of the Sun"
is a Legend from the Cherokee who are one of Three Tribes who Believe
that the Sun was a Woman In this tale the Sun is an Old woman with
a grown daughter and human emotions. This is told as was recorded
by James Mooney during his stay with the Cherokee during the 1800's
while working for the Smithsonian.
Daughter of the Sun
The Sun lived on the other side of the sky vault, but her daughter
lived in the middle of the sky, directly above the Earth. Every
day as the sun was climbing along the sky arch to the west, she
used to stop at her daughters house for dinner.
Now, the Sun hated the people of this Earth, because they never
looked straight at her without squinting. She said to her brother,
the Moon, "My grandchildren are ugly, they screw up their faces
whenever they see me.
But the Moon said, "I like my younger brothers, I think they
are handsome." This was because they always smiled pleasantly
at his mild glow in the night sky.
The Sun was jealous of the Moon's popularity and decided to kill
the people. Every day when she got near her daughter's house, she
sent down such sultry heat that fever broke out and people died
by the hundreds. When everyone had lost some friend ands it seemed
as if no one would be spared, the humans went for help to the little
men. these men, who were friendly spirits, said that the only way
the people could save themselves was to kill Sun.
The Little Men Made medicine to change two of the humans into snakes,
the spreading adder and copperhead, who could hide near the daughter's
door and bite the old Sun. The Snakes went up to the sky and lay
in wait until the sun arrived for dinner. But when the spreading
adder was about to spring, her bright light blinded him and he could
only spit out yellow slime, as he does to this day when he tries
to bite. The Sun called him a nasty thing and went into the house,
and the copperhead was so discouraged that he crawled off without
trying to do anything.
The people still dying from the terrible heat, went a second time
to the Little Men for help. Again the Little Men made medicine and
changed one man into the great Uktena, the water monster, and another
into a rattlesnake. As before, the serpents had instructions to
kill the old Sun when she stopped at her daughter's house. Uktena
was large and fierce, with horns on his head, and everyone thought
he would be sure to succeed. But the rattlesnake was so eager that
he raced ahead and coiled up just outside the house. When the Sun's
daughter opened the door to look for her mother, he struck and she
fell dead in the doorway. Forgetting to wait for the old Sun, he
went back to the people, and Uktena was so angry at the rattlesnake's
stupidity that he went back too.
Since then we pray to the rattlesnake and don't kill him, because
he wishes people well and never tries to bite if we don't disturb
him. But Uktena grew angrier and more dangerous all the time. He
became so venomous that if he even looked at a man, the man's whole
family would die. Eventually the people held a council and decided
that he was just too dangerous, so they sent him to Galun'lati,
the world, where he still is.
When the Sun found her daughter dead, she shut herself up in the
house and grieved. Now the people were no longer dying from the
heat, but they lived in darkness. Once more they sought help from
the Little Men, who said that in order to coax the Sun out, they
must bring her daughter back from Tsusgina'i. This is the ghost
country, which lies in Usunhi'yi, the Darking Land in the west.
The people chose seven men to make the journey. The Little Men told
the seven to take a box, and told each man to carry sourwood rod
a handbreadth long. when they got to Tsugina'i, the Little Men explained,
they would find all the ghost at a dance. They should stand outside
the circle, and when the Sun's daughter danced past them, they must
strike her with the rods and she would fall to the ground. Then
they could put her in the box and bring her back to her mother.
But when they must not open the box and bring her back to her mother.
But they must not open that box, not even a crack, until they arrived
The seven men took the rods and the box and traveled west for seven
days until they came to the Darkening Land. There they found a great
crowd of ghost having a dance, just as if they were alive. The Sun's
daughter was in the outside circle. As she danced past them, one
of the seven men struck her with his rod, and then another and another,
until at the seventh round she fell out of the ring. The men put
her into the box and closed the lid, and the other ghost never seem
to notice what had happened.
The seven took up the box and started home toward the east. In a
while the girl came to life again and begged to be let out, but
the party went on without answering. Soon she called again and said
she was hungry, but they did not reply. When at last the group was
very near home, the daughter of the sun cried that she was smothering
and begged them to raise the lid just a little. Now they were afraid
that she was really dying, so they barely cracked the lid to give
her air. There was a fluttering sound, and something flew past them
into the bushes. Then they heard a redbird cry, "Kwish!Kwish!Kwish!"
Shutting the lid, they went on again. But when they arrived at the
settlements and opened the box, it was empty.
So we know that the redbird is the daughter of the Sun. And if the
party had kept the box closed, as the Little Men told them to, they
could have brought her home safely, and today we would be able to
recover our friends from the Ghost Country. Because the seven opened
the box, however, we can never bring back people who die.
The Sun had been hopeful when the party had started off for the
Darkening Land, but when they came back without her daughter, she
wept until her tears caused a great flood. Fearing that the world
would be drowned, the people held another council and decided to
send their handsomest young men and women to amuse the Sun and stop
her crying. This group danced before her and sang their best songs,
but for a long time she kept her face bowed and paid no attention.
At last when the drummer suddenly changed the song, she looked up
and was so pleased at the sight of the beautiful young people that
she forgot her grief and smiled.