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
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, 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
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
"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.
An Algonquin Legend
There was once a young warrior
whose bride died on the eve of their wedding. Although he had distinguished
himself by his bravery and goodness, the death left the young man inconsolable.
He was unable to eat or sleep.
Instead of hunting with the others, he just spent time at the grave of his
bride, staring into the air.
However, one day he happened
to overhear some elders speaking about the path to the spirit world. He
listened intently and memorized the directions to the most minute detail. He
had heard that the spirit world was far to the south. He immediately set out on
his journey. After two weeks, he still saw no change in the landscape to
indicate that the spirit world was near.
Then he emerged from the
forest and saw the most beautiful plain he had ever seen. In the distance was a
small hut where an ancient wise man lived. He asked the wise man for
The old man knew exactly who
the warrior was and whom he sought. He told the lad that the bride had passed
by only a day before. In order to follow her, the warrior would have to leave
his body behind and press on in his spirit. The spirit world itself is an island
in a large lake that can be reached only by canoes waiting on this shore.
However, the old man warned him not to speak to his bride until they were both
safely on the island of the spirits.
Soon the old man recited some
magic chants and the warrior felt his spirit leave his body. Now a spirit, he
walked along the shore and saw a birch bark canoe. Not a stone's throw away was
his bride, entering her own canoe. As he made his way across the water and
looked at her, he saw that she duplicated his every stroke. Why didn't they
travel together? One can only enter the spirit world alone and be judged only
on one's individual merits.
Midway through the journey, a
tempest arose. It was more terrible than any he had ever seen. Some of the
spirits in canoes were swept away by the storm-these were those who had been
evil in life. Since both the warrior and his bride were good, they made it
through the tempest without incident and soon the water was as smooth as glass
beneath a cloudless sky.
The island of the blessed was
a beautiful place where it was always late spring, with blooming flowers and
cloudless skies, never too warm or too cold. He met his bride on the shore and
took her hand. They had not walked ten steps together when a soft sweet voice
spoke to them-it was the Master of Life.
The Master told them that the
young warrior must return as he came; it wasn't his time yet. He was to
carefully trace his steps back to his body, put it on, and return home. He did
this and became a great chief, happy in the assurance that he would see his
bride once again.