Jun 262014
 

Part 1:  The Wild Boy

[from Myths of the Cherokee, by James Mooney]

When I was a boy this is what the old men told me they had heard when they were boys.

river in Smoky MountainsLong years ago, soon after the world was made, a hunter and his wife lived at Pilot knob with their only child, a little boy. The father’s name was Kana’tï (The Lucky Hunter), and his wife was called Selu (Corn). No matter when Kana’tï went into the wood, he never failed to bring back a load of game, which his wife. would cut up and prepare, washing off the blood from the meat in the river near the house. The little boy used to play down by the river every day, and one morning the old people thought they heard laughing and talking in the bushes as though there were two children there. When the boy came home at night his parents asked him who had been playing with him all day. “He comes out of the water,” said the boy, “and he calls himself my elder brother. He says his mother was cruel to him and threw him into the river.” Then they knew that the strange boy had sprung from the blood of the game which Selu had washed off at the river’s edge.

Every day when the little boy went out to play the other would join him, but as he always went backboys in water again into the water the old people never had a chance to see him. At last one evening Kana’tï said to his son, “Tomorrow, when the other boy comes to play, get him to wrestle with you, and when you have your arms around him hold on to him and call for us.” The boy promised to do as he was told, so the next day as soon as his playmate appeared he challenged him to a wrestling match. The other agreed at once, but as soon as they had their arms around each other, Kana’tï’s boy began to scream for his father. The old folks at once came running down, and as soon as the Wild Boy saw them he struggled to free himself and cried out, “Let me go; you threw me away!” but his brother held on until the parents reached the spot, when they seized the Wild Boy and took him home with them. They kept him in the house until they had tamed him, but he was always wild and artful in his disposition, and was the leader of his brother in every mischief. It was not long until the old people discovered that he had magic powers, and they called him I’näge-utäsûñ’hï (He-who-grew-up-wild).

Shoshone straightening arrowWhenever Kana’tï went into the mountains he always brought back a fat buck or doe, or maybe a couple of turkeys. One day the Wild Boy said to his brother, “I wonder where our father gets all that game; let’s follow him next time and find out.” A few days afterward Kana’tï took a bow and some feathers in his hand and started off  toward the west. The boys waited a little while and then went after him, keeping out of sight until they saw him go into a swamp where there were a great many of the small reeds that hunters use to make arrowshafts. Then the Wild Boy changed himself into a puff of bird’s down, which the winddown feather took up and carried until it alighted upon Kana’tï’s shoulder just as he entered the swamp, but Kana’tï’ knew nothing about it. The old man cut reeds, fitted the feathers to them and made some arrows, and the Wild Boy–in his other shape–thought, “I wonder what those things are for?” When Kana’tï had his arrows finished he came out of the swamp and went on again. The wind blew the down from his shoulder, and it fell in the woods, when the Wild Boy took his right shape again and went back and told his brother what he had seen. Keeping out of sight of their father, they followed him up the mountain until he stopped at a certain place and lifted a large rock. At once there ran out a buck, which Kana’tï shot, and then lifting it upon his back he started for home again. “Oho!” exclaimed the boys, “he keeps all the deer shut up in that hole, and whenever he wants meat he just lets one out and kills it with those things he made in the swamp.” They hurried and reached home before their father, who had the heavy deer to carry, and he never knew that they had followed.

[continued . . . see Part 2]

 

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