AppLit Home Native American Tales from Appalachia Tina L. Hanlon

"The First Strawberries"


Note: The Cherokee homeland was in the southern Appalachian Mountains for hundreds of 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.

"The Legend of the Strawberries." 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. With one drawing by John Barton Galloway. After several failed attempts to trap an angry wife with other berries, the Great One appeals to her curiosity with the strawberries hidden under leaves close to the ground. The woman resolves to "never let her anger take her away again" and to keep strawberries in her home, preserved in honey. "And even now every good Cherokee wife keeps a jar of strawberries preserved in her home to remind her of the fragile nature of her home and the power of her anger."

Bruchac, Joseph. The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story. Illus. Anna Vojtech. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1993. The Sun is the being who helps the angry couple reunite by placing sweet strawberries at the wife's feet as she walks away faster than her husband can follow. Bruchac notes that he first heard this story over a decade earlier, "while talking with Mary and Goingback Chiltoskey, Cherokee elders from North Carolina." But the tale "was first recorded in James Mooney's Myths of the Cherokee (1990)," and Bruchac was influenced by Cherokee storytellers Jean Starr, Gayle Ross, and Lloyd Arneach. This version ends, "To this day, when the Cherokee people eat strawberries, they are reminded to always be kind to each other; to remember that friendship and respect are as sweet as the taste of ripe, red berries."

For a lesson plan focusing on this picture book, see Kindergarten Lesson 2:  How Strawberries Came into the World.  In Crossroads:  A K-16 American History Curriculum (administered by the Council for Citizenship Education).

Arneach, Lloyd. "The First Strawberry." Long-Ago Stories of the Eastern Cherokee. Illus. Elizabeth Ellison. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2008. pp. 38-41. This version ends by observing that the strawberry is read and in the shape of a heart because "it brought the First Man and First Woman back together again" after their argument. The Sun helps the man by tempting the woman with berries, until the smell and taste of the strawberry capture her attention and she wants to share them with her husband.

Duncan, Barbara R., ed. Living Stories of the Cherokee. Chapel Hill: U of NC Press, 1998. Versions of this tale in this volume include "First Man and First Woman," told by Kathi Smith Littlejohn; "The Origin of Strawberries," told by Davey Arch (based on Mary Chiltoskey's version); "The Origin of Strawberries," told by Freeman Owle. Littlejohn frames the legend as a reminder that all kinds of people should not argue. The stories are transcribed in this book in a free verse form that represents the storytellers' "rhythmic style," using the "oral poetics" method developed in the 1970s. Owle's tale is reprinted in Duncan, Barbara R., ed. Where It All Began: Cherokee Creation Stories in Art. Cherokee, NC: Museum of the Cherokee Indian, 2001. Companion book to a museum exhibit. See details on this book at Appalachian Folktale Collections.

"First Man and First Woman," told by Kathi Smith Littlejohn. 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 1, Living with People.

Two of the tales listed above, "First Man and First Woman" told by Kathi Smith Littlejohn and "The Origin of Strawberries" told by Davey Arch, are reprinted from Duncan's Living Stories of the Cherokee in this textbook on all types of traditional literature for children: Lechner, Judith V. Allyn & Bacon Anthology of Traditional Literature. New York: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2004, pp. 165-68, in chapter 3's section on Pourquoi or Why Tales.

Dominic, Gloria. First Woman and the Strawberries. Illus. Charles Reasoner. Troll Communications, 1996. Includes a section of background on the Cherokee, with maps, documents, photographs, a glossary and a timeline.

"Strawberries" by Gayle Ross. In Peck, Catherine, ed. QPB Treasury of North American Folktales. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1998, pp. 321-22. A Cherokee storyteller tells how a spirit takes pity on a heart-broken man (the first man in the world) and creates a new fruit that his angry woman will see close to the ground. When she eats it, love returns to her heart and she returns to her man. "And that's how the world's very first strawberries brought peace between men and women in the world, and why to this day they are called the berries of love." (Reprinted from Homespun: Tales from America's Favorite Storytellers. Ed. Jimmy Neil Smith, 1998.) 

"The Taste of Strawberries." North Carolina storyteller Gary Carden tells a version of this legend and explains other Native American myths involving strawberries on his web site, TanneryWhistle.Com: Folk Stories in Words and in Paint

"The Beginning/Legend of the Strawberries" and "The Origin of Strawberries." 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. Other stories retold online (some with a picture) are "Origin of Disease and Medicine," "The Ballgame Between the Birds and the Animals," "The Legend of the Cherokee Rose" (about white roses growing along the Trail of Tears to give the mothers strength to survive), "Legend of the Wren," "Legend of the First Woman," "The Ice Man," "The Legend of the Corn Bead," "Why the Owl Has a Spotted Coat," "Spirit of Little Deer," "River Cane Flute," "Anitsutsa—The Boys" (Origin of the Pleiades and the Pine).

Stonees Web Lodge is a private web site that reprints Native American tales and "lores," with art by different artists. Many of the tales are Cherokee, including How Turtle's Back was Cracked, as told by Gayle Ross with art by Arnold Aron Jacobs, and The Origin of Strawberries. Very little source information given.

"The Legend of the Strawberries." In Ellington, Charlotte Jane. Dancing Leaf. Johnson City, Tenn: Overmountain Press, 2007. p. 174 (chap. 12, the last chapter). A novel in which "authentic Cherokee legends begin each chapter and are woven into the adventures of Dancing Leaf, a character based on the adopted daughter of Cherokee chieftainess Nancy Ward" (Worldcat). She pursues a journey of self-discovery while away from the man she loves, Blue Lake. Chapter titles (available with other excerpts in Google Book Search) indicate the legends retold in this book. They include one about how the possum got a bare tail, "The Uktena," "Why Turtle's Shell is Scarred," "The Daughter of the Sun," and others. See also AppLit's list of Folktale Collections Indexed in AppLit.

See also:

Other Cherokee pourquoi tales about plants include Selu, or the Corn Mother and The Legend of the Cherokee Rose and The Legend of the Corn Beads.

Appalachian Picture Book Bibliography: Cherokee Tales

Last update: 6/27/10   |   Top of Page


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