Native American Legends
The Bear Legend
A Cherokee Legend
In the long ago time, there was a Cherokee Clan called the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi
(Ahnee-Jah-goo-hee), and in one family of this clan was a boy who
used to leave home and be gone all day in the mountains.
After awhile he went more often and stayed longer, until at last
he would not eat in the house at all, starting off at daybreak and
not coming back until night.
His parents scolded, but that did no good, and the boy still went
every day until they noticed that long brown hair was beginning
to grow out all over his body. Then they wondered and asked him
why it was that he wanted to be so much in the woods that he would
not even eat at home.
Said the boy, "I find plenty to eat there, and it is better
than the corn and beans we have in the settlements, and pretty soon
I am going into the woods to say all the time."
His parents were worried and begged him not leave them, but he
said, "It is better there than here, and you see I am beginning
to be different already, so that I can not live here any longer.
If you will come with me, there is plenty for all of us and you
will never have to work for it; but if you want to come, you must
first fast seven days."
The father and mother talked it over and then told the headmen
of the clan. They held a council about the matter and after everything
had been said they decided: "Here we must work hard and have
not always enough. There he says is always plenty without work.
We will go with him."
So they fasted seven days, and on the seventh morning al the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi
left the settlement and started for the mountains as the boy led
When the people of the other towns heard of it they were very sorry
and sent their headmen to persuade the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi to stay at
home and not go into the woods to live. The messengers found them
already on the way, and were surprised to notice that their bodies
were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals, because
for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was
The Ani-Tsa-gu-hi would not come back, but said, "We are going
where there is always plenty to eat. From now on, we shall be called
Yonva (bears), and when you yourselves are hungry come into the
woods and call us and we shall come to give you our own flesh. You
need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always."
Then they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them
and bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished
the songs, the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi started on again and the messengers
turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they
looked back and saw a drove of bears going into the woods.
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