In his book Myths of the Cherokee People (1902) the American ethnographer, James Mooney (1861-1921) compiled a large bank of folklore, legend, and mythology of the Cherokee people that provides a remarkable insight into how they viewed and made sense of the world around them. Some of these legends tell of a secret or invisible tribe of Cherokees who live either inside Pilot Mountain or in some hidden valley only reached by passing a concealed entrance in the mountain’s side. The following work is a rewrite of the legend called Tsuwe’nähï: A Legend of Pilot Knob from Mooney’s book that tells of these secret people and their hidden town.
There was once a lazy man whose name was Tsuwe’nähï. He lived in an old town called Känuga that was situated on the banks of the Pigeon River. He was too lazy to build his own house so instead, he lived with friends and relatives moving frequently from one to another. Although he liked to spend all of his time in the woods he never bothered to hunt to bring back game as thanks to those who kept him through their good nature.
At last the good nature of his friends and relatives ran thin and they tired of him living off their generosity and they told him so. Tsuwe’nähï pleaded for a last chance and asked them to prepare some parched corn for him to take on a hunting trip. He promised them he would bring back deer, or some other kind of game, telling them if he failed he would never bother them again.
So his friends and relatives gave him a pouch with enough corn to sustain him on his hunting trip and he headed off into the mountains. Many days passed, and weeks turned to months but he did not return and everyone thought they would never see him again. Then one day he appeared in the town with a strange tale to tell.
The Strange Tale of Tsuwe’nähï
He told his friends and relatives that he had followed the trail towards the mountains and as he passed across a ridge he had met a stranger. They greeted each other in a friendly fashion and stopped to talk to each other. The stranger asked him where he was going out in the wilds on his own. Tsuwe’nähï told him that his friends had relatives had driven him out of their homes telling him he was lazy. He told him that he must bring back game to share with them or they would not have him back and ruefully he explained he was not a very good hunter. The stranger smiled at him and said, “Come and visit my town. It is not far and you will see that you have relatives and friends there.”