Thursday, February 26, 2009

Legends of the Falls, 4

I found a superb guest blogger for episode four of Legends of the Falls. Here goes:

'When you were talking of Maiden's Rock, you spoke of
the long-departed Winona, darling of Indian song and story.
Is she the maiden of the rock?--and are the two connected by legend?'

'Yes, and a very tragic and painful one. Perhaps the most celebrated,
as well as the most pathetic, of all the legends of the Mississippi.'

We asked him to tell it. He dropped out of his conversational
vein and back into his lecture-gait without an effort,
and rolled on as follows--

'A little distance above Lake City is a famous point known
as Maiden's Rock, which is not only a picturesque spot, but is
full of romantic interest from the event which gave it its name,
Not many years ago this locality was a favorite resort for the Sioux
Indians on account of the fine fishing and hunting to be had there,
and large numbers of them were always to be found in this locality.
Among the families which used to resort here, was one belonging
to the tribe of Wabasha. We-no-na (first-born) was the name
of a maiden who had plighted her troth to a lover belonging
to the same band. But her stern parents had promised her hand
to another, a famous warrior, and insisted on her wedding him.
The day was fixed by her parents, to her great grief.
She appeared to accede to the proposal and accompany them to
the rock, for the purpose of gathering flowers for the feast.
On reaching the rock, We-no-na ran to its summit and standing on
its edge upbraided her parents who were below, for their cruelty,
and then singing a death-dirge, threw herself from the precipice and
dashed them in pieces on the rock below.'

'Dashed who in pieces--her parents?'


'Well, it certainly was a tragic business, as you say.
And moreover, there is a startling kind of dramatic surprise
about it which I was not looking for. It is a distinct
improvement upon the threadbare form of Indian legend.
There are fifty Lover's Leaps along the Mississippi from whose
summit disappointed Indian girls have jumped, but this is the only
jump in the lot that turned out in the right and satisfactory way.
What became of Winona?'

'She was a good deal jarred up and jolted: but she got herself
together and disappeared before the coroner reached the fatal spot;
and 'tis said she sought and married her true love, and wandered
with him to some distant clime, where she lived happy ever after,
her gentle spirit mellowed and chastened by the romantic incident
which had so early deprived her of the sweet guidance of a mother's
love and a father's protecting arm, and thrown her, all unfriended,
upon the cold charity of a censorious world.'

As the lecturer remarked, this whole region is blanketed with Indian
tales and traditions. But I reminded him that people usually merely
mention this fact--doing it in a way to make a body's mouth water--
and judiciously stopped there. Why? Because the impression left,
was that these tales were full of incident and imagination--a pleasant
impression which would be promptly dissipated if the tales were told.
I showed him a lot of this sort of literature which I had been collecting,and he confessed that it was poor stuff, exceedingly sorry rubbish; and I ventured to add that the legends which he had himself told us were of this character, with the single exception of the admirable story of Winona.

- Sam C.