THE MAN WHO MARRIED THE THUNDER’S SISTER
In the old times the people used to dance often and all night. Once there was a
dance at the old town of Sâkwi′yĭ, 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 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 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 .” He stepped in, and instead of
water there was tall waving grass that closed above his head as he followed
They went only a short distance and came to a rock cave close under Ugûñ′yĭ
(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
up 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,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
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,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