Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Hills are Alive...with the Little People

Emerald Green Forest, Roan Mountain, photo by K. L. Wood. 
Spending this week hiking the beautiful wooded trails of the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains, it's easy to imagine otherworldly beings hiding among the craggy rocks and moss covered trees. Walking the paths through the natural rhododendron gardens and emerald green forests of
Roan Mountain State Park, my mother described them as "enchanted" and "fairy land." Seems most civilizations have their own legends involving fairies, dwarves, elves, pixies, leprechauns, etc. The Cherokee, some of whom still live in the mountains of North Carolina, have their own race of lilliputian forest dwellers, the Yunwi Tsunsdi  (pronounced: yun-wee joon-stee,) translated as "Little People."
Rhododendron, Roan Mountain, photo by K. L. Wood

The Yunwi Tsundi are considered benign most cases. They are usually helpful to humans but do not suffer fools gladly especially if they treat the Yunwi Tsundi with disrespect. If you find a knife or trinket in the woods, you must say something like, "Little People, I would like to take this," (since it may belong to them) or you might feel stones being thrown at you all the way home. They like to be left alone and if you hear drums far off in a lonely stretch of forest, do not follow the sound for it may lead you to the Yunwi Tsundi's home. If they discover you on their land they may throw a spell over you to
Young Cherokee Woman Pointing to Smoky Mountains, NC, 1942, AP
disorient you and if you do manage to find your way back home, you will feel dazed for the rest of your life. 

They are said to love music and dancing and resemble handsome Cherokee men and beautiful women and are either black, white, or have the golden skin of the natives. They stand about eighteen inches tall and have hair so long it nearly brushes the ground. The Yunwi Tsundi are divided into three groups: the Laurel People, the Rock People, and the Dogwood People. 

The Laurel People are fun-loving and enjoy playing little harmless tricks on humans. It is said that if you are fishing and feel a strong tug on your line, sure that it is a huge fish, only
Mountain Laurel, North Carolina, photo by K. L. Wood
to reel in a stick, it is the Laurel People pulling your leg and having a laugh. Their hope is that you will laugh, too, and not take life so seriously. The Cherokee say that if children are laughing in their sleep, it's the Laurel People at work (or play, that is.)

The Rock People are considered the mean-spirited ones, even to the point of stealing human children. They are expert at "getting even" but are said to be that way because their space has been invaded. They are the manifestation of what can happen to you if you do not treat others with kindness and respect.

The Dogwood People are the kind and helpful ones. If you wake one morning to go to work in your fields but find your crop has already been harvested and stacked in your barn, it must have been the Dogwood People spreading their goodwill. They like to remain anonymous, however, so you mustn't go out and watch the Yunwi Tsundi at work because the price for such a sight may be death.

So, what do we learn from these Little People? Live life joyfully--always ready to laugh at yourself-- treat others with respect because "what goes around, comes around," and treat others kindly and generously, never looking for recognition of your good works.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Scotland's Kelpie...your final ride

Photo of Kelpie statue in Falkirk by Rosser 1954 via
Wikimedia Commons
It seems many of Scotland's legends center around water-centric supernatural beings. I suppose that makes sense as the land is surrounded on three sides by the sea and is dotted liberally with rivers and lakes (or, I should say, lochs.) One of these creatures that haunts the dreams (or nightmares) of Scottish folk is the Kelpie, sometimes called the Water Horse.

The Kelpie, 1913 by Herbert James Draper
The Kelpie appears as a beautiful black, gray, or white horse, notable for its smooth, cold, almost seal-like hide and always with its long mane dripping with water. It is said to lure folk onto its back and, once in place, the hapless riders find themselves stuck like glue and unable to jump ship when the Water Horse dives into the water. Then woe betide the poor riders because they are then taken to the bottom of the loch where their drowned bodies are eaten by the Kelpie. It's often said that children are the victims of the Water Horse, perhaps because children are drawn to the beauty of the horse-like creature. But...the Kelpie has another way of securing its prey. It is known to do a bit of shape-shifting--taking the form of a beautiful woman who
lures men to her side before transforming back into her true Water Horse self and pulling the men down into the depths of the cold water.

Kelpies are spoken of all over Scotland and are known by different names according to region. In Orkney they are called "Nuggles" (not to be confused with those unmagical "Muggles" of Harry Potter fame) and in the Shetland Islands they go by the wonderful name of "Shoopiltie."

Photo of Chapel House Black Magic by By V8Jess
 via Wikimedia Commons
So, if you're ever walking around a body of water in Scotland and you spy a handsome horse with a dripping mane (or a woman of unearthly beauty...probably nude according to all the illustrations I've seen) resist the temptation to get any closer!

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!