Native American Legends
The Terrapin's escape from the Wolves
A Cherokee Legend
The Possum and the Terrapin went out together to hunt persimmons,
and found a tree full of ripe fruit. The Possum climbed it and was
throwing down the persimmons to the Terrapin when a wolf came by.
The Wolf ran up and began to snap at the persimmons as they fell,
before the Terrapin could reach them.
The Possum waited his chance, and at last managed to throw down
a large one (some say a bone which he carried with him), so that
it lodged in the wolf's throat as he jumped up at it and choked
him to death.
"I'll take his ears for hominy spoons," said the Terrapin,
and cut off the wolf's ears and started home with them, leaving
the Possum still eating persimmons up in the tree.
After a while he came to a house and was invited to have some kanahe'na
gruel from the jar that is set always outside the door. He sat down
beside the jar and dipped up the gruel with one of the wolf's ears
for a spoon. The people noticed and wondered.
When he was satisfied he went on, but soon came to another house
and was asked to have some more kanahe'na. He dipped it up again
with the wolf's ear and went on when he had enough. Soon the news
went around, that the Terrapin had killed the Wolf and was using
his ears for spoons. All the Wolves got together and followed the
Terrapin's trail until they came up with him and made him prisoner.
Then they held a council to decide what to do with him, and agreed
to boil him in a clay pot. They brought in a pot, but the Terrapin
only laughed at it and said that if they put him into that thing
he would kick it all to pieces. They said they would burn him in
the fire, but the Terrapin laughed again and said he would put it
Then they decided to throw him into the deepest hole in the river
and drown him. The Terrapin begged and prayed them not to do that,
but they paid no attention, and dragged him over to the river and
threw him in. That was just what the Terrapin had been waiting for
all the time, and he dived under the water and came up on the other
side and got away.
Some say that when he was thrown into the river he struck against
a rock, which broke, his back in a dozen places. He sang a medicine
Gû'daye'wû, Gû'daye'wû, (I have sewed myself
together, I have sewed myself together)
The pieces came together, but the scars remain on his shell to
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