Monday, April 14, 2014

Cherokee: Tobacco and Strawberries

This story is part of the Cherokee Myths unit. Story source: Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney (1900).


How They Brought Back the Tobacco

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 Dagûl`kû 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 Dagûl`kû 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 Dagûl`kû 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 Dagûl`kû 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 Dagûl`kû 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 "Tsâ'lû! [Tobacco!]" she opened her eyes and was alive again.


Origin of Strawberries

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, until at last the woman left her husband and started off toward Nûñâgûñ'yï, the Sun land, in the east. The man followed alone and grieving, but the woman kept on steadily ahead and never looked behind, until Une'`länûñ'hï, 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 Une'`länûñ'hï then asked him if he would like to have her back again, to which he eagerly answered yes.

So Une'`länûñ'hï caused a patch of the finest ripe huckleberries to spring up along the path in front of the woman, but she passed by without paving 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 still 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.




(700 words)






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