Native American Legends
The Ice Man
A Cherokee Legend
Once when the people were burning the woods in the fall the blaze
set fire to a poplar tree, which continued to burn until the fire
went down into the roots and burned a great hole in the ground.
It burned and burned, and the hole grew constantly larger, until
the people became frightened and were afraid it would burn the whole
world. They tried to put out the fire, but it had gone too deep,
and they did not know what to do.
At last some one said there was a man living in a house of ice
far in the north who could put out the fire, so messengers were
sent, and after traveling a long distance they came to the ice house
and found the Ice Man at home. He was a little fellow with long
hair hanging down to the ground in two plaits.
The messengers told him their errand and he at once said, "Oh
yes, I can help you," and began to un-plait his hair. When
it was all un-braided he took it up in one band and struck it once
across his other hand, and the messengers felt a wind blow against
their cheeks. A second time he struck his hair across his hand,
and a light rain began to fall.
The third time he struck his hair across his open hand there was
sleet mixed with the raindrops, and when he struck the fourth time
great hailstones fell upon the ground, as if they had come out from
the ends of his hair. "Go back now," said the lee Man,
"and I shall be there tomorrow."
So the messengers returned to their people, whom they found still
gathered helplessly about the great burning pit.
The next-day while they were all watching about the fire there
came a wind from the north, and they were afraid, for they knew
that it came from the lee Man. But the wind only made the fire blaze
up higher. Then a light rain began to fall, but the drops seemed
only to make the fire hotter. Then the shower turned to a heavy
rain, with sleet and hail that killed the blaze and made clouds
of smoke and steam rise from the red coals.
The people fled to their homes for shelter, and the storm rose
to a whirlwind that drove the rain into every burning crevice and
piled great hailstones over the embers, until the fire was dead
and even the smoke ceased.
When at last it was all over and the people returned they found
a lake where the burning pit had been, and from below the water
came a sound as of embers still crackling.
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