Native American Legends
Nun'yunu'wi, The Stone Man
A Cherokee Legend
Once when all the people of the settlement were out in the mountains
on a great hunt one man who had gone on ahead climbed to the top
of a high ridge and found a large river on the other side.
While he was looking across he saw an old man walking about on
the opposite ridge, with a cane that seemed to be made of some bright,
shining rock. The hunter watched and saw that every little while
the old man would point his cane in a certain direction, then draw
it back and smell the end of it. At last he pointed it in the direction
of the hunting camp on the other side of the mountain, and this
time when he drew back the staff he sniffed it several times as
if it smelled very good, and then started along the ridge straight
for the camp.
He moved very slowly, with the help of the cane, until he reached
the end of the ridge, when he threw the cane out into the air and
it became a bridge of shining rock stretching across the river.
After he had crossed over upon the bridge it became a cane again,
and the old man picked it up and started over the mountain toward
The hunter was frightened, and felt sure that it meant mischief,
so he hurried on down the mountain and took the shortest trail back
to the camp to get there before the old man. When he got there and
told his story the medicine- man said the old man was a wicked cannibal
monster called Nun'yunu'wi, "Dressed in Stone," who lived
in that part of the country, and was always going about the mountains
looking for some hunter to kill and eat. It was very hard to escape
from him, because his stick guided him like a dog, and it was nearly
as hard to kill him, because his whole body was covered with a skin
of solid rock.
If he came he would kill and eat them all, and there was only one
way to save themselves. He could not bear to look upon a menstrual
woman, and if they could find seven menstrual women to stand in
the path as he came along the sight would kill him.
So they asked among all the women, and found seven who were sick
in that way, and with one of them it had just begun. By the order
of the medicine- man they stripped themselves and stood along the
path where the old man would come. Soon they heard Nun'yunu'wi coming
through the woods, feeling his way with his stone cane.
He came along the trail to where the first woman was standing,
and as soon as he saw her he started and cried out: "Yu! my
grandchild; you are in a very bad state!" He hurried past her,
but in a moment he met the next woman, and cried out again: "Yu!
my child; you are in a terrible way," and hurried past her,
but now he was vomiting blood.
He hurried on and met the third and the fourth and the fifth woman,
but with each one that he saw his step grew weaker until when he
came to the last one, with whom the sickness had just begun, the
blood poured from his mouth and he fell down on the trail.
Then the medicine-man drove seven sour-wood stakes through his
body and pinned him to the ground, and when night came they piled
great logs over him and set fire to them, and all the people gathered
around to see. Nun'yunu'wi was a great ada'wehï and knew many
secrets, and now as the fire came close to him he began to talk,
and told them the medicine for all kinds of sickness.
At midnight he began to sing, and sang the hunting songs for calling
up the bear and the deer and all the animals of the woods and mountains.
As the blaze grew hotter his voice sank low and lower, until at
last when daylight came, the logs were a heap of white ashes and
the voice was still.
Then the medicine-man told them to rake off the ashes, and where
the body had lain they found only a large lump of red wâ'dï
paint and a magic u'lûñsû'ti stone. He kept the
stone for himself, and calling the people around him he painted
them, on face and breast, with the red wâ'dï, and whatever
each person prayed for while the painting was being done-whether
for hunting success, for working skill, or for a long life-that
gift was his.
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