The Legend of Uktena

Posted by | May 29, 2007

“Long ago — hilahiyu jigesv — when the Sun became angry at the people on earth and sent a sickness to destroy them, the Little Men changed a man into a monster snake, which they called Uktena, “The Keen-Eyed,” and sent him to kill her (the Sun). He failed to do the work, and the Rattlesnake had to be sent instead, which made the Uktena so jealous and angry that the people were afraid of him and had him taken up to Galunlati, to stay with the other dangerous things. He left others behind him, though, nearly as large and dangerous as himself, and they hide now in deep pools in the river and about lonely passes in the high mountains, the places the Cherokees call “Where the Uktena stays.”

Chimney Tops in the Smokey MountainsThose who know say the Uktena is a great snake, as large around as a tree trunk, with horns on its head, and a bright blazing crest like a diamond on its forehead, and scales glowing like sparks of fire. It has rings or spots of color along its whole length, and can not be wounded except by shooting in the seventh spot from the head, because under this spot are its heart and its life. The blazing diamond is called Ulun’suti — “Transparent” — and he who can win it may become the greatest wonder worker of the tribe. But it is worth a man’s life to attempt it, for whoever is seen by the Uktena is so dazed by the bright light that he runs toward the snake instead of trying to escape. Even to see the Uktena asleep is death, not to the hunter himself, but to his family.

Of all the daring warriors who have started out in search of the Ulun’suti only Aganunitsi ever came back successful. The East Cherokee still keep the one that he brought.”

In his quest, Aganunitsi searches distant gaps and peaks in the Smokies before he “went on to Duniskwalgunyi, the Gap of the Forked Antler, and to the enchanted lake of Atagahi, and at each found monstrous reptiles, but he said they were nothing.” Today we know Duniskwalgunyi as “Chimney Tops,” one of the few instances of a bare rock summit in the Smokies.

sources: (From “Myths of the Cherokee” by James Mooney,
Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98, Part I. [1900])
www.answers.com/topic/chimney-tops

Cherokee+myths Uktena Aganunitsi Chimney+Tops Smokies appalachia appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

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