Cherokee Legends

Unetlanvhi is the Cherokee word for Creator or God. Sometimes Cherokee people today also refer to the Creator as the Great Spirit, a phrase which was borrowed from other tribes of Oklahoma. Unetlanvhi is considered to be a divine spirit with no human form or attributes and is not normally personified in Cherokee myths. Sometimes another name such as Heavenly One (Galvladi’ehi ) or Ruler ( Ouga also spelled Ugv or Ugu) is used instead.

Characters Found in Cherokee Legends:

Jistu – Rabbit, the trickster figure in the folklore of the Cherokee and other Southeastern tribes.

Nunnehi (Travelers) – A supernatural spirit race which is friendly towards humans, particularly towards the Cherokee tribe. Nunnehi are very strong and sometimes intercede in battle on the Cherokees’ behalf. Like Little People, Nunnehi are usually invisible but sometimes show themselves to humans they like (appearing as regal looking human warriors.) Their name is pronounced similar to nun-nay-hee.

Stoneclads – Formidable rock giants of Cherokee mythology.

Thunderers (Aniyvdaqualosgi or Ani-Yuntikwalaski) – Storm spirits who live in the sky and command thunder and lightning. In Cherokee legends the Thunderers are human in form, unlike many tribes where thunder spirits appear as birds. Cherokee Thunderers are powerful and dangerous, but generally benign and friendly to humans.

TlanuwaGiant mythological birds of prey with impenetrable metal feathers, common to the mythology of many Southeastern tribes. 

Uktena – A dragon-like horned serpent of Cherokee legend. The first Uktena was said to be transformed from a human man in a failed assassination attempt on the Sun. Most other Cherokee tales about Uktena have to do with Cherokee heroes slaying one. They are malevolent and deadly monsters.

Yunwi Tsunsdi’ (Little People): A race of small humanoid nature spirits, sometimes referred to in English as dwarves or fairies. They are usually invisible but sometimes reveal themselves as miniature child-sized people. Yunwi Tsunsdi are benevolent creatures who frequently help humans in Cherokee stories, but they have magical powers and are said to harshly punish people who are disrespectful or aggressive towards them. The singular form is Yvwi Usdi (pronounced yun-wee oon-stee.)

Famous Cherokee

Cherokee Legends:


Article Index:

How the Cherokee got Corn

AUTHOR: Cherokee Legend, Myth, Oral Story

How Corn came to feed the Cherokee people and people all over the Earth.

Origin of Strawberries

When the world was new, there was one man and one woman. They were happy; then they quarreled. At last the woman left the man and began to walk away toward the Sunland, the Eastland. The man followed. He felt sorry, but the woman walked straight on. She did not look back.


Then Sun, the great Apportioner, was sorry for the man. He said,

“Are you still angry with your wife?”

The man said, “No.”

Sun said, “Would you like to have her come back to you?”

“Yes,” said the man.

So Sun made a great patch of huckleberries which he placed in front of the woman’s trail. She passed them without paying any attention to them. Then Sun made a clump of blackberry bushes and put those in front of her trail. The woman walked on. Then Sun created beautiful service-berry bushes which stood beside the trail. Still the woman walked on.

So Sun made other fruits and berries. But the woman did not look at them.

Then Sun created a patch of beautiful ripe strawberries. They were the first strawberries. When the woman saw those, she stopped to gather a few. As she gathered them, she turned her face toward the west. Then she remembered the man. She turned to the Sunland but could not go on. She could not go any further.

Then the woman picked some of the strawberries and started back on her trail, away from the Sunland. So her husband met her, and they went back together.

Race between Hummingbird and Crane

Humming Bird and Crane were both in love with a pretty woman. She liked Humming Bird, who was handsome. Crane was ugly, but he would not give up the pretty woman. So at last to get rid of him, she told them they must have a race, and that she would marry the winner.


Now Humming Bird flew like a flash of light; but Crane was heavy and slow.

The birds started from the woman’s house to fly around the world to the beginning. Humming Bird flew off like an arrow. He flew all day and when he stopped to roost he was far ahead.

Crane flew heavily, but he flew all night long. He stopped at daylight at a creek to rest. Humming Bird waked up, and flew on again, and soon he reached a creek, and behold! there was Crane, spearing tadpoles with his long bill. Humming Bird flew on.

Soon Crane started on and flew all night as before. Humming Bird slept on his roost.

Next morning Humming Bird flew on and Crane was far, far ahead. The fourth day, Crane was spearing tadpoles for dinner when Humming Bird caught up with him. By the seventh day Crane was a whole night’s travel ahead. At last he reached the beginning again. He stopped at the creek and preened his feathers, and then in the early morning went to the woman’s house. Humming Bird was far, far behind.

But the woman declared she would not marry so ugly a man as Crane. Therefore she remained single.

The Eagles Revenge Cherokee Legend
The First Fire
The Legend of the Cherokee Rose (nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i)
Two Wolves – A Cherokee Tale
Why the Turkey Gobbles