Pre-Columbian and Early American Legends - Algonkian
Two tales collected by Leonard Roberts follow:
Curious Legend of the Kentucky Mountains--Four or five versions of this curious and strange legend come into my collection over a period of about six years (1948 to 1954) from an isolated region of the Kentucky mountains. At first I did not know what to make of it but, having also collected a few versions of the "Bear's Son" story (Type 301), minus the half-bear, half-man introduction, I guessed that this was that introduction now broken away and told separately. It now appears to be a distinct legend since Dr. Archer Taylor refers me to the long search for American versions by Mr. Rudolph Altrocchi. and now that I reflect on this item I realize that it is not unique to Kentucky mountain folklore. During my youth in these mountains it was not unusual to hear a rumor of some half-wild man, naked and hairy, being found in the woods, living close to animal state. This kind of Romulus-Remus legend seems to stick in the minds of the folk. But how this particular legend made its way into eastern Kentucky is a mystery to me.
The following version was taken down in pencil in 1950 from the lips of Lee Maggard, who lived in a small cabin on the south slope of the Pine Mountain range near the small lumber town of Putney, Harlan County, Kentucky. He had heard it on Maggard's Branch, Leslie County.
Once they was man out huntin' and he got lost and after a while he begin to get hungry. He come to a big hole in the ground and he thought he would venture down into it. He wen down in there and he found that the old Yeahoh lived in there and had deer meat hangin' up and other foods piled around the walls. km The man was afraid at first, but Yeahoh didn't bother him and he went toward that meat to get him some. The Yeahoh walked over and looked at the knife and said, "Yeahoh, Yeahoh," a time or two. He cut it off a piece of the meat and it started eatin' it.
Well, the man stepped over to the middle of the pit and took out his flint and built him up a fire. And the Yeahoh watched him and looked at the fire and at the flint and said, "Yeahoh, Yeahoh" again. The man put his meat on a stick and br'iled him a nice piece and started eatin' it. The Yeahoh watched him and acted like it wanted a piece. The man cut it off a piece of the br'iled meat and reached it over, and the Yeahoh commenced to eatin' it up and smackin' its lips and saying, "Yeahoh, Yeahoh."
Well, the man lived there with it a long time and they got along all right. After so long they was a young'un born to 'em, and it was half-man and half-Yeahoh. And the Yeahoh took such a liking to the man it wouldn't let him leave. He got to wanting to get away and go back home. One day he slipped off and the Yeahoh follered him and made him go back. Went on that way for a good while, but he picked him a good time and slipped away. This time he got to the shore where they was a ship ready to set sail. He got on this ship and he looked and saw the Yeahoh comin' with the young'un. It screamed and hollered for him to come back and when it saw he wasn't goin' to come, why, it just tore the baby in two and helt it out one-half to him and said, "Yeahoh, Yeahoh". He sailed on off and left it standing there.
The version that Dr. Taylor refers to in my book _South from Hell-fer-Sartin_ is called "The Origin of Man." Another version was given to me by this teller's grandson. It has the same title and contents, except that the Yeahoh has six children and tears them all in twos and throws them after the embarked man. Another text, similar to the one given above, was accidentally erased from my tapes.
The following text was recorded from Joe Couch, Appalachia, Virginia, in 1954. He had heard it from his people while he lived in Perry County, Kentucky.
The Hairy Woman
One time I's prowling in the wilderness, wandering about, kindly got lost and so weak and hungry I couldn't go. When it begin to get cool, I found a big cave and crawled backin there to get warm. Crawled back in and come upon a leaf bed and I dozed off to sleep. I heard a nawful racket coming into that cave, and something come in and crawled right over me and laid down like a big old bear. It was a hairy thing and when it laid down it went chomp, chomp, chawing on something. I thought to myself, "I'll see what it is and find out what it is eating."
I reached over and a hairylike woman was there eating chestnuts, had about a half a bushel there. I got me a big handful of them and went to chawing on them too. Well, in a few minutes she handed me over another big handful, and I eat chestnuts until I was kindly full and wasn't hungry any more. D'rectly she got up and took off and out of sight.
Well, I stayed on there till next morning and she come in with a young deer. Brought it in and with her big long fingernails she ripped its hide and skinned it, and then she sliced the good lean meat and handed me a bite to eat. I kindly slipped it behind me, afraid to eat it raw and afraid not to eat it being she give it to me. She'd cut off big pieces of deer meat and eat it raw. Well, I laid back and the other pieces she give over as she eat her'n. She was goin' to see I didn't starve.
When she got gone again I built me up a little far and br'iled my meat. After being hungry for two or three days, it was good cooked--yes, buddy. She come in while I had my far built br'illing my meat, and she run right into that far. She couldn't understand because it kindly burnt her a little. She jumped back and looked at me like she was going to run through me. I said, "Uh-oh, I'm going to get in trouble now."
Well, it was cold and bad out, so I just stayed another night with her. She was a woman but was right hairy all over. After several days I learnt her how to br'ile meat and that far would burn her. She got shy of the far and got so she liked br'iled meat and wouldn't eat it raw any more. We went on through the winter that way. She would go out and carry in deer and bear. So I lived there about two year, and when we had a little kid, one side of it was hairy and the other side was slick.
I took a notion I would leave there and go back home. I begin to build me a boat to go away across the lake in. One time after I had left, I took a notion I would slip back and see what she was doing. I went out to the edge of the clift and looked down into the mountain, and it looked like two or three dozen of hairy people coming up the hill. They was all pressing her and she would push them back. They wanted to come on up and come in. I was scared to death, afraid they's going to kill me. She made them go back and wouldn't let them come up and interfere.
Well, I took a notion to leave one day when my boat was ready. I told her one day I was going to leave. She follered me down to my boat and watched me get ready to go away. She was crying, wanting me to stay. I said, "No, I'm tired of the jungles. I'm going back to civilization again, going back."
When she knowed she wasn't going to keep me there, she just grabbed the little young'un and tore it right open with her nails. Throwed me the hairy part and she kept the slick side. That's the end of that story.