Legends of the Cherokee: beloved stories shared through centuries.
The cherished legends of the Cherokee tribe are many. In fact, there are far too many important ones to list them all in a short summary. Yet, here are a few that continue to delight and stir both the Cherokee people and Cherokee cultural enthusiasts.
Unetlanvhi (oo-net-la-nuh-hee): the Cherokee word for God or “Great Spirit,” is Unetlanvhi is considered to be a divine spirit with no human form. The name is pronounced similar to oo-net-la-nuh-hee.
Jistu (jeese-doo): A rabbit whose name is pronounced similar to “jeese-doo.”
Uktena (ook-tay-nah): dragon-like horned serpents of Cherokee legend, the original Uktena was said to have transformed from a man in his unsuccessful attempt to destroy the sun. Many Cherokee tales about the Uktena have to do with Cherokee heroes slaying one of these giant horned beasts. They are said to be dangerous and malevolent deadly monsters that seek to destroy their prey.
Aniyvdaqualosgi or Ani-Hyuntikwalaski: These storm spirits are thought of as “Thunderers” who live in the sky and command thunder and lightning. They take on human form. These creatures are powerful and dangerous against certain forces, but generally thought to be friendly to humans.
Tlanuwa (tlah-noo-wah): in Cherokee legend, these giant birds of prey have impenetrable metal feathers. Their Cherokee name is pronounced tlah-noo-wah.
Yunwi Tsunsdi (yun-wee joon-stee or yun-wee joon-stee-gah): literally translated as “little people,” Yunwi Tsunsdi is a race of small humanoid nature spirits, sometimes referred to in English as "dwarves" or "fairies." Usually invisible, they sometimes reveal themselves as miniature, child-sized people. The Yunwi Tsunsdi are benevolent spirits who sometimes help humans in Cherokee stories. They are also imbued with powers and may punish people who are disrespectful toward them. The singular form is Yvwi Usdi (yun-wee oon-stee.)
Nunnehi (nun-nay-hee; “travelers”): these creatures take the form of friendly spirits. They are known to be especially sympathetic to the Cherokee people. Nunnehi are very strong, and historically interceded in battles on the Cherokees' behalf. Like Yunwi Tsunsdi, Nunnehi are usually invisible but sometimes show themselves to humans in the form of regal warriors. Their name is pronounced similar to nun-nay-hee.
Yanudinehunyo (“where the bears live”): about a mile above the junction between the Oconaluftee and the Tuckasegee rivers, there is a place where the Cherokee say the water bears live at the bottom of the river in a deep hole. There is a pond nearby that the Cherokee call Yanunatawastiyi ("where the bears wash"), which is said to have purple water and is now nearly dried up. This was the bears’ wallowing spot and was said to have great powers.
Tsul’kalu: a great giant of Cherokee legend, whose footprints could sometimes be seen along the banks of the Tuckasegee.