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Escape Of The Seneca Boys

This version of the legend comes from James Mooney's 1897 collection Myths of the Cherokee.

Some Seneca warriors were hunting in the woods, and one morning, on starting out for the day, they left two boys behind to take care of the camp. Soon after they had gone, a war party of Cherokee came up, and finding the boys alone took them both and started back to the south, traveling at such a rate that when the hunters returned in the evening they decided that it was of no use to follow them. When the Cherokee reached their own country they gave the boys to an old man, whose sons had been killed by the Seneca. He took the boys and adopted them for his own, and they grew up with him until they were large and strong enough to go hunting for themselves.

But all the time they remembered their own home, and one day the older one said to his brother, "Let's kill the old man and run away." "No," said the other, "we might get lost if we ran away, we are so far from home." "I remember the way," said his brother, so they made a plan to escape. A few days later the old man took the boys with him and the three set out together for a hunt in the mountains. When they were well away from the settlement the boys killed the old man, took all the meat and parched corn meal they could easily carry, and started to make their way back to the north, keeping away from the main trail and following the ridge of the mountains. After many days they came to the end of the mountains and found a trail which the older brother knew as the one along which they had been taken when they were first captured. They went on bravely now until they came to a wide clearing with houses at the farther end, and the older brother said, "I believe there is where we used to live." It was so long ago that they were not quite sure, and besides they were dressed now like Cherokee, so they thought it safer to wait until dark. They saw a river ahead and went down to it and sat behind a large tree to wait. Soon several women came down for water and passed close to the tree without noticing the boys. Said the older brother, "I know those women. One of them is our mother." They waited until the women had filled their buckets and started to the village, when both ran out to meet them with the Seneca hailing-shout, "Gowe'! Gowe'!" At first the women were frightened and thought it a party of Cherokee, but when they heard their own language they came nearer. Then the mother recognized her two sons, and said, "Let us go back and dance for the dead come to life," and they were all very glad and went into the village together.

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