Over the centuries, since the Cherokee people’s first contact with Europeans, there have been many attempts to preserve the pre-Columbian culture. It seems that the more passionate attempts met with the most tragic demise while the more casual and indirect acquaintances have survived. I point to the encounters and reports by European adventurers, traders, priests or ethnographers whose works, notes, and books have successfully preserved hints of the culture, albeit from a foreign perspective. James Adair is a prime example.
The Europeans called their stories “Fairy Tales”, probably because they harkened back to a time when magical creatures existed. Native American stories for children also harken back to a more magical time, a time when animals and man could talk to each other and coexisted equally. In both cases, children’s stories usually explained where things come from or how things work. The old stories were told orally and passed down generation to generation in Europe and in America. Fortunately for us, many were finally written down and preserved.
This week I would like to offer two children’s stories for your amusement. The first story was recorded by James Mooney who lived with the Cherokee in the late 1800’s and collected many of the Cherokee children’s stories from the elders and old medicine men. This story is named “The Rabbit and the Tar Wolf.”
from Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees by James Mooney
The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.