you live?" "Yes; this is where I live." All this time the Rabbit was looking about the place trying to study out some plan to take Flint off his guard.

He had expected Flint to invite him into the house, so he waited a little while, but when Flint made no move, he said, "Well, my name is Rabbit; I've heard a good deal about you, so I came to invite you to come and see me."

Flint wanted to know where the Rabbit's house was, and he told him it was down in the broom-grass field near the river. So Flint promised to make him a visit in a few days. "Why not come now and have supper with me?" said the Rabbit, and after a little coaxing Flint agreed and the two started down the mountain together.

When they came near the Rabbit's hole the Rabbit said, "There is my house, but in summer I generally stay outside here where it is cooler." So he made a fire, and they had their supper on the grass. When it was over, Flint stretched out to rest and the Rabbit got some heavy sticks and his knife and cut out a mallet and wedge.

Flint looked up and asked what that was for. "Oh," said the Rabbit, "I like to be doing something, and they may come handy." So Flint lay down again, and pretty soon he was sound asleep. The Rabbit spoke to him once or twice to make sure, but there was no answer. Then he came over to Flint and with one good blow of the mallet he drove the sharp stake into his body and ran with all his might for his own hole; but before he reached it there was a loud explosion, and pieces of flint flew all about.

That is why we find flint in so many places now. One piece struck the Rabbit from behind and cut him just as he dived into his hole. He sat listening until everything seemed quiet again. Then he put his head out to look around, but just at that moment another piece fell and struck him on the lip and split it, as we still see it.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Hero With the Horned Snakes
A Cherokee Legend

In ancient times, there lived some very large snakes that glittered nearly as bright as the sun. They had two horns on their heads, and they possessed a magic power of attraction. To see one of these snakes was always a bad omen.

Whoever tried to escape from one instead ran directly toward the snake and was devoured. Only a highly skilled medicine man or hunter could kill a two- horned snake. It required a very special medicine or power. The hunter had to shoot his arrow into the seventh stripe of the snake's skin.

One day a Shawnee Indian youth was held captive by the Cherokees. He was promised his freedom if he could find and kill a horned snake. He hunted for many, many days in caves, over wild mountains, and at last found one high in the Tennessee Mountains.

The Shawnee youth made a large circle of fire by burning pine cones. Then he walked toward the two-horned snake. When it saw the hunter, the snake slowly raised its head. The Shawnee youth shouted, "Freedom or death!"

He then aimed carefully and shot his arrow through the seventh stripe of the horned snake's skin. Turning quickly, he jumped into the centre of the ring of fire, where he felt safe from the snake.

A stream of poison flowed from the snake, but was stopped by the fire. Because of the Shawnee youth's bravery, the grateful Cherokees granted him his freedom as they had promised.

Four days later, some of the Cherokees went to the spot where the youth had killed the horned snake. They gathered fragments of snake bones and skin, tying them into a sacred bundle. These they kept carefully for their children and grandchildren, because they believed the sacred bundle would bring good fortune to their tribe.

Also on the same spot, a small lake formed containing black water. Into this water the Cherokee women dipped their twigs used in their basket making. This is how they learned to dye their baskets black, along with other colors.

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How the Deer Got His Horns
A Cherokee Legend

In the beginning the Deer had no horns, but his head was smooth just like a doe's. He was a great runner and the Rabbit was a great jumper, and the animals were all curious to know which could go farther in the same time.

They talked about it a good deal, and at last arranged a match between the two, and made a nice large pair of antlers for a prize to the winner.

They were to start together from one side of a thicket and go through it, then turn and come back, and the one who came out first was to get the horns.

On the day fixed all the animals were there, with the antlers put down on the ground at the edge of the thicket to mark the starting point. While everybody was admiring the horns the Rabbit said: "I don't know this part of the country; I want to take a look through the bushes where I am to run."

They thought that all right, so the Rabbit went into the thicket, but he was gone so long that at last the animals suspected he must be up to one of his tricks. They sent a messenger to look for him, and away in the middle of the thicket he found the Rabbit gnawing down the bushes and pulling them away until he had a road cleared nearly to the other side.

The messenger turned around quietly and came back and told the other animals. When the Rabbit came out at last they accused him of cheating, but he denied it until they went into the thicket and found the cleared road. They agreed that such a trickster had no right to enter the race at all, so they gave the horns to the Deer, who was admitted to be the best runner, and he has worn them ever since.

They told the Rabbit that as he was so fond of cutting down bushes he might do that for a living hereafter, and so he does to this day.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


How The Kingfisher Got His Bill
A Cherokee Legend

Some old men say that the Kingfisher was meant in the beginning to be a water bird, but as he had not been given either web feet or a good bill he could not make a living.

The animals held a council over it and decided to make him a bill like a long sharp awl for a fish-gig (fish-spear). So they made him a fish-gig and fastened it on in front of his mouth. He flew to the top of a tree, sailed out and darted down into the water, and came up with a fish on his gig. And he has been the best gigger ever since.

Some others say it was this way: A Blacksnake found a Yellowhammer's nest in a hollow tree, and after swallowing the young birds, coiled up to sleep in the nest, where the mother bird found him when she came home.

She went for help to the Little People, who sent her to the Kingfisher. He came, and after flying back and forth past the hole a few times, made one dart at the snake and pulled him out dead. When they looked they found a hole in the snake's head where the Kingfisher had pierced it with a slender tugl'n fish, which he carried in his bill like a lance.

From this the Little People concluded that he would make a first-class gigger if he only had the right spear, so they gave him his long bill as a reward.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


How the Partridge Got His Whistle
A Cherokee Legend

In the old days the Terrapin had a fine whistle, but the Partridge had none. The Terrapin was constantly going about whistling and showing his whistle to the other animals until the Partridge became jealous.

One day when they met the Partridge asked leave to try it.

The Terrapin was afraid to risk it at first, suspecting something but the Partridge said, "I'll give it back right away, and if you are afraid you can stay with me while I practice."

So the Terrapin let him have the whistle and the Partridge walked around blowing on it in fine fashion. "How does it sound with me?" asked the Partridge.

"O, you do very well," said the Terrapin, walking alongside.

"Now, how do you like it," said the Partridge, running ahead and whistling a little faster.

"That's fine," answered the Terrapin, hurrying to keep up, "but don't run so fast."

"And now, how do you like this?," called the Partridge, and with that he spread his wings, gave one long whistle, and flew to the top of a tree, leaving the poor Terrapin to look after him from the ground.

The Terrapin never recovered his whistle, and from that, and the loss of his scalp, which the Turkey stole from him, he grew ashamed to be seen, and ever since he shuts himself up in his box when anyone comes near him.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


How The Rabbit Stole The Otter's Coat
A Cherokee Legend

The animals were of different sizes and wore coats of various colors and patterns. Some wore long fur and others wore short. Some had rings on their tails, and some had no tails at all. Some had coats of brown, others of black or yellow.

They were always disputing about their good looks, so at last they agreed to hold a council to decide who had the finest coat. They had heard a great deal about the Otter, who lived so far up the creek that he seldom came down to visit the other animals. It was said that he had the finest coat of all, but no one knew just what it was like, because it was a long time since anyone had seen him. They did not even know exactly where he lived--only the general direction; but they knew he would come to the council when the word got out.

Now the Rabbit wanted the verdict for himself, so when it began to look as if it might go to the Otter he studied up a plan to cheat him out of it. He asked a few sly questions until he learned what trail the Otter would take to get to the council place. Then, without saying anything, he went on ahead and after four days' travel he met the Otter and knew him at once by his beautiful coat of soft dark-brown fur. The Otter was glad to see him and asked him where he was going.

"O," said the Rabbit, "the animals sent me to bring you to the council; because you live so far away they were afraid you mightn't know the road." The Otter thanked him, and they went on together.

They traveled all day toward the council ground, and at night the Rabbit selected the camping place, because the Otter was a stranger in that part of the country, and cut down bushes for beds and fixed everything in good shape. The next morning they started on again. In the afternoon the Rabbit began to pick up wood and bark as they went along and to load it on his back. When the Otter asked what this was for the Rabbit said it was that they might be warm and comfortable at night. After a while, when it was near sunset, they stopped and made their camp.

When supper was over the Rabbit got a stick and shaved it down to a paddle. The Otter wondered and asked again what that was for.

"I have good dreams when I sleep with a paddle under my head," said the Rabbit.

When the paddle was finished the Rabbit began to cut away the bushes so as to make a clean trail down to the river. The Otter wondered more and more and wanted to know what this meant.

Said the Rabbit, "This place is called Di'tatlski'y (The Place Where it Rains Fire.) Sometimes it rains fire here, and the sky looks a little that way to-night. You go to sleep and I'll sit up and watch, and if the fire does come, a soon as you hear me shout, you run and jump into the river. Better hang your coat on a limb over there, so it won't get burnt."

The Otter did as he was told, and they both doubled up to go to sleep, but the Rabbit kept awake. After a while the fire burned down to red coals. The Rabbit called, but the Otter was fast asleep and made no answer. In a little while he called again, but the Otter never stirred. Then the Rabbit filled the paddle with hot coals and threw them up into the air and shouted, "It's raining fire! It's raining fire!"

The hot coals fell all around the Otter and he jumped up. "To the water!" cried the Rabbit, and the Otter ran and jumped into the river, and he has lived in the water ever since.

The Rabbit took the Otter's coat and put it on, leaving his own instead, and went on to the council. All the animals were there, every one looking out for the Otter. At last they saw him in the distance, and they said one to the other, "The Otter is coming!" and sent one of the small animals to show him the best seat. They were all glad to see him and went up in turn to welcome him, but the Otter kept his head down, with one paw over his face. They wondered that he was so bashful, until the Bear came up and pulled the paw away, and there was the Rabbit with his split nose. He sprang up and started to run, when the Bear struck at him and pulled his tail off, but the Rabbit was too quick for them and got away.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


How The Terrapin Beat The Rabbit
A Cherokee Legend

The Rabbit was a great runner, and everybody knew it. No one thought the Terrapin anything but a slow traveler, but he was a great warrior and very boastful, and the two were always disputing about their speed.

At last they agreed to decide the matter by a race. They fixed the day and the starting place and arranged to run across four mountain ridges, and the one who came in first at the end was to be the winner.

The Rabbit felt so sure of it that he said to the Terrapin, "You know you can't run. You can never win the race, so I'll give you the first ridge and then you'll have only three to cross while I go over f our."

The Terrapin said that would he all right, but that night when he went home to his family he sent for his Terrapin friends and told them he wanted their help. He said he knew he could not outrun the Rabbit, but he wanted to stop the Rabbit's boasting. He explained his plan to his friends and they agreed to help him.

When the day came all the animals were there to see the race. The Rabbit was with them, but the Terrapin was gone ahead toward the first ridge, as they had arranged, and they could hardly see him on account of the long grass.

The word was given and the Rabbit started off with long jumps up the mountain, expecting to win the race before the Terrapin could get down the other side. But before he got up the mountain he saw the Terrapin go over the ridge ahead of him. He ran on, and when he reached the top he looked all around, but could not see the Terrapin on account of the long grass. He kept on down the mountain and began to climb the second ridge, but when he looked up again there was the Terrapin just going over the top.

Now he was surprised and made his longest jumps to catch up, but when he got to the top there was the Terrapin away in front going over the third ridge. The Rabbit was getting tired now and nearly out of breath, but he kept on down the mountain and up the other ridge until he got to the top just in time to see the Terrapin cross the fourth ridge and thus win the race.

The Rabbit could not make another jump, but fell over on the ground, crying m, m, m, m, as the Rabbit does ever since when he is too tired to run any more. The race was given to the Terrapin and all the animals wondered how he could win against the Rabbit, but he kept still and never told. It was easy enough, however, because all the Terrapin's friends looked just alike, and he had simply posted one near the top of each ridge to wait until the Rabbit came in sight and then climb over and hide in the long grass.

When the Rabbit came on he could not find the Terrapin and so thought the Terrapin was ahead, and if he had met one of the other terrapins he would have thought it the same one because they looked so much alike. The real Terrapin had posted himself on the fourth ridge, so as to come in at the end of the race and be ready to answer questions if the animals suspected anything.

Because the Rabbit had to lie down and lose the race the conjurer now, when preparing his young men for the ball play, boils a lot of rabbit hamstrings into a soup, and sends some one at night to pour it across the path along which the other players are to come in the morning, so that they may become tired in the same way and lose the game.

It is not always easy to do this, because the other party is expecting it and has watchers ahead to prevent it.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


How The Turkey Got His Beard
A Cherokee Legend

When the Terrapin won the race from the Rabbit, all the animals wondered and talked about it a great deal, because they had always thought the Terrapin slow, although they knew that he was a warrior and had many conjuring secrets beside.

But the Turkey was not satisfied and told the others there must be some trick about it. Said he, "I know the Terrapin can't run, he can hardly crawl, and I'm going to try him."

So one day the Turkey met the Terrapin coming home from war with a fresh scalp hanging from his neck and dragging on the ground as he traveled.

The Turkey laughed at the sight and said: "That scalp don't look right on you. Your neck is too short and low down to wear it that way. Let me show you."

The Terrapin agreed and gave the scalp to the Turkey, who fastened it around his neck.

"Now," said the Turkey, "I'll walk a little way and you can see how it looks." So he walked ahead a short distance and then turned and asked the Terrapin how he liked it.

Said the Terrapin, "It looks very nice; it becomes you."

"Now I'll fix it in a different way and let you see how it looks," said the Turkey. So he gave the string another pull and walked ahead again.

"O, that looks very nice," said the Terrapin.

But the Turkey kept on walking, and when the Terrapin called to him to bring back the scalp he only walked faster and broke into a run.

Then the Terrapin got out his bow and by his conjuring art shot a number of cane splints into the Turkey's leg to cripple him so that he could not run, which accounts for all the many small bones in the Turkey's leg, that are of no use whatever; but the Terrapin never caught the Turkey, who still wears the scalp from his neck

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


How The Wildcat Caught The Gobbler
A Cherokee Legend

The Wildcat once caught the Rabbit and was about to kill him, when the Rabbit begged for his life, saying: "I'm so small I would make only a mouthful for you, but if you let me go I'll show you where you can get a whole drove of Turkeys."

So the Wildcat let him up and went with him to where the Turkeys were.

When they came near the place the Rabbit said to the Wildcat, "Now, you must do just as I say. Lie down as if you were dead and don't move, even if I kick you, but when I give, the word jump up and catch the large stone there."

The Wildcat agreed and stretched out as if dead, while the Rabbit gathered some rotten wood and crumbled it over his eyes and nose to make them look flyblown, so that the Turkeys would think he had been dead some time.

Then the Rabbit went over to the Turkeys and said, in a sociable way, "Here, I've found our old enemy, the Wildcat, lying dead in the trail. Let's have a dance over him."

The Turkeys were very doubtful, but finally went with him to where the Wildcat was lying in the road as if dead.

Now, the Rabbit had a good voice and was a great dance leader, so he said, "I'll lead the song and you dance around him." The Turkeys thought that fine, so the Rabbit took a stick to beat time and began to sing: "Glgi'na hasuyak', Glgi'na hasuyak' (pick out the Gobbler, pick out the Gobbler)."

"Why do you say that?" said the old Turkey. "O, that's all right," said the Rabbit, "that's just the way he does, and we sing about it."

He started the song again and the Turkeys began to dance around the Wildcat. When they had gone around several times the Rabbit said, "Now go up and hit him, as we do in the war dance."

So the Turkeys, thinking the Wildcat surely dead, crowded in close around him and the old gobbler kicked him. Then the Rabbit drummed hard and sang his loudest, "Pick out the Gobbler, pick out the Gobbler," and the Wildcat jumped up and caught the Gobbler.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


How The World Was Made
A Cherokee Legend

The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock.

When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.

When all was water, the animals were above in Gl'lt, beyond the arch; but it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the water, and at last Dyuni's, "Beaver's Grandchild," the little Water-beetle, offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find no firm place to rest.

Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.

At first the earth was flat and very soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but they found no place to alight and came back again to Gl'lt. At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft.

When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and where they turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.

When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark, so they got the sun and set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too hot this way, and Tsiska'gl', the Red Crawfish, had his shell scorched a bright red, so that his meat was spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it.

The conjurers put the sun another hand-breadth higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time, and another, until it was seven handbreadths high and just under the sky arch. Then it was right, and they left it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Glkw'gine Di'gl'ltiy', "the seventh height," because it is seven hand-breadths above the earth. Every day the sun goes along under this arch, and returns at night on the upper side to the starting place.

There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything--animals, plants, and people--save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter, it, but to do this one must fast and, go to water and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the outer air.

When the animals and plants were first made--we do not know by whom--they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when they pray to their medicine. They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake.

To these were given the power to see and to go about in the dark, and to make prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night. Of the trees only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and to them it was given to be always green and to be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was said: "Because you have not endured to the end you shall lose your, hair every winter."

Men came after the animals and plants. At first there were only a brother and sister until he struck her with a fish and told her to multiply, and so it was. In seven days a child was born to her, and thereafter every seven days another, and they increased very fast until there was danger that the world could not keep them. Then it was made that a woman should have only one child in a year, and it has been so ever since.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


How The Milky Way Came To Be
A Cherokee Legend

Long ago when the world was young, there were not many stars in the sky.

In those days the people depended on corn for their food.

Dried corn could be made into corn meal by placing it inside a large hollowed stump and pounding it with a long wooden pestle. The cornmeal was stored in large baskets. During the winter, the ground meal could made into bread and mush.

One morning an old man and his wife went to their storage basket for some cornmeal. They discovered that someone or something had gotten into the cornmeal during the night. This upset them very much for no one in a Cherokee village stole from someone else.

Then they noticed that the cornmeal was scattered over the ground. In the middle of the spilt meal were giant dog prints. These dog prints were so large that the elderly couple knew this was no ordinary dog.

They immediately alerted the people of the village. It was decided that this must be a spirit dog from another world. The people did not want the spirit dog coming to their village. They decided to get rid of the dog by frightening it so bad it would never return. They gathered their drums and turtle shell rattles and later that night they hid around the area where the cornmeal was kept.

Late into the night they heard a whirring sound like many bird wings. They look up to see the form of a giant dog swooping down from the sky. It landed near the basket and then began to eat great mouthfuls of cornmeal.

Suddenly the people jumped up beating and shaking their noise makers. The noise was so loud it sounded like thunder. The giant dog turned and began to run down the path. The people chased after him making the loudest noises they could. It ran to the top of a hill and leaped into the sky, the cornmeal spilling out the sides of its mouth.

The giant dog ran across the black night sky until it disappeared from sight. But the cornmeal that had spilled from its mouth made a path way across the sky. Each gain of cornmeal became a star.

The Cherokees call that pattern of stars, gi li' ut sun stan un' yi (gil-LEE-oot-soon stan-UNH-yee), "the place where the dog ran."

And that is how the Milky Way came to be.

Retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren


How the Red Bird Got His Color
A Cherokee Legend

Raccoon (gv li) loved to tease wolf (wa ya). One day raccoon teased wolf so much that wolf became very angry. Wolf began to chase raccoon through the woods. Raccoon , being the clever animal that he is, kept ahead of wolf.

Raccoon came to a river. Instead of jumping in the river, he quickly climbed a tall tree and peered over a branch to see what wa ya would do next.

When wolf came to the river, he saw the reflection of raccoon in the water. Thinking that it was raccoon, wolf jumped in and tried to catch him. Wolf continued to search for raccoon for such a long time that he became so tired he nearly drowned. Finally, tired and exhausted, wolf climbed up the river bank and fell fast asleep.

After a while, raccoon quietly climbed down the tree and slipped over to the sleeping wolf. While wolf slept, raccoon began to plaster the eyes of wolf with mud. Then when he had finished, raccoon ran off through the woods laughing to himself thinking of the clever trick he had played.

After a while, wolf woke up. He began to whine, "Oh, someone please help me. I can't see. I can't open my eyes." But no one came to help him.

Finally brown bird (tsi qua u wo di ge) heard the cries of wolf. He flew over to wolf and landed on his shoulder. He said, "What's the matter Brother Wolf? Can I help you?"

Wolf cried, "I can't open my eyes. Oh, please help me to see again."

Brown bird said, "I'm just a little brown bird but I will help you if I can."

Wolf said, " brown bird, if you can help me to see again, I will take you to a magic rock that oozes red paint. We will paint your feathers red (gi ga ge.)"

Brown bird began pecking away at the dried mud on the eyes of wolf. Soon wolf could open his eyes again. True to his promise wolf said, "Thank you, my brother; now jump up onto my shoulder." Away they ran through the woods to the rock that oozed red paint.

When they came to the rock, wa ya reached up and plucked a twig from a tree branch. He chewed the end of the twig until it was soft and pliable like the end of a paint brush. Then he dipped the end of the twig into the red paint and began to paint the feathers of bird (tsi qua) red.

When all of his feathers were red, bird flew off to show all of his family and friends how beautiful he was. That is why, from that day to this, you can see to red bird (tsu wa) flying around the woods in Cherokee country.

Retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren


How They Brought Back The Tobacco
A Cherokee Legend

In the beginning of the world, when people and animals were all the same, there was only one tobacco plant, to which they all came for their tobacco until the Dagl`k geese stole it and carried it far away to the south.

The people were suffering without it, and there was one old woman who grew so thin and weak that everybody said she would soon die unless she could get tobacco to keep her alive.

Different animals offered to go for it, one after another, the larger ones first and then the smaller ones, but the Dagl`k saw and killed every one before he could get to the plant. After the others the little Mole tried to reach it by going under the ground, but the Dagl`k saw his track and killed him as he came out.

At last the Hummingbird offered, but the others said he was entirely too small and might as well stay at home. He begged them to let him try, so they showed him a plant in a field and told him to let them see how he would go about it.

The next moment he was gone and they saw him sitting on the plant, and then in a moment he was back again, but no one had seen him going or coming, because he was so swift. "This is the way I'll do," said the Hummingbird, so they let him try.

He flew off to the east, and when he came in sight of the tobacco the Dagl`k were watching all about it, but they could not see him because he was so small and flew so swiftly. He darted down on the plant--tsa!--and snatched off the top with the leaves and seeds, and was off again before the Dagl`k knew what had happened.

Before he got home with the tobacco the old woman had fainted and they thought she was dead, but he blew the smoke into her nostrils, and with a cry of "Ts'l! [Tobacco!]" she opened her eyes and was alive again.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Kana'sta, The Lost Settlement
A Cherokee Legend

Long ago, while people still lived in the old town of Kana'sta, on the French Broad, two strangers, who looked in no way different from other Cherokee, came into the settlement one day and made their way into the chief's house.

After the first greetings were over the chief asked them from what town they had come, thinking them from one of the western settlements, but they said, "We are of your people and our town is close at hand, but you have never seen it. Here you have wars and sickness, with enemies on every side, and after a while a stronger enemy will come to take your country from you, We are always happy, and we have come to invite you to live with us in our town over there," and they pointed toward Tsuwa`tel'da (Pilot knob).

"We do not live forever, and do not always find game when we go for it, for the game belongs to Tsul`kl', who lives in Tsuneg'y, but we have peace always and need not think of danger. We go now, but if your people will live with us let them fast seven days, and we shall come then to take them." Then they went away toward the west.

The chief called his people together into the townhouse and they held a council over the matter and decided at last to go with the strangers. They got all their property ready for moving, and then went again into the townhouse and began their fast. They fasted six days, and on the morning of the seventh, before yet the sun was high, they saw a great company coming along the trail from the west, led by the two men who had stopped with the chief.

They seemed just like Cherokee from another settlement, and after a friendly meeting they took up a part of the goods to be carried, and the two parties started back together for Tsuwa`tel'da. There was one man from another town visiting at Kana'sta, and he went along with the rest.

When they came to the mountain, the two guides led the way into a cave, which opened out like a great door in the side of the rock. Inside they found an open country and a town, with houses ranged in two long rows from east to west.

The mountain people lived in the houses on the south side, and they had made ready the other houses for the new comers, but even after all the people of Kana'sta, with their children and belongings, had moved in, there were still a large number of houses waiting ready for the next who might come.

The mountain people told them that there was another town, of a different people, above them in the same mountain, and still farther above, at the very top, lived the Ani'-Hy'tkwl'sk (the Thunders).

Now all the people of Kana'sta were settled in their new homes, but the man who had only been visiting with them wanted to go back to his own friends. Some of the mountain people wanted to prevent this, but the chief said, "No; let him go if he will, and when he tells his friends they may want to come, too. There is plenty of room for all."

Then he said to the man, "Go back and tell your friends that if they want to come and live with us and be always happy, there is a place here ready and waiting for them. Others of us live in Datsu'nalsg'y and in the high mountains all around, and if they would rather go to any of them it is all the same. We see you wherever you go and are with you in all your dances, but you can not see us unless you fast. If you want to see us, fast four days, and we will come and talk with you; and then if you want to live with us, fast again seven days, and we will come and take you."

Then the chief led the man through the cave to the outside of the mountain and left him there, but when the man looked back he saw no cave, but only the solid rock.

The people of the lost settlement were never seen again, and they are still living in Tsuwa`tel'da. Strange things happen there, so that the Cherokee know the mountain is haunted and do not like to go near it. Only a few years ago a party of hunters camped there, and as they sat around their fire at supper time they talked of the story and made rough jokes about the people of old Kana'sta.

That night they were aroused from sleep by a noise as of stones thrown at them from among the trees, but when they searched they could find nobody, and were so frightened that they gathered up their guns and pouches and left the place.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Marriage of the North and the South
A Cherokee Legend

The North went traveling. and after going far and meeting many different tribes he finally fell in love with the daughter of the South and wanted to marry her.

The girl was willing, but her parents objected and said, "Ever since you came, the weather has been cold, and if you stay here we may all freeze to death."

The North pleaded hard, and said that if they would let him have their daughter he would take her back to his own country, so at last they consented. They were married and he took his bride to his own country, and when she arrived there she found the people all living in ice houses.

The next day, when the sun rose, the houses began to leak, and as it climbed higher they began to melt, and it grew warmer and warmer, until finally the people came to the young husband and told him he must send his wife home again, or the weather would get so warm that the whole settlement would be melted. He loved his wife and so held out as long as he could, but as the sun grew hotter the people were more urgent, and at last he had to send her home to her parents.

The people said that as she had been born in the South, and nourished all her life upon food that grew in the same climate, her whole nature was warm and unfit for the North.

Mooney, Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, xix, 32-2, No. 70


Nun'yunu'wi, The Stone Man
A Cherokee Legend

Once when all the people of the settlement were out in the mountains on a great hunt one man who had gone on ahead climbed to the top of a high ridge and found a large river on the other side.

While he was looking across he saw an old man walking about on the opposite ridge, with a cane that seemed to be made of some bright, shining rock. The hunter watched and saw that every little while the old man would point his cane in a certain direction, then draw it back and smell the end of it. At last he pointed it in the direction of the hunting camp on the other side of the mountain, and this time when he drew back the staff he sniffed it several times as if it smelled very good, and then started along the ridge straight for the camp.

He moved very slowly, with the help of the cane, until he reached the end of the ridge, when he threw the cane out into the air and it became a bridge of shining rock stretching across the river. After he had crossed over upon the bridge it became a cane again, and the old man picked it up and started over the mountain toward the camp.

The hunter was frightened, and felt sure that it meant mischief, so he hurried on down the mountain and took the shortest trail back to the camp to get there before the old man. When he got there and told his story the medicine-man said the old man was a wicked cannibal monster called Nun'yunu'wi, "Dressed in Stone," who lived in that part of the country, and was always going about the mountains looking for some hunter to kill and eat. It was very hard to escape from him, because his stick guided him like a dog, and it was nearly as hard to kill him, because his whole body was covered with a skin of solid rock.

If he came he would kill and eat them all, and there was only one way to save themselves. He could not bear to look upon a menstrual woman, and if they could find seven menstrual women to stand in the path as he came along the sight would kill him.

So they asked among all the women, and found seven who were sick in that way, and with one of them it had just begun. By the order of the medicine-man they stripped themselves and stood along the path where the old man would come. Soon they heard Nun'yunu'wi coming through the woods, feeling his way with his stone cane.

He came along the trail to where the first woman was standing, and as soon as he saw her he started and cried out: "Yu! my grandchild; you are in a very bad state!" He hurried past her, but in a moment he met the next woman, and cried out again: "Yu! my child; you are in a terrible way," and hurried past her, but now he was vomiting blood.

He hurried on and met the third and the fourth and the fifth woman, but with each one that he saw his step grew weaker until when he came to the last one, with whom the sickness had just begun, the blood poured from his mouth and he fell down on the trail.

Then the medicine-man drove seven sourwood stakes through his body and pinned him to the ground, and when night came they piled great logs over him and set fire to them, and all the people gathered around to see. Nun'yunu'wi was a great ada'weh and knew many secrets, and now as the fire came close to him he began to talk, and told them the medicine for all kinds of sickness.

At midnight he began to sing, and sang the hunting songs for calling up the bear and the deer and all the animals of the woods and mountains. As the blaze grew hotter his voice sank low and lower, until at last when daylight came, the logs were a heap of white ashes and the voice was still.

Then the medicine-man told them to rake off the ashes, and where the body had lain they found only a large lump of red w'd paint and a magic u'ls'ti stone. He kept the stone for himself, and calling the people around him he painted them, on face and breast, with the red w'd, and whatever each person prayed for while the painting was being done-whether for hunting success, for working skill, or for a long life-that gift was his.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Little People of the Cherokee
A Cherokee Legend

The Little People of the Cherokee are a race of Spirits who live in rock caves on the mountain side. They are little fellows and ladies reaching almost to your knees.

They are well shaped and handsome, and their hair so long it almost touches the ground.

They are very helpful, kind-hearted, and great wonder workers. They love music and spend most of their time drumming, singing, and dancing. They have a very gentle nature, but do not like to be disturbed.

Sometimes their drums are heard in lonely places in the mountains, but it is not safe to follow it, for they do not like to be disturbed at home, and they will throw a spell over the stranger so that he is bewildered and loses his way, and even if he does at last get back to the settlement he is like one dazed ever after.

Sometimes, also, they come near a house at night and the people inside hear them talking, but they must not go out, and in the morning they find the corn gathered or the field cleared as if a whole force of men had been at work. If anyone should go out to watch, he would die.

When a hunter finds anything in the woods, such as a knife or a trinket, he must say, 'Little People, I would like to take this' because it may belong to them, and if he does not ask their permission they will throw stones at him as he goes home.

Some Little People are black, some are white and some are golden like the Cherokee. Sometimes they speak in Cherokee, but at other times they speak their own 'Indian' language. Some call them "Brownies".

Little people are here to teach lessons about living in harmony with nature and with others. There are three kinds of Little People. The Laurel People, the Rock People, and the Dogwood People.

The Rock People are the mean ones who practice "getting even" who steal children and the like. But they are like this because their space has been invaded.

The Laurel People play tricks and are generally mischievous. When you find children laughing in their sleep - the Laurel People are humorous and enjoy sharing joy with others.

Then there are the Dogwood People who are good and take care of people.

The lessons taught by the Little People are clear. The Rock People teach us that if you do things to other people out of meanness or intentionally, it will come back on you. We must always respect other people's limits and boundaries.

The Laurel People teach us that we shouldn't take the world too seriously, and we must always have joy and share that joy with others. The lessons of the Dogwood People are simple - if you do something for someone, do it out of goodness of your heart. Don't do it to have people obligated to you or for personal gain.

In Cherokee beliefs, many stories contain references to beings called the Little People. These people are supposed to be small mythical characters, and in different beliefs they serve different purposes.

"There are a lot of stories and legends about the Little People. You can see the people out in the forest. They can talk and they look a lot like Indian people except they're only about two feet high, sometimes they're smaller. Now the Little People can be very helpful, and they can also play tricks on us, too.

And at one time there was a boy. This boy never wanted to grow up. In fact, he told everyone that so much that they called him "Forever Boy" because he never wanted to be grown. When his friends would sit around and talk about: 'Oh when I get to be a man, and when I get to be grown I'm gonna be this and I'm gonna go here and be this,' he'd just go off and play by himself.

He didn't even want to hear it, because he never wanted to grow up. Finally his father got real tired of this, and he said,' Forever Boy, I will never call you that again. From now on you're going to learn to be a man, you're going to take responsibility for yourself, and you're going to stop playing all day long. You have to learn these things. Starting tomorrow you're going to go to your uncle's, and he's going to teach you everything that you are going to need to know.'

Forever Boy was broken hearted at what his father told him, but he could not stand the thought of growing up. He went out to the river and he cried. He cried so hard that he didn't see his animal friends gather around him. And they were trying to tell him something, and they were trying to make him feel better, and finally he thought he understood them say, 'Come here tomorrow, come here early.' Well, he thought they just wanted to say goodbye to him. And he drug his feet going home. He couldn't even sleep he was so upset.

The next morning he went out early, as he had promised, to meet his friends. And he was so sad, he could not bear the thought of telling them goodbye forever. Finally he began to get the sense that they were trying to tell him something else, and that is to look behind him.

As he looked behind him, there they were, all the Little People. And they were smiling at him and laughing and running to hug him. And they said, 'Forever Boy you do not have to grow up. You can stay with us forever. You can come and be one of us and you will never have to grow up...we will ask the Creator to send a vision to your parents and let them know that you are safe and you are doing what you need to do.'

Forever Boy thought about it for a long time. But that is what he decided he needed to do, and he went with the Little People.

And even today when you are out in the woods and you see something, and you look and it is not what you really thought it was, or if you are fishing and you feel something on the end of your line, and you think it is the biggest trout ever, and you pull it in, and all it is is a stick that got tangled on your hook, that is what the Little People are doing. They are playing tricks on you so you will laugh and keep young in your heart. Because that is the spirit of Little People, and Forever Boy, to keep us young in our hearts."

I don't know who to credit for this story. If you do know, write me...


Origin Of Fish And Frogs
A Cherokee Legend

A long time ago the people of the old town of Kanu'ga`la'yi (Briertown), on Nantahala river, in the present Macon county, North Carolina, were much annoyed by a great insect called U'la'gu'.

U'la'gu' was as large as a house, and used to come from some secret hiding place, and darting swiftly through the air, would snap up children from their play and carry them away. It was unlike any other insect ever known, and the people tried many times to track it to its home, but it was too swift to be followed.

They killed a squirrel and tied a white string to it, so that its course could be followed with the eye, as bee hunters follow the flight of a bee to its tree. The U'la'gu' came and carried off the squirrel with the string hanging to it, but darted away so swiftly through the air that it was out of sight in a moment.

They killed a turkey and put a longer white string to it, and the U'la'gu' came and took the turkey, but was gone again before they could see in what direction it flew. They took a deer ham and tied a white string to it, and again the U'la'gu' swooped down and bore it off so swiftly that it could not be followed.

At last they killed a yearling deer and tied a very long white string to it. The U'la'gu' came again and seized the deer, but this time the load was so heavy that it had to fly slowly and so low down that the string could be plainly seen.

The hunters got together for the pursuit. They followed it along a ridge to the east until they came near where Franklin now is, when, on looking across the valley to the other side, they saw the nest of the U'la'gu' in a large cave in the rocks. On this they raised a great shout and made their way rapidly down the mountain and across to the cave.

The nest had the entrance below with tiers of cells built up one above another to the roof of the cave. The great U'la'gu' was there, with thousands of smaller ones, that we now call yellow-jackets. The hunters built fires around the hole, so that the smoke filled the cave and smothered the great insect and multitudes of the smaller ones, but others which were outside the cave were not killed, and these escaped and increased until now the yellow-jackets, which before were unknown, are all over the world.

The people called the cave Tsgagun'yi, "Where the yellow-jacket was," and the place from which they first saw the nest they called A'tahi'ta, "Where they shouted," and these are their names today.

They say also that all the fish and frogs came from a great monster fish and frog which did much damage until at last they were killed by the people, who cut them up into little pieces which were thrown into the water and afterward took shape as the smaller fishes and frogs.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Origin of Game and of Corn
A Cherokee Legend

Long ages ago, soon after the world was made, Kenati, a Cherokee Indian hunter and his wife Selu, lived on Looking-glass Mountain in North Carolina. They had a little son named Good Boy.

Whenever Kenati hunted in the woods, he always brought back all the game his family needed. His wife cut up the meat and washed it in the river not far from their lodge. Good Boy played near the river almost every day. One day his parents thought they heard laughing in the bushes, as if there were two children playing there.

That evening Kenati asked his son, "Who were you playing with today down by the river?"

"He is a boy who comes out of the water and calls himself my elder brother," replied Good Boy.

When Selu washed game in the river again, the parents thought the water boy must grow from the animal blood. She never saw the water boy, because as she approached he disappeared.

One evening, Kenati said to his son, "Tomorrow when your playmate comes out of the water, wrestle with him and hold him down and call me, so we can come and see him." Good Boy promised to do as his father asked.

Next day a wrestling match took place between the two boys. Kenati and Selu were not far away, and at the first call from their son, they ran to see the boy from the river. Compared with Good boy, the other one looked wild.

"Let me go! Let me go!" he cried out. Good Boy held him down until his parents arrived. They took the water boy home with them.

The family kept the wild one in the house form some time, trying to tame him. But he was always disagreeable in his disposition and tried to lead Good Boy into mischief. The family discovered that wild one possessed some magic powers, so they decided to keep him. They named him Wild Boy.

Always Kenati came home from hunting with a large fat deer on his back. Always he was lucky with game. One day Wild Boy said to his brother, "I wonder where our father finds so much game? Let's follow him next time."

In a few days, Kenati took his bow and arrows and went hunting. Shortly afterward the boys followed. Staying out of sight, they saw their father go into a swamp where some strong reeds were growing. With these, hunters usually made arrow shafts. Wild Boy changed himself into a puff of bird's down. A little wind carried him up and onto Kenati's shoulder. There he watched where Kenati went and what he did. The father was not aware of Wild Boy's presence on his shoulder as he gathered reeds and fitted them with feathers.

"I wonder what those things are for?" thought Wild Boy to himself. Kenati came out of the swamp and went on his way into the woods. The wind carried the down off Kenati's shoulders and soon Wild Boy was his normal self again. Still keeping out of sight of their father, the two brothers followed him into the mountains.

When Kenati reached a certain place, he stopped and lifted a large rock. At once, a large buck deer came running out of the hole. Kenati shot it and lifted it upon his back, starting home with his prize.

"Oho!" said the boys. "He keeps the wild animals shut up inside a cave until he needs them. He then kills the game with those things he made in the swamp." They hurried to reach home before their father arrived with his heavy load.

The very next day, the boys wanted to see if they could do as their father had done. First, they went to the swamp and made some arrows. When they came to the big rock, they lifted the cover and instantly a deer ran out, but they forgot to replace the cover.

As they made ready to shoot the deer, another deer came out of the hole, then another, and another--the boys became so confused they forgot what to do next.

Long ago, a deer's tail stuck straight out from his body. When Wild Boy struck at a deer's tail with an arrow, the tail stood straight up. The boys thought it great fun. As another deer ran by, Good Boy swung at it with an arrow so hard that the tail curled over the deer's back. Since that time most deer's' tails curl at the end.

All of the deer in the cave came out and disappeared into the forest. Following them were raccoons, rabbits, and all the other four-footed animals. Last came turkeys, partridges, pigeons, and other winged creatures. They darkened the air as they flew away. Such a noise arose that Kenati heard it at his lodge. To himself he said, "I must go to see what trouble my boys have stirred up."

Kenati went to the mountain, to the place of the large rock. There stood the two boys, but all the animals and birds were gone. Kenati was furious with them, but said nothing. He went into the cave and kicked off the covers of four large jars that stood in the back corner.

Out of the jars swarmed bedbugs, lice, and gnats that attached the two boys. they screamed from terror as they tried to beat off the insects. Bitten and stung, the boys dropped to the ground from exhaustion.

When Kenati thought they had learned their lesson, he brushed away the pests. "Now you rascals," he scolded them. "You have always had plenty to eat without working for it. When we needed game, all I had to do was to come up here and take home just what we needed. Now you have let all of the game escape. From now on when you are hungry, you will have to hunt throughout the woods and mountains and then not find enough game."

The two boys went home and asked their mother for something to eat.

"There is no more meat," said Selu. "I will go to the storehouse and try to find something."

She took her basket and went to the two-story provision house set upon poles high above the ground, out of reach of most animals.

Every day before the evening meal, Selu climbed the ladder to the one opening. She always came back with her basket full of beans and corn.

"Let's go and see where she gets the corn and beans," urged Wild Boy to his brother. They followed Selu and climbed up in back of the storehouse. They removed a piece of mud from between the logs and looked through the crack. There stood Selu in the middle of the room with her basket on the floor. When she rubbed her stomach, the basket was half-filled with corn. When she rubbed her legs, the basket was full to the top with beans. Wild Boy said, "Our mother is a witch. Maybe her food will poison us."

When Selu came back to the house, she seemed to know what the boys were thinking. "You think I am a witch?"

"Yes, we think you are a witch," Wild Boy replied.

"When I die, I want you boys to clear a large piece of ground in front of our lodge. Then drag all of my clothes seven times around the inside of the circle. If you stay up all night and watch, next morning you will be rewarded with plenty of corn."

Soon thereafter Selu became ill and died suddenly. The boys set to work clearing the ground as she had said. But instead of the whole piece of ground in front of the lodge, they only cleared seven small spots. This is why corn does not grow everywhere in the world.

Instead of dragging Selu's clothing seven times, they only went around the circle twice, outside and inside the circle. The brothers watched all night, and in the morning there were fully grown beans and corn, but only in the seven small spots.

Kenati came home from a long hunting trip. He looked for Selu but could not find her. When the boys came home, he asked them, "Where is your mother?"

"She turned into a witch and then she died," they reported. Kenati was saddened by the news.

"I cannot stay here with you any longer. I will go and live with the Wolf people," he said.

He started on his journey. Wild Boy changed himself into a tuft of bird's down and settled upon Kenati's shoulder to learn where he was going.

When Kenati reached the settlement of the Wolf people, they were having a council in their town-house. He went in and sat down with the tuft upon his shoulder. Wolf Chief asked Kenati what was his business.

"At home I have two bad boys. In seven days, I want you to go and play a game of ball with them."

The Wolf people knew that Kenati wanted them to punish the boys and promised to go in seven days. At that moment the down blew off of Kenati's shoulder and the smoke carried it up and through the smoke hole in the roof. It came down to the ground outside, where Wild Boy resumed his own shape and ran home fast to tell his brother. Kenati did not return but went on to visit another tribe.

The two brothers prepared for the coming of the wolves. Wild Boy the magician told his brother what to do. Together they made a path around the house, leaving an opening on one side for the wolves to enter.

Next, they made four large bundles of arrows. These they placed at four different points on the outside of the circle. Then they hid themselves in the woods nearby and waited for the wolves.

At the appointed time, a whole army of wolves surrounded the house. They came in the entrance the boys had made. When all were within, Wild Boy magically made the pathway become a high fence, trapping the wolves inside.

The two boys on the outside began shooting arrows at the wolves. Since the fence was too high for the wolves to jump over, they were trapped and most were killed.

Only a few escaped through the entrance and made their way into a nearby swamp. Three or four wolves eventually survived. These were the only wolves left alive in the world.

Soon thereafter, some strangers came from a great distance to learn about the brothers' good grain for eating and making bread. Only Selu and her family had the corn secret.

The two brothers told the strangers how to care for the corn and gave them seven kernels to plant the next night on their way home. They were advised that they must watch throughout the night, then the following morning they would have seven ears of corn. This they should do each night, and by the time they reached home, they should have enough corn for all their people to plant.

The strangers lived seven days' distance. Each night they did as the brothers had instructed them. On the last night of the journey, they were so tired that they fell asleep and were unable to continue the whole night's watch. Next morning, the corn had not sprouted and grown as on the previous six nights.

Upon arriving in their own village, they shared all the corn they still had left with their people. They explained how the two brothers told them the way to make the corn prosper. They watched over the planting with care and attention. A splendid crop of corn resulted. Since then, however, the Cherokee Indians needed to tend their corn only half the year to supply their people.

Kenati never came back to his home. The two brothers decided to search for him. Wild Boy sailed a magic disk to the north wind and it returned. He sailed it to the south wind and it returned, but it did not return from the east wind. They knew that was where their father was living. They walked a long, long time and finally came upon Kenati with a dog walking by his side.

"You bad boys," rebuked Kenati. "Why have you followed me here?"

"We are men now," they replied. "We plan to accomplish what we set out to do." Wild Boy knew that the dog was the magic disk that had not returned, and had become a dog only a few days ago.

Kenati's trail led to Selu, waiting for him at the end of the world where the sun comes up. All seemed glad to be reunited for the present.

Their parents told the two brothers that they must go to live where the sun goes down. In seven days, the two boys left for the Land of the Setting-Sun. There they still live, overseeing the planting and the care of corn.

The brothers still talk about how Selu brought forth the first corn from her seed. Since that time, the Cherokee tribe refer to her as the "Corn Woman."

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Origin Of The Groundhog Dance
A Cherokee Legend

Seven wolves once caught a Groundhog and said, "Now we'll kill you and have something good to eat." But the Groundhog said, "When we find good food we must rejoice over it, as people do in the Green-corn dance.

I know you mean to kill me and I can't help myself, but if you want to dance I'll sing for you. This is a new dance entirely. I'll lean up against seven trees in turn and you will dance out and then turn and come back, as I give the signal, and at the last turn you may kill me."

The wolves were very hungry, but they wanted to learn the new dance, so they told him to go ahead. The Groundhog leaned up against a tree and began the song, Ha'wiy'h', and all the wolves danced out in front, until he gave the signal, Yu! and began with Ha'wiy'h', when they turned and danced back in line.

"That's fine," said the Groundhog, and went over to the next tree and started the second song. The wolves danced, out and then turned at the signal and danced back again.

"That's very fine," said the Groundhog, and went over to another tree and started the third song. The wolves danced their best and the Groundhog encouraged them, but at each song he took another tree, and each tree was a little nearer to his hole under a stump.

At the seventh song he said, "Now, this is the last dance, and when I say Yu! you will all turn and come after me, and the one who gets me may have me." So he began the seventh song and kept it up until the wolves were away out in front.

Then he gave the signal, Yu! and made a jump for his hole. The wolves turned and were after him, but he reached the hole first and dived in. Just as he got inside, the foremost wolf caught him by the tail and gave it such a pull that it broke off, and the Groundhog's tail has been short ever since.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Origin of Medicine
A Cherokee Legend

At one time, animals and people lived together peaceably and talked with each other. But when mankind began to multiply rapidly, the animals were crowded into forests and deserts. Man began to destroy animals wholesale for their skins and furs, not just for needed food. Animals became angry at such treatment by their former friends, resolving they must punish mankind.

The bear tribe met in council, presided over by Old White Bear, their Chief. After several bears had spoken against mankind for their bloodthirsty ways, war was unanimously agreed upon. But what kinds of weapons should the bears use?

Chief Old White Bear suggested that man's weapon, the bow and arrow, should be turned against him. All of the council agreed. While the bears worked and made bows and arrows, they wondered what to do about bowstrings. One of the bears sacrificed himself to provide the strings, while the others searched for good arrow- wood.

When the first bow was completed and tried, the bear's claws could not release the strings to shoot the arrow. One bear offered to cut his claws, but Chief Old White Bear would not allow him to do that, because without claws he could not climb trees for food and safety. He might starve.

The deer tribe called together its council led by Chief Little Deer. They decided that any Indian hunters, who killed deer without asking pardon in a suitable manner, should be afflicted with painful rheumatism in their joints.

After this decision, Chief Little Deer sent a messenger to their nearest neighbours, the Cherokee Indians.

"From now on, your hunters must first offer a prayer to the deer before killing him," said the messenger. "You must ask his pardon, stating you are forced only by the hunger needs of your tribe to kill the deer. Otherwise, a terrible disease will come to the hunter."

When a deer is slain by an Indian hunter, Chief Little Deer will run to the spot and ask the slain deer's spirit, "Did you hear the hunter's prayer for pardon?"

If the reply is yes, then all is well and Chief Little Deer returns to his cave. But if the answer is no, then the Chief tracks the hunter to his lodge and strikes him with the terrible disease of rheumatism, making him a helpless cripple unable to hunt again.

All the fishes and reptiles then held a council and decided they would haunt those Cherokee Indians, who tormented them, by telling them hideous dreams of serpents twining around them and eating them alive. These snake and fish dreams occurred often among the Cherokees. To get relief, the Cherokees pleaded with their Shaman to banish their frightening dreams if they no longer tormented the snakes and fish.

Now when the friendly plants heard what the animals had decided against mankind, they planned a countermove of their own. Each tree, shrub, herb, grass, and moss agreed to furnish a cure for one of the diseases named by the animals and insects.

Thereafter, when the Cherokee Indians visited their Shaman about their ailments and if the medicine man was in doubt, he communed with the spirits of the plants. They always suggested a proper remedy for mankind's diseases.

This was the beginning of plant medicine from nature among the Cherokee Indian nation a long, long time ago.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Origin Of The Pheasant Dance
A Cherokee Legend

In the Pheasant dance, a part of the Green-corn dance, the instrument used is the drum, and the dancers beat the ground with their feet in imitation of the drumming sound made by the pheasant.

They form two concentric circles, the men being on the inside, facing the women in the outer circle, each in turn advancing and retreating at the signal of the drummer, who sits at one side and sings the Pheasant songs.

According to the story, there was once a winter famine among the birds and animals. No mast (fallen nuts) could be found in the woods, and they were near starvation when a Pheasant discovered a holly tree, loaded with red berries, of which the Pheasant is said to be particularly fond.

He called his companion birds, and they formed a circle about the tree, singing, dancing, and drumming with their wings in token of their joy, and thus originated the Pheasant dance.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Origin Of The Pleiades And The Pine
A Cherokee Legend

Long ago, when the world was new, there were seven boys who used to spend all their time down by the townhouse playing the gatay'st game, rolling a stone wheel along the ground and sliding a curved stick after it to strike it.

Their mothers scolded, but it did no good, so one day they collected some gatay'st stones and boiled them in the pot with the corn for dinner. When the boys came home hungry their mothers dipped out the stones and said, "Since you like the gatay'st better than the cornfield, take the stones now for your dinner."

The boys were very angry, and went down to the townhouse, saying, "As our mothers treat us this way, let us go where we shall never trouble them any more." They began a dance--some say it was the Feather dance-and went round and round the townhouse, praying to the spirits to help them.

At last their mothers were afraid something was wrong and went out to look for them. They saw the boys still dancing around the townhouse, and as they watched they noticed that their feet were off the earth, and that with every round they rose higher and higher in the air.

They ran to get their children, but it was too late, for then, were already above the roof of the townhouse--all but one, whose mother managed to pull him down with the gatay'st pole, but he struck the ground with such force that he sank into it and the earth closed over him.

The other six circled higher and higher until they went up to the sky, where we see them now as the Pleiades, which the Cherokee still call Ani'tsuts (The Boys). The people grieved long after them, but the mother whose boy had gone into the ground came every morning and every evening to cry over the spot until the earth was damp with her tears.

At last a little green shoot sprouted up and grew day by day until it became the tall tree that we call now the pine, and the pine is of the same nature as the stars and holds in itself the same bright light.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Origin of Strawberries
A Cherokee Legend

When the first man was created and a mate was given to him, they lived together very happily for a time, but then began to quarrel. At last the woman left her husband and started off toward the Sun Land (Nundagunyi) in the east.

The man followed alone and grieving, but the woman kept on steadily ahead and never looked behind, until "Unelanunhi," the great Apportioner (The Sun), took pity on him and asked him if he was still angry with his wife. He said he was not, and "Unelanunhi" then asked him if he would like to have her back again, to which he eagerly answered yes.

So "Unelanunhi" caused a patch of the finest ripe huckleberries to spring up along the path in front of the woman, but she passed by without paying any attention to them. Farther on he put a clump of blackberries, but these also she refused to notice. Other fruits, one, two, and three, and then some trees covered with beautiful red service berries, were placed beside the path to tempt her, but she will went on until suddenly she saw in front a patch of large ripe strawberries, the first ever known.

She stooped to gather a few to eat, and as she picked them she chanced to turn her face to the west, and at once the memory of her husband came back to her and she found herself unable to go on.

She sat down, but the longer she waited the stronger became her desire for her husband, and at last she gathered a bunch of the finest berries and started back along the path to give them to him. He met her kindly and they went home together.

History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees by James Mooney


The Ice Man
A Cherokee Legend

Once when the people were burning the woods in the fall the blaze set fire to a poplar tree, which continued to burn until the fire went down into the roots and burned a great hole in the ground.

It burned and burned, and the hole grew constantly larger, until the people became frightened and were afraid it would burn the whole world. They tried to put out the fire, but it had gone too deep, and they did not know what to do.

At last some one said there was a man living in a house of ice far in the north who could put out the fire, so messengers were sent, and after traveling a long distance they came to the ice house and found the Ice Man at home. He was a little fellow with long hair hanging down to the ground in two plaits.

The messengers told him their errand and he at once said, "O yes, I can help you," and began to unplait his hair. When it was all unbraided he took it up in one band and struck it once across his other hand, and the messengers felt a wind blow against their cheeks. A second time he struck his hair across his hand, and a light rain began to fall.

The third time he struck his hair across his open hand there was sleet mixed with the raindrops, and when he struck the fourth time great hailstones fell upon the ground, as if they had come out from the ends of his hair. "Go back now," said the lee Man, "and I shall be there to-morrow."

So the messengers returned to their people, whom they found still gathered helplessly about the great burning pit.

The next-day while they were all watching about the fire there came a wind from the north, and they were afraid, for they knew that it came from the lee Man. But the wind only made the fire blaze up higher. Then a light rain began to fall, but the drops seemed only to make the fire hotter. Then the shower turned to a heavy rain, with sleet and hail that killed the blaze and made clouds of smoke and steam rise from the red coals.

The people fled to their homes for shelter, and the storm rose to a whirlwind that drove the rain into every burning crevice and piled great hailstones over the embers, until the fire was dead and even the smoke ceased.

When at last it was all over and the people returned they found a lake where the burning pit had been, and from below the water came a sound as of embers still crackling.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Return of Ice Man
A Cherokee Legend

When the first man was created and a mate was given to him, they lived together very happily for a time, but then began to quarrel. At last the woman left her husband and started off toward the Sun Land (Nundagunyi) in the east.

The man followed alone and grieving, but the woman kept on steadily ahead and never looked behind, until "Unelanunhi," the great Apportioner (The Sun), took pity on him and asked him if he was still angry with his wife. He said he was not, and "Unelanunhi" then asked him if he would like to have her back again, to which he eagerly answered yes.

So "Unelanunhi" caused a patch of the finest ripe huckleberries to spring up along the path in front of the woman, but she passed by without paying any attention to them. Farther on he put a clump of blackberries, but these also she refused to notice. Other fruits, one, two, and three, and then some trees covered with beautiful red service berries, were placed beside the path to tempt her, but she will went on until suddenly she saw in front a patch of large ripe strawberries, the first ever known.

She stooped to gather a few to eat, and as she picked them she chanced to turn her face to the west, and at once the memory of her husband came back to her and she found herself unable to go on.

She sat down, but the longer she waited the stronger became her desire for her husband, and at last she gathered a bunch of the finest berries and started back along the path to give them to him. He met her kindly and they went home together.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Stealing the Sun
A Cherokee Legend

Long ago the Cherokee people lived in a dark world. They had no Sun or Moon or light of any kind. It was so dark that the animals, birds, and insects kept bumping into each other.

One day the animals called a meeting to see what could be done.

Woodpecker spoke first. "I've heard," he said, "that people on the other side of the world have light. Maybe if we go there, they will give us some."

I'll go," said Owl. "I can see in the dark."

"No, I should go," Opossum said. "If they are stingy with their light, I'll steal some and hide it under my bushy tail."

They all agreed, so Opossum started at once. As he headed East, the world grew lighter. Soon he had to squint to keep from being blinded, but he kept on going until he found the Sun.

Carefully he placed a small piece of it under his tail. He set out for home as fast as his short legs would go, but that piece of Sun was so hot it set his tail on fire.

The people who lived in the land of the Sun demanded that he return the piece he took. Poor Opossum. He now had to squint, his fine bushy tail was ruined, and the animals still had no light.

The animals called another meeting, and this time Buzzard volunteered. "I can fly far and fast," he boasted. "I can bring back the light in no time."

He flew East and stayed up high so the people couldn't see him. Then he dived straight down, snatched a piece of the Sun, and hid it on top of his head. But as he was flying away, his beautiful head feathers caught on fire. Buzzard dropped the piece of Sun at once, but his head had turned bright red and was completely bald, just as it is today.

The animals met once more, "What shall we do now?" they asked. "We must have light!"

Grandmother Spider crawled out of the nearby grass. "You big creatures have done all you can," she said. "Perhaps a smaller creature could do better."

"You'll get burned up!" squawked the Owl. "Maybe not," answered Grandmother Spider. They were so desperate for light they agreed to let her go.

Grandmother Spider felt around until she found some damp clay. Then she rolled it into the shape of a bowl. "It will dry slowly as I travel in the dark," she said to herself. "That way it won't crack."

As she traveled, she spun a trail of thread to find her way home.

When she came to the place of the Sun people, she quickly reached out and took a piece of the Sun. She dropped it into her bowl and covered it. Then she quietly followed her thread-trail back home.

When the animals uncovered Grandmother Spider's bowl, they could hardly believe their eyes. The first light they had ever seen shot out its rays. Even today, the spider's web is shaped like the rays of the Sun.

From that time on, not only did the Cherokee people have light, but pottery making became honored work among them.

I don't know who to credit for this story. If you do know, emai me...


The Bear Legend
A Cherokee Legend

In the long ago time, there was a Cherokee Clan called the Ani Tsaguhi, and in one family of this clan was a boy who used to leave home and be gone all day in the mountains.

After awhile he went more often and stayed longer, until at last he would not eat in the house at all, starting off at daybreak and not coming back until night.

His parents scolded, but that did no good, and the boy still went every day until they noticed that long brown hair was beginning to grow out all over his body. Then they wondered and asked him why it was that he wanted to be so much in the woods that he would not even eat at home.

Said the boy, "I find plenty to eat there, and it is better than the corn and beans we have in the settlements, and pretty soon I am going into the woods to say all the time."

His parents were worried and begged him not leave them, but he said, "It is better there than here, and you see I am beginning to be different already, so that I can not live here any longer. If you will come with me, there is plenty for all of us and you will never have to work for it; but if you want to come, you must first fast seven days."

The father and mother talked it over and then told the headmen of the clan. They held a council about the matter and after everything had been said they decided: "Here we must work hard and have not always enough. There he says is always plenty without work. We will go with him."

So they fasted seven days, and on the seventh morning al the Ani Tsaguhi left the settlement and started for the mountains as the boy led the way.

When the people of the other towns heard of it they were very sorry and sent their headmen to persuade the Ani Tsaguhi to stay at home and not go into the woods to live. The messengers found them already on the way, and were surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals, because for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was changing.

The Ani Tsaguhi would not come back, but said, "We are going where there is always plenty to eat. From now on, we shall be called Yonva (bears), and when you yourselves are hungry come into the woods and call us and we shall shall come to give you our own flesh. You need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always."

Then they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them and bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished the songs, the Ani Tsaguhi started on again and the messengers turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they looked back and saw a drove of bears going into the woods.

Retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren


The Bear Man
A Cherokee Legend

A man went hunting in the mountains and came across a black bear, which he wounded with an arrow. The bear turned and started to run the other way, and the hunter followed, shooting one arrow after another into it without bringing it down.

Now, this was a medicine bear, and could talk or read the thoughts of people without their saying a word. At last he stopped and pulled the arrows out of his side and gave them to the man, saying, "It is of no use for you to shoot at me, for you can not kill me. Come to my house and let us live together."

The hunter thought to himself, "He may kill me;" but the bear read his thoughts and said, "No, I won't hurt you."

The man thought again, "How can I get anything to eat?" but the bear knew his thoughts, and said, "There shall be plenty." So the hunter went with the bear.

They went on together until they came to a hole in the side of the mountain, and the bear said, "This is not where I live, but there is going to be a council here and we will see what they do." They went in, and the hole widened as they went, until they came to a large cave like a townhouse.

It was full of bears--old bears, young bears, and cubs, white bears, black bears, and brown bears--and a large white bear was the chief. They sat down in a corner, but soon the bears scented the hunter and began to ask, "What is it that smells bad?" The chief said, "Don't talk so; it is only a stranger come to see us. Let him alone."

Food was getting scarce in the mountains, and the council was to decide what to do about it. They had Sent out messengers all over, and while they were talking two bears came in and reported that they had found a country in the low grounds where there, were so many chestnuts and acorns that mast was knee deep. Then they were all pleased, and got ready for a dance, and the dance leader was the one the Indians call Kals'-gnhi'ta, "Long Hams," a great black bear that is always lean.

After the dance the bears noticed the hunter's bow and arrows, and one said, "This is what men use to kill us. Let us see if we can manage them, and maybe we can fight man with his own weapons." So they took the bow and arrows from the hunter to try them. They fitted the arrow and drew back the string, but when they let go it caught in their long claws and the arrows dropped to the ground.

They saw that they could not use the bow and arrows and gave them back to the man. When the dance and the council were over, they began to go home, excepting the White Bear chief, who lived there, and at last the hunter and the bear went out together.

They went on until they came to another hole in the side of the mountain, when the bear said, "This is where I live," and they went in. By this time the hunter was very hungry and was wondering how he could get something to eat. The other knew his thoughts, and sitting up on his hind legs he rubbed his stomach with his forepaws--so--and at once he had both paws full of chestnuts and gave them to the man.

He rubbed his stomach again--so--and had his paws full of huckleberries, and gave them to the man. He rubbed again--so--and gave the man both paws full of blackberries. He rubbed again--so--and had his paws full of acorns, but the man said that he could not eat them, and that he had enough already.

The hunter lived in the cave with the bear all winter, until long hair like that of a bear began to grow all over his body and he began to act like a bear; but he still walked like a man. One day in early spring the bear said to him, "Your people down in the settlement are getting ready for a grand hunt in these mountains, and they will come to this cave and kill me and take these clothes from me"--he meant his skin--" but they will not hurt you and will take you home with them." The bear knew what the people were doing down in the settlement just as he always knew what the man was thinking about.

Some days passed and the bear said again, "This is the day when the Topknots will come to kill me, but the Split-noses will come first and find us. When they have killed me they will drag me outside the cave and take off my clothes and cut me in pieces. You must cover the blood with leaves, and when they are taking you away look back after you have gone a piece and you will see something."

Soon they heard the hunters coming up the mountain, and then the .dogs found the cave and began to bark. The hunters came and looked inside and saw the bear and killed him with their arrows. Then they dragged him outside the cave and skinned the body and cut it in quarters to carry home. The dogs kept on barking until the hunters thought there must be another bear in the cave.

They looked in again and saw the man away at the farther end. At first they thought it was another bear on account of his long hair, but they soon saw it was the hunter who had been lost the year before, so they went in and brought him out. Then each hunter took a load of the bear meat and they started home again, bringing the man and the skin with them.

Before they left the man piled leaves over the spot where they had cut up the bear, and when they had gone a little way he looked behind and saw the bear rise up out of the leaves, shake himself, and go back into the woods.

When they came near the settlement the man told the hunters that he must be shut up where no one could see him, without anything to eat or drink for seven days and nights, until the bear nature had left him and he became like a man again.

So they shut him up alone in a house and tried to keep very still about it, but the news got out and his wife heard of it. She came for her husband, but the people would not let her near him; but she came every day and begged so hard that at last after four or five days they let her have him. She took him home with her, but in a short time he died, because he still had a bear's nature and could not live like a man.

If they had kept him shut up and fasting until the end of the seven days he would have become a man again and would have lived.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Bird Tribes
A Cherokee Legend

Winged creatures of all kinds are classed under the generic term of anin'hilid'h (flyers). Birds are called, alike in the singular and plural, tsi'skwa, the term being generally held to exclude the domestic fowls introduced by the whites.

When it is necessary to make the distinction they are mentioned, respectively, as ingh (living in the woods), and uluni'ta (tame). The robin is called tsiskwa'gw, a name which can not be analyzed, while the little sparrow is called tsikw'y (the real or principal bird), perhaps, in accord with a principle in Indian nomenclature, on account of its wide distribution.

As in other languages, many of the bird names are onomatopes, as wa`huhu' (the screech owl), u'guku' (the hooting owl), wagul' (the whippoorwill), kg (the crow), ggw' (the quail), huhu (the yellow mocking-bird), ts'kl' (the chickadee), sa'sa' (the goose). The turtledove is called gul'-diska`nih' (it cries for acorns), on account of the resemblance of' it cry to the sound of the word for acorn. (gul')

The meadowlark is called nkws' (star), on account of the appearance of its tail when spread out as it soars. The nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is called tsulie'na (deaf), and is supposed to be without bearing, possibly on account of its fearless disregard for man's presence. Certain diseases are diagnosed by the doctors as due to birds, either revengeful bird ghosts, bird feathers about the house, or bird shadows falling upon the patient from overhead.

The eagle (aw'hl) is the great sacred bird of the Cherokee, as of nearly all our native tribes, and figures prominently in their ceremonial ritual, especially in all things relating to war. The particular species prized was the golden or war eagle (Aquila chrstus), called by the Cherokee the "pretty-feathered eagle," on account of its beautiful tail feathers, white, tipped with black, which were in such great demand for decorative and ceremonial purposes that among the western tribes a single tail was often rated as equal in value to a horse.

Among the Cherokee in the old times the killing of an eagle was an event which concerned the whole settlement, and could be undertaken only by the professional eagle killer, regularly chosen for the purpose on account of his knowledge of the prescribed forms and the prayers to be said afterwards in order to obtain pardon for the necessary sacrilege, and thus ward off vengeance from the tribe.

It is told of one man upon the reservation that having deliberately killed an eagle in defiance of the ordinances he was constantly haunted by dreams of fierce eagles swooping down upon him, until the nightmare was finally exercised after a long course of priestly treatment. In 1890 there was but one eagle killer remaining among the East Cherokee. It does not appear that the eagle was ever captured alive as among the plains tribes.

The eagle must be killed only in the winter or late fall after the crops were gathered and the snakes had retired to their dens. If killed in the summertime a frost would come to destroy the corn, while the songs of the Eagle dance, when the feathers were brought home, would so anger the snakes that they would become doubly dangerous. Consequently the Eagle songs were never sung until after the snakes had gone to sleep for the winter.

When the people of a town had decided upon an Eagle dance the eagle killer was called in, frequently from a distant settlement, to procure the feathers for the occasion. He was paid for his services from offerings made later at the dance, and as the few professionals guarded their secrets carefully from outsiders their business was a quite profitable one.

After some preliminary preparation the eagle killer sets out alone for the mountains, taking with him his gun or bow and arrows. Having reached the mountains, he goes through a vigil of prayer and fasting, possibly lasting four days, after which he hunts until he succeeds in killing a deer. Then, placing the body in a convenient exposed situation upon one of the highest cliffs, he conceals himself near by and begins to sing in a low undertone the songs to call down the eagles from the sky.

When the eagle alights upon the carcass, which will be almost immediately if the singer understands his business, he shoots it, and then standing over the dead bird, he addresses to it a prayer in which he begs it not to seek vengeance upon his tribe, because it is not a Cherokee, but a Spaniard (Askwa'n) that has done the deed. The selection of such a vicarious victim of revenge is evidence at once of the antiquity of the prayer in its present form and of the enduring impression which the cruelties of the early Spanish adventurers made upon the natives.

The prayer ended, he leaves the dead eagle where it fell and makes all haste to the settlement, where the people are anxiously expecting his return. On meeting the first warriors he says simply, "A snowbird has died," and passes on at once to his own quarters, his work being now finished. The announcement is made in this form in order to insure against the vengeance of any eagles that might overhear, the little snowbird being considered too insignificant a creature to be dreaded.

Having waited four days to allow time for the insect parasites to leave the body, the hunters delegated for the purpose go out to bring in the feathers. On arriving at the place they strip the body of the large tail and wing feathers, which they wrap in a fresh deerskin brought with them, and then return to the settlement, leaving the body of the dead eagle upon the ground, together with that of the slain deer, the latter being intended as a sacrifice to the eagle spirits.

On reaching the settlement, the feathers, still wrapped in the deerskin, are hung up in a small, round hut built for this special purpose near the edge of the dance ground (detsn'l) and known as the place "where the feathers are kept," or feather house. Some settlements had two such feather houses, one at each end of the dance ground.

The Eagle dance was held on the night of the same day on which the feathers were brought in, all the necessary arrangements having been made beforehand. In the meantime, as the feathers were supposed to be hungry after their journey, a dish of venison and corn was set upon the ground below them and they were invited to eat. The body of a flax bird or scarlet tanager (Piranga rubra) was also hung up with the feathers for the same purpose. The food thus given to the feathers was disposed of after the dance, as described in another place.

The eagle being regarded as a great ada'weh, only the greatest warriors and those versed in the sacred ordinances would dare to wear the feathers or to carry them in the dance. Should any person in the settlement dream of eagles or eagle feathers he must arrange for an Eagle dance, with the usual vigil and fasting, at the first opportunity; otherwise some one of his family will die. Should the insect parasites which infest the feathers of the bird in life get upon a man they will breed a skin disease which is sure to develop, even though it may be latent for years. It is for this reason that the body of the eagle is allowed to remain four days upon the ground before being brought into the settlement.

The raven (k'ln) is occasionally seen in the mountains, but is not prominent in folk belief, excepting in connection with the gruesome tales of the Raven Mocker (q. v.). In former times its name was sometimes assumed as a war title. The crow, so prominent in other tribal mythologies, does not seem to appear in that of the Cherokee.

Three varieties of owls are recognized, each under a different name, viz: tskl', the dusky horned owl (Bubo virginianus saturatus); u'guku', the barred or hooting owl (Syrnium nebulosum), and wa`huhu', the screech owl (Megascops asio). The first of these names signifies a witch, the others being onomatopes. Owls and other night-crying birds are believed to be embodied ghosts or disguised witches, and their cry is dreaded as a sound of evil omen. If the eyes of a child be bathed with water in which one of the long wing or tail feathers of an owl has been soaked, the child will be able to keep awake all night.

The feather must be found by chance, and not procured intentionally for the purpose. On the other hand, an application of water in which the feather of a blue jay, procured in the same way, has been soaked will make the child an early riser.

The buzzard (sul') is said to have had a part in shaping the earth, as was narrated in the genesis myth. It is reputed to be a doctor among birds, and is respected accordingly, although its feathers are never worn by ball players, for fear of becoming bald. Its own baldness is accounted for by a vulgar story. As it thrives upon carrion and decay, it is held to be immune from sickness, especially of a contagious character, and a small quantity of its flesh eaten, or of the soup used as a wash, is believed to be a sure preventive of smallpox, and was used for this purpose during the smallpox epidemic among the East Cherokee in 1866.

According to the Wahnenauhi manuscript, it is said also that a buzzard feather placed over the cabin door will keep out witches. In treating gunshot wounds, the medicine is blown into the wound through a tube cut from a buzzard quill and some of the buzzard's down is afterwards laid over the spot.

There is very little concerning hawks, excepting as regards the great mythic hawk, the Tl'nuw'. The tl'nuw' usdi', or "little tl'nuw,") is described as a bird about as large as a turkey and of a grayish blue color, which used to follow the flocks of wild pigeons, flying overhead and darting down occasionally upon a victim, which it struck and killed with its sharp breast and ate upon the wing, without alighting. It is probably the goshawk (Astur atricapillus).

The common swamp gallinule, locally known as mud hen or didapper (Gallinula galeata), is called diga'gwan' (lame or crippled), on account of its habit of flying only for a very short distance at a time. In the Diga'gwan dance the performers sing the name of the bird and endeavor to imitate its halting movements.

The dagl`k, or white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) appears in connection with the myth of the origin of tobacco. The feathers of the tskwy, the great white heron or American egret (Herodias egretta), are worn by ball players, and this bird probably the "swan" whose white wing was used as a peace emblem in ancient times.

A rare bird said to have been seen occasionally upon the reservation many years ago was called by the curious name of nd-dikan', "it looks at the sun," "sun-gazer." It is described as resembling a blue crane, and may possibly have been the Floridus cerulea, or little blue heron. Another infrequent visitor, which sometimes passed over the mountain country in company with flocks of wild geese, was the gu'wisguw', so called from its cry.

It is described as resembling a large snipe, with yellow legs and feet unwebbed, and is thought to visit Indian Territory at intervals. It is chiefly notable from the fact that the celebrated chief John Ross derives his Indian name, Gu'wisguw', from this bird, the name being perpetuated in Cooweescoowee district of the Cherokee Nation in the West.

Another chance visitant, concerning which there is much curious speculation among the older men of the East Cherokee, was called tsun'digwntsu'`g or tsun'digwn'tsk, "forked," referring to the tail. It appeared but once, for a short season, about forty years ago, and has not been seen since. It is said to have been pale blue, with red in places, and nearly the size of a crow, and to have had a long forked tail like that of a fish.

It preyed upon hornets, which it took upon the wing, and also feasted upon the larva in the nests. Appearing unexpectedly and as suddenly disappearing, it was believed to be not a bird but a transformed red-horse fish (Moxostoma, Cherokee lig'), a theory borne out by the red spots and the long, forked tail.

It is even maintained that about the time those birds first appeared some hunters on Oconaluftee saw seven of them sitting on the limb of a tree and they were still shaped like a red-horse, although they already had wings and feathers. It was undoubtedly the scissor-tail or swallow-tailed flycatcher (Milvulus forficatus), which belongs properly in Texas and the adjacent region, but strays occasionally into the eastern states.

On account of the red throat appendage of the turkey, somewhat resembling the goitrous growth known in the South as "kernels" (Cherokee, dule'ts), the feathers of this bird are not worn by ball players, neither is the neck allowed to be eaten by children or sick persons, under the fear that a growth of "kernels" would be the result. The meat of the ruffed grouse, locally known as the pheasant (Bonasa umbellus), is taboo to a pregnant woman, because this bird hatches a large brood, but loses most of them before maturity. Under a stricter construction of the theory this meat is forbidden to a woman until she is past child bearing.

The redbird, tatsu'hw, is believed to have been originally the daughter of the Sun (see the story). The huhu, or yellow mockingbird, occurs in several stories. It is regarded as something supernatural, possibly on account of its imitative powers, and its heart is given to children to make them quick to learn.

The chickadee (Parus carolinensis), and the tufted titmouse, (Parus bicolor), utsu'`g, or u'stt, are both regarded as news bringers, but the one is venerated as a truth teller while the other is scoffed at as a lying messenger, for reasons which appear in the story of Nyunu'w (q. v.).

When the tsklil' perches on a branch near the house and chirps its song it is taken as an omen that an absent friend will soon be heard from or that a secret enemy is plotting mischief. Many stories are told in confirmation of this belief, among which may be instanced that of Tom Starr, a former noted outlaw of the Cherokee Nation of the West, who, on one occasion, was about to walk unwittingly into an ambush prepared for him along a narrow trail, when he heard the warning note of the tsklil', and, turning abruptly, ran up the side of the ridge and succeeded in escaping with his life, although hotly pursued by his enemies.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Bride From The South
A Cherokee Legend

The North went traveling, and after going far and meeting many different tribes he finally fell in love with the daughter of the South and wanted to marry her.

The girl was willing, but her parents objected and said, "Ever since you came the weather has been cold, and if you stay here we may all freeze to death."

The North pleaded hard, and said that if they would let him have their daughter he would take her back to his own country, so at last they consented. They were married and he took his bride to his own country, and when she arrived there she found the people all living in ice houses.

The next day, when the sun rose, the houses began to leak, and as it climbed higher they began to melt, and it grew warmer and warmer, until finally the people came to the young husband and told him he must send his wife home again, or the weather would get so warm that the whole settlement would be melted.

He loved his wife and so held out as long as he could, but as the sun grew hotter the people were more urgent, and at last he had to send her home to her parents.

The people said that as she had been born in the South, and nourished all her life upon food that grew in the same climate, her whole nature was warm and unfit for the North.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Bullfrog Lover
A Cherokee Legend

A young man courted a girl, who liked him well enough, but her mother was so much opposed to him that she would not let him come near the house.

At last he made a trumpet from the handle of a gourd and hid himself after night near the spring until the old woman came down for water. While she was dipping up the water he put the trumpet to his lips and grumbled out in a deep voice like a bullfrog's:

Yadaska'g hyahu'sk, (The faultfinder will die) Yadaska'g hyahu'sk, (The faultfinder will die)

The woman thought it a witch bullfrog, and was so frightened that she dropped her dipper and ran back to the house to tell the people They all agreed that it was a warning to her to stop interfering with her daughter's affairs, so she gave her consent, and thus the young man won his wife.

There is another story of a girl who, every day when she went down to the spring for water, heard a voice singing, Knu'n t'tsahyes', Knu'n t'tsahyes', "A bullfrog will marry you, A bullfrog will marry you."

She wondered much until one day when she came down she saw sitting on a stone by the spring a bullfrog, which suddenly took the form of a young man and asked her to marry him. She consented and took him back with her to the house.

But although he had the shape of a man there was a queer bullfrog look about his face, so that the girl's family hated him and at last persuaded her to send him away.

She told him and he went away, but when they next went down to the spring they heard a voice: Ste'ts tya'hus, Ste'ts tya'hus, "Your daughter will die, Your daughter will die," and so it happened soon after.

As some tell it, the lover was a tadpole, who took on human shape, retaining only his tadpole mouth. To conceal it he constantly refused to eat with the family, but stood with his back to the fire and his face screwed up, pretending that he had a toothache.

At last his wife grew suspicious and turning him suddenly around to the firelight, exposed the tadpole mouth, at which they all ridiculed him so much that he left the house forever.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Daughter Of The Sun
A Cherokee Legend

The Sun lived on the other side of the sky vault, but her daughter lived in the middle of the sky, directly above the earth, and every day as the Sun was climbing along the sky arch to the west she used to stop at her daughter's house for dinner.

Now, the Sun hated the people on the earth, because they could never look straight at her without screwing up their faces. She said to her brother, the Moon, "My grandchildren are ugly; they grin all over their faces when they look at me." But the Moon said, "I like my younger brothers; I think they are very handsome "--because they always smiled pleasantly when they saw him in the sky at night, for his rays were milder.

The Sun was jealous and planned to kill all the people, so every day when she got near her daughter's house she sent down such sultry rays that there was a great fever and the people died by hundreds, until everyone had lost some friend and there was fear that no one would be left. They went for help to the Little Men, who said the only way to save themselves was to kill the Sun.

The Little Men made medicine and changed two men to snakes, the Spreading-adder and the Copperhead, and sent them to watch near the door of the daughter of the Sun to bite the old Sun when she came next day. They went together and bid near the house until the Sun came, but when the Spreading-adder was about to spring, the bright light blinded him and he could only spit out yellow slime, as he does to this day when he tries to bite. She called him a nasty thing and went by into the house, and the Copperhead crawled off without trying to do anything.

So the people still died from the heat, and they went to the Little Men a second time for help. The Little Men made medicine again and changed one man into the great Uktena and another into the Rattlesnake and sent them to watch near the house and kill the old Sun when she came for dinner.

They made the Uktena very large, with horns on his head, and everyone thought he would be sure to do the work, but the Rattlesnake was so quick and eager that he got ahead and coiled up just outside the house, and when the Sun's daughter opened the door to look out for her mother, he sprang up and bit her and she fell dead in the doorway. He forgot to wait for the old Sun, but went back to the people, and the Uktena was so very angry that he went back, too.

Since then we pray to the rattlesnake and do not kill him, because he is kind and never tries to bite if we do not disturb him. The Uktena grew angrier all the time and very dangerous, so that if he even looked at a man, that man's family would die. After a long time the people held a council and decided that he was too dangerous to be with them, so they sent him up to Gl'lt, and he is there now. The Spreading-adder, the Copperhead, the Rattlesnake, and the Uktena were all men.

When the Sun found her daughter dead, she went into the house and grieved, and the people did not die any more, but now the world was dark all the time, because the Sun would not come out. They went again to the Little Men, and these told them that if they wanted the Sun to come out again they must bring back her daughter from Tssgin', the Ghost country, in Us'hi'y, the Darkening land in the west. They chose seven men to go, and gave each a sourwood rod a hand-breadth long.

The Little Men told them they must take a box with them, and when they got to Tssgin' they would find all the ghosts at a dance. They must stand outside the circle, and when the young woman passed in the dance they must strike her with the rods and she would fall to the ground. Then they must put her into the box and bring her back to her mother, but they must be very sure not to open the box, even a little way, until they were home again.

They took the rods and a box and traveled seven days to the west until they came to the Darkening land. There were a great many people there, and they were having a dance just as if they were at home in the settlements. The young woman was in the outside circle, and as she swung around to where the seven men were standing, one struck her with his rod and she turned her head and saw him.

As she came around the second time another touched her with his rod, and then another and another, until at the seventh round she fell out of the ring, and they put her into the box and closed the lid fast. The other ghosts seemed never to notice what had happened.

They took up the box and started home toward the east. In a little while the girl came to life again and begged to be let out of the box, but they made no answer and went on. Soon she called again and said she was hungry, but still they made no answer and went on.

After another while she spoke again and called for a drink and pleaded so that it was very hard to listen to her, but the men who carried the box said nothing and still went on. When at last they were very near home, she called again and begged them to raise the lid just a little, because she was smothering.

They were afraid she was really dying now, so they lifted the lid a little to give her air, but as they did so there was a fluttering sound inside and something flew past them into the thicket and they heard a redbird cry, "kwish! kwish! kwish!" in the bushes. They shut down the lid and went on again to the settlements, but when they got there and opened the box it was empty.

So we know the Redbird is the daughter of the Sun, and if the men had kept the box closed, as the Little Men told them to do, they would have brought her home safely, and we could bring back our other friends also from the Ghost country, but now when they die we can never bring them back.

The Sun had been glad when they started to the Ghost country, but when they came back without her daughter she grieved and cried, "My daughter, my daughter," and wept until her tears made a flood upon the earth, and the people were afraid the world would be drowned. They held another council, and sent their handsomest young men and women to amuse her so that she would stop crying.

They danced before the Sun and sang their best songs, but for a long time she kept her face covered and paid no attention, until at last the drummer suddenly changed the song, when she lifted up her face, and was so pleased at the sight that she forgot her grief and smiled.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Deluge
A Cherokee Legend

A long time ago a man had a dog, which began to go down to the river every day and look at the water and howl. At last the man was angry and scolded the dog, which then spoke to him and said: "Very soon there is going to be a great freshet."

Then he said, "The water will come so high that everybody will be drowned; but if you will make a raft to get upon when the rain comes you can be saved, but you must first throw me into the water."

The man did not believe it, and the dog said, "If you want a sign that I speak the truth, look at the back of my neck." He looked and saw that the dog's neck had the skin worn off so that the bones stuck out.

Then he believed the dog, and began to build a raft. Soon the rain came and he took his family, with plenty of provisions and they all got upon it. It rained for a long time, and the water rose until the mountains were covered and all the people in the world were drowned.

Then the rain stopped and the waters went down again, until at last it was safe to come off the raft. Now there was no one alive but the man and his family, but one day they heard a sound of dancing and shouting on the other side of the ridge.

The man climbed to the top and looked over; everything was still, but all along the valley he saw great piles of bones of the people who had been drowned, and then he knew that the ghosts had been dancing.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Eagle's Revenge
A Cherokee Legend

Once a hunter in the mountains heard a noise at night like a rushing wind outside the cabin, and on going out he found that an eagle had just alighted on the drying pole and was tearing at the body of a deer hanging there.

Without thinking of the danger, he shot the eagle. In the morning he took the deer and started back to the settlement, where he told what he had done, and the chief sent out some men to bring in the eagle and arrange for an Eagle dance. They brought back the dead eagle, everything was made ready, and that night they started the dance in the townhouse.

About midnight there was a whoop outside and a strange warrior came into the circle and began to recite his exploits. No one knew him, but they thought he had come from one of the farther Cherokee towns.

He told how he had killed a man, and at the end of the story he gave a hoarse yell, Hi! that startled the whole company, and one of the seven men with the rattles fell over dead. He sang of another deed, and at the end straightened up with another loud yell. A second rattler fell dead, and the people were so full of fear that they could not stir from their places.

Still he kept on, and at every pause there came again that terrible scream, until the last of the seven rattlers fell dead, and then the stranger went out into the darkness. Long afterward they learned from the eagle killer that it was the brother of the eagle shot by the hunter.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The First Fire
A Cherokee Legend

In the beginning of the world, there was no fire. The animal people were often cold. Only the Thunders, who lived in the world beyond the sky arch, had fire. At last they sent Lightning down to an island.

Lightning put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree.

The animal people knew that the fire was there, because they could see smoke rising from the top of the tree. But they could not get to it on account of the water. So they held a council to decide what to do.

Everyone that could fly or could swim was eager to go after the fire. Raven said, "Let me go. I am large and strong."

At that time Raven was white. He flew high and far across the water and reached the top of the sycamore tree. While he sat there wondering what to do, the heat scorched all his feathers black. The frightened Raven flew home without the fire, and his feathers have been black ever since.

Then the council sent Screech Owl. He flew to the island. But while he was looking down into the hollow tree, a blast of hot air came up and nearly burned out his eyes. He flew home and to this day, Screech Owl's eyes are red.

Then Hooting Owl and Horned Owl were sent to the island together. But the smoke nearly blinded them, and the ashes carried up by the wind made white rings about their eyes. They had to come home, and were never able to get rid of the white rings.

Then Little Snake swam across to the island, crawled through the grass to the tree, and entered it through a small hole at the bottom. But the smoke and the heat were too much for him, too. He escaped alive, but his body had been scorched black. And it was so twisted that he doubled on his track as if always trying to escape from a small space.

Big Snake, the climber, offered to go for fire, but he fell into the burning stump and became as black as Little Snake. He has been the great blacksnake ever since.

At last Water Spider said that she would go. Water Spider has black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She could run on top of water and she could dive to the bottom. She would have no trouble in getting to the island.

"But you are so little, how will you carry enough fire?" the council asked.

"I'll manage all right," answered Water Spider. "I can spin a web." so she spun a thread from her body and wove it into a little bowl and fastened the little bowl on her back. Then she crossed over to the island and through the grass. She put one little coal of fire into her bowl and brought it across to the people.

Every since, we have had fire. And the Water Spider still has her little bowl on her back.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Four-footed Tribes
A Cherokee Legend

In Cherokee mythology, as in that of Indian tribes generally, there is no essential difference between men and animals. In the primal genesis period they seem to be completely undifferentiated.

We find all creatures alike living and working together in harmony and mutual helpfulness until man, by his aggressiveness and disregard for the rights of the others, provokes their hostility, when insects, birds, fishes, reptiles, and four-footed beasts join forces against him (see story, "Origin of Disease and Medicine").

Henceforth their lives are apart, but the difference is always one of degree only. The animals, like the people, are organized into tribes and have like them their chiefs and townhouses, their councils and ball plays, and the same hereafter in the Darkening land of Us'hi'y.

Man is still the paramount power, and hunts and slaughters the others as his own necessities compel, but is obliged to satisfy the animal tribes in every instance, very much as a murder is compounded for, according to the Indian system, by "covering the bones of the dead" with presents for the bereaved relatives.

This pardon to the hunter is made the easier through a peculiar doctrine of reincarnation, according to which, as explained by the shamans, there is assigned to every animal a definite life term which can not be curtailed by violent means. If it is killed before the expiration of the allotted time the death is only temporary and the body is immediately resurrected in its proper shape from the blood drops, and the animal continues its existence until the end of the predestined period, when the body is finally dissolved and the liberated spirit goes to join its kindred shades in the Darkening land.

This idea appears in the story of the bear man and in the belief concerning the Little Deer. Death is thus but a temporary accident and the killing a mere minor crime. By some priests it is held that there are seven successive reanimations before the final end.

Certain supernatural personages, Kana't and Tsul`kl' (see the myths), have dominion over the animals, and are therefore regarded as the distinctive gods of the hunter. Kana't at one time kept the game animals, as well as the pestiferous insects, shut up in a cave under ground, from which they were released by his undutiful sons.

The primeval animals-the actors in the animal myths and the predecessors of the existing species-are believed to have been much larger, stronger, and cleverer than their successors of the present day. In these myths we find the Indian explanation of certain peculiarities of form, color, or habit, and the various animals are always consistently represented as acting in accordance with their well-known characteristics.

First and most prominent in the animal myths is the Rabbit (Tsistu), who figures always as a trickster and deceiver, generally malicious, but often beaten at his own game by those whom he had intended to victimize. The connection of the rabbit with the dawn god and the relation of the Indian myths to the stories current among the southern negroes are discussed in another place.

Ball players while in training are forbidden to eat the flesh of the rabbit, because this animal so easily becomes confused in running. On the other hand, their spies seek opportunity to strew along the path which must be taken by their rivals a soup made of rabbit hamstrings, with the purpose of rendering them timorous in action.

In a ball game between the birds and the four-footed animals the Bat, which took sides with the birds, is said to have won the victory for his party by his superior dodging abilities. For this reason the wings or sometimes the stuffed skin of the bat are tied to the implements used in the game to insure success for the players. According to the same myth the Flying Squirrel (Tewa) also aided in securing the victory, and hence both these animals are still invoked by the ball player.

The meat of the common gray squirrel (sl'l) is forbidden to rheumatic patients, on account of the squirrel's habit of assuming a cramped position when eating. The stripes upon the back of the ground squirrel (kiyu`ga) are the mark of scratches made by the angry animals at a memorable council in which he took it upon himself to say a good word for the archenemy, man.

The peculiarities of the mink (sg) are accounted for by another story.

The buffalo, the largest game animal of America, was hunted in the southern Allegheny region until almost the close of the last century, the particular species being probably that known in the West as the wood or mountain buffalo. The name in use among the principal gulf tribes was practically the same, and can not be analyzed, viz, Cherokee, ys'; Hichitee, ya'nasi; Creek, yna'sa; Choctaw, yanash.

Although the flesh of the buffalo was eaten, its skin dressed for blankets and bed coverings, its long hair woven into belts, and its horns carved into spoons, it is yet strangely absent from Cherokee folklore. So far as is known it is mentioned in but a single one of the sacred formulas, in which a person under treatment for rheumatism is forbidden to eat the meat, touch the skin, or use a spoon made from the horn of the buffalo, upon the ground of an occult connection between the habitual cramped attitude of a rheumatic and the natural "hump" of that animal.

The elk is known, probably by report, under the name of a`w e'gwa, "great deer", but there is no myth or folklore in connection with it.

The deer, a`w', which is still common in the mountains, was the principal dependence of the Cherokee hunter, and is consequently prominent in myth, folklore, and ceremonial. One of the seven gentes of the tribe is named from it (Ani'-Kaw', "Deer People"). According to a myth given elsewhere, the deer won his horns in a successful race with the rabbit. Rheumatism is usually ascribed to the work of revengeful deer ghosts, which the hunter has neglected to placate, while on the other hand the aid of the deer is invoked against frostbite, as its feet are believed to be immune from injury by frost.

The wolf, the fox, and the opossum are also invoked for this purpose, and for the same reason. When the redroot (Ceanothus americanus) puts forth its leaves the people say the young fawns are then in the mountains. On killing a deer the hunter always cuts out the hamstring from the hind quarter and throws it away, for fear that if he ate it he would thereafter tire easily in traveling.

The powerful chief of the deer tribe is the A`w' Usdi', or "Little Deer," who is invisible to all except the greatest masters of the hunting secrets, and can be wounded only by the hunter who has supplemented years of occult study with frequent fasts and lonely vigils. The Little Deer keeps constant protecting watch over his subjects, and sees well to it that not one is ever killed in wantonness. When a deer is shot by the hunter the Little Deer knows it at once and is instantly at the spot.

Bending low his head he asks of the blood stains upon the ground if they have heard--i.e., if the hunter has asked pardon for the life that he has taken. If the formulistic prayer has been made, all is well, because the necessary sacrifice has been atoned for; but if otherwise, the Little Deer tracks the hunter to his house by the blood drops along the trail, and, unseen and unsuspected, puts into his body the spirit of rheumatism that shall rack him with aches and pains from that time henceforth.

As seen at rare intervals--perhaps once in a long lifetime-the Little Deer is pure white and about the size of a small dog, has branching antlers, and is always in company with a large herd of deer. Even though shot by the master hunter, he comes to life again, being immortal, but the fortunate huntsman who can thus make prize of his antlers has in them an unfailing talisman that brings him success in the chase forever after.

The smallest portion of one of those horns of the Little Deer, when properly consecrated, attracts the deer to the hunter, and when exposed from the wrapping dazes them so that they forget to run and thus become an easy prey. Like the Uls't stone, it is a dangerous prize when not treated with proper respect, and is--or was--kept always in a secret place away from the house to guard against sacrilegious handling.

Somewhat similar talismanic power attached to the down from the young antler of the deer when properly consecrated. So firm was the belief that it had influence over "anything about a deer" that eighty and a hundred years ago even white traders used to bargain with the Indians for such charms in order to increase their store of deerskins by drawing the trade to themselves. The faith in the existence of the miraculous Little Deer is almost as strong and universal to-day among the older Cherokee as is the belief in a future life.

The bears (yn) are transformed Cherokee of the old clan of the Ani'-Ts'gh (see story, "Origin of the Bear"). Their chief is the White Bear, who lives at Kuw'h, "Mulberry place," one of the high peaks of the Great Smoky mountains, near to the enchanted lake of Atag'h (see number 69), to which the wounded bears go to be cured of their hurts.

Under Kuw'h and each of three other peaks in the same mountain region the bears have townhouses, where they congregate and hold dances every fall before retiring to their dens for the winter. Being really human, they can talk if they only would, and once a mother bear was heard singing to her cub in words which the hunter understood. There is one variety known as kals'-gnhi'ta, "long hams," described as a large black bear with long legs and small feet, which is always lean, and which the hunter does not care to shoot, possibly on account of its leanness. It is believed that new-born cubs are hairless, like mice.

The wolf (wa'`ya) is revered as the hunter and watchdog of Kana't, and the largest gens in the tribe bears the name of Ani'-wa'`ya, "Wolf people."

The ordinary Cherokee will never kill one if he can possibly avoid it, but will let the animal go by unharmed, believing that the kindred of a slain wolf will surely revenge his death, and that the weapon with which the deed is done will be rendered worthless for further shooting until cleaned and exercised by a medicine man. Certain persons, however, having knowledge of the proper atonement rites, may kill wolves with impunity, and are hired for this purpose by others who have suffered from raids upon their fish traps or their stock.

Like the eagle killer, the professional wolf killer, after killing one of these animals, addresses to it a prayer in which he seeks to turn aside the vengeance of the tribe by laying the burden of blame upon the people of some other settlement. He then unscrews the barrel of his gun and inserts into it seven small sourwood rods heated over the fire, and allows it to remain thus overnight in the running stream; in the morning the rods are taken out and the barrel is thoroughly dried and cleaned.

The dog (gi`l'), although as much a part of Indian life among the Cherokee as in other tribes, hardly appears in folklore. One myth makes him responsible for the milky way; another represents him as driving the wolf from the comfortable house fire and taking the place for himself. He figures also in connection with the deluge.

There is no tradition of the introduction of the horse (s'gwl, from as'gwlih', from "a pack or burden") or of the cow (wa'`ka, from the Spanish, vaca). The hog is called, skw, this being originally the name of the opossum, which somewhat resembles it in expression, and which is now distinguished as skw utse'tst, "grinning skw". In the same way the sheep, another introduced animal, is called a`w' unde'na, "woolly deer"; the goat, a`w' ahnu'lh, "bearded deer," and the mule, "s'gw'l dig'lanhi'ta", "long-eared horse." The cat, also obtained from the whites, is called wes, an attempt at the English "pussy."

When it purrs by the fireside, the children say it is counting in Cherokee, "ta'ladu', n'g, ta'ladu', n'g," "sixteen, four, sixteen, four." The elephant, which a few of the Cherokee have seen in shows, is called by them kma'm u'tn, "great butterfly," from the supposed resemblance of its long trunk and flapping ears to the proboscis and wings of that insect.

The anatomical peculiarities of the opossum, of both sexes, are the subject of much curious speculation among the Indians, many of whom believe that its young are produced without any help from the male. It occurs in one or two of the minor myths.

The fox (tsu'`l) is mentioned in one of the formulas, but does no appear in the tribal folklore. The black fox is known by a different name (in'l). The odor of the skunk (dl') is believed to keep off contagious diseases, and the scent bag is therefore taken out and hung over the doorway, a small hole being pierced in it in order that the contents may ooze out upon the timbers.

At times, as in the smallpox epidemic of 1866, the entire body of the animal was thus hung up, and in some cases, as an additional safeguard, the meat was cooked and eaten and the oil rubbed over the skin of the person. The underlying idea is that the fetid smell repels the disease spirit, and upon the same principle the buzzard, which is so evidently superior to carrion smells, is held to be powerful against the same diseases.

The beaver (d'y), by reason of its well-known gnawing ability, against which even the hardest wood is not proof, is invoked on behalf of young children just getting their permanent teeth. According to the little formula which is familiar to nearly every mother in the tribe, when the loosened milk tooth is pulled out or drops out of itself, the child runs with it around the house, repeating four times, "D'y, sknt' (Beaver, put a new tooth into my jaw)" after which he throws the tooth upon the roof of the house.

In a characteristic song formula to prevent frostbite the traveler, before starting out on a cold winter morning, rubs his feet in the ashes of the fire and sings a song of four verses, by means of which, according to the Indian idea, he acquires in turn the cold-defying powers of the wolf, deer, fox, and opossum, four animals whose feet, it is held, are never frostbitten. After each verse he imitates the cry and the action of the animal. The words used are archaic in form and may be rendered "I become a real wolf," etc. The song runs:

Ts'wa'`ya-ya' (repeated four times), wa a! (prolonged howl). (Imitates a wolf pawing the ground with his feet.)

Ts'-ka'wi-ye' (repeated four times), sauh! sauh! sauh! sauh! (Imitates call and jumping of a deer.)

Ts'-tsu'`la-ya' (repeated four times), gaih! gaih! gaih! gaih! (Imitates barking and scratching of a fox.)

Ts'-s'kwa-ya' (repeated four times), k. (Imitates the cry of an opossum when cornered, and throws his head back as that animal does when feigning death.)

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Great Leech Of Tlanusi'yi
A Cherokee Legend

The spot where Valley river joins Hiwassee, at Murphy, in North Carolina, is known among the Cherokees as Tlanusi'y, "The Leech place," and this is the story they tell of it:

Just above the junction is a deep hole in Valley river, and above it is a ledge of rock running across the stream, over which people used to go as on a bridge. On the south side the trail ascended a high bank, from which they could look down into the water. One day some men going along the trail saw a great red object, full as large as a house, lying on the rock ledge in the middle of the stream below them.

As they stood wondering what it could be they saw it unroll--and then they knew it was alive--and stretch itself out along the rock until it looked like a great leech with red and white stripes along its body. It rolled up into a ball and again stretched out at full length, and at last crawled down the rock and was out of sight in the deep water.

The water began to boil and foam, and a great column of white spray was thrown high in the air and came down like a waterspout upon the very spot where the men had been standing,. and would have swept them all into the water but that they saw it in time and ran from the place.

More than one person was carried down in this way, and their friends would find the body afterwards lying upon the bank with the ears and nose eaten off, until at last the people were afraid to go across the ledge any more, on account of the great leech, or even to go along that part of the trail.

But there was one young fellow who laughed at the whole story, and said that he was not afraid of anything in Valley river, as he would show them. So one day he painted his face and put on his finest buckskin and started off toward the river, while all the people followed at a distance to see what might happen.

Down the trail he went and out upon the ledge of rock, singing in high spirits:

Tlanu'si ge'ga digi'gge (I'll tie red leech skins)
Dakwa'nitlaste'st (On my legs for garters)

But before he was half way across the water began to boil into white foam and a great wave rose and swept over the rock and carried him down, and he was never seen again.

Just before the Removal, sixty years ago, two women went out upon the ledge to fish. Their friends warned them of the danger, but one woman who had her baby on her back said, "There are fish there and I'm going to have some; I'm tired of this fat meat." She laid the child down on the rock and was preparing the line when the water suddenly rose and swept over the ledge, and would have carried off the child but that the mother ran in time to save it.

The great leech is still there in the deep hole, because when people look down they see something alive moving about on the bottom, and although they can not distinguish its shape on account of the ripples on the water, yet they know it is the leech.

Some say there is an underground waterway across to Nottely river, not far above the mouth, where the river bends over toward Murphy, and sometimes the leech goes over there and makes the water boil as it used to at the rock ledge. They call this spot on Nottely "The Leech place" also.

They came near the settlement the man told the hunters that he must be shut up where no one could see him, without anything to eat or drink for seven days and nights, until the bear nature had left him and he became like a man again. So they shut him up alone in a house and tried to keep very still about it, but the news got out and his wife heard of it.

She came for her husband, but the people would not let her near him; but she came every day and begged so hard that at last after four or five days they let her have him. She took him home with her, but in a short time he died, because he still had a bear's nature and could not live like a man. If they had kept him shut up and fasting until the end of the seven days he would have become a man again and would have lived.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Haunted Whirlpool
A Cherokee Legend

At the mouth of Suck creek, on the Tennessee, about 8 miles below Chattanooga, is a series of dangerous whirlpools, known as "The Suck," and noted among the Cherokee as the place where tsaiy', the gambler, lived long ago.

They call it 'tiguh', "Pot-in-the-water," on account of the appearance of the surging, tumbling water, suggesting a boiling pot. They assert that in the old times the whirlpools were intermittent in character, and the canoe men attempting to pass the spot used to hug the bank, keeping constantly on the alert for signs of a coming eruption, and when they saw the water begin to revolve more rapidly would stop and wait until it became quiet again before attempting to proceed.

It happened once that two men, going down the river in a canoe, as they came near this place saw the water circling rapidly ahead of them. They pulled up to the bank to wait until it became smooth again, but the whirlpool seemed to approach with wider and wider circles, until they were drawn into the vortex.

They were thrown out of the canoe and carried down under the water, where one man was seized by a great fish and was never seen again. The other was taken round and round down to the very lowest center of the whirlpool, when another circle caught him and bore him outward and upward until he was finally thrown up again to the surface and floated out into the shallow water, whence he made his escape to shore.

He told afterwards that when he reached the narrowest circle of the maelstrom the water seemed to open below him and he could look down as through the roof beams of a house, and there on the bottom of the river he had seen a great company of people, who looked up and beckoned to him to join them, but as they put up their hands to seize him the swift current caught him and took him out of their reach.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Huhu Gets Married
A Cherokee Legend

A widow who had an only daughter, but no son, found it very hard to make a living and was constantly urging upon the young woman that they ought to have a man in the family, who would be a good hunter and able to help in the field.

One evening a stranger lover came courting to the house, and when the girl told him that she could marry only one who was a good worker, he declared that he was exactly that sort of man; so the girl talked to her mother, and on her advice they were married.

The next morning the widow gave her new son-in-law a hoe and sent him out to the cornfield. When breakfast was ready she went to call him, following a sound as of some one hoeing on stony soil, but when she came to the spot she found only a small circle of hoed ground and no sign of her son-in-law. Away over in the thicket she heard a huhu calling.

He did not come in for dinner, either, and when he returned home in the evening the old woman asked him where he had been all day. "Hard at work," said he. "But I didn't see you when I came to call you to breakfast." "I was down in the thicket cutting sticks to mark off the field," said he. "But why didn't you come in to dinner?" "I was too busy working," said he. So the old woman was satisfied, and they had their supper together.

Early next morning he started off with his hoe over his shoulder. When breakfast was ready the old woman went again to call him, but found no sign of him, only the hoe lying there and no work done. And away over in the thicket a huhu was calling, "Sau-h! sau-h! sau-h! hu! hu! hu! hu! hu! hu! chi! chi! chi!--whew!"

She went back to the house, and when at last he came home in the evening she asked him again what he had been doing all day. "Working hard," said he. "But you were not there when I came after you." "O, I just went over in the thicket a while to see some of my kinsfolk," said he. Then the old woman said, "I have lived here a long time and there is nothing living in the swamp but huhus. My daughter wants a husband that can work and not a lazy huhu; so you may go." And she drove him from the house.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Hunter and the Dakwa
A Cherokee Legend

In the old days there was a great fish called the Dakwa which lived in the Tennessee River near the mouth of Toco Creek. This fish was so large that it could easily swallow a man.

One day several hunters were traveling in a canoe along the Tennessee when the Dakwa suddenly rose up under the canoe and threw them all into the air. As the men came down, the fish swallowed one with a single snap of its jaws, and dived with him to the bottom of the river.

This man was one of the bravest hunters in the tribe, and as soon as he discovered where he was he began thinking of some way to overcome the Dakwa and escape from its stomach. Except for a few scratches and bruises, the hunter had not been hurt, but it was so hot and airless inside the big fish that he feared he would soon smother.

As he groped around in the darkness, his hands found some mussel shells which the Dakwa had swallowed. These shells had very sharp edges. Using one of them as a knife, the hunter began cutting away at the fish's stomach.

Soon the Dakwa grew uneasy at the scraping inside his stomach and came up to the surface of the river for air. The man kept on cutting with the shell until the fish was in such pain that it swam wildly back and forth across the river, thrashing the water into foam with its tail.

At last the hunter cut through the Dakwa's side. Water flowed in, almost drowning the man, but the big fish was so weary by this time that it came to a stop. The hunter looked out of the hole and saw that the Dakwa was now resting in shallow water near the riverbank.

Reaching up, the man pulled himself through the hole in the fish, moving very carefully so as not to disturb the Dakwa. He then waded ashore and returned to his village, where his friends were mourning his death because they were sure he had been eaten by the great fish.

Now they named him a hero and held a celebration in his honor. Although the brave hunter escaped with his life, the juices in the stomach of the Dakwa had scalded all the hair from his head, and he was bald forever after.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Hunter And Selu
A Cherokee Legend

A hunter had been tramping over the mountains all day long without finding any game and when the sun went down, he built a fire in a hollow stump, swallowed a few mouthfuls of corn gruel and lay down to sleep, tired out and discouraged.

About the middle of the night he dreamed and seemed to hear the sound of beautiful singing, which continued until near daybreak and then appeared to die away into the upper air.

All next day he hunted with the same poor success, and at night made his lonely camp again, in the woods. He slept and the strange dream came to him again, but so vividly that it seemed to him like an actual happening. Rousing himself before daylight, he still heard the song, and feeling sure now that it was real, he went in the direction of the sound and found that it came from a single green stalk of corn (selu). The plant spoke to him, and told him to cut off some of its roots and take them to his home in the settlement, and the next morning to chew them and "go to water" before anyone else was awake, and then to go out again into the woods, and he would kill many deer and from that time on would always be successful in the hunt. The corn plant continued to talk, teaching him hunting secrets and telling him always to be generous with the game he took, until it was noon and the sun was high, when it suddenly took the form of a woman and rose gracefully into the air and was gone from sight, leaving the hunter alone in the woods.

He returned home and told his story, and all the people knew that he had seen Selu, the wife of Kana't. He did as the spirit had directed, and from that time was noted as the most successful of all the hunters in the settlement.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Hunter And The Buzzard
A Cherokee Legend

A hunter had been all day looking for deer in the mountains without success until he was completely tired out and sat down on a log to rest and wonder what he should do, when a buzzard--a bird which always has magic powers--came flying overhead and spoke to him, asking him what was his trouble.

When the hunter had told his story the buzzard said there were plenty of deer on the ridges beyond if only the hunter were high up in the air where he could see them, and proposed that they exchange forms for a while, when the buzzard would go home to the hunter's wife while the hunter would go to look for deer.

The hunter agreed, and the buzzard became a man and went home to the hunter's wife, who received him as her husband, while the hunter became a buzzard and flew off over the mountain to locate the deer. After staying some time with the woman, who thought always it was her real husband, the buzzard excused himself, saying he must go again to look for game or they would have nothing to eat. He came to the place where he had first met the hunter, and found him already there, still in buzzard form, awaiting him.

He asked the hunter what success he had had, and the hunter replied that he had found several deer over the ridge, as the buzzard had said. Then the buzzard restored the hunter to human shape, and became himself a buzzard again and flew away. The hunter went where he had seen the deer and killed several, and from that time he never returned empty-handed from the woods.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Hunter And The Tla'nuwa
A Cherokee Legend

A hunter out in the woods one day saw a Tla'nuwa overhead and tried to hide from it, but the great bird had already seen him, and sweeping down struck its claws into his hunting pack and carried him far up into the air.

As it flew, the Tl'nuw, which was another bird, spoke and told the hunter that he need not be afraid, as she would not hurt him, but only wanted him to stay for a while with her young ones to guard them until they were old enough to leave the nest. At last they alighted at the mouth of a cave in the face of a steep cliff.

Inside the water was dripping from the roof, and at the farther end was a nest of sticks in which were two young birds. The old Tl'nuw set the hunter down and then flew away, returning soon with a fresh-killed deer, which it tore in pieces, giving the first piece to the hunter and then feeding the two young hawks.

The hunter stayed in the cave many days until the young birds were nearly grown, and every day the old mother hawk would fly away from the nest and return in the evening with a deer or a bear, of which she always gave the first piece to the hunter. He grew very anxious to see his home again, but the Tl'nuw kept telling him not to be uneasy, but to wait a little while longer.

At last he made up his mind to escape from the cave and finally studied out a plan. The next morning, after the old bird had gone, he dragged one of the young birds to the mouth of the cave and tied himself to one of its legs with a strap from his hunting pack. Then with the flat side of his tomahawk he struck it several times in the head until it was dazed and helpless, and pushed the bird and himself together off the shelf of rock into the air.

They fell far, far down toward the earth, but the air from below held up the bird's wings, so that it was almost as if they were flying. As the Tl'nuw revived it tried to fly upward toward the nest, but the hunter struck it again with his hatchet until it was dazed and dropped again.

At last they came down in the top of a poplar tree, when the hunter untied the strap from the leg of the young bird and let it fly away, first pulling out a feather from its wing. He climbed down from the tree and went to his home in the settlement, but when he looked in his pack for the feather he found a stone instead.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Hunter And The Uksu'hi
A Cherokee Legend

A man living down in Georgia came to visit some relatives at Hickory-log. He was a great hunter, and after resting in the house a day or two got ready to go into the mountains.

His friends warned him not to go toward the north, as in that direction, near a certain large uprooted tree, there lived a dangerous monster uksu'hi snake. It kept constant watch, and whenever it could spring upon an unwary hunter it would coil about him and crush out his life in its folds and then drag the dead body down the mountain side into a deep hole in Hiwassee.

He listened quietly to the warning, but all they said only made him the more anxious to see such a monster, so, without saying anything of his intention, he left the settlement and took his way directly up the mountain toward the north. Soon he came to the fallen tree and climbed upon the trunk, and there, sure enough, on the other side was the great uksu'hi stretched out in the grass, with its head raised, but looking the other way.

It was about so large [making a circle of a foot in diameter with his hands]. The frightened hunter got down again at once and started to run; but the snake had heard the noise and turned quickly and was after him. Up the ridge the hunter ran, the snake close behind him, then down the other side toward the river. With all his running the uksu'hi gained rapidly, and just as he reached the low ground it caught up with him and wrapped around him, pinning one arm down by his side, but leaving the other free.

Now it gave him a terrible squeeze that almost broke his ribs, and then began to drag him along toward the water. With his free hand the hunter clutched at the bushes as they passed, but the snake turned its head and blew its sickening breath into his face until he had to let go his hold. Again and again this happened, and all the time they were getting nearer to a deep hole in the river, when, almost at the last moment, a lucky thought came into the hunter's mind.

He was sweating all over from his hard run across the mountain, and suddenly remembered to have heard that snakes can not bear the smell of perspiration. Putting his free hand into his bosom he worked it around under his armpit until it was covered with perspiration. Then withdrawing it he grasped at a bush until the snake turned its head, when he quickly slapped his sweaty hand on its nose.

The uksu'hi cave one gasp almost as if it had been wounded, loosened its coil, and glided swiftly away through the bushes, leaving the hunter, bruised but not disabled, to make his way home to Hickory-log.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Ignorant Housekeeper
A Cherokee Legend

An old man whose wife had died lived alone with his son. One day he said to the young man, "We need a cook here, so you would better get married." So the young man got a wife and brought her home.

Then his father said, "Now we must work together and do all we can to help her. You go hunting and bring in the meat and I'll look after the corn and beans, and then she can cook."

The young man went into the woods to look for a deer and his father went out into the field to attend to the corn. When they came home at night they were hungry, and the young woman set out a bowl of walnut hominy (kan'talu'h) before them.

It looked queer, somehow, and when the old man examined it he found that the walnuts had been put in whole. "Why didn't you shell the walnuts and then beat up the kernels," said he to the young woman.

"I didn't know they had to be shelled," she replied.

Then the old. man said, "You think about marrying and you don't know how to cook," and he sent her away.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Journey To The Sunrise
A Cherokee Legend

A long time ago several young men made up their minds to find the place where the Sun lives and see what the Sun is like. They got ready their bows and arrows, their parched corn and extra moccasins, and started out toward the east.

At first they met tribes they knew, then they came to tribes they had only heard about, and at last to others of which they had never heard.

There was a tribe of root eaters and another of acorn eaters, with great piles of acorn shells near their houses. In one tribe they found a sick man dying, and were told it was the custom there when a man died to bury his wife in the same grave with him. They waited until he was dead, when they saw his friends lower the body into a great pit, so deep and dark that from the top they could not see the bottom.

Then a rope was tied around the woman's body, together with a bundle of pine knots, a lighted pine knot was put into her hand, and she was lowered into the pit to die there in the darkness after the last pine knot was burned.

The young men traveled on until they came at last to the sunrise place where the sky reaches down to the ground. They found that the sky was an arch or vault of solid rock hung above the earth and was always swinging up and down, so that when it went up there was an open place like a door between the sky and ground, and when it swung back the door was shut.

The Sun came out of this door from the east and climbed along on the inside of the arch. It had a human figure, but was too bright for them to see clearly and too hot to come very near. They waited until the Sun had come out and then tried to get through while the door was still open, but just as the first one was in the doorway the rock came down and crushed him.

The other six were afraid to try it, and as they were now at the end of the world they turned around and started back again, but they had traveled so far that they were old men when they reached home.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Katydid's Warning
A Cherokee Legend

Two hunters camping in the woods were preparing supper one night when a Katydid began singing near them. One of them said sneeringly, "K! It sings and don't know that it will die before the season ends."

The Katydid answered: "K! niw (onomatope); O, so you say; but you need not boast. You will die before tomorrow night."

The next day they were surprised by the enemy and the hunter who had sneered at the Katydid was killed.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Legend of The Cedar Tree
A Cherokee Legend

A long time ago when the Cherokee people were new upon the earth, they thought that life would be much better if there was never any night. They beseeched the Ouga (Creator) that it might be day all the time and that there would be no darkness.

The Creator heard their voices and made the night cease and it was day all the time.

Soon, the forest was thick with heavy growth. It became difficult to walk and to find the path. The people toiled in the gardens many long hours trying to keep the weeds pulled from among the corn and other food plants. It got hot, very hot, and continued that way day after long day. The people began to find it difficult to sleep and became short tempered and argued among themselves.

Not many days had passed before the people realized they had made a mistake and, once again, they beseeched the Creator.

"Please," they said, "we have made a mistake in asking that it be day all the time. Now we think that it should be night all the time."

The Creator paused at this new request and thought that perhaps the people may be right even though all things were created in twos... representing to us day and night, life and death, good and evil, times of plenty and those times of famine. The Creator loved the people and decided to make it night all the time as they had asked.

The day ceased and night fell upon the earth. Soon, the crops stopped growing and it became very cold. The people spent much of their time gathering wood for the fires. They could not see to hunt meat and with no crops growing it was not long before the people were cold, weak, and very hungry. Many of the people died.

Those that remained still living gathered once again to beseech the Creator. "Help us Creator," they cried! "We have made a terrible mistake. You had made the day and the night perfect, and as it should be, from the beginning. We ask that you forgive us and make the day and night as it was before."

Once again the Creator listened to the request of the people. The day and the night became, as the people had asked, as it had been in the beginning. Each day was divided between light and darkness. The weather became more pleasant, and the crops began to grow again. Game was plentiful and the hunting was good. The people had plenty to eat and there was not much sickness. The people treated each other with compassion and respect. It was good to be alive. The people thanked the Creator for their life and for the food they had to eat.

The Creator accepted the gratitude of the people and was glad to see them smiling again. However, during the time of the long days of night, many of the people had died, and the Creator was sorry that they had perished because of the night. The Creator placed their spirits in a newly created tree. This tree was named a-tsi-na tlu-gv {ah-see-na loo-guh} cedar tree.

When you smell the aroma of the cedar tree or gaze upon it standing in the forest, remember that if you are Tsalagi {Cherokee}, you are looking upon your ancestor.

Tradition holds that the wood of the cedar tree holds powerful protective spirits for the Cherokee. Many carry a small piece of cedar wood in their medicine bags worn around the neck. It is also placed above the entrances to the house to protect against the entry of evil spirits. A traditional drum would be made from cedar wood.

Does the author believe this? Well, lets just say that there is a piece of cedar in my medicine pouch and I wear it always. The Creator did not make the people because of loneliness, but because the Creator wanted to show generosity and love to the people. Accept the blessings and the gifts given and always give thanks for them.

As told by Jim Fox


The Legend Of Pilot Knob
A Cherokee Legend

In the old town of Knuga, on Pigeon river, there was a lazy fellow named Tsuwe'nh, who lived from house to house among his relatives and never brought home any game, although he used to spend nearly all his time in the woods.

At last his friends got very tired of keeping him, so he told them to get some parched corn ready for him and he would go and bring back a deer or else would never trouble them again.

They filled his pouch with parched corn, enough for along trip, and he started off for the mountains. Day after day passed until they thought they had really seen the last of him, but before the month was half gone he was back again at Knuga, with no deer, but with a wonderful story to tell.

He said that he had hardly turned away from the trail to go up the ridge when he met a stranger, who asked him where he was going. Tsuwe'nh answered that his friends in the settlement had driven him out because he was no good hunter, and that if he did not find a deer this time he would never go back again. "Why not come with me?" said the stranger, "my town is not far from here, and you have relatives there."

Tsuwe'nh was very glad of the chance, because he was ashamed to go back to his own town; so he went with the stranger, who took him to Tsuwa`tel'da (Pilot knob).

They came to a cave, and the other said, "Let us go in here;" but the cave ran clear to the heart of the mountain, and when they were inside the hunter found there an open country like a wide bottom land, with a great settlement and hundreds of people. They were all glad to see him. and brought him to their chief, who took him into his own house and showed him a seat near the fire. Tsuwe'nh sat down, but he felt it move under him, and when he looked again he saw that it was a turtle, with its head sticking out from the shell.

He jumped up, but the chief said, "It won't hurt you; it only wants to see who you are." So he sat down very carefully, and the turtle drew in its head again. They brought food of the same kind that he had been accustomed to at home, and when he had eaten the chief took him through the settlement until he had seen all the houses and talked with most of the people. When he had seen everything and had rested some days, he was anxious to get back to his home, so the chief himself brought him to the mouth of the cave and showed him the trail that led down to the river.

Then he said, "You are going back to the settlement, but you will never be satisfied there any more. Whenever you want to come to us, you know the way." The chief left him, Tsuwe'nh went down the mountain and along the river until he came to Knuga.

He told his story, but no one believed it and the people only laughed at him. After that he would go away very often and be gone for several days at a time, and when he came back to the settlement he would say he had been with the mountain people. At last one man said he believed the story and would go with him to see.

They went off together to the woods, where they made a camp, and then Tsuwe'nh went on ahead, saying he would be back soon, The other waited for him, doing a little hunting near the camp, and two nights afterwards Tsuwe'nh was back again. He seemed to be alone, but was talking as he came, and the other hunter heard girls' voices, although he could see no one.

When he came up to the fire he said, "I have two friends with me, and they say there is to be a dance in their town in two nights, and if you want to go they will come for you."

The hunter agreed at once, and Tsuwe'nh called out, as if to some one close by, "He says he will go." Then he said, "Our sisters have come for some venison." The hunter had killed a deer and had the meat drying over the fire, so he said, "What kind do they want?"

The voices answered, "Our mother told us to ask for some of the ribs," but still he could see nothing. He took down some rib pieces and -gave them to Tsuwe'nh, who took them and said, "In two days we shall come again for you." Then he started off, and the other heard the voices going through the woods until all was still again.

In two days Tsuwe'nh came, and this time he had two girls with him. As they stood near the fire the hunter noticed that their feet were short and round, almost like dogs' paws, but as soon as they saw him looking they sat down so that he could not see their feet. After supper the whole party left the camp and went up along the creek to Tsuwa`tel'da.

They went in through the cave door until they got to the farther end and could see houses beyond, when all at once the hunter's legs felt as if they were dead and he staggered and fell to the ground. The others lifted him up, but still he could not stand, until the medicine-man brought some "old tobacco" and rubbed it on his legs and made him smell it until he sneezed. Then he was able to stand again and went in with the others. He could not stand at first, because he had not prepared himself by fasting before he started.

The dance had not yet begun and Tsuwe'nh took the hunter into the townhouse and showed him a seat near the fire, but it had long thorns of honey locust sticking out from it and he was afraid to sit down. Tsuwe'nh told him not to be afraid, so he sat down and found that the thorns were as soft as down feathers.

Now the drummer came. in and the dancers, and the dance began. One man followed at the end of the line, crying K! K! all the time, but not dancing. The hunter wondered, and they told him, "This man was lost in the mountains and had been calling all through the woods for his friends until his voice failed and he was only able to pant K! K! and then we found him and took him in."

When it was over Tsuwe'nh and the hunter went back to the settlement. At the next dance in Knuga they told all they had seen at Tsuwa`tel'da, what a large town was there and how kind everybody was, and this time--because there were two of them--the people believed it. Now others wanted to go, but Tsuwe'nh told them they must first fast seven days, while he went ahead to prepare everything, and then he would come and bring them.

He went away and the others fasted, until at the end of seven days he came for them and they went with him to Tsuwa`tel'da, and their friends in the settlement never saw them again.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Man In The Stump
A Cherokee Legend

A man who had a field of growing corn went out one day to see how it was ripening and climbed a tall stump to get a better view. The stump was hollow and a bear had a nest of cubs in the bottom.

The man slipped and fell down upon the cubs, which set up such a squealing that the old she-bear heard them and came climbing down into the stump tail first, in bear fashion, to see what was the matter.

The man caught hold of her by the hind legs and the old bear was so frightened that she at once climbed out again, dragging the man, who thus got out of the stump, when the bear ran away.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Man Who Married The Thunder's Sister
A Cherokee Legend

In the old times the people used to dance often and all night. Once there was a dance at the old town of Skwi'y, on the head of Chattahoochee, and after it was well started two young women with beautiful long hair came in, but no one knew who they were, or whence they had come.

They danced with one partner and another, and in the morning slipped away before anyone knew that they were gone; but a young warrior had fallen in love with one of the sisters on account of her beautiful hair, and after the manner of the Cherokee had already asked her through an old man if she would marry him and let him live with her.

To this the young woman had replied that her brother at home must first be consulted, and they promised to return for the next dance seven days later with an answer, but in the meantime if the young man really loved her he must prove his constancy by a rigid fast until then. The eager lover readily agreed and impatiently counted the days.

In seven nights there was another dance. The young warrior was on hand early, and later in the evening the two sisters appeared as suddenly as before. They told him their brother was willing, and after the dance they would conduct the young man to their home, but warned him that if he told anyone where he went or what he saw he would surely die.

He danced with them again and about daylight the three came away just before the dance closed, so as to avoid being followed, and started off together. The women led the way along a trail through the woods, which the young man had never noticed before, until they came to a small creek, where, without hesitating, they stepped into the water.

The young man paused in surprise on the bank and thought to himself, "They are walking in the water; I don't want to do that." The women knew his thoughts just as though he had spoken and turned and said to him, "This is not water; this is the road to our house." He still hesitated, but they urged him on until he stepped into the water and found it was only soft grass that made a fine level trail.

They went on until the trail came to a large stream which he knew for Tallulah river. The women plunged boldly in, but again the warrior hesitated on the bank, thinking to himself, "That water is very deep and will drown me; I can't go on." They knew his thoughts and turned and said, "This is no water, but the main trail that goes past our house, which is now close by." He stepped in, and instead of water there was tall waving grass that closed above his head as he followed them.

They went only a short distance and came to a rock cave close under Ug'y (Tallulah falls). The women. entered, while the warrior stopped at the mouth; but they said: "This is our house; come in and our brother will soon be home; he is coming now." They heard low thunder in the distance. He went inside and stood tip close to the entrance. Then the women took off their long hair and hung it up on a rock, and both their heads were as smooth as a pumpkin. The man thought, "It is not hair at all," and he was more frightened than ever.

The younger woman, the one he was about to marry, then sat down and told him to take a seat beside her. He looked, and it was a large turtle, which raised itself up and stretched out its claws as if angry at being disturbed. The young man said it was a turtle, and refused to sit down, but the woman insisted that it was a seat.

Then there was a louder roll of thunder and the woman said, "Now our brother is nearly home." While they urged and he still refused to come nearer or sit down, suddenly there was a great thunder clap just behind him, and turning quickly he saw a man standing in the doorway of the cave.

"This is my brother," said the woman, and he came in and sat down upon the turtle, which again rose up and stretched out its claws. The young warrior still refused to come in. The brother then said that he was just about to start to a council, and invited the young man to go with him. The hunter said he was willing to go if only he had a horse; so the young woman was told to bring one. She went out and soon came back leading a great uktena snake, that curled and twisted along the whole length of the cave.

Some people say this was a white uktena and that the brother himself rode a red one. The hunter was terribly frightened, and said "That is a snake; I can't ride that." The others insisted that it was no snake, but their riding horse. The brother grew impatient and said to the woman, "He may like it better if you bring him a saddle, and some bracelets for his wrists and arms."

So they went out again and brought in a saddle and some arm bands, and the saddle was another turtle, which they fastened on the uktena's back, and the bracelets were living slimy snakes, which they got ready to twist around the hunter's wrists.

He was almost dead with fear, and said, "What kind of horrible place is this? I can never stay here to live with snakes and creeping things." The brother got very angry and called him a coward, and then it was as if lightening flashed from his eyes and struck the young man, and a terrible crash of thunder stretched him senseless.

When at last he came to himself again he was standing with his feet in the water and both hands grasping a laurel bush that grew out from the bank, and there was no trace of the cave or the Thunder People, but he was alone in the forest. He made his way out and finally reached his own settlement, but found then that he had been gone so very long that all the people had thought him dead, although to him it seemed only the day after the dance.

His friends questioned him closely, and, forgetting the warning, he told the story; but in seven days he died, for no one can come back from the underworld and tell it and live.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Migration Of The Animals
A Cherokee Legend

In the old times when the animals used to talk and hold councils, and the Grubworm and Woodchuck used to marry people, there was once a great famine of mast in the mountains.

All the animals and birds which lived upon it met together and sent the Pigeon out to the low country to see if any food could be found there.

After a time she came back and reported that she had found a country where the mast was "up to our ankles" on the ground.

So they got together and moved down into the low country in a great army.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Moon And The Thunders
A Cherokee Legend

The Sun was a young woman and lived in the East, while her brother, the Moon. lived in the West. The girl had a lover who used to come every month in the dark of the moon to court her. He would come at night, and leave before daylight.

Although she talked with him she could not see his face in the dark, and he would not tell her his name, until she was wondering all the time who it could be.

At last she hit upon a plan to find out, so the next time he came, as they were sitting together in the dark of the si, she slyly dipped her hand into the cinders and ashes of the fireplace and rubbed it over his face, saying, "Your face is cold; you must have suffered from the wind," and pretending to be very sorry for him, but he did not know that she had ashes on her hand. After a while he left her and went away again.

The next night when the Moon came up in the sky his face was covered with spots, and then his sister knew he was the one who had been coming to see her. He was so much ashamed to have her know it that he kept as far away as he could at the other end of the sky all the night. Ever since he tries to keep a long way behind the Sun, and when he does sometimes have to come near her in the west he makes himself as thin as a ribbon so that he can hardly be seen.

Some old people say that the moon is a ball which was thrown up against the sky in a game a long time ago. They say that two towns were playing against each other, but one of them had the best runners and had almost won the game, when the leader of the other side picked up the ball with his hand--a thing that is not allowed in the game--and tried to throw it to the goal, but it struck against the solid sky vault and was fastened there, to remind players never to cheat. When the moon looks small and pale it is because some one has handled the ball unfairly, and for this reason they formerly played only at the time of a full moon.

When the sun or moon is eclipsed it is because a great frog up in the sky is trying to swallow it. Everybody knows this, even the Creeks and the other tribes, and in the olden times, eighty or a hundred years ago, before the great medicine men were all dead, whenever they saw the sun grow dark the people would come together and fire guns and beat the drum, and in a little while this would frighten off the great frog and the sun would be all right again.

The common people call both Sun and Moon Nd, one being "Nd that dwells in the day" and the other "Nd that dwells in the night," but the priests call the Sun Su'tlidih', "Six-killer," and the Moon Ge'`ygu'ga, though nobody knows now what this word means, or why they use these names. Sometimes people ask the Moon not to let it rain or snow.

The great Thunder and his sons, the two Thunder boys, live far in the west above the sky vault. The lightning and the rainbow are their beautiful dress. The priests pray to the Thunder and call him the Red Man, because that is the brightest color of his dress.

There are other Thunders that live lower down, in the cliffs and mountains, and under waterfalls, and travel on invisible bridges from one high peak to another where they have their town houses. The great Thunders above the sky are kind and helpful when we pray to them, but these others are always plotting mischief. One must not point at the rainbow, or one's finger will swell at the lower joint.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Mother Bear's Song
A Cherokee Legend

A hunter in the woods one day heard singing in a cave. He came near and peeped in, and it was a mother bear singing to her cubs and telling them what to do when the hunters came after them.

Said the mother bear to the cubs, "When you hear the hunters coming down the creek, then-

Ts'g, ts'g, hw'lah'; (Upstream, upstream, you must go)
Ts'g, ts'g, hw'lah. (Upstream, upstream, you must go)

But if you hear them coming up the creek, children, then--

Ge'i, ge'i, hw'lah'; (Downstream, downstream, you must go)
Ge'i, ge'i, hw'lah'" (Downstream, downstream, you must go)

Another hunter out in the woods one day thought he heard a woman singing to a baby. He followed the sound up to the head of the branch until he came to a cave under the bushes, and inside was a mother bear rocking her cub in her paws and singing to it this baby song, which the Ani'-Ts'gh used to know before they were turned into bears:

Ha'-mama', ha'-mama', ha'-mama', ha'-mama'; (Let me carry you on my back, repeated four times)

Ud'hale'y hi'ln, hi'ln; (On the sunny side go to sleep, go to sleep)

Ud'hale'y hi'ln, hi'ln. (On the sunny side go to sleep, go to sleep)

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Nest Of The Tla'nuwa
A Cherokee Legend

On the north bank of Little Tennessee river, in a bend below the mouth of Citico creek, in Blount county, Tennessee, is a high cliff hanging over the water, and about half way up the face of the rock is a cave with two openings.

The rock projects outward above the cave, so that the mouth can not be seen from above, and it seems impossible to reach the cave either from above or below. There are white streaks in the rock from the cave down to the water. The Cherokee call it Tla'nuwa, "the place of the Tl'nuw," or great mythic hawk.

In the old time, away back soon after the creation, a pair of Tla'nuwa had their nest in this cave. The streaks in the rock were made by the droppings from the nest. They were immense birds, larger than any that live now, and very strong and savage. They were forever flying up and down the river, and used to come into the settlements and carry off dogs and even young children playing near the houses.

No one could reach the nest to kill them, and when the people tried to shoot them the arrows only glanced off and were seized and carried away in the talons of the Tla'nuwa.

At last the people went to a great medicine man, who promised to help them. Some were afraid that if he failed to kill the Tla'nuwa they would take revenge on the people, but the medicine man said he could fix that. He made a long rope of linn bark, just as the Cherokee still do, with loops in it for his feet, and had the people let him down from the top of the cliff at a time when he knew that the old birds were away.

When he came opposite the month of the cave he still could not reach it, because the rock above hung over, so he swung himself backward and forward several times until the rope swung near enough for him to pull himself into the cave with a hooked stick that he carried, which he managed to fasten in some bushes growing at the entrance. In the nest he found four young ones, and on the floor of the cave were the bones of all sorts of animals that had been carried there by the hawks.

He pulled the young ones out of the nest and threw them over the cliff into the deep water below, where a great Uktena serpent that lived there finished them. Just then he saw the two old ones coming, and had hardly time to climb up again to the top of the rock before they reached the nest.

When they found the nest empty they were furious, and circled round and round in the air until they saw the snake put up its head from the water. Then they darted straight downward, and while one seized the snake in his talons and flew far up in the sky with it, his mate struck at it and bit off piece after piece until nothing was left.

They were so high up that when the pieces fell they made holes in the rock, which are still to be seen there, at the place which we call "Where the Tl'nuw cut it up," opposite the mouth of Citico. Then the two Tla'nuwas circled up and up until they went out of sight, and they have never been seen since.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Nunne'hi And Other Spirit Folk
A Cherokee Legend

The Nn'h or immortals, the "people who live anywhere," were a race of spirit people who lived in the highlands of the old Cherokee country and had a great many townhouses, especially in the bald mountains.

They had large townhouses in Pilot knob and under the old Nikwasi' mound in North Carolina, and another under Blood mountain, at the head of Nottely river, in Georgia. They were invisible excepting when they wanted to be seen, and then they looked and poke just like other Indians. They were very fond of music and dancing, and hunters in the mountains would often hear the dance, songs and the drum beating in some invisible townhouse, but when they went toward the sound it would shift about and they would hear it behind them or away in some other direction, so that they could never find the place where the dance was.

They were a friendly people, too, and often brought lost wanderers to their townhouses under the mountains and cared for them there until they were rested and then guided them back to their home . More than once, also, when the Cherokee were hard pressed by the enemy, the Nn'h warriors have come out, as they did at old Nikwasi', and have saved them from defeat. Some people have thought that they are the same as the Yw Tsunsdi', the "Little People"; but these are fairies, no larger in size than children.

There was a man in Nottely town who had been with the Nn'h when he was a boy, and he told Wafford all about it. He was a truthful, hard-headed man, and Wafford had heard the story so often from other people that he asked this man to tell it. It was in this way:

When he was about 10 or 12 years old he was playing one day near the river, shooting at a mark with his how and arrows, until he became tired, and started to build a fish trap in the water. While he was piling up the stones in two long walls a man came and stood on the bank and asked him what he was doing. The boy told him, and the man said, "Well, that's pretty hard work and you ought to rest a while. Come and take a walk up the river."

The boy said, "No"; that he was going home to dinner soon.

"Come right up to my house," said the stranger, and I'll give you a good dinner there and bring you home again in the morning." So the boy went with him up the river until they came to a house, when they went in, and the man's wife and the other people there were very glad to see him, and gave him a fine dinner, and were very kind to him. While they were eating a man that the boy knew very well came in and spoke to him, so that he felt quite at home.

After dinner he played with the other children and slept there that night, and in the morning, after breakfast, the man got ready to take him home. They went down a path that had a cornfield on one side and a peach orchard fenced in on the other, until they came to another trail, and the man said, "Go along this trail across that ridge and you will come to the river road that will bring you straight to your home, and now I'll go back to the house."

So the man went back to the house and the boy went on along the trail, but when he had gone a little way he looked back, and there was no cornfield or orchard or fence or house; nothing but trees on the mountain side.

He thought it very queer, but somehow he was not frightened, and went on until he came to the river trail in sight of his home. There were a great many people standing about talking, and when they saw him they ran toward him shouting, "Here he is! He is not drowned or killed in the mountains!" They told him they had been hunting him ever since yesterday noon, and asked him where he had been.

"A man took me over to his house just across the ridge, and I had a fine dinner and a good time with the children," said the boy, "I thought Udsi'skal here"--that was the name of the man he had seen at dinner--"would tell you where I was."

But Udsi'skal said, "I haven't seen you. I was out all day in my canoe hunting you. It was one of the Nn'h that made himself look like me."

Then his mother said, "You say you had dinner there?"

"Yes, and I had plenty, too," said the boy; but his mother answered, "There is no house there--only trees and rocks--but we hear a drum sometimes in the big bald above. The people you saw were the Nn'h."

Once four Nn'h women came, to a dance at Nottely town, and danced half the night with the young men there, and nobody knew that they were Nn'h, but thought them visitors from another settlement. About midnight they left to go home, and some men who had come out from the townhouse to cool off watched to see which way they went. They saw the women go down the trail to the river ford, but just as they came to the water they disappeared, although it was a plain trail, with no place where they could hide.

Then the watchers knew they were Nn'h women. Several men saw this happen, and one of them was Wafford's father-in-law, who was known for an honest man. At another time a man named Burnt-tobacco was crossing over the ridge from Nottely to Hemptown in Georgia and heard a drum and the songs of dancers in the hills on one side of the trail.

He rode over to see who could be dancing in such a place, but when he reached the spot the drum and the songs were behind him, and he was so frightened that he hurried back to the trail and rode all the way to Hemptown as hard as he could to tell the story. He was a truthful man, and they believed what he said.

There must have been a good many of the Nn'h living in that neighborhood, because the drumming wits often heard in the high balds almost up to the time of the Removal.

On a small upper branch of Nottely, running nearly due north from Blood maintain, there was also a hole, like a small well or chimney, in the ground, from which there came up a warm vapor that heated all the air around. People said that this was because the Nn'h had a townhouse and a fire under the mountain. Sometimes in cold weather hunters would stop there to warm the selves, but they were afraid to stay long. This was more than sixty years ago, but the hole is probably there yet.

Close to the old trading path from South Carolina up to the Cherokee Nation, somewhere near the head of Tugaloo, there was formerly a noted circular depression about the size of a townhouse, and waist deep. Inside it was always clean as though swept by unknown hands. Passing traders would throw logs and rocks into it, but would always, on their return, find them thrown far out from the hole. The Indians said it was a Nunne'hi townhouse, and never liked to go near the place or even to talk about it, until at last some logs thrown in by the traders were allowed to remain there, and then they concluded that the Nunne'hi, annoyed by the persecution of the white men, had abandoned their townhouse forever.

There is another race of spirits, the Yw Tsunsdi', or "Little People," who live in rock eaves on the mountain side. They are little fellows, hardly reaching up to a man's knee, but well shaped and handsome, with long hair falling almost to the ground. They are great wonder workers and are very fond of music, spending half their time drumming and dancing.

They are helpful and kind-hearted, and often when people have been lost in the mountains, especially children who have strayed away from their parents, the Yw Tsunsdi' have found them and taken care of -them and brought them back to their homes. Sometimes their drum is heard in lonely places in the mountains, but it is not safe to follow it, because the Little People do not like to be disturbed at home, and they throw a spell over the stranger so that he is bewildered and loses his way, and even if he does at last get back to the settlement he is like one dazed ever after.

Sometimes, also, they come near a house at night and the people inside hear them talking, but they must not go out, and in the morning they find the corn gathered or the field cleared as if a whole force of men had been at work. If anyone should go out to watch, he would die. When a hunter finds anything in the woods, such as a knife or a trinket, he must say, "Little People, I want to take this," because it may belong to them, and if he does not ask their permission they will throw stones at him as he goes home.

Once a hunter in winter found tracks in the snow like the tracks of little children. He wondered how they could have come there and followed them until they led him to a cave, which was full of Little People, young and old, men, women, and children. They brought him in and were kind to him, and he was with them some time; but when he left they warned him that he must not tell or he would die.

He went back to the settlement and his friends were all anxious to know where he had been. For a long time he refused to say, until at last he could not hold out any longer, but told the story, and in a few days he died. Only a few years ago two hunters from Raventown, going behind the high fall near the head of Oconaluftee on the East Cherokee reservation, found there a cave with fresh footprints of the Little People all over the floor.

During the smallpox among the East Cherokee just after the war one sick man wandered off, and his friends searched, but could not find him. After several weeks he came back and said that the Little People had found him and taken him to one of their eaves and tended him until he was cured.

About twenty-five years ago a man named Tsantw' was lost in the mountains on the head of Oconaluftee. It was winter time and very cold and his friends thought he must be dead, but after sixteen days he came back and said that the Little People had found him and taken him to their cave, where he had been well treated, and given plenty of everything to eat except bread. This was in large loaves, but when he took them in his hand to eat they seemed to shrink into small cakes so light and crumbly that though he might eat all day he would not be satisfied.

After he was well rested they had brought him a part of the way home until they came to a small creek, about knee deep, when they told him to wade across to reach the main trail on the other side. He waded across and turned to look back, but the Little People were gone and the creek was a deep river. When he reached home his legs were frozen to the knees and he lived only a few days.

Once the Yw Tsunsdi' had been very kind to the people of a certain settlement, helping them at night with their work and taking good care of any lost children, until something happened to offend them and they made up their minds to leave the neighborhood. Those who were watching at the time saw the whole company of Little People come down to the ford of the river and cross over and disappear into the mouth of a large cave on the other side. They were never heard of near the settlement again.

There are other fairies, the Yw Amai'yn'h, or Water-dwellers, who live in the water, and fishermen pray to them for help. Other friendly spirits live in people's houses, although no one can see them, and so long as they are there to protect the house no witch can come near to do mischief.

Tswa's and Tsga's are the names of two small fairies, who are mischievous enough, but yet often help the hunter who prays to them. Tswa's, or Tswa's Usdi'ga (Little Tswa's), is a tiny fellow, very handsome, with long hair falling down to his feet, who lives in grassy patches on the hillsides and has great power over the game.

To the deer hunter who prays to him he gives skill to slip up on the deer through the long grass without being seen. Tsga's is another of the spirits invoked by the hunter and is very helpful, but when someone trips and falls, we know that it is Tsga's who has caused it. There are several other of these fairies with names, all good-natured, but more or less tricky.

Then there is De'tst. De'tst was once a boy who ran away to the woods to avoid a scratching and tries to keep himself invisible ever since. He is a handsome little fellow and spends his whole time hunting birds with blowgun and arrow. He has a great many children who are all just like him and have the same name. When a flock of birds flies up suddenly as if frightened it is because De'tst is chasing them.

He is mischievous and sometimes hides an arrow from the bird hunter, who may have shot it off into a perfectly clear space, but looks and looks without finding it. Then the hunter says, "De'tst, you have my arrow, and if you don't give it up I'll scratch you," and when he looks again he finds it.

There is one spirit that goes about at night with a light. The Cherokee call it Atsil'-dihye'g, "The Fire-carrier," and they are all afraid of it, because they think it dangerous, although they do not know much about it. They do not even know exactly what it looks like, because they are afraid to stop when they see it. It may be a witch instead of a spirit.

Wafford's mother saw the "Fire-carrier" once when she was a young woman, as she was coming home at night from a trading post in South Carolina. It seemed to be following her from behind, and. she was frightened and whipped up her horse until she got away from it and never saw it again.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Owl Gets Married
A Cherokee Legend

A widow with one daughter was always warning the girl that she must be sure to get a good hunter for a husband when she married. The young woman listened and promised to do as her mother advised.

At last a suitor came to ask the mother for the girl, but the widow told him that only a good hunter could have her daughter. "I'm just that kind," said the lover, and again asked her to speak for him to the young woman. So the mother went to the girl and told her a young man had come a-courting, and as he said he was a good hunter she advised her daughter to take him. "Just as you say," said the girl. So when he came again the matter was all arranged, and he went to live with the girl.

The next morning he got ready and said he would go out hunting, but before starting he changed his mind and said he would go fishing. He was gone all day and came home late at night, bringing only three small fish, saying that he had had no luck, but would have better success to-morrow. The next morning he started off again to fish and was gone all day, but came home at night with only two worthless spring lizards (duw'g) and the same excuse. Next day he said he would go hunting this time. He was gone again until night, and returned at last with only a handful of scraps that he had found where some hunters had cut up a deer.

By this time the old woman was suspicious. So next morning when he started off again, as he said, to fish, she told her daughter to follow him secretly and see how he set to work. The girl followed through the woods and kept him in sight until he came down to the river, where she saw her husband change to a hooting owl (uguku') and fly over to a pile of driftwood in the water and cry, "U-gu-ku! hu! hu! u! u!"

She was surprised and very angry and said to herself, "I thought I had married a man, but my husband is only an owl." She watched and saw the owl look into the water for a long time and at last swoop down and bring up in his claws a handful of sand, from which he picked out a crawfish. Then he flew across to the bank, took the form of a man again, and started home with the crawfish.

His wife hurried on ahead through the woods and got there before him. When he came in with the crawfish in his hand, she asked him where, were all the fish he had caught. He said he had none, because an owl had frightened them all away. "I think you are the owl," said his wife, and drove him out of the house. The owl went into the woods and there he pined away with grief and love until there was no flesh left on any part of his body except his head.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Pheasant Beating Corn
A Cherokee Legend

The Pheasant once saw a woman beating corn in a wooden mortar in front of the house.

"I can do that, too," said he, but the woman would not believe it.

So the Pheasant went into the woods and got upon a hollow log and "drummed" with his wings as a pheasant does, until the people in the house heard him and thought he was really beating corn.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Rabbit And The Tar Wolf
A Cherokee Legend

Once upon a time there was such a severe drought that all streams of water and all lakes were dried up. In this emergency the beasts assembled together to devise means to procure water.

It was proposed by one to dig a well. All agreed to do so except the hare. She refused because it would soil her tiny paws. The rest, however, dug their well and were fortunate enough to find water. The hare beginning to suffer and thirst, and having no right to the well, was thrown upon her wits to procure water.

She determined, as the easiest way, to steal from the public well. The rest of the animals, surprised to find that the hare was so well supplied with water, asked her where she got it. She replied that she arose betimes in the morning and gathered the dewdrops. However the wolf and the fox suspected her of theft and hit on the following plan to detect her:

They made a wolf of tar and placed it near the well. On the following night the hare came as usual after her supply of water. On seeing the tar wolf she demanded who was there. Receiving no answer she repeated the demand, threatening to kick the wolf if he did not reply. She receiving no reply kicked the wolf, and by this means adhered to the tar and was caught.

When the fox and wolf got hold of her the consulted what it was best to do with her. One proposed cutting her head off. This the hare protested would be useless, as it had often been tried without hurting her. Other methods were proposed for dispatching her, all of which she said would be useless. At last it was proposed to let her loose to perish in a thicket. Upon this the hare affected great uneasiness and pleaded hard for life.

Her enemies, however, refused to listen and she was accordingly let loose. As soon, however, as she was out of reach of her enemies she gave a whoop, and bounding away she exclaimed: 'This is where I live.'

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Rabbit Dines The Bear
A Cherokee Legend

The Bear invited the Rabbit to dine with him. They had beans in the pot, but there was no grease for them, so the Bear cut a slit in his side and let the oil run out until they had enough to cook the dinner.

The Rabbit looked surprised, and thought to himself, "That's a handy way. I think I'll try that."

When he started home he invited the Bear to come and take dinner with him four days later.

When the Bear came the Rabbit said, "I have beans for dinner, too. Now I'll get the grease for them." So he took a knife and drove it into his side, but instead of oil, a stream of blood gushed out and he fell over nearly dead.

The Bear picked him up and had hard work to tie up the wound and stop the bleeding. Then he scolded him, "You little fool, I'm large and strong and lined with fat all over; the knife don't hurt me; but you're small and lean, and you can't do such things."

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Rabbit Escapes From The Wolves
A Cherokee Legend

Some Wolves once caught the Rabbit and were going to eat him when he asked leave to show them a new dance he was practicing. They knew that the Rabbit was a great song leader, and they wanted to learn the latest dance, so they agreed and made a ring about him while he got ready.

He patted his feet and began to dance around in a circle, singing:

Tlge'sit' gli'sgi'sid'h
Ha'nia ll ll! Ha'nia ll ll!

On the edge of the field I dance about
Ha'nia ll ll! Ha'nia ll ll!

"Now, said the Rabbit, "when I sing 'on the edge of the field,' I dance that way"--and he danced over in that direction--"and when I sing ll ll! you must all stamp your feet hard."

The Wolves thought it fine. He began another round singing the same song, and danced a little nearer to the field, while the Wolves all stamped their feet. He sang louder and louder and danced nearer and nearer to the field until at the fourth song, when the Wolves were stamping as hard as they could and thinking only of the song, he made one jump and was off through the long grass.

They were after him at once, but he ran for a hollow stump and climbed up on the inside. When the Wolves got there one of them put his head inside to look up, but the Rabbit spit into his eye, so that he had to pull his head out again.

The others were afraid to try, and they went away, with the Rabbit still in the stump.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting
A Cherokee Legend

The Rabbit was so boastful that he would claim to do whatever he saw anyone else do, and so tricky that he could usually make the other animals believe it all.

Once he pretended that he could swim in the water and eat fish just as the Otter did, and when the others told him to prove it he fixed up a plan so that the Otter himself was deceived.

Soon afterward they met again and the Otter said, "I eat ducks sometimes."

Said the Rabbit, "Well, I eat ducks too."

The Otter challenged him to try it; so they went up along the river until they saw several ducks in the water and managed to get near without being seen. The Rabbit told the Otter to go first. The Otter never hesitated, but dived from the bank and swam under water until he reached the ducks, when he pulled one down without being noticed by the others, and came back in the same way.

While the Otter had been under the water the Rabbit had peeled some bark from a sapling and made himself a noose. "Now," he said, "Just watch me;" and he dived in and swam a little way under the water until he was nearly choking and had to come up to the top to breathe.

He went under again and came up again a little nearer to the ducks. He took another breath and dived under, and this time he came up among the ducks and threw the noose over the head of one and caught it. The duck struggled hard and finally spread its wings and flew up from the water with the Rabbit hanging on to the noose.

It flew on and on until at last the Rabbit could not hold on any longer, but had to let go and drop. As it happened, he fell into a tall, hollow sycamore stump without any hole at the bottom to get out from, and there he stayed until he was so hungry that he had to eat his own fur, as the rabbit does ever since when he is starving. After several days, when he was very weak with hunger, he heard children playing outside around the trees. He began to sing:

Cut a door and look at me; I'm the prettiest thing you ever did see.

The children ran home and told their father, who came and began to cut a hole in the tree.

As he chopped away the Rabbit inside kept singing, "Cut it larger, so you can see me better; I'm so pretty."

They made the hole larger, and then the Rabbit told them to stand back so that they could take a good look as he came out. They stood away back, and the Rabbit watched for his chance and jumped out and got away.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Race Between The Crane & The Hummingbird
A Cherokee Legend

The Hummingbird and the Crane were both in love with a pretty woman. She preferred the Hummingbird, who was as handsome as the Crane was awkward.

But the Crane was so persistent that in order to get rid of him she finally told him he must challenge the other to a race and she would marry the winner.

The Hummingbird was so swift--almost like a flash of lightning--and the Crane so slow and heavy, that she felt sure the Hummingbird would win. She did not know the Crane could fly all night.

They agreed to start from her house and fly around the circle of the world to the beginning, and the one who came in first would marry the woman. At the word the Hummingbird darted off like an arrow and was out of sight in a moment, leaving his rival to follow heavily behind. He flew all day, and when evening came and he stopped to roost for the night he was far ahead. But the Crane flew steadily all night long, passing the Hummingbird soon after midnight and going on until he came to a creek and stopped to rest about daylight.

The Hummingbird woke up in the morning and flew on again, thinking how easily he would win the race, until he reached the creek and there found the Crane spearing tadpoles, with his long bill, for breakfast. He was very much surprised and wondered how this could have happened, but he flew swiftly by and soon left the Crane out of sight again.

The Crane finished his breakfast and started on, and when evening came he kept on as before. This time it was hardly midnight when he passed the Hummingbird asleep on a limb, and in the morning he had finished his breakfast before the other came up. The next day he gained a little more, and on the fourth day he was spearing tadpoles for dinner when the Hummingbird passed him. On the fifth and sixth days it was late in the afternoon before the Hummingbird came up, and on the morning of the seventh day the Crane was ' a whole night's travel ahead.

He took his time at breakfast and then fixed himself up as nicely as he could at the creek and came in at the starting place where the woman lived, early in the morning. When the Hummingbird arrived in the afternoon he found he had lost the race, but the woman declared she would never have such an ugly fellow as the Crane for a husband, so she stayed single.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Rattlesnake's Vengeance
A Cherokee Legend

One day in the old times when we could still talk with other creatures, while some children were playing about the house, their mother inside heard them scream. Running out she found that a rattlesnake had crawled from the grass.

Taking up a stick she killed it. The father was out hunting in the mountains, and that evening when coming home after dark through the gap he heard a strange wailing sound. Looking about he found that he had come into the midst of a whole company of rattlesnakes, which all had their mouths open and seemed to be crying. He asked them the reason of their trouble, and they told him that his own wife had that day killed their chief, the Yellow Rattlesnake, and they were just now about to send the Black Rattlesnake to take revenge.

The hunter said he was very sorry, but they told him that if he spoke the truth he must be ready to make satisfaction and give his wife as a sacrifice for the life of their chief. Not knowing what might happen otherwise, he consented. They then told him that the Black Rattlesnake would go home with him and coil up just outside the door in the dark. He must go inside, where he would find his wife awaiting him, and ask her to get him a drink of fresh water from the spring. That was all.

He went home and knew that the Black Rattlesnake was following. It was night when he arrived and very dark, but he found his wife waiting with his supper ready. He sat down and asked for a drink of water. She handed him a gourd full from the jar, but he said he wanted it fresh from the spring, so she took a bowl and went out of the door.

The next moment he beard a cry, and going out he found that the Black Rattlesnake had bitten her and that she was already dying. He stayed with her until she was dead, when the Black Rattlesnake came out from the grass again and said his tribe was now satisfied.

He then taught the hunter a prayer song, and said, "When you meet any of us hereafter sing this song and we will not hurt you; but if by accident one of us should bite one of your people then sing this song over him and he will recover." And the Cherokee have kept the song to this day.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Red Man And The Uktena
A Cherokee Legend

Two brothers went bunting together, and when they came to a good camping place in the mountains they made a fire, and while one gathered bark to put up a shelter the other started up the creek to look for a deer.

Soon he heard a noise on the top of the ridge as if two animals were fighting. He hurried through the bushes to see what it might be, and when he came to the spot he found a great uktena coiled around a man and choking him to death.

The man was fighting for his life, and called out to the hunter: "Help me, nephew; he is your enemy as well as mine." The hunter took good aim, and, drawing the arrow to the head, sent it through the body of the uktena, so that the blood spouted from the hole. The snake loosed its coils with a snapping noise, and went tumbling down the ridge into the valley, tearing up the earth like a water spout as it rolled.

The stranger stood up, and it was the Asga'ya Gi'gge, the Red Man of the Lightning. He said to the hunter: "You have helped me, and now I will reward you, and give you a medicine so that you can always find game." They waited until it was dark, and then went down the ridge to where the dead uktena had rolled, but by this time the birds and insects had eaten the body and only the bones were left.

In one place were flashes of light coming up from the ground, and on digging here, just under the surface, the Red Man found a scale of the uktena. Next he went over to a tree that had been struck by lightning, and gathering a handful of splinters he made a fire and burned the uktena scale to a coal.

He wrapped this in a piece of deerskin and gave it to the hunter, saying: "As long as you keep this you can always kill game." Then he told the hunter that when he went back to camp he must hang up the medicine on a tree outside, because it was very strong and dangerous.

He told him also that when he went into the cabin he would find his brother lying inside nearly dead on account of the presence of the uktena's scale, but he must take a small piece of cane, which the Red Man gave him, and scrape a little of it into water and give it to his brother to drink and he would be well again.

Then the Red Man was gone, and the hunter could not see where he went. He returned to camp alone, and found his brother very sick, but soon cured him with the medicine from the cane, and that, day and the next, and every day after, he found game whenever he went for it.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Removed Townhouses
A Cherokee Legend

Long ago, long before the Cherokee were driven from their homes in 1838, the people on Valley river and Hiwassee heard voices of invisible spirits in the air calling and warning them of wars and misfortunes which the future held in store.

The voices invited them to come and live with the Nn'h, the Immortals, in their homes under the mountains and under the waters.

For days the voices hung in the air, and the people listened until they heard the spirits, say "If you would live with us, gather everyone in your townhouses and fast there for seven days and no one must raise a shout or a warwhoop in all that time. Do this and we shall come and you will see us and we shall take you to live with us."

The people were afraid of the evils that were to come, and they knew that the Immortals of the mountains and the waters were happy forever, so they counciled in their townhouses and decided to go with them. Those of Anisgay'y town came all together into their townhouse and prayed and fasted for six days.

On the seventh day there was a sound from the distant mountains, and it came nearer and grew louder until a roar of thunder was all about the townhouse and they felt the ground shake under them. Now they were frightened, and despite the warning some of them screamed out. The Nn'h, who had already lifted up the townhouse with its mound to carry it away, were startled by the cry and let a part of it fall to the earth, where now we see the mound of S`ts.

They steadied themselves again and bore the rest of the townhouse, with all the people in it, to the top of Tsuda'ye`l'y (Lone peak), near the head of Cheowa, where we can still see it, changed long ago to solid rock, but the people are invisible and immortal.

The people of another town, on Hiwassee, at the place which we call now Du'stiya`l'y, where Shooting creek comes in, also prayed and fasted, and at the end of seven days the Nn'h came and took them away down under the water. They are there now, and on a warm summer day, when the wind ripples the surface, those who listen well can hear them talking below.

When the Cherokee drag the river for fish the fish-drag always stops and catches there, although the water is deep, and the people know it is being held by their lost kinsmen, who do not want to be forgotten.

When the Cherokee were forcibly removed to the West one of the greatest regrets of those along Hiwassee and Valley rivers was that they were compelled to leave behind forever their relatives who had gone to the Nn'h.

In Tennessee river, near Kingston, 18 miles below Loudon, Tennessee, is a place which the Cherokee call Gust', where there once was a settlement long ago, but one night while the people were gathered in the townhouse for a dance the bank caved in and carried them all down into the river. Boatmen passing the spot in their canoes see the round dome of the townhouse--now turned to stone--in the water below them and sometimes hear the sound of the drum and dance coming up, and they never fail to throw food into the water in return for being allowed to cross in safety.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Slant-eyed Giant
A Cherokee Legend

A long time ago a widow lived with her one daughter at the old town of Knuga on Pigeon river. The girl was of age to marry, and her mother used to talk with her a good deal.

One day, her mother told her she must be sure to take no one but a good hunter for a husband, so that they would have some one to take care of them and would always have plenty of meat in the house.

The girl said such a man was hard to find, but her mother advised her not to be in a hurry, and to wait until the right one came.

Now the mother slept in the house while the girl slept outside in the s. One dark night a stranger came to the s wanting to court the girl, but she told him her mother would let her marry no one but a good hunter. "Well," said the stranger, "I am a great hunter," so she let him come in, and he stayed all night. Just before day he said he must go back now to his own place, but that he had brought some meat for her mother, and she would find it outside. Then he went away and the girl had not seen him. When day came she went out and found there a deer, which she brought into the house to her mother, and told her it was a present from her new sweetheart. Her mother was pleased, and they had deer steaks for breakfast.

He came again the next night, but again went away before daylight, and this time he left two deer outside. The mother was more pleased this time, but said to her daughter, "I wish your sweetheart would bring us some wood."

Now wherever he might be, the stranger knew their thoughts, so when he came the next time he said to the girl, "Tell your mother I have brought the wood"; and when she looked out in the morning there were several great trees lying in front of the door, roots and branches and all.

The old woman was angry, and said, "He might have brought us some wood that we could use instead of whole trees that we can't split, to litter up the road with brush." The hunter knew what she said, and the next time he came he brought nothing, and when they looked out in the morning the trees were gone and there was no wood at all, so the old woman had to go after some herself.

Almost every night he came to see the girl, and each time he brought a deer or some other game, but still he always left before daylight. At last her mother said to her, "Your husband always leaves before daylight. Why don't he wait? I want to see what kind of a son-in-law I have."

When the girl told this to her husband he said he could not let the old woman see him, because the sight would frighten her. "She wants to see you, anyhow," said the girl, and began to cry, until at last he had to consent, but warned her that her mother must not say that he looked frightful (usga's`ti'yu).

The next morning he did not leave so early, but stayed in the s, and when it was daylight the girl went out and told her mother. The old woman came and looked in, and there she saw a great giant, with long slanting eyes (tsul`kl'), lying doubled up on the floor, with his head against the rafters in the left-hand corner at the back, and his toes scraping the roof in the right-hand corner by the door.

She gave only one look and ran back to the house, crying, Usga's`ti'yu! Usga's`ti'yu!

Tsul`kl' was terribly angry. He untwisted himself and came out of the s, and said good-bye to the girl, telling her that he would never let her mother see him again, but would go back to his own country. Then he went off in the direction of Tsuneg'y.

Soon after he left the girl had her monthly period. There was a very great flow of blood, and the mother threw it all into the river. One night after the girl had gone to bed in the s her husband came again to the door and said to her, "It seems you are alone," and asked where was the child. She said there had been none.

Then he asked where was the blood, and she said that her mother had thrown it into the river. She told just where the place was, and he went there and found a small worm in the water. He took it up and carried it back to the s, and as he walked it took form and began to grow, until, when he reached the s, it was a baby girl that he was carrying.

He gave it to his wife and said, "Your mother does not like me and abuses our child, so come and let us go to my home." The girl wanted to be with her husband, so, after telling her mother good-bye, she took up the child and they went off together to Tsuneg'y.

Now, the girl had an older brother, who lived with his own wife in another settlement, and when he heard that his sister was married he came to pay a visit to her and her new husband, but when he arrived at Knuga his mother told him his sister had taken her child and gone away with her husband, nobody knew where.

He was sorry to see his mother so lonely, so he said he would go after his sister and try to find her and bring her back. It was easy to follow the footprints of the giant, and the young man went along the trail until he came to a place where they had rested, and there were tracks on the ground where a child had been lying and other marks as if a baby had been born there. He went on along the trail and came to another place where they had rested, and there were tracks of a baby crawling about and another lying on the ground.

He went on and came to where they had rested again, and there were tracks of a child walking and another crawling about. He went on until he came where they had rested again, and there were tracks of one child running and another walking. Still he followed the trail along the stream into the mountains, and came to the place where they had rested again, and this time there were footprints of two children running all about, and the footprints can still be seen in the rock at that place.

Twice again he found where they had rested. and then the trail led up the slope of Tsuneg'y, and he heard the sound of a drum and voices, as if people were dancing inside the mountain. Soon he came to n eave like a doorway in the side of the mountain, but the rock was so steep and smooth that he could not climb tip to it, but could only just look over the edge and see the heads and shoulders of a great many people dancing inside. He saw his sister dancing among them and called to her to come out.

She turned when she heard his voice, and as soon as the drumming stopped for a while she came out to him, finding no trouble to climb down the rock, and leading her two little children by the hand. She was very glad to meet her brother and talked with him a long time, but did not ask him to come inside, and at last he went away without having seen her husband.

Several other times her brother came to the mountain, but always his sister met him outside, and he could never see her husband. After four years had passed she came one day to her mother's house and said her husband had been hunting in the woods near by, and they were getting ready to start home to-morrow, and if her mother and brother would come early in the morning they could see her husband.

If they came too late for that, she said, they would find plenty of meat to take home. She went back into the woods, and the mother ran to tell her son. They came to the place early the next morning, but Tsul`kl' and his family were already gone. On the drying poles they found the bodies of freshly killed deer hanging, as the girl had promised, and there were so many that they went back and told all their friends to come for them, and there were enough for the whole settlement.

Still the brother wanted to see his sister and her husband, so he went again to the mountain, and she came out to meet him. He asked to see her husband, and this time she told him to come inside with her. They went in as through a doorway, and inside he found it like a great townhouse.

They seemed to be alone, but his sister called aloud, "He wants to see you," and from the air came a voice, "You can not see me until you put on a new dress, and then you can see me."

"I am willing," said the young man, speaking to the unseen spirit, and from the air came the voice again, "Go back, then, and tell your people that to see me they must go into the townhouse and fast seven days, and in all that time they must not come out from the townhouse or raise the war whoop, and on the seventh day I shall come with new dresses for you to put on so that you can all see me."

The young man went back to Knuga and told the people. They all wanted to see Tsul`kl', who owned all the game in the mountains, so they went into the townhouse and began the fast. They fasted the first day and the second and every day until the seventh-all but one man from another settlement, who slipped out every night when it was dark to get something to eat and slipped in again when no one was watching.

On the morning of the seventh day the sun was just coming up in the east when they beard a great noise like the thunder of rocks rolling down the side of Tsuneg'y. They were frightened and drew near together in the townhouse, and no one whispered.

Nearer and louder came the sound until it grew into an awful roar, and every one trembled and held his breath-all but one man, the stranger from the other settlement, who lost his senses from fear and ran out of the townhouse and shouted the war cry.

At once the roar stopped and for some time there was silence. Then they heard it again, but as if it where going farther away, and then farther and farther, until at last it died away in the direction of Tsuneg'y, and then all was still again. The people came out from the townhouse, but there was silence, and they could see nothing but what had been seven days before.

Still the brother was not disheartened, but came again to see his sister, and she brought him into the mountain. He asked why Tsul`kl' had not. brought the new dresses, as he had promised, and the voice from the air said, "I came with them, but you did not obey my word, but broke the fast and raised the war cry."

The young man answered, "It was not done by our people, but by a stranger. If you will come again, we will surely do as you say." But the voice answered, "Now you can never see me." Then the young man could not say any more, and he went back to Knuga.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Snake Boy
A Cherokee Legend

There was a boy who used to go bird hunting every day, and all the birds he brought home he gave to his grandmother, who was very fond of him.

This made the rest of the family jealous, and they treated him in such fashion that at last one day he told his grandmother he would leave them all, but that she must not grieve for him. Next morning he refused to eat any breakfast, but went off hungry to the woods and was gone all day. In the evening he returned, bringing with him a pair of deer horns, and went directly to the hothouse (s), where his grandmother was waiting for him. He told the old woman he must be alone that night, so she got up and went into the house where the others were.

At early daybreak she came again to the hothouse and looked in, and there she saw an immense uktena that filled the s, with horns on its head, but still with two human legs instead of a snake tail. It was all that was left of her boy. He spoke to her and told her to leave him, and she went away again from the door.

When the sun was well up, the uktena began slowly to crawl out, but it was full noon before it was all out of the s. It made a terrible hissing noise as it came out, and all the people ran from it. It crawled on through the settlement, leaving a broad trail in the ground behind it, until it came to a deep bend in the river, where it plunged in and went under the water.

The grandmother grieved much for her boy, until the others of the family got angry and told her that as she thought so much of him she ought to go and stay with him. So she left them and went along the trail made by the uktena to the river and walked directly into the water and disappeared.

Once after that a man fishing near the place saw her sitting on a large rock in the river, looking just as she had always looked, but as soon as she caught sight of him she jumped into the water and was gone.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Snake Man
A Cherokee Legend

Two hunters, both for some reason under a taboo against the meat of a squirrel or turkey, had gone into the woods together. When evening came they found a good camping place and lighted a fire to prepare their supper.

One of them had killed several squirrels during the day, and now got ready to broil them over the fire. His companion warned him that if he broke the taboo and ate squirrel meat he would become a snake, but the other laughed and said that was only a conjurer's story. He went on with his preparation, and when the squirrels were roasted made his supper of them and then lay down beside the fire to sleep.

Late that night his companion was aroused b y groaning, and on looking around he found the other lying on the ground rolling and twisting in agony, and with the lower part of his body already changed to the body and tail of a large water snake.

The man was still able to speak and called loudly for help, but his companion could do nothing, but only sit by and try to comfort him while he watched the arms sink into the body and the skin take on a scaly change that mounted gradually toward the neck, until at last even the head was a serpent's head and the great snake crawled away from the fire and down the bank into the river.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Snake Tribe
A Cherokee Legend

The generic name for snakes is indd'. They are all regarded as anida'weh, "supernaturals," having an intimate connection with the rain and thunder gods, and possessing a certain influence over the other animal and plant tribes.

It is said that the snakes, the deer, and the ginseng act as allies, so that an injury to one is avenged by all. The feeling toward snakes is one of mingled fear and reverence, and every precaution is taken to avoid killing or offending one, especially the rattlesnake.

He who kills a snake. will soon see others; and should he kill a second one, so many will come around him whichever way he may turn that he will become dazed at the sight of their glistening eyes and darting tongues and will go wandering about like a crazy man, unable to find his way out of the woods.

To guard against this misfortune there are certain prayers which the initiated say in order that a snake may not cross their path, and on meeting the first one of the season the hunter humbly begs of him, "Let us not see each other this summer."

Certain smells, as that of the wild parsnip, and certain songs, as those of the Unika'w or Townhouse dance, are offensive to the snakes and make them angry. For this reason the Unika'w is held only late in the fall, after they have retired to their dens for the winter.

When one dreams of being bitten by a snake he must be treated the same as for an actual bite, because it is a snake ghost that has. bitten him; otherwise the place will swell and ulcerate in the same way, even though it be years afterwards. For fear of offending them, even in speaking, it is never said that a man has been bitten by a snake, but only that he has been "scratched by a brier." Most of the beliefs and customs in this connection have more special reference to the rattlesnake.

The rattlesnake is called utsa'nt which may be rendered, "he has a bell," alluding to the rattle. According to a myth given elsewhere, he was once a man, and was transformed to his present shape that he might save the human race from extermination by the Sun, a mission which he accomplished successfully after others had failed.

By the old men he is also spoken of as "the Thunder's necklace" (see the story of tsaiy'), and to kill one is to destroy one of the most prized ornaments of the thunder god. In one of the formulas addressed to the Little Men, the sons of the Thunder, they are implored to take the disease snake to themselves, because "it is just what you adorn yourselves with."

For obvious reason the rattlesnake is regarded as the chief of the snake tribe and is feared and. respected accordingly. Few Cherokee will venture to kill one except under absolute necessity, and even then the crime must be atoned for by asking pardon of the snake ghost, either in person or through the mediation of a priest, according to a set formula. Otherwise the relatives of the dead snake will send one of their number to track up the offender and bite him so that he will die (see story, "The Rattlesnake's Vengeance").

The only thing of which the rattlesnake is afraid is said to be the plant known as campion, or "rattlesnake's master" (Silene stellata), which is used by the doctors to counteract the effect of the bite, and it is believed that a snake will flee in terror from the hunter who carries a small piece of the root about his person. Chewed linn bark is also applied to the bite, perhaps from the supposed occult connection between the snake and the thunder, as this tree is said to be immune from the lightning stroke.

Notwithstanding the fear of the rattlesnake, his rattles, teeth, flesh, and oil are greatly prized for occult or medical uses, the snakes being killed for this purpose by certain priests who know the necessary rites and formulas for obtaining pardon.

This device for whipping the devil around the stump, and incidentally increasing their own revenues, is a common trick of Indian medicine men. Outsiders desiring to acquire this secret knowledge are discouraged by being told that it is a dangerous thing to learn, for the reason that the new initiate is almost certain to be bitten, in order that the snakes may "try" him to know if he has correctly learned the formula.

When a rattlesnake is killed the head must be cut off and buried an arm's length deep in the ground and the body carefully hidden away in a hollow log. If it is left exposed to the weather, the angry snakes will send such torrents of rain that all the streams will overflow their banks. Moreover, they will tell their friends, the deer, and the ginseng in the mountains, so that these will hide themselves and the hunters will seek them in vain.

The tooth of a rattlesnake which has been killed by the priest with the proper ceremonies while the snake was lying stretched out from east to west is used to scarify patients preliminary to applying the medicine in certain ailments. Before using it the doctor holds it between the thumb and finger of his right hand and addresses it in a prayer, at the end of which the tooth "becomes alive," when it is ready for the operation.

The explanation is that the tense, nervous grasp of the doctor causes his hand to twitch and the tooth to move slightly between his fingers. The rattles are worn on the head, and sometimes a portion of the flesh is eaten by ball players to make them more terrible to their opponents, but it is said to have the bad effect of making them cross to their wives.

From the lower half of the body, thought to be the fattest portion, the oil is extracted and is in as great repute among the Indians for rheumatism and sore joints as among the white mountaineers. The doctor who prepares the oil must also eat the flesh of the snake.

In certain seasons of epidemic a roasted (barbecued) rattlesnake was kept hanging up in the house, and every morning the father of the family bit off a small piece and chewed it, mixing it then with water, which he spit upon the bodies of the others to preserve them from the contagion. It was said to be a sure cure, but apt to make the patients hot tempered.

The copperhead, w'dige-ask'l "brown-head," although feared on account of its poisonous bite, is hated, instead of being regarded with veneration, as is the rattlesnake. It is believed to be a descendant of a great mythic serpent (see number 5) and is said to have "eyes of fire," on account of their intense brightness.

The blacksnake is called gle'g, "the climber." Biting its body is said to be a preventive of toothache, and there is also a belief, perhaps derived from the whites, that if the body of one be hung upon a tree it will bring rain within three (four?) days. The small greensnake is called, slikw'y, the same name being also applied to a certain plant, the Eryngium virginianum, or bear grass, whose long, slender leaves bear some resemblance to a greensnake.

As with the blacksnake, it is believed that toothache may be prevented and sound teeth insured as long as life lasts by biting the greensnake along its body. It must be held by the head and tail, and all the teeth at once pressed down four times along the middle of its body, but without biting into the flesh or injuring the snake.

Some informants say that the operation must be repeated four times upon as many snakes and that a certain food taboo must also be observed. The water moccasin, kanegw't, is not specially regarded, but a very rare wood snake, said to resemble it except that it has blue eyes, is considered to have great supernatural powers, in what way is not specified.

The repulsive but harmless spreading adder (Heterodon) is called dalkst', "vomiter," on account of its habit of spitting, and sometimes kwandya'h, a word of uncertain etymology. It was formerly a man, but was transformed into a snake in order to accomplish the destruction of the Daughter of the Sun (see the story). For its failure on this occasion it is generally despised.

The Wahnenauhi manuscript mentions a legend of a great serpent called on account of its color the "ground snake." To see it was an omen of death to the one who saw it, and if it was seen by several persons some great tribal calamity was expected. For traditions and beliefs in regard to the Uktena, the Uksuh, and other mythic serpents, see under those headings.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Spirit Defenders Of Nikwasi'
A Cherokee Legend

Long ago a powerful unknown tribe invaded the country from the southeast, killing people and destroying settlements wherever they went. No leader could stand against them, and in a little while they had wasted all the lower settlements and advanced into the mountains.

No leader could stand against them, and in a little while they had wasted all the lower settlements and advanced into the mountains.

The warriors of the old town of Nikwasi', on the head of Little Tennessee, gathered their wives and children into the townhouse and kept scouts constantly on the lookout for the presence of danger. One morning just before daybreak the spies saw the enemy approaching and at once gave the alarm.

The Nikwasi' men seized their arms and rushed out to meet the attack, but after a long, hard fight they found themselves overpowered and began to retreat, when suddenly a stranger stood among them and shouted to the chief to call off his men and he himself would drive back the enemy. From the dress and language of the stranger the Nikwasi' people thought him a chief who had come with reinforcements from the Overhill settlements in Tennessee.

They fell back along the trail, and as they came near the townhouse they saw a great company of warriors coming out from the side of the mound as through an open doorway. Then they knew that their friends were the Nn'h, the Immortals, although no one had ever heard before that they lived under Nikwasi' mound.

The Nn'h poured out by hundreds, armed and painted for the fight, and the most curious thing about it all was that they became invisible as soon as they were fairly outside of the settlement, so that although the enemy saw the glancing arrow or the rushing tomahawk, and felt the stroke, he could not see who sent it.

Before such invisible foes the invaders soon had to retreat, going first south along the ridge to where joins the main ridge which separates the French Broad from the Tuckasegee, and then turning with it to the northeast. As they retreated they tried to shield themselves behind rocks and trees, but the Nn'h arrows went around the rocks and killed them from the other side, and they could find no hiding place.

All along the ridge they fell, until when they reached the head of Tuckasegee not more than half a dozen were left alive, and in despair they sat down and cried out for mercy. Ever since then the Cherokee have called the place Dayls'y, "Where they cried."

Then the Nn'h chief told them they had deserved their punishment for attacking a peaceful tribe, and he spared their lives and told them to go home and take the news to their people. This was the Indian custom, always to spare a few to carry back the news of defeat. They went home toward the north and the Nn'h went back to the mound.

And they are still there, because, in the last war, when a strong party of Federal troops came to surprise a handful of Confederates posted there they saw so many soldiers guarding the town that they were afraid and went away without making an attack.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Star Feathers
A Cherokee Legend

A long time ago a warrior of roving disposition went down into the white settlements toward the east, where for the first time he saw a peacock.

The beautiful long feathers surprised and delighted him, and by trading some valuable Indian possession of his own he managed to buy a few of them, which he took with him to the mountains and hid, until he was ready to use them, in an old beaver lodge under the river bank. To get into the beaver lodge he had to dive under the water.

Then he set to work secretly and made himself a headdress, with the long peacock feathers in the front and trailing out behind and the shorter ones at the sides. At the next dance he wore the new headdress, and asserted that he had been up to the sky and that these were star feathers. He made a long speech also, which he pretended was a message he had received from the star spirits to deliver to the people.

Everyone wondered at the beautiful feathers, so different from any they had ever seen before. They made no doubt that he had been up to the sky and talked with spirits. He became a great prophet, and used to keep himself hidden all day in the beaver hole, and whenever there was a night gathering for a dance or a council he would suddenly appear among them wearing his feather headdress and give the people a new message from the sky. Then he would leave them again, pretending that he went up to heaven.

He grew famous, and powerful among all the medicine men, until at last it happened that another Cherokee went down among the white settlements and saw there another peacock, and knew at once that the prophet was a fraud. On his return he quietly told some of his friends, and they decided to investigate.

When the next night dance came around the prophet was on hand as usual with a new message fresh from the stars. The people listened reverently, and promised to do all that he commanded. Then he left them, saying that he must return at once to the sky, but as he went out from the circle the spies followed him in the darkness, and saw him go down to the river and dive under the water. They waited, but he, did not come up again, and they went back and told the people.

The next morning a party went to the spot and discovered the beaver lodge under the bank. One man dived and came up inside, and there he found the prophet sitting with the peacock feathers by his side.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Terrapin's Escape From The Wolves
A Cherokee Legend

The Possum and the Terrapin went out together to hunt persimmons, and found a tree full of ripe fruit. The Possum climbed it and was throwing down the persimmons to the Terrapin when a wolf came by.

The Wolf ran up and began to snap at the persimmons as they fell, before the Terrapin could reach them.

The Possum waited his chance, and at last managed to throw down a large one (some say a bone which he carried with him), so that it lodged in the wolf's throat as he jumped up at it and choked him to death.

"I'll take his ears for hominy spoons," said the Terrapin, and cut off the wolf's ears and started home with them, leaving the Possum still eating persimmons up in the tree.

After a while he came to a house and was invited to have some kanahe'na gruel from the jar that is set always outside the door. He sat down beside the jar and dipped up the gruel with one of the wolf's ears for a spoon. The people noticed and wondered.

When he was satisfied he went on, but soon came to another house and was asked to have some more kanahe'na. He dipped it up again with the wolf's ear and went on when he had enough. Soon the news went around, that the Terrapin had killed the Wolf and was using his ears for spoons. All the Wolves got together and followed the Terrapin's trail until they came up with him and made him prisoner.

Then they held a council to decide what to do with him, and agreed to boil him in a clay pot. They brought in a pot, but the Terrapin only laughed at it and said that if they put him into that thing he would kick it all to pieces. They said they would burn him in the fire, but the Terrapin laughed again and said he would put it out.

Then they decided to throw him into the deepest hole in the river and drown him. The Terrapin begged and prayed them not to do that, but they paid no attention, and dragged him over to the river and threw him in. That was just what the Terrapin had been waiting for all the time, and he dived under the water and came up on the other side and got away.

Some say that when he was thrown into the river he struck against a rock, which broke, his back in a dozen places. He sang a medicine song:

G'daye'w, G'daye'w, (I have sewed myself together, I have sewed myself together)

The pieces came together, but the scars remain on his shell to this day.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Tsundige'wi
A Cherokee Legend

Once some young men of the Cherokee set out to see what was in the world and traveled south until they came to a tribe of little people called Tsundige'w, with very queer shaped bodies, hardly tall enough to reach up to a man's knee.

The Tsundige'w had no houses, but lived in nests scooped in the sand and covered over with dried grass. The little fellows were so weak and puny that they could not fight at all, and were in constant terror from the wild geese and other birds that used to come in great flocks from the south to make war upon them.

Just at the time that the travelers got there they found the little men in great fear, because there was a strong wind blowing from the south and it blew white feathers and down along the sand, so that the Tsundige'w knew their enemies were coming not far behind.

The Cherokee asked them why, they did not defend themselves, but they said they could not, because they did not know how. There was no time to make bows and arrows, but the travelers told them to take sticks for clubs, and showed them where to strike the birds on the necks to kill them.

The wind blew for several days, and at last the birds came, so many that they were like a great cloud in the air, and alighted on the sands. The little men ran to their nests, and the birds followed and stuck in their long bills to pull them out and eat them. This time. though, the Tsundige'w had their clubs, and they struck the birds on the neck, as the Cherokee had shown them, and killed so many that at last the others were glad to spread their wings and fly away again to the south.

The little men thanked the Cherokee for their help and gave them the best they had until the travelers went on to see the other tribes. They heard afterwards that the birds came again several times, but that the Tsundige'w always drove them off with their clubs, until a flock of sandhill cranes came. They were so tall that the little men could not reach up to strike them on the neck, and so at last the cranes killed them all.

Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Two Mohawks
A Cherokee Legend

In the year 1747 a couple of the Mohawk Indians came against the lower towns of the Cheerake, and cunningly ambuscaded them through most part of the spring and summer.

The two killed above twenty in different attacks before they were discovered by any party of the enraged and dejected people. They had a thorough knowledge of the most convenient ground for their purpose, and were extremely swift and long-winded. Whenever they killed any and got the scalp they made off to the neighboring mountains, and ran over the broad ledges of rocks in contrary courses, as occasion offered, so as the pursuers could by no means trace them.

Once, when a large company was in chase of them, they ran round a steep hill at the head of the main eastern branch of Savana river, intercepted, killed, and scalped the hindmost of the party, and then made off between them and Keeowhee.

As this was the town to which the company belonged, they hastened home in a close body, as the proper place of security from such enemy wizards. In this manner did those two sprightly, gallant savages perplex and intimidate their foes for the space of four moons in the greatest security, though they often were forced to kill and barbecue what they chiefly lived upon, in the midst of their watchful enemies.

Having sufficiently revenged their relations' blood and gratified their own ambition with an uncommon number of scalps, they resolved to captivate one and run home with him as a proof of their having killed none but the enemies of their country.

Accordingly, they approached very near to Keeowhee, about half a mile below the late Fort Prince George. Advancing with the usual caution on such an occasion, one crawled along under the best cover of the place about the distance of a hundred yards ahead, while the other shifted from tree to tree, looking sharply every way.

In the evening, however, an old, beloved man discovered them from the top of an adjoining hill, and knew them to be enemies by the cut of their hair, light trim for running, and their, postures.

He returned to the town and called first at the house of one of our traders and informed him of the affair, enjoining him not to mention it to any, lest the people should set off against them without success before their tracks were to be discovered and he be charged with having deceived them.

But, contrary to the true policy of traders among unforgiving savages, that thoughtless member of the Choktah Sphinx Company busied himself, as usual, out of his proper sphere, sent for the headmen, and told them the story. As the Mohawks were allies and not known to molest any of the traders in the paths and woods, he ought to have observed a strict neutrality.

The youth of the town, by order of their headmen, carried on their noisy public diversions in their usual manner to prevent their foes from having any suspicion of their danger, while runners were sent from the town to their neighbors to come silently and assist them to secure the prey in its state of security.

They came like silent ghosts, concerted their plan of operation, passed over the river at the old trading ford opposite to the late fort, which lay between two contiguous commanding hills, and, proceeding downward over a broad creek, formed a large semicircle from the river bank, while the town seemed to be taking its usual rest.

They then closed into a narrower compass, and at last discovered the two brave, unfortunate men lying close under the tops of some fallen young pine trees. The company gave the war signal, and the Mohawks, bounding up, bravely repeated it; but, by their sudden spring from under thick cover, their arms were useless. They made desperate efforts, however, to kill or be killed, as their situation required.

One of the Cherokee, the noted half-breed of Istanare [Ustna'l] town, which lay 2 miles from thence, was at the first onset knocked down and almost killed with his own cutlass, which was wrested from him, though he was the strongest of the whole nation. But they were overpowered by numbers, captivated, and put to the most exquisite tortures of fire, amidst a prodigious crowd of exulting foes.

One of the present Choktah traders, who was on the spot, told me that when they were tied to the stake the younger of the two discovered our traders on a hill near, addressed them in English, and entreated them to redeem their lives. The elder immediately spoke to him, in his own language, to desist. On this, he recollected himself, and became composed like a stoic, manifesting an indifference to life or death, pleasure or pain, according to their standard of martial virtue, and their dying behavior did not reflect the least dishonor on their former gallant actions.

All the pangs of fiery torture served only to refine their manly spirits, and as it was out of the power of the traders to redeem them they, according to our usual custom, retired as soon as the Indians began the diabolical tragedy.

American Indians, Adair, 1775


The Two Old Men
A Cherokee Legend

Two old men went hunting. One had an eye drawn down and was called Uk-kwngi'ta, "Eye-drawn-down." The other had an arm twisted out of shape and was called Uk-ku'stst, "Bent-bow-shape."

They killed a deer and cooked the meat in a pot. The second old man dipped a piece of bread into the soup and smacked his lips as he ate it. "Is it good?" said the first old man.

Said the other, "Hay'! uk-kwngi'st (Yes, sir!) It will draw down one's eye."

Thought the first old man to himself, "He means me." So he dipped a piece of bread into the pot, and smacked his lips as he tasted it.

"Do you find it good?" said the other old man.

Said his comrade, "Hay! uk-ku'ststt' (Yes, sir!) It will twist up one's arm."

Thought the second old man, "He means me"; so he got very angry and struck the first old man, and then they fought until each killed the other.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Uktena And The Ulunsu'ti
A Cherokee Legend

Long ago--hlahi'yu--when the Sun became angry at the people on earth and sent a sickness to destroy them, the Little Men changed a man into a monster snake, which they called Uktena, "The Keen-eyed," and sent him to kill her.

He failed to do the work, and the Rattlesnake had to be sent instead, which made the Uktena so jealous and angry that the people were afraid of him and had him taken up to Gl'lt, to stay with the other dangerous things. He left others behind him, though, nearly as large and dangerous as himself, and they hide now in deep pools in the river and about lonely passes in the high mountains, the places which the Cherokee call "Where the Uktena stays."

Those who know say that the Uktena is a great snake, as large around as a tree trunk, with horns on its head, and a bright, blazing crest like a diamond upon its forehead, and scales glittering like sparks of fire. It has rings or spots of color along its whole length, and can not be wounded except by shooting in the seventh spot from the head, because under this spot are its heart and its life.

The blazing diamond is called Uls't "Transparent," and he who can win it may become the greatest wonder worker of the tribe, but it is worth a man's life to attempt it, for whoever is seen by the Uktena is so dazed by the bright light that he runs toward the snake instead of trying to escape.

Even to see the Uktena asleep is death, not to the hunter himself, but to his family.

Of all the daring warriors who Have started out in search of the Uls't only gn-uni'ts ever came back successful. The East Cherokee still keep the one which he brought. It is like a large transparent crystal, nearly the shape of a cartridge bullet, with a blood-red streak running through the center from top to bottom. The owner keeps it wrapped in a whole deerskin, inside an earthen jar hidden away in a secret cave in the mountains.

Every seven days he feeds it with the blood of small game, rubbing the blood all over the crystal as soon as the animal has been killed. Twice a year it must have the blood of a deer or some other large animal. Should he forget to feed it at the proper time it would come out from its cave at night in the shape of fire and fly through the air to slake its thirst with the lifeblood of the conjurer or some one of his people.

He may save himself from this danger by telling it, when he puts it away, that he will not need it again for a long time. It will then go quietly to sleep and feel no hunger until it is again brought out to be consulted. Then it must be fed again with blood before it is used.

No white man must ever see it and no person but the owner will venture near it for fear of sudden death. Even the conjurer who keeps it is afraid of it, and changes its hiding place every once ill a while so that it can not learn the way out. When he dies it will be buried with him. Otherwise it will come out of its cave, like a blazing star, to search for his grave, night after night for seven years, when, if still not able to find him, it will go back to sleep forever where he has placed it.

Whoever owns the Uls't is sure of success in hunting, love, rainmaking, and every other business, but its great use is in life prophecy. When it is consulted for this purpose the future is seen mirrored in the clear crystal as a tree is reflected in the quiet stream below, and the conjurer knows whether the sick man will recover, whether the warrior will return from battle, or whether the youth will live to be old.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Underground Panthers
A Cherokee Legend

A hunter was in the woods one day in winter when suddenly he saw a panther coming toward him and at once prepared to defend himself. The panther continued to approach, and the hunter was just about to shoot when the animal spoke.

At once it seemed to the man as if there was no difference between them, and they were both of the same nature. The panther asked him where he was going, and the man said that he was looking for a deer.

"Well," said the panther, "we are getting ready for a Green-corn dance, and there are seven of us out after a buck, so we may as well hunt together."

The hunter agreed and they went on together. They started up one deer and another, but the panther made no sign, and said only "Those are too small; we want something better." So the hunter did not shoot, and they went on.

They started up another deer, a larger one, and the panther sprang upon it and tore its throat, and finally killed it after a hard struggle. The hunter got out his knife to skin it, but the panther said the skin was too much torn to be used and they must try again.

They started up another large deer, and this the panther killed without trouble, and then, wrapping his tail around it, threw it across his back. "Now, come to our townhouse," he said to the hunter.

The panther led the way, carrying the captured deer upon his back, up a little stream branch until they came to the head spring, when it seemed as if a door opened in the side of the hill and they went in. Now the hunter found himself in front of a large townhouse, with the finest detsn'l he had ever seen, and the trees around were green, and the air was warm, as in summer.

There was a great company there getting ready for the dance, and they were all panthers, but somehow it all seemed natural to the hunter. After a while the others who had been out came in with the deer they had taken, and the dance began. The hunter danced several rounds, and then said it was growing late and he must be getting home. So the panthers opened the door and he went out, and at once found himself alone in the woods again, and it was winter and very cold, with snow on the ground and on all the trees.

When he reached the settlement he found a party just starting out to search for him. They asked him where he had been so long, and he told them the story, and then he found that he had been in the panther townhouse several days instead of only a very short time, as he had thought.

He died within seven days after his return, because he had already begun to take on the panther nature, and so could not live again with men. If he had stayed with the panthers he would have lived.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Ustu'tli
A Cherokee Legend

There was once a great serpent called the Ustu'tli that made its haunt upon Cohutta mountain. It was called the Ustu'tli or "foot" snake, because it did not glide like other snakes, but had feet at each end of its body.

The Ustu'tli moved by strides or jerks, like a great measuring worm. Its feet were three-cornered and flat and could hold on to the ground like suckers. It had no legs, but would raise itself up on its hind feet, with its snaky head waving high in the air until it found a good place to take a fresh hold; then it would bend down and grip its front feet to the ground while it drew its body up from behind. It could cross rivers and deep ravines by throwing its head across and getting a grip with its front feet and then swinging its body over.

Wherever its footprints were found there was danger. It used to bleat like a young fawn, and when the hunter heard a fawn bleat in the woods he never looked for it, but hurried away in the other direction. Up the mountain or down, nothing could escape the Ustu'tli's pursuit, but along the side of the ridge it could not go, because the great weight of its swinging head broke its hold on the ground when it moved sideways.

It came to pass after a while that not a hunter about Cohutta would venture near the mountain for dread of the Ustu'tli. At last a man from one of the northern settlements came down to visit some relatives in that neighborhood. When he arrived they made a feast for him, but had only corn and beans, and excused themselves for having no meat because the hunters were afraid to go into the mountains.

He asked the reason, and when they told him he said he would go himself to-morrow and either bring in a deer or find the Ustu'tli. They tried to dissuade him from it, but as he insisted upon going they warned him that if he heard a fawn bleat in the thicket he must run at once and if the snake came after him he must not try to run down the mountain, but along the side of the ridge.

In the morning he started out and went directly toward the mountain. Working his way through the bushes at the base, he suddenly heard a fawn bleat in front. He guessed at once that it was the Ustu'tli, but he had made up his mind to see it, so he did not turn back, but went straight forward, and there, sure enough, was the monster, with its great head in the air, as high as the pine branches, looking in every direction to discover a deer, or maybe a man, for breakfast.

It saw him and came at him at once, moving in jerky strides, every one the length of a tree trunk, holding its scaly head high above the bushes and bleating as it came.

The hunter was so badly frightened that he lost his wits entirely and started to run directly up the mountain. The great snake came after him, gaining half its length on him every time it took a fresh grip with its fore feet, and would have caught the hunter before he reached the top of the ridge, but that he suddenly remembered the warning and changed his course to run along the sides of the mountain.

At once the snake began to lose ground, for every time it raised itself up the weight of its body threw it out of a straight line and made it fall a little lower down the side of the ridge. It tried to recover itself, but now the hunter gained and kept on until he turned the end of the ridge and left the snake out of sight. Then he cautiously climbed to the top and looked over and saw the Ustu'tli still slowly working its way toward the summit.

He went down to the base of the mountain, opened his fire pouch, and set fire to the grass and leaves. Soon the fire ran all around the mountain and began to climb upward. When the great snake smelled the smoke and saw the flames coming it forgot all about the hunter and turned to make all speed for a high cliff near the summit.

It reached the rock and got upon it, but the fire followed and can ht the dead pines about the base of the cliff until the heat made the Ust'tl's scales crack. Taking a close grip of the rock with its hind feet it raised its body and put forth all its strength in an effort to spring across the wall of fire that surrounded it, but the smoke choked it and its hold loosened and it fell among the blazing pine trunks and lay there until it was burned to ashes.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Uw`tsun'ta
A Cherokee Legend

At N'dye'`l, the wildest spot on Nantahala river, in what is now Macon county, North Carolina, where the overhanging cliff is highest and the river far below, there lived in the old time a great snake called the Uw`tsun'ta or "bouncer."

It moved by jerks like a measuring worm, with only one part of its body on the ground at a time. It stayed generally on the east side, where the sun came first in the morning, and used to cross by reaching over from the highest point of the cliff until it could get a grip on the other side, when it would pull over the rest of its body.

It was so immense that when it was thus stretched across its shadow darkened the whole valley below.

For a long time the people did not know it was there, but when at last they found out about it they were, afraid to live in the valley, so that it was deserted even while still Indian country.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Water Cannibals
A Cherokee Legend

Besides the friendly Nn'h of the streams and mountains there is a race of cannibal spirits, who stay at the bottom of the deep rivers and live upon human flesh, especially that of little children.

They come out just after daybreak and go about unseen from house to house until they find some one still asleep, when they shoot him with their invisible arrows and carry the dead body down under the water to feast upon it. That no one may know what has happened they leave in place of the body a shade or image of the dead man or little child, that wakes up and talks and goes about just as he did, but there is no life in it, and in seven days it withers and dies, and the people bury it and think they are burying their dead friend. It was a long time before the people found out about this, but now they always try to be awake at daylight and wake up the children, telling them "The hunters are among you."

This is the way they first knew about the water cannibals: There was a man in Tkwli'ts town who became sick and grew worse until the doctors said he could not live, and then his friends went away from the house and left him alone to die, They were not so kind to each other in the old times as they are now, because they were afraid of the witches that came to torment dying people.

He was alone several days, not able to rise from his bed, when one morning an old woman came in at the door. She looked just like the other women of the settlement, but he did not know her. She came over to the bed and said, "You are very sick and your friends seem to have left you. Come with me and I will make you well." The man was so near death that he could not move, but now her words made him feel stronger at once, and he asked her where she wanted him to go. "We live close by; come with me and I will show you," said the woman, so he got up from his bed and she led the way down to the water. When she came to the water she stepped in and he followed, and there was a road under the water, and another country there just like that above.

They went on until they came to a settlement with a great many houses, and women going about their work and children playing. They met a party of hunters coming in from a hunt, but instead of deer or bear quarters hanging from their shoulders they carried the bodies of dead men and children, and several of the bodies the man knew for those of his own friends in Tkwli'ts. They came to a house and the woman said "This is where I live," and took him in and fixed a bed for him and made him comfortable.

By this time he was very hungry, but the woman knew his thoughts and said, "We must get him something to eat. She took one of the bodies that the hunters had just brought in and cut off a slice to roast. The man was terribly frightened, but she read his thoughts again and said, "I see you can not eat our food." Then she turned away from him and held her hands before her stomach--so--and when she turned around again she had them full of bread and beans such as he used to have at home.

So it was every day, until soon he was well and strong again. Then she told him he might go home now, but he must be sure not to speak to anyone for seven days, and if any of his friends should question him he must make signs as if his throat were sore and keep silent. She went with him along the same trail to the water's edge, and the water closed over her and he went back alone to Tkwli'ts. When he came there his friends were surprised, because they thought he had wandered off and died in the woods. They asked him where he had been, but he only pointed to his throat and said nothing, so they thought he was not yet well and let him alone until the seven days were past, when he began to talk again and told the whole story.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Wolf And The Dog
A Cherokee Legend

In the beginning, the people say, the Dog was put on the mountain and the Wolf beside the fire. When the winter came the Dog could not stand the cold, so he came down to the settlement and drove the Wolf from the fire.

The Wolf ran to the mountains, where it suited him so well that he prospered and increased, until after a while he ventured down again and killed some animals in the settlements.

The people got together and followed and killed him, but his brothers came from the mountains and took such revenge that ever since the people have been afraid to hurt a wolf.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


The Wolf's Revenge
A Cherokee Legend

Kana't had wolves to hunt for him, because they are good hunters and never fail. He once sent out two wolves at once. One went to the east and did not return.

The other went to the north, and when he returned at night and did not find his fellow he knew he must be in trouble and started after him.

After traveling on some time he found his brother lying nearly dead beside a great greensnake (slikwa'y'y) which had attacked him. The snake itself was too badly wounded to crawl away, and the angry wolf, who had magic powers, taking out several hairs from his own whiskers, shot them into the body of the snake and killed it.

He then hurried back to Kana't, who sent the Terrapin after a great doctor who lived in the west to save the wounded wolf.

The wolf went back to help his brother and by his magic powers he had him cured long before the doctor came from the west, because the Terrapin was such a slow traveler and the doctor had to prepare his roots before he started.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Two Lazy Hunters
A Cherokee Legend

A party of warriors once started out for a long hunting trip in the mountains, They went on until they came to a good game region, when they set up their bark hut in a convenient place near the river side.

Every morning after breakfast they scattered out, each man for himself, to be gone all day, until they returned at night with whatever game they had taken.

There was one lazy fellow who went out alone every morning like the others, but only until he found a sunny slope, when he would stretch out by the side of a rock to sleep until evening, returning then to camp empty-handed, but with his moccasins torn and a long story of how he had tramped all day and found nothing.

This went on until one of the others began to suspect that something was wrong, and made it his business to find it out. The next morning he followed him secretly through the woods until he saw him come out into a sunny opening, where he sat down upon a large rock, took off his moccasins, and began rubbing them against the rocks until he had worn holes in them.

Then the lazy fellow loosened his belt, lay down beside the rock, and went to sleep. The spy set fire to the dry leaves and watched until the flame crept close up to the sleeping man, who never opened his eyes.

The spy went back to camp and told what he had seen. About supper time the lazy fellow came in with the same old story of a long day's hunt and no game started. When he had finished the others all laughed and called him a sleepyhead. He insisted that he had been climbing the ridges all day, and put out his moccasins to show how worn they were, not knowing that they were scorched from the fire, as he had slept on until sundown.

When they saw the blackened moccasins they laughed again, and he was too much astonished to say a word in his defense; so the captain said that such a liar was not fit to stay with them, and he was driven from the camp.

There was another lazy fellow who courted a pretty girl, but she would have nothing to do with him, telling him that her husband must be a good hunter or she would remain single all her life.

One morning he went into the woods, and by a lucky accident managed to kill a deer. Lifting it upon his back, he carried it into the settlement, passing right by the door of the house where the girl and her mother lived.

As soon as he was out of sight of the house he went by a roundabout course into the woods again and waited until evening, when he appeared with the deer on his shoulder and came down the trail past the girl's house as he had in the morning.

He did this the next day, and the next, until the girl began to think he must be killing all the deer in the woods. So her mother (the old women are usually the matchmakers) got ready and went to the young man's mother to talk it over.

When she arrived and the greetings were done she said, "Your son must be a good hunter."

"No," replied the old woman, "he seldom kills anything."

"But he has been killing a great many deer lately."

"I haven't seen any," said his mother.

"Why, he has been carrying deer past our house twice a day for the last three days."

"I don't know what he did with them," said the young man's mother; "he never brought them here."

Then the girl's mother was sure there was something wrong, so she went home and told her husband, who followed tip the young man's trail into the woods until it brought him to where the body of the deer was hidden, now so far decayed that it had to be thrown away.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


U`tlun'ta, The Spear-finger
A Cherokee Legend

Long, long ago--hlahi'yu--there dwelt in the mountains a terrible ogress, a woman monster, whose food was human livers. She could take on any shape or appearance to suit her purpose, but in her right form she looked very much like an old woman.

But not an ordinary woman: her whole body was covered with a skin as hard as a rock that no weapon could wound or penetrate, and that on her right hand she had a long, stony forefinger of bone, like an awl or spearhead, with which she stabbed everyone to whom she could get near enough.

On account of this fact she was called U`tlun'ta "Spear-finger," and on account of her stony skin she was sometimes called N'yunu', "Stone-dress." There was another stone-clothed monster that killed people, but that is a different story.

Spear-finger had such powers over stone that she could easily lift and carry immense rocks, and could cement them together by merely striking one against another. To get over the rough country more easily she undertook to build a great rock bridge through the air from Ny'-tlu`g'y, the "Tree rock," on Hiwassee, over to Sanigil'g (Whiteside mountain), on the Blue ridge, and had it well started from the top of the "Tree rock" when the lightning struck it and scattered the fragments along the whole ridge, where the pieces can still be seen by those who go there.

She used to range all over the mountains about the heads of the streams and in the dark passes of Nantahala, always hungry and looking for victims. Her favorite haunt on the Tennessee side was about the gap on the trail where Chilhowie mountain comes down to the river.

Sometimes an old woman would approach along the trail where the children were picking strawberries or playing near the village, and would say to them coaxingly, "Come, my grandchildren, come to your granny and let granny dress your hair."

When some little girl ran up and laid her head in the old woman's lap to be petted and combed the old witch would gently run her fingers through the child's hair until it went to sleep, when she would stab the little one through the heart or back of the neck with the long awl finger, which she had kept hidden under her robe. Then she would take out the liver and eat it.

She would enter a house by taking the appearance of one of the family who happened to have gone out for a short time, and would watch her chance to stab someone with her long finger and take out his liver.

She could stab him without being noticed, and often the victim did not even know it himself at the time--for it left no wound and caused no pain--but went on about his own affairs, until all at once he felt weak and began gradually to pine away, and was always sure to die, because Spear-finger had taken his liver.

When the Cherokee went out in the fall, according to their custom, to burn the leaves off from the mountains in order to get the chestnuts on the ground, they were never safe, for the old witch was always on the lookout, and as soon as she saw the smoke rise she knew there were Indians there and sneaked up to try to surprise one alone.

So as well as they could they tried to keep together, and were very cautious of allowing any stranger to approach the camp. But if one went down to the spring for a drink they never knew but it might be the liver eater that came back and sat with them.

Sometimes she took her proper form, and once or twice, when far out from the settlements, a solitary hunter had seen an old woman, with a queer-looking hand, going through the woods singing low to herself:

Uwe'la na'tsk'. Su' s' sai'.
Liver, I eat it. Su' sa' sai'.

It was rather a pretty song, but it chilled his blood, for he knew it was the liver eater, and he hurried away, silently, before she might see him.

At last a great council was held to devise some means to get rid of U`tlun'ta before she should destroy everybody. The people came from all around, and after much talk it was decided that the best way would be to trap her in a pitfall where all the warriors could attack her at once.

So they dug a deep pitfall across the trail and covered it over with earth and grass as if the ground had never been disturbed. Then they kindled a large fire of brush near the trail and hid themselves in the laurels, because they knew she would come as soon as she saw the smoke.

Sure enough they soon saw an old woman coming along the trail. She looked like an old woman whom they knew well in the village, and although several of the wiser men wanted to shoot at her, the other interfered, because they did not want to hurt one of their own people. The old woman came slowly along the trail, with one hand under her blanket, until she stepped upon the pitfall and tumbled through the brush top into the deep hole below.

Then, at once, she showed her true nature, and instead of the feeble old woman there was the terrible U`tlun'ta with her stony skin, and her sharp awl finger reaching out in every direction for some one to stab.

The hunters rushed out from the thicket and surrounded the pit, but shoot as true and as often as they could, their arrows struck the stony mail of the witch only to be broken and fall useless at her feet, while she taunted them and tried to climb out of the pit to get at them. They kept out of her way, but were only wasting their arrows when a small bird, Utsu'`g, the titmouse, perched on a tree overhead and began to sing "un, un, un."

They thought it was saying u'nah', heart, meaning that they should aim at the heart of the stone witch. They directed their arrows where the heart should be, but the arrows only glanced off with the flint heads broken.

Then they caught the Utsu'`g and cut off its tongue, so that ever since its tongue is short and everybody knows it is a liar. When the hunters let it go it flew straight up into the sky until it was out of sight and never came back again. The titmouse that we know now is only an image of the other.

They kept up the fight without result until another bird, little Tsklil', the chickadee, flew down from a tree and alighted upon the witch's right hand. The warriors took this as a sign that they must aim there, and they were right, for her heart was on the inside of her hand, which she kept doubled into a fist, this same awl hand with which she had stabbed so many people.

Now she was frightened in earnest, and began to rush furiously at them with her long awl finger and to jump about in the pit to dodge the arrows, until at last a lucky arrow struck just where the awl joined her wrist and she fell down dead.

Ever since the tsklil' is known as a truth teller, and when a man is away on a journey, if this bird comes and perches near the house and chirps its song, his friends know he will soon be safe home.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Untsaiyi', The Gambler
A Cherokee Legend

Thunder lives in the west, or a little to the south of west, near the place where the sun goes down behind the water. In the old times he sometimes made a journey to the east, and once after he had come back from one of these journeys a child was born in the east who, the people said, was his son.

As the boy grew up it was found that he had scrofula sores all over his body, so one day his mother said to him, "Your father, Thunder, is a great doctor. He lives far in the west, but if you can find him he can cure you."

So the boy set out to find his father and be cured. He traveled long toward the west, asking of every one he met where Thunder lived, until at last they began to tell him that it was only a little way ahead. He went on and came to 'tiguh', on Tennessee, where lived tsaiy' "Brass." Now a tsaiy' was a great gambler, and made his living that way. It was he who invented the gatayst game that we play with a stone wheel and a stick.

He lived on the south side of the river, and everybody who came that way he challenged to play against him. The large flat rock, with the lines and grooves where they used to roll the wheel, is still there, with the wheels themselves and the stick turned to stone. He won almost every time, because he was so tricky, so that he had his house filled with all kinds of fine things.

Sometimes he would lose, and then he would bet all that he had, even to his own life, but the winner got nothing for his trouble, for tsaiy' knew how to take on different shapes, so that he always got away.

As soon as tsaiy' saw him he asked him to stop and play a while, but the boy said he was looking for his father, Thunder, and had no time to wait. "Well," said tsaiy', "he lives in the next house; you can hear him grumbling over there all the time"--he meant the Thunder--"so we may as well have a game or two before you go on."

The boy said he had nothing to bet. "That's all right," said the gambler, "we'll play for your pretty spots." He said this to make the boy angry so that he would play, but still the boy said he must go first and find his father, and would come back afterwards.

He went on, and soon the news came to Thunder that a boy was looking for him who claimed to be his son. Said Thunder, "I have traveled in many lands and have many children. Bring him here and we shall soon know."

So they brought in the boy, and Thunder showed him a seat and told him to sit down. Under the blanket on the seat were long, sharp thorns of the honey locust, with the points all sticking up, but when the boy sat down they did not hurt him, and then Thunder knew that it was his son. He asked the boy why he had come. "I have sores all over my body, and my mother told me you were my father and a great doctor, and if I came here you would cure me. "Yes," said his father, "I am a great doctor, and I'll soon fix you."

There was a large pot in the corner and he told his wife to fill it with water and put it over the fire. When it was boiling, he put in some roots, then took the boy and put him in with them. He let it boil a long time until one would have thought that the flesh was boiled from the poor boy's bones, and then told his wife to take the pot and throw it into the river, boy and all. She did as she was told, and threw it into the water, and ever since there is an eddy there that we call 'tiguh', "Pot-in-the-water."

A service tree and a calico bush grew on the bank above. A great cloud of steam came up and made streaks and blotches on their bark, and it has been so to this day. When the steam cleared away she looked over and saw the boy clinging to the roots of the service tree where they hung down into the water, but now his skin was all clean. She helped him up the bank, and they went back to the house.

On the way she told him, "When we go in, your father will put a new dress on you, but when he opens his box and tells you to pick out your ornaments be sure to take them from the bottom. Then he will send for his other sons to play ball against you. There is a honey-locust tree in front of the house, and as soon as you begin to get tired strike at that and your father will stop the play, because he does not want to lose the tree."

When they went into the house, the old man was pleased to see the boy looking so clean, and said, "I knew I could soon cure those spots. Now we must dress you."

He brought out a fine suit of buck-kin, with belt and headdress, and had the boy put them on. Then he opened a box and said, "Now pick out your necklace and bracelets."

The boy looked, and the box was full of all kinds of snakes gliding over each other with their heads up. He was not afraid, but remembered what the woman had told him, and plunged his hand to the bottom and drew out a great rattlesnake and put it around his neck for a necklace. He put down his hand again four times and drew up four copperheads and twisted them around his wrists and ankles.

Then his father gave him a war club and said, "Now you must play a ball game with your two elder brothers. They live beyond here in the Darkening land, and l have sent for them" He said a ball game, but he meant that the boy must fight for his life. The young men came, and they were both older and stronger than the boil, but he was not afraid and fought against them.

The thunder rolled and the lightning flashed at every stroke, for they were the young Thunders, and the boy himself was Lightning. At last he was tired from defending himself alone against two, and pretended to aim a blow at the honey-locust tree. Then his father stopped the fight, because he was afraid the lightning would split the tree, and he saw that the boy was brave and strong.

The boy told his father how tsaiy' had dared him to play, and had even offered to play for the spots on his skin. "Yes," said Thunder, "he is a great gambler and makes his living that way, but I will see that you win." He brought a small climbing gourd with a hole bored through the neck, and tied it on the boy's wrist. Inside the gourd there was a string of beads, and one end hung out from a hole in the top, but there was no end to the string inside.

"Now," said his father, :go back the way you came, and as soon as he sees you he will want to play for the beads. He is very hard to beat, but this time he will lose every game. When he cries out for a drink, you will know he is getting discouraged, and then strike the rock with your war club and water will come, so that you can play on without stopping.

At last he will bet his life, and lose. Then send at once for your brothers to kill him, or he will get away, he is so tricky."

The boy took the gourd and his war club and started east along the road by which he had come. As soon as tsai'y saw him he called to him, and when he saw the gourd with the bead string hanging out he wanted to play for it.

The boy drew out the string. but there seemed to be no end to it, and he kept on pulling until enough had come out to make a circle all around the playground. "I will play one game for this much against your stake," said the boy, "and when that is over we can have another game."

They began the game with the wheel and stick and the boy won. tsai'y did not know what to think of it, but he put up another stake and called for a second game. The boy won again, and so they played on until noon, when tsai'y had lost nearly everything he had and was about discouraged.

It was very hot, and he said, "I am thirsty," and wanted to stop long enough to get a drink.

"No," said the boy, and struck the rock with his club so that water came out, and they had a drink. They played on until tsai'y had lost all his buckskins and beaded work, his eagle feathers and ornaments, and at last offered to bet his wife.

They played and the boy won her. Then tsai'y was desperate and offered to stake his life. "If I win I kill you, but if you win you may kill me." They played and the boy won.

"Let me go and tell my wife," said tsai'y, "so that she will receive her new husband, and then you may kill me." He went into the house, but it had two doors, and although the boy waited long tsai'y did not come back. When at last he went to look for him he found that the gambler had gone out the back way and was nearly out of sight going east.

The boy ran to his father's house and got his brothers to help him. They brought their dog--the Horned Green Beetle--and hurried after the gambler. He ran fast and was soon out of sight, and they followed as fast as they could. After a while they met an old woman making pottery and asked her if she had seen tsai'y and she said she had not.

"He came this way," said the brothers.

"Then he must have passed in the night," said the old woman, "for I have been here all day."

They were about to take another road when the Beetle, which had been circling about in the air above the old woman, made a dart at her and struck her on the forehead, and it rang like brass--tsai'y! Then they knew it was Brass and sprang at him, but he jumped up in his right shape and was off, running so fast that he was soon out of sight again. The Beetle had struck so hard that some of the brass rubbed off, and we can see it on the beetle's forehead yet.

They followed and came to an old man sitting by the trail, carving a stone pipe. They asked him if he had seen Brass pass that way and he said no, but again the Beetle--which could know Brass under any shape--struck him on the forehead so that it rang like metal, and the gambler jumped up in his right form and was off again before they could hold him.

He ran east until he came to the great water; then he ran north until he came to the edge of the world, and had to turn again to the west. He took every shape to throw them off the track, but the Green Beetle always knew him, and the brothers pressed him so hard that at last he could go no more and they caught him just as he reached the edge of the great water where the sun goes down.

They tied his hands and feet with a grapevine and drove a long stake through his breast, and planted it far out in the deep water. They set two crows on the end of the pole to guard it and called the place Kg'y, "Crow place." But Brass never died, and cannot die until the end of the world, but lies there always with his face up. Sometimes he struggles under the water to get free, and sometimes the beavers, who are his friends, come and gnaw at the grapevine to release him. Then the pole shakes and the crows at the top cry Ka! Ka! Ka! and scare the beavers away.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


What Became Of The Rabbit
A Cherokee Legend

The Deer was very angry at the Rabbit for filing his teeth and determined to be revenged, but he kept still and pretended to be friendly until the Rabbit was off his guard.

Then one day, as they were going along together talking, he challenged the Rabbit to jump against him. Now the Rabbit is a great jumper, as every one knows, so he agreed at once. There was a small stream beside the path, as there generally is in that country, and the Deer said:

"Let's see if you can jump across this branch. We'll go back a piece, and then when I say K! then both run and jump."

"All right," said the Rabbit. So they went back to get a good start, and when the Deer gave the word K! they ran for the stream, and the Rabbit made one jump and landed on the other side.

But the Deer had stopped on the bank, and when the Rabbit looked back the Deer had conjured the stream so that it was a large river.

The Rabbit was never able to get back again and is still on the other side. The rabbit that we know is only a little thing that came afterwards.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


What The Stars Are Like
A Cherokee Legend

There are different opinions about the stars. Some say they are balls of light, others say they are human, but most people say they are living creatures covered with luminous fur or feathers.

One night a hunting party camping in the mountains noticed two lights like large stars moving along the top of a distant ridge. They wondered and watched until the light disappeared on the other side. The next night, and the next, they saw the lights again moving along the ridge, and after talking over the matter decided to go on the morrow and try to learn the cause.

In the morning they started out and went until they came to the ridge, where, after searching some time, they found two strange creatures about so large (making a circle with outstretched arms), with round bodies covered with fine fur or downy feathers, from which small heads stuck out like the heads of terrapins. As the breeze played upon these feathers showers of sparks flew out.

The hunters carried the strange creatures back to the camp, intending to take them home to the settlements on their return. They kept them several days and noticed that every night they would grow bright and shine like great stars, although by day they were only balls of gray fur, except when the wind stirred and made the sparks fly out.

They kept very quiet, and no one thought of their trying to escape, when, on the seventh night, they suddenly rose from the ground like balls of fire and were soon above the tops of the trees. Higher and higher they went, while the wondering hunters watched, until at last they were only two bright points of light in the dark sky, and then the hunters knew that they were stars.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Why The Possum's Tail is Bare
A Cherokee Legend

Many, many years ago, the Possum had a long, bushy tail. He was so proud of it that he combed it every morning. He sang about it whenever the animals held a dance.

The Rabbit, who had had no tail since the Bear pulled it out, became very jealous. She made up her mind to play a trick on the Possum.

A great council meeting had been planned. There was to be a dance and all the animals were to be present. It was the Rabbit's task to send out the news to everyone. As the Rabbit was passing the Possum's house, she stopped to ask him whether he would be at the dance. The Possum said yes, but he would come only if he could have a special seat.

"I have such a handsome tail," he said. "I ought to sit where everybody can see me."

The Rabbit promised to take care of the Possum's special seat. She also promised to send someone to prepare the Possum's tail for the dance. The Possum was very much pleased and agreed to attend.

The Rabbit immediately went off to see the Cricket. Now, the Cricket was such an expert hair cutter, the Indians called him "the barber." The Rabbit told the Cricket to go the next morning and get the Possum's tail ready for the dance. She told the Cricket exactly what to do.

In the morning the Cricket went to the Possum's house. "I have come to get you ready for the dance, Possum," he said.

This pleased the Possum very much. He stretched himself out and shut his eyes. The Cricket began to work on the Possum's tail. First he carefully combed it. Then he quietly began to clip the Possum's hair close to the roots! As he clipped, the Cricket wrapped red ribbon around the tail to hold the loose hair in place. The Possum, eyes tightly shut, didn't know what the Cricket was doing.

When night fell, the Possum went to the hall where the dance was to be held. There he found the best seat was ready for him, just as the Rabbit had promised. When the Possum's turn came to dance, he stepped into the middle of the floor, grinning from ear to ear.

The drummers began to drum and the Possum began to sing, "See my beautiful tail!" Everyone shouted. This pleased the Possum, so he danced around the circle again and sang, "See what a fine color my tail is!" Everyone shouted again and the Possum danced around the circle once more. As he danced he sang, "See how my tail sweeps the ground!"

The animals shouted more loudly than before. The Possum was delighted. Now, to really show off his fur, he untied the ribbon. Then around and around he danced, singing, "See how fine is the fur on my tail!"

Suddenly everybody started to laugh. They laughed so long that the Possum wondered why they were laughing. He looked around the circle of animals. They were laughing at him! Then he looked down at his tail. He saw that there was not a hair left upon it. It was as bare as the tail of a lizard! He was so surprised and embarrassed he could not say a word. He dropped to the ground, rolled over, and played dead.

That is why the Possum's tail is bare and why he plays dead when taken by surprise.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Why The Bullfrog's Head Is Striped
A Cherokee Legend

According to one version the Bullfrog was always ridiculing the great gambler tsai'y, (Brass) until the latter at last got angry and dared the Bullfrog to play the gatay'st (wheel-and-stick) game with him.

Whichever lost was to be scratched on his forehead. Brass won, as he always did, and the yellow stripes on the Bullfrog's head show where the gambler's fingers scratched him.

Another story is that the Bullfrog had a conjurer to paint his head with yellow stripes (brass) to make him appear more handsome to a pretty woman he was courting.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Why The Buzzard's Head Is Bare
A Cherokee Legend

The buzzard used to have a fine topknot, of which he was so proud that he refused to eat carrion, and while the other birds were pecking at the body of a deer or other animal which they had found he would strut around and say: "You may have it all, it is not good enough for me."

They resolved to punish him, and with the help of the buffalo carried out a plot by which the buzzard lost not his topknot alone, but nearly all the other feathers on his head.

He lost his pride at the same time, so that he is willing enough now to eat carrion for a living.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Why The Deer's Teeth Are Blunt
A Cherokee Legend

The Rabbit felt sore because the Deer had won the horns, and resolved to get even. One day soon after the race he stretched a large grapevine across the trail and gnawed it nearly in two in the middle.

Then he went back a piece, took a good run, and jumped up at the vine. He kept on running and jumping up at the vine until the Deer came along and asked him what he was doing?

"Don't you see?" says the Rabbit. "I'm so strong that I can bite through that grapevine at one jump."

The Deer could hardly believe this, and wanted to see it done.. So the Rabbit ran back, made a tremendous spring, and bit through the vine where he had gnawed it before. The Deer, when he saw that, said, "Well, I can do it if you can." So the Rabbit stretched a larger grapevine across the trail, but without gnawing it in the middle.

Deer ran back as he had seen the Rabbit do, made a spring, and struck the grapevine right in the center, but it only flew back and threw him over on his head. He tried again and again, until he was all bruised and bleeding.

"Let me see your teeth," at last said the Rabbit. So the Deer showed him his teeth, which were long like a wolf's teeth, but not very sharp.

"No wonder you can't do it," says the Rabbit; "your teeth are too blunt to bite anything. Let me sharpen them for you like mine. My teeth are so sharp that I can cut through a stick just like a knife." And he showed him a black locust twig, of which rabbits gnaw the young shoots, which he had shaved off as well as a knife could do it, in regular rabbit fashion.

The Deer thought that just the thing. So the Rabbit got a hard stone with rough edges and filed and filed away at the Deer's teeth until they were worn down almost to the gums.

"It hurts," said the Deer; but the Rabbit said it always hurt a little when they began to get sharp; so the Deer kept quiet.

"Now try it," at last said the Rabbit. So the Deer tried again, but this time he could not bite at all.

"Now you've paid for your horns," said the Rabbit, as he jumped away through the bushes. Ever since then the Deer's teeth are so blunt that he can not chew anything but grass and leaves.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Why The Mink Smells
A Cherokee Legend

The Mink was such a great thief that at last the animals held a council about the matter. It was decided to burn him, so they caught the Mink, built a great fire, and threw him into it.

As the blaze went up and they smelt the roasted flesh, they began to think he was punished enough and would probably do better in the future, so they took him out of the fire.

But the Mink was already burned black and is black ever since, and whenever he is attacked or excited he smells again like roasted meat.

The lesson did no good, however, and he is still as great a thief as ever.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Why The Mole Lives Underground
A Cherokee Legend

A man was in love with a woman who disliked him and would have nothing to do with him. He tried every way to win her favor, but to no purpose, until at last he grew discouraged and made himself sick thinking over it. <>PThe Mole came along, and finding him in such low condition asked what was the trouble. The man told him the whole story, and when he had finished the Mole said: "I can help you, so that she will not only like you, but will come to you of her own will."

So that night the Mole burrowed his way underground to where the girl was in bed asleep and took out her heart. He came back by the same way and gave the heart to the man, who could not see it even when it was put into his hand. "There," said the Mole, "swallow it, and she will be drawn to come to you and can not keep away."

The man swallowed the heart, and when the girl woke up she somehow thought at once of him, and felt a strange desire to be with him, as though she must go to him at once. She wondered and could not understand it, because she had always disliked him before, but at last the feeling grew so strong that she was compelled to go herself to the man and tell him she loved him and wanted to be his wife.

And so they were married, but all the magicians who had known them both were surprised and wondered how it had come about. When they found that it was the work of the Mole, whom they had always before thought too insignificant for their notice, they were very jealous and threatened to kill him, so that he hid himself under the ground and has never since dared to come up to the surface.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


Yahula
A Cherokee Legend

Yahula creek, which flows by Dahlonega, in Lumpkin county, Georgia, is called Yahul' (Yahula place) by the Cherokees, and this is the story of the name:

Years ago, long before the Revolution, Yahula was a prosperous stock trader among the Cherokee, and the tinkling of the bells hung around the necks of his ponies could be heard on every mountain trail. Once there was a great hunt and all the warriors were out, but when it was over and they were ready to return to the settlement Yahula was not with them.

They waited and searched, but he could not be found, and at last they went back without him, and his friends grieved for him as for one dead. Some time after his people were surprised and delighted to have him walk in among them and sit down as they were at supper in the evening.

To their questions he told them that he had been lost in the mountains, and that the Nn'h, the Immortals, had found him and brought him to their town, where he had been kept ever since, with the kindest care and treatment, until the longing to see his old friends had brought him back.

To the invitation of his friends to join them at supper he said that it was now too late--he had tasted the fairy food and could never again eat with human kind, and for the same reason he could not stay with his family, but must go back to the Nn'h.

His wife and children and brother begged him to stay, but he said that he could not; it was either life with the Immortals or death with his own people--and after some further talk he rose to go. They saw him as he sat talking to them and as he stood up, but the moment he stepped out the doorway he vanished as if he had never been.

After that he came back often to visit his people. They would see him first as he entered the house, and while he sat and talked he was his old self in every way, but the instant he stepped across the threshold he was gone, though a hundred eyes might be watching. He came often, but at last their entreaties grew so urgent that the Nn'h must have been offended, and he came no more.

On the mountain at the head of the, creek, about 10 miles above the present Dahlonega, is a small square enclosure of uncut stone, without roof or entrance. Here it was said that he lived, so the Cherokee called it Yahul' and called the stream by the same name.

Often at night a belated traveler coming along the trail by the creek would hear the voice of Yahula singing certain favorite old songs that he used to like to sing as he drove his pack of horses across the mountain, the sound of a voice urging them on, and the crack of a whip and the tinkling of bells went with the song, but neither driver nor horses could be seen, although the sounds passed close by. The songs and the bells were heard only at night.

There was one man who had been his friend, who sang the same songs for a time after Yahula had disappeared, but he died suddenly, and then the Cherokee were afraid to sing these songs any more until it was so long since anyone had heard the sounds on the mountain that they thought Yahula must be gone away, perhaps to the West, where others of the tribe had already gone.

It is so long ago now that even the stone house may have been destroyed by this time, but more than one old man's father saw it and heard the songs and the bell, a hundred years ago. When the Cherokee, went from Georgia to Indian Territory in 1838 some of them said, "Maybe Yahula has gone there and we shall hear him," but they have never heard him again.

From Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney, 1900


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