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Native American Tales from Appalachia

Tina L. Hanlon

"The Legend of the Cherokee Rose" and "The Legend of the Corn Beads"


Note: The Cherokee homeland was in the southern Appalachian Mountains for a thousand years before Europeans and Americans forced most of the Cherokee to move west. AppLit includes tales from Cherokee oral traditions that continue to be retold within Appalachia and elsewhere. These tales developed as a result of the hardships endured during the Trail of Tears in 1838-39.Cherokee Rose

"The Legend of the Cherokee Rose." In Cherokee Nation. Traditional Stories. Provided by Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center, in official web site of the [western] Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, OK. 1998-2002. Retelling of legend about white roses that grew up along the Trail of Tears to give the mothers strength to survive. Includes photo of a figurine with a Cherokee mother, baby and white roses.

The Cherokee Rose has been the state flower of Georgia since 1916. See one account of its link with the Trail of Tears at About North Georgia.

"The Legend of the Cherokee Rose." In Chiltoskey, Mary Ulmer. Aunt Mary, Tell Me A Story: A Collection of Cherokee Legends and Tales. Ed. Mary Regina Ulmer Galloway. Cherokee, NC: Cherokee Communications, 1990. pp. 13-14. Aunt Mary (a white woman who taught in Cherokee, NC) heard her first Cherokee story at the age of four in western Alabama near Demopolis, where she noticed the thick white roses growing. Mr. Larken Eddins, an Alabama storyteller, told her the legend and warned her about the thorns. He said some of the people on the Trail of Tears went south to Marengo County, Alabama to get out of the mountains. The men on the Trail of Tears ask the Great One in Galunlati (heaven) to help keep their women from becoming too weak from crying. The white roses grew quickly where their tears fell, with thorns, seven leaflets representing the seven Cherokee clans, and gold in the center like the gold the white men sought in Cherokee country. The growth of the strong plants reclaimed some of the land the people had lost and the women thought of the strength they had to bring up their children in a new Cherokee Nation.

"The Legend of the Corn Beads" follows this tale in the Chiltoskey collection, p. 15. It is a short tale also about the tears on the Trail of Tears. Tall stubborn plants related to corn grew up that were later used to make beads for the tourists.

"The Legend of the Corn Beads." In Greene, Gary. Tales from the Enchanted Land of the Cherokee. CD. [Kingston, Ga.?]: G. Greene, 2004. Other contents (from Worldcat): Introduction, "Rabbit and Old Man Flint," "Why Possum's Tail is Bare,""Spearfinger," "Why Owl Has a Spotted Coat," "The Ravel Mockers," "The Little People," "The Return of the Iceman," "Cherokee Names," "The World is Full of Stories," Bonus track: "The Wolves Within" (a Lakota Sioux story).

"The Legend of the Corn Bead." In The Cherokee Nation. Traditional Stories. Provided by Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center, in official web site of the [western] Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, OK. 1998-2002. This version includes the Creator's role in sending a miracle to ease the people's sorrow.

"The Legend of the Corn Beads," told by Edna Chekelelee, is a brief legend about the corn crying during the Trail of Tears, making corn stalks shorter. The corn was then called teardrops and women made necklaces of corn beads. It is retold from Duncan's Living Stories of the Cherokee, as an example of a pourquoi tale, in Lechner, Judith V. Allyn & Bacon. Anthology of Traditional Literature. New York: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2004. This is a textbook on all types of traditional literature for children.

"The Legend of the Corn Beads," told by Edna Chekelelee. In Duncan, Barbara R., ed. The Origin of the Milky Way & Other Living Stories of the Cherokee. Caravan book. Illus. Shan Goshorn. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. This tale is in section 7, Living with the Past and Future.

See also:

Selu (the Corn Mother)

Other pourquoi tales about animals, natural phenomena, and human inventions are listed in the Native American section of this index, the animal tale index, and AppLit's picture book bibliography. Pourquoi elements are also found in tall tales such as Tony Beaver, Isaacs and Zelinsky's Swamp Angel, and Steven Kellogg's Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett. See study guide on Tall Tales and Jack Tales.

Compare with:

Tales about enduring the hardships of slavery and escape along the Underground Railroad. See examples in AppLit's Folklore in Books by Virginia Hamilton.

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