Monday, January 31, 2011

How The Bee Got its Stinger

As a young kid there was only one thing better than walking down to Weaver’s pond and swimming on a hot afternoon. On the way back to Grandfather’s it was going by his bee hives. These were old bee hives made out of hollowed logs with the tops covered with old oak planks. They were always loaded with honey and the bees were always busy working to make more. Ududu (grandfather) had been tending these hives for as long as I could remember.

I would stop at one of the hives, remove the rock that held the planks on the top,
take a long stick and poke it down into the hive. When I removed the stick it would be covered and dripping with delicious fresh honey. I did this almost every day. I may have just been a kid but I was smart enough to make sure ududu was no where around. My sweet tooth got so bad (greed) that I took one of Ulisi (grandmother) silver spoons and hid it by one of the hives. You can get more honey with a big spoon then you can with a stick. The bees never seemed to bother me and tolerated this invasion.

They say all good things must come to an end. My attacks on the bee hives finally came to a terrible end. One hot summer day as I lifted the planks to get several spoons of honey, apparently I caught them in a bad mood.

By the time I had run to the back door I had already been stung about twelve times. Fortunately or unfortunately, depends on how one looked at it, Ududu was sitting on the back steps stripping some willow branches.
Still swatting at honey bees I sat down next to Ududu and tried not to cry out in pain.

Ududu continued stripping the willow branches in silence, not even giving me a second glance. As the tears began to roll down my face and the red welts began to grow larger, he finally spoke.

“Usdi Duya, have you been in my bee hives again”? He rose from the steps and walked over to where he had some special tsola (tobacco) growing.

I sat there wiping away the tears trying to figure out how to get out of the trouble I knew I was in. How did he know I had been robbing the hives? I respected Ududu to much to even consider telling an untruth. I was raised not to lie, that was the Tsalagi way. One only spoke truth.

He returned chewing a big mouth of tsola and sat back down and said,
“A question usually requires an answer. “ His voice was stern but not angry.
“Yes Ududu, I have been in your hives,” I said. As I said those words I could feel the shame in my voice.

Ududu turned to me and spit out the chewed tsola into his weathered hand.
He began smearing the chewed tsola on the bee stings. The red welts began to become smaller and the pain eased.

I looked at Ududu and said, “I am sorry, I did not ask permission of the bees before I took their honey. I am sorry that I did not ask your permission. I don’t understand why the Ulnelanvhi (Creator) gave a little insect such a hurtful stinger.”

Ududu reached over and picked up his Mason jar of iced tea, offered me a drink, then took a big drink himself and put the lid back on it and sat it down.
He leaned back and stretched out his legs and let out a sigh.

“Usdi Duya, In the long ago times when Turtle Island was still new and the people were more pure and could talk with the animals and the Unelanvhi (Creator) would visit with them, the people asked the Unelanvhi for something that was uganasdv (sweet) to the taste. So the Unelanvhi sent the wadulisi (bee), but the wadulisi had no stinger. The wadulisi found a suitable tree in which they could build their hive. A place to live in and produce honey, multiply and feed its young. Soon the people came to the wadulisi and asked for some of the sweet syrup and the wadulisi gave each person a atlisdodi (bowl) full. The people loved the syrup and greedily ate it, then went back to the wadulisi for more.

But the Queen wadulisi (the wadulisi had a matrilineal society just like the Tsalagi) replied, 'I have no more to give you for a while. You will have to wait.' The people were not alihelisdi (happy), as they craved the uganasdv syrup. So they called upon the Unelanvhi, saying, 'the wadulisi does not give us enough of the uganasdv syrup. We want more.'

The Unelanvhi listened and sent down the Atsilvsgi (Flower) People. The Atsilvsgi People began to spread all types of anitsilvsgi (flowers) across the land giving the wadulisi greater access and variety of anitsilvsgi (flowers) to pollinate and make more honey. The Atsilvsgi People spread all kinds of beautiful wild flowers around to attract the wadulisi; bright blue, red, orange, purple and yellow. More wadulisi were created to help pollinate the anitsilvsgi.

The hive grew to be udohiyu equa (very large). The people seeing how equa the hive was went to get more of the uganasdv (sweet) syrup. So the wadulisi gave all the syrup to the people but left enough to feed their young. The people devoured the syrup and wanted more. The wadulisi responded, 'We don't have anymore, you will have to wait.'

The people were angry and asked the Atsilvsgi People to make more flowers so they could have more of the uganasdv syrup to eat. The Atsilvsgi People responded, 'We made all the flowers we could and they are all pollinated. You will have to wait until Spring.'
'No, said the people, 'We want more now.' So they went back to the wadulisi hive and tore it apart killing almost all of the wadulisi and taking the syrup. The remaining wadulisi were angry.
They asked the Unelanvhi what to do. The Unelanvhi (Creator) was also upset at the behavior of the people, so he told the Atsilvsgi People to create some 'briar bushes' and for the wadulisi to eat the briars.

The wadulisi did as the Unelanvhi said, they ate the briars and these were transformed into stingers. The Atsilvsgi People created an entire briar patch around the bee's tree.
The next day, the people came back and started toward the wadulisi hive for more syrup; but the briars around the tree scratched and tore at their bodies. Some of the people made it through the briars to the hive. Covered in welts, they yelled at the wadulisi, 'Give us some more syrup now, or we will do the same as we did yesterday, kill your young and destroy your home.'
The wadulisi became angry and a loud hum came from the hive in the tree, and out they swarmed. The wadulisi stung the people all over until they were covered in welts and sent them running.

After that day, the people treated the wadulisi, anitsilvsgi, and digakohidi (plants) with great respect and always promised to ask permission and replace whatever they asked for and never be greedy or take more than they needed.”

“Now, Usdi Duya, I have work to do. Perhaps you can find something to do also.”
Ududu stood, gathered up his stripped willow branches.

“Wado, Ududu,” I said as he walked off. He nodded his head as he headed toward the water pump. I got up and immediately headed to the wadulisi hive.
The wadulisi were still buzzing around the hive but I had no fear of being stung.
I apologized to the wadulisi for my greediness.
I got grandmother’s spoon and headed to the house to apologize to her for taking it without asking first.

It seemed to me, although I had done wrong, that all was right with the world.
I may have learned a good lesson about greed but to this day honey is still my favorite sweet. And to this day I never take more than I need.


  1. A very powerful message. I am glad it was time to tell another of our stories. I was ready to hear. ~karen

  2. i haven't been at story time. but it was real nice to stop by and read this wonderful story kicking bear. claps hands. nods.

  3. You are a wonderful story teller , I feel I was right there with you, lovely blog, I am enjoying reading all these entries and learning so much. Thank you for sharing the wisdom of the elders with us, Carol

  4. This is a really great story. I'm amazed at how tolerant those bees were of you. Your getting a spoon really made me laugh. Hope you share more stories like this in the future about you and your Ududu.

  5. Ummmmm this story was created by me back in 2001 when I was on the yahoo group Cherokee Fire. I am surprised that this has taken off as an ancient cherokee story... Please do not misrepresent this story.