If you like sweet love stories, you will love this tale of the Cherokee people of the Southeastern Woodlands of the United States. The first man and the first woman quarrel, and the sun reunites them with a very special gift. Perhaps the relationship in this story shows that some things never change.
Natasha dedicates this story to Zed, Matthew, Bugsy and their families in California, and thanks to them for their kindness and hospitality while she was in LA for the National Story Telling Conference.
Barbara Shining Woman Warren, who retold one version of the story, noted: "The Cherokee word for strawberry is ani. The rich bottomlands of the old Cherokee country were noted for their abundance of strawberries and other wild fruits. Even today, strawberries are often kept in Cherokee homes. They remind us not to argue and are a symbol of good luck."
Read by Natasha. Text adaptation by Bertie from a brief original. Duration 5.18.
At the dawn of time, the first man and the first woman set up their home together by the side of a great broad river. They had everything they needed for a blissful life: Fruit, berries, meat and fish, plenty of wood and freshwater, and of course, each other. They lived as happily as any man and woman have ever lived together until they began to quarrel.
First it was the small things, like, “Why didn’t you cook this?” and “Why didn’t you tidy that?” But then the insults, and a few wooden plates and bowls, began to fly.
The first woman was so upset that she decided to leave the first man. At the break of day, while he was still asleep, she set off down the valley, heading towards the rising sun. She walked and walked, always looking straight ahead of her, and not once turning back.
When the first man woke up and saw that she was gone, he waited for her to come back, but she did not come back. He found her tracks along the valley, but she had a long head start on him, as she did not stop or look around.
The sun was now high in the great blue sky. It looked down upon the first man, as he followed after the first woman, and it saw that there was sadness on the face of an otherwise pristine and perfect world.
The sun asked the man if he was still angry with his wife. He said that he was not angry with her.
The sun asked if he would like to have her back. He said that he would like to have her back. And the sun took pity on the first man, and decided to help him. His gentle rays touched the ground along the woman’s path, and a huckleberry bush sprang up. Its fruit was shiny and enticing, but as she passed her eyes remained fixed on the distance, and she did not see the berries.
So the sun shone again on the ground up ahead of the woman. He caused a clump of blackberries to grow up beside her path. She refused to even glance at them.
Then the sun thought that he must create something entirely new; something so vivid, fragrant, and delicious, that even the first woman would not fail to take notice of them in her resolute and unhappy mood.
He blessed the ground again with his rays, and the first patch of strawberries spread over the ground. Their sweet scent filled the woman’s senses, and her mood became lighter. She began to look around her, and she saw the bright red fruit hiding beneath the leaves. It looked so enticing that she picked one and tried it. She tasted the strawberry on her tongue, and she began to remember the happiness she knew when she first set up home with her husband. She found she no longer felt the pressing desire to leave him. She sat down on the ground and wondered what she must do. Then at last the first woman stood up and started to walk once again, to the west, and back to the first man.
And that was the story of the First Strawberries, and of course, of the first man and woman. It’s funny how so little changes.