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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 out.

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 song:

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 this day.

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