A long time ago the people of the old town of Kanu′gaʻlâ′yĭ (“Brier place,” or
Briertown), on Nantahala river, in the present Macon county, North Carolina,
were much annoyed a great insect called U′laʻgû′, as large as a house, which
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′laʻgû′ 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′laʻgû′ 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′laʻgû′ 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′laʻgû′ 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′laʻgû′ in a large cave in therocks. 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′laʻgû′ 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 Tsgâgûñ′yĭ, “Where the yellow-jacket was,” and the place
from which they first saw the nest they called Aʻtahi′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 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