Cherokee legend of love retold by Gayle Ross in Homespun Tales from America’s Favorite Storytellers, edited by Jimmy Neil Smith
retold again by Beverly Brayden, a Spellbinders storyteller
Long ago, in the first days of the world, there lived 1st Man and 1st Woman. They lived together as husband and wife in happiness and harmony. They loved each other very much.
But, one day they quarreled. Although neither later could remember what the quarrel was about, the pain grew stronger with every word that was spoken, until finally, in anger and grief, the woman left their home and began walking east, toward the rising sun.
1st Man sat alone in his house. As minutes became hours he grew lonelier and lonelier. The anger left him and all that remained was a terrible grief and despair, and he began to cry.
A spirit heard 1st Man crying and took pity on him. “Why do you cry?”
1st Man said, “My wife has left me.”
Spirit said, “Why did your woman leave?”
1st Man just hung his head and said nothing.
“Did you quarrel with her?” asked the spirit.
1st Man nodded.
“Would you quarrel with her again?” asked the spirit.
“No, I only want to live with her as before, in peace, happiness, harmony and love.”
“I have seen your woman,” said the spirit. “She is walking east toward the rising sun.”
1st Man began walking east but could not catch up with her. Everyone knows how fast an angry woman walks.
The spirit said, “I will go on ahead and see if I can slow her steps.” The spirit found the woman walking fast, her footsteps angry and her gaze fixed straight ahead. She looked neither to the right or left, and pain and anger were in her heart.
The spirit saw some huckleberry bushes along the trail, and with a wave of the hand made the bushes burst into bloom and ripen with fruit. But the woman looked neither to the right nor to the left, and her footsteps didn’t slow.
The spirit saw other berry bushes along the trail, and, with a wave of the hand, caused them to burst into bloom and then into ripe fruit. But still 1st Woman looked neither to the right nor to the left and there was anger and pain in her heart.
Along the trail grew peach trees, pear trees, apple trees, and cherry trees. With a wave of the hand, the spirit caused the trees to bloom and then fruit to ripen on all the trees. Still,
1st Woman looked neither to the right nor to the left. She saw nothing but her pain and her steps didn’t slow.
And then the spirit had an idea. “I will create a new fruit, one that grows very close to the ground so that when the woman bends down to pick the fruit all the anger and pain will pour out of her heart onto the ground. With a wave of the hand the forest floor was covered with a thick green carpet of leaves. Then another wave and the carpet became starred with tiny white flowers, and each flower ripened into a berry that was the color and shape of the human heart.
As 1st Woman walked, she crushed some of the berries, and the delicious aroma came up to her nose. She stopped and smelled, and smelled again, and then she looked down and saw the berries that were the color and the shape of the human heart. She bent down and picked one and all the anger and pain flowed out of her heart. She picked another and another, and the taste was as sweet as love itself As she picked she leaned down and she saw her husband coming behind her. In her heart the anger was gone and all that remained was the love she had always felt for him.
And so, she picked more berries and fed them to him as he arrived. Together they picked this new fruit, fed it to each other, and gathered some to take home. They returned to their home where they lived out their days in peace, happiness, harmony and love.
And that is how the world’s first strawberries brought peace between men and women, and that is why to this very day they are called “the berries of love.”