This story has drifted down from the dim past and is told in the land of the red man. It has traveled far with these migratory people, from its original scene, and thus has taken on an atmosphere and coloring of many Indian countries. It has become typical of the race rather than any one tribe; yet the main events of the drama have always been recounted the same and it seems there must be a foundation of truth.
It was the season when the warm south wind scatters flowers over the land. Princess Silver Moon, daughter of Chief Red Lightening, was gathering blossoms along the stream that wound through thick foliage. Bluebirds flitting in the white feathery fragrance made the scene enchanting. The Princess' mood was in tune with the freshness and beauty of spring. She softly crooned an old tribal chant that told of love and marriage. Her long black hair shone like moonlight on dark water, and in her eyes was a look of wistful dreaming. She wore a soft deerskin garment reaching to the knee and painted many brilliant colors. Buckskin moccasins protected her feet, and, being the daughter of the great chief, she wore blue polished jewels and beaten silver for her headband, necklace, and girdle.
She was the princess of the Sun Tribe, who for many generations had dwelt on the shores of the Big Water, which in these ancient times was a huge arm of the sea reaching far into the land, and a part of the mighty ocean to the west.
Silver Moon heard a noise as of someone moving through the thick under brush across the stream. She listened tensely, for the Wolf Tribe was an ever present menace. Their chief, Black Fox, had vowed to steal the princess, for the women of his tribe were course-feathered and unlovely.
In terror she dropped the blossoms and poised an instant, ready to flee, when suddenly a deer came crashing through the brush and stood a moment on the opposite bank. It was wounded and ready to fight. Shaking its great horns, it was a terrifying sight. She knew that she could not cope with a wounded deer and it was useless to run. Her limbs were incapable of moving; she stood motionless and gave a piercing scream.
Almost instantly an arrow came whining through the air with the seeming speed of light, and the deer dropped before it had time to move; and there, downstream on the opposite bank, stood the brave warrior, White Eagle. He came splashing through the water. The great muscles rippled under his brown skin as he moved with the ease and grace of the yellow lion that dwells on the mountain. His straight black hair was cut short about the neck and fastened with a headband adorned with a red feather. A garment of deerskin about the loins and heavy leather moccasins was the manner of dress of the Sun warriors.
Silver Moon, weak after her fright, went and sat upon a large flat rock close by.
The young brave strode to her side and said, "White Eagle did not mean to frighten the princess, leaping out of the thicket like a great bear."
"Danger ever lurks in the dark forest, but I am not afraid, now that White Eagle is here, for your arrow is swift and true," and though her fright had disappeared, her heart fluttered like a young bird that tries to fly and cannot. She said, "Do not stand, you are weary after your hunt."
He sat on the great rock beside her. "No, not weary, only glad. For many moons I have sought to meet you thus and tell you what is in my heart." said he, looking earnestly into her face.
"What is this secret you would tell me?" She met his gaze, and in her heart she knew.
His handsome face was serious. He laid aside his bow and spoke passionately. "Long has White Eagle adored the shining Silver Moon, who is fair as the flaming sunset beyond the Big Water, the magic starlight of summer night, fair as the wild free music of the wind rushing through the forest.
"White Eagle's words are also like music in my ears." answered Silver Moon with a lovely smile, as she toyed with the blue jewels of her necklace.
"I love you deeply, for the Mighty One has made your spirit as beautiful as your face." said he earnestly, and he held a lock of her black hair reverently.
She looked up and answered with feeling: "Your words make me very glad."
He rose and made a sweeping gesture toward the country of the Wolf Tribe. "I would conquer many enemies and do brave deeds that I may be worthy of the princess."
"But you have done many brave deeds."
"I want to ask the great chief for you in marriage, for I need you as the prairie needs the gentle rain." said he with a look of pleading.
She said simply: "White Eagle has won the love of Silver Moon. Even before you spoke, my heart has ever beat for you," and she timidly laid her hand on his.
The nearness of her loveliness and the touch of her gentle hand made the pulse beat in his veins like the drums of war.
"But," said she sadly, with troubled look, "it is for my father to decide to whom I shall be given."
He took her hands and held them passionately. "If I have the love of my princess, I shall win the consent of the great chief."
"I think my father favors you --"
"Chief Red Lightening shall say 'Yes' and then White Eagle shall build a great lodge under the whispering pines, of tall poles and many bison hides, "said he, looking up at the towering trees," and there shall be bearskin to tread upon, and here shall Silver Moon and White Eagle ever abide."
A great love shone in her eyes as she answered: "Happiness shall also dwell in the lodge, and there shall be no room for sorrow."
They lingered by the stream as lovers do, for now they were secretly betrothed and only awaited the consent of the great chief.
Silver Moon's heart sang with a new happiness as she returned to her father's lodge, bringing him the blossoms she had gathered. She arranged them in a pottery bowl filled with water and placed them near him, for they brought him the fragrance of spring. The old chief sat on a huge bearskin, smoking his pipe, a thoughtful, dreamy look in his kindly eyes. The inviting scent of roasting meat was wafted about the lodge. The serving women were preparing food over a bed of coals. Naked brown children were playing noisily along a little brook that wandered between the dwellings.
The princess went into the lodge and was busy with a basket she was weaving of small willows.
Chief Red Lightening smoked for a time in deep meditation, and then called to his daughter. "My Silver Moon."
"Daughter, Red Lightening has pondered over many things and would give you counsel."
"Yes, my father," said she and came and sat beside him with her weaving, trying to look serious and conceal her joyous secret.
"Silver Moon has never been a disobedient child, she has always been a good and loving child to Red Lightening."
"And my father has ever been kind and -"
"Would that I might keep you always, but that cannot be."
"But why?" asked the princess.
"The time draws near when you should be given in marriage."
She dropped her weaving, a look of fright in her face as she clasped her hands tensely.
"I shall miss you, for who, then, shall bring the cup of cold water from the spring or the soft moccasins when the old chief is footsore and weary?"
"But father -"
"I shall hunger for your laughter when you are gone."
She put her arms about his neck as if to comfort him.
Said he, "Red Lightening is weary of being chief. Long have I led the warriors against the cruel Wolf Tribe, who would destroy us, and occupy our fertile land, for their country is barren."
"But our warriers are brave and strong," said she.
"And since age has come upon me, the best suited to lead in battle is White Eagle, the fearless."
"Yes, he is the bravest of all," said the princess hopefully.
"Now I would rest and smoke in peace," he stroked her dark hair, "until the Great Spirit shall lead the way to the land far to the south, and Red Lightening shall dwell with his fathers."
"May that time be far away," said she, and laid her gentle hand on his bronzed and weathered cheek. She thought of her two brave brothers, who had been slain in battle, and of her dear and kindly mother, who had journeyed to the land beyond.
"The warriors and the hunters shall be called to a great contest. They shall shoot the arrow, throw the spear, and enter into wrestling matches. They shall also run races and the greatest of all these shall be made chief of the tribe, and my beloved Silver Moon shall be given to him in marriage. It is fitting that a princess should wed the mightiest warrior and bear many brave sons."
She gave a little sigh. Her fear was gone, and she knew White Eagle would win all the matches. It seemed there was a twinkle in her father's eye. Did he guess her great secret? He must want her to wed the brave and fearless warrior.
"Silver Moon shall abide by these words of wisdom" said she and took his pipe to relight with a coal from the fire.
The summer passed. The rainbow-tinted hills glowed softly through blue haze. It was nearing the time for the dances of thanksgiving to the Mighty One, and to drive away all evil spirits, and then the contest and feast would be held.
There was no war with the Wolf Tribe for many moons. It was reported they had gone on a marauding expedition far to the north. But now there was trouble on the southern border. Strange tribes had crossed the hills into the country of the Sun People. The drums of war beat and the braves painted themselves and danced, preparing for a quick departure.
White Eagle followed Silver Moon to the stream, where she had gone in the evening to gather willows. The scene was bathed in the golden glory of the setting sun. She saw him coming in the bright evening sunshine, and her heart was full of gladness as he strode to her side and said, "Greeting and farewell."
Her joy faded and she said, "Must it be so?"
"White Eagle and many warriors must leave before the dawn," and he clasped her hands and looked long into her eyes as if he would take the memory of their dark magic with him.
And then it seemed the whispering wind spirits murmured in her ear that this was the last farewell. Did that mean that he would never return. But she answered bravely. "I love you truly, may your homecoming be very soon."
He said, " I shall return quickly; do not be sad."
Silver Moon answered, "My heart will cry out in loneliness, but I shall have courage until I see you again . . ."
The men who had not gone to battle went on the hunt, for there must be much roast meat and fowl for the feast that was to last for seven days. The women were weaving a robe of soft white feathers for the princess to wear on this great occasion. It had taken many days, and with so much excitment Silver Moon was gay. The women and child had gathered fruit and nuts that grew along the streams. All were busy with their part of the preparations.
It was just part mid-way, when suddenly and without warning, came a fleet of canoes over the Big Water, bearing warriors. As they approached the shore it was seen that they were the evil ones, the Wolf Tribe. They disembarked and advanced up the sloping shores, vicious, dark men with heavy lips and overhanging brows. They were dressed in filthy loin garments of wolfskin and carried spears, and stone tomahawks.
All the women and children of Red Lightening's city fled in great fear. There must have been scouts out to advise Black Fox of the departure of the Sun warriors.
Red Lightening, peering from his lodge, knew in that moment that Black Fox had come to take the princess, and, with the warriors gone, the only hope was in flight. Said he to Silver Moon and the serving women,"go now" and they fled. But it was too late, for Black Fox had seen them running from the lodge, and he ordered men to run and overtake them and they were soon brought back in great terror.
The old chief stood in his doorway, advanced a few steps with much dignity, and raised his hand in protest, "What is the meaning of frightening my women?" said he. "Silver Moon, take the serving women and go into the lodge," and they went.
Said the leader, the Wolf Chief himself, "Black Fox, big chief of the Wolf Tribe, wants the princess Silver Moon. We have come to take her away."
Red Lightening's hands clenched tightly, his eyes blazed with anger, but he tried to control himself. Said he, "Take all the dried meat we have prepared for the winter, the bearskins and the deerskins, all that you can carry in the canoes, but leave the Princess Silver Moon. She is to be wed to one of the warriors of our tribe."
"No," said Black Fox, "we shall take skins and dried meat, but first of all I demand the fair one."
"Cowards and foxes," shouted the chief, "the Wolf Tribe is well named, coming like a marauding pack, when my warriors are gone"
"There shall be much bloodshed," said the Wolf Leader, and shook his spear threateningly, his small, deepset black eyes glittered with an evil fire.
"You have caught the old chief napping, but Black Fox shall pay dearly when the warriors return," and the lines of Red Lightening's face were deep with hate.
"Take what you will, but spare the bloodshed of my people."
"We shall take," said Black Fox.
"Yes, you shall have the princess, my priceless jewel; there is no alternative."
Black Fox stepped forward.
"No," said Red Lightening, and held out his hand to stop him, "she must be prepared for the journey," and the old chief in despair made a desperate decision. "Wait," said he.
Broken in spirit, he entered the lodge; they heard him say, "My beloved one, flower of the Sun Tribe and gift of the Great Spirit, little did Red Lightning think that this should be the parting! Joy and comfort of my declining years, farewell! They have come to take you away! Come child, the old chief would embrace you for the last time!" Then she was sobbing in her father's arms.
The Wolf men, sullen and menacing, heard a little startled cry and then a sigh. The chief again appeared in the entrance, red blood streaming down the front of his robe. All anger had vanished from his face and was replaced by overwhelming sorrow.
"Sneaking wolves," said he, "the princess is ready for the journey. Take her, Black Fox, but only her lovely body is there. Rather would Red Lightning give her spirit into the keeping of the Mighty One than she should fall into the hands of evil men." He bowed his head and the great headdress of feathers that he wore shook, for his grief was very deep.
Black Fox could scarcely believe the words of the old chief. He went forward and peered into the lodge. There lay the lovely Silver Moon on her low couch, in her last sleep, surrounded by kneeling women weeping silently.
The Wolf Chief looked awed, then darkly angry. Said he, "Black Fox wants not a bride whose spirit has flown, but we shall take the great Red Lightning alive and his punishment shall be as pleases me." And they bound the old chief with thongs of leather and dragged him away. They plundered the city, taking supplies of meat and pelts. They started fires and then shot arrows into the lodge, killing women and children. There seemed no hope.
But the reign of terror was short lived, for some of the women had run and given word to the hunters in the forest and they had shouted to others and all came running with loud war cries. The cowardly Wolf chief thought all tbe warriors of the Sun Tribe were upon him. His pack fled in confusion, leaving their prisoner, Red Lightening, and rowed swiftly away from the shore.
No sooner had the evil ones embarked than a storm arose in the west. Great black clouds came with loud crashes of thunder and torrents of rain. The violent wind and waves overturned all the canoes, and the Wolf men were every one destroyed. The earth quaked and trembled. The great tidal wave swept over the city of Black Fox, and when it receded, the rest of the people were carried out into the Big Water and were no more.
But though the city of Red Lightening shook and trembled with the force of the storm, it was not submerged by the waves. The people huddled in terror under what shelter was left, for the rest of the day and far into the night. Then toward morning it seemed to abate. When the gray dawn came they ventured to look, and during the night of terror the land had, risen, for the water had receded far to the west, and nothing was left but a lake far out from the orginal shore; the Big Water had swept out and joined the mighty ocean.
And when the sun arose, the people looked to the east and lo, during the night a majastic mountain range had arisen stretching as far as the eye could see, from the north to south, and the highest mountain was in the shape of a woman lying asleep, and when they looked again, it was the likeness of a princess, Silver Moon, in her last sleep. And the Sun people knelt in reverence to the work of the Mighty Spirit, for the princess, beautiful in death, had been taken away and transformed into this glorious mountain.
And there the lovely image of Silver Moon has lain during all the ages, an everlasting monument of her and the Sun Tribe, chosen people of the Mighty One, who destroyed their evil enemies. Even unto this day, the majestic mountain is called, in the language of the red man, "Sleeping Woman."
There are blue lakes lying on her breast, lovely shining turquoise jewels, even as she wore in life. In the springtime she holds fragrant blossoms in her hands, as the ones she gathered along the stream; and in the dreamy haze of Indian Summer her green garment is changed to hues of brilliant yellow, red, and orange, as the Sun People fashioned her robe of deerskin. When the cold winds blow from the north, the Great Spirit gently wraps the sleeping princess in a robe of soft white feathers as she was to have been clothed at her wedding feast.
White Eagle ruled over the tribe and was a good and just chief but ever a sad one, until the day he joined his beloved Silver Moon in the Happy Hunting Ground.
The Sun People have vanished from the earth-so passes all mankind. But as long as the earth shall last, so long shall the beautiful image of Silver Moon remain sleeping-Lovely Timpanogos!
-Lela Foster Morris