Legends of the Iroquois

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On long winter evening the Indian hunters gathered around their fireside, to listen to the historical traditions, legends of war and hunting, and fairy tales which had been handed down through their fathers and father’s fathers, with scarcely any variation for centuries, kindling the enthusiasm of the warrior and inspiring the little child some day to realize similar dreams, and hand his name down to posterity as the author of similar exploits.

They have superstitious fears of relating fables in summer: not until after snow comes will they relate of snakes, lest they should creep into their beds, or of evil genii, lest they in some way be revenged.

It is very difficult for a stranger to rightly understand the morals of their stories, though it is said by those who know them best, that to them the story was always an illustration of some moral or principle.

To strangers they offer all the rites of hospitality, but do not open their hearts. If you ask them they will tell you a story, but it will not be such a story as they tell when alone. They will fear your ridicule and suppress their humor and pathos: so thoroughly have they learned to distrust pale faces, that when they know that he who is present is a friend, they will still shrink from admitting him within the secret portals of their heart.

And when you have learned all that language can convey, there are still a thousand images, suggestions and associations recurring to the Indian, which can strike no chord in your heart. The myriad voices of nature are dumb to you, but to them they are full of life and power.

 



MLA Source Citation:

Johnson, Elias. Legends, Traditions, and Laws of the Iroquois, or Six Nations and History of the Tuscarora Indians. Lockport, New York: Union Printing and Publishing Co. 1881. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 29 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/legendary.htm - Last updated on Jun 4th, 2013


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