NÛÑ′YUNU′WĬ, THE STONE MAN
This is what the old men told me when I was a boy.
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 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 Nûñ′yunu′wĭ, “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 Nûñ′yunu′wĭ 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. Nûñ′yunu′wĭ was
a great ada′wehĭ and knew many secrets, and now as the fire came close to hima great ada′wehĭ 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 wâ′dĭ paint and a magic u′lûñsû′ti stone.
He kept the stone for himself, and calling the people around him he painted
them, on face and breast, with the red wâ′dĭ, 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.
Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney