The Legend of Princess Falling Rock

Many, many moons ago, long before the White Man ever came into this valley, there lived two tribes of Indians, who teetered upon the knife's edge of war. For many generations, they had fought battle after battle, and at last they sought a pledge of peace. And so the two great chiefs, Chief Rolling Boulder and Chief Mighty Oak, came into the lodge of meeting to agree to terms of peace and unite their tribes in harmony.

After the sun had risen and set several times, the mighty chiefs returned, and all the peoples gathered around the sacred totem. At last a pact of peace was formed! No longer would the two tribes lose their stoutest men to the fangs of war, nor women grieve their husbands' passing. No longer would the fields be laid to waste, nor lodges burn in violent hate. A lasting peace would bind them all, and the two tribes would become one. The elders would rule, side by side, and a new chief would guide them, brought forth from the union of their leaders.

Only one hurdle did remain. The new chief would be born from the children of the two great chiefs. Thus, the son of Chief Mighty Oak would marry Chief Rolling Boulder's lovely daughter, the Princess Falling Rock. But which one? For Chief Mighty Oak had three sons: Prince Little Oak, the eldest, a mighty hunter; Prince Mighty Elm, a hearty warrior; and Prince Little Sapling, the youngest, who was, unfortunately, not very good at anything. There was much debate upon the fact, and even the elders of both tribes could not agree to whom the Princess should be wed.

Finally, it was agreed that there should be a contest. The three sons of Mighty Oak would compete in tests of skill and cunning, of strength and mind and spirit, and he who completed them all successfully or to the best of his ability would be given the Princess' hand in marriage and lead the new tribe until the new chief would come of age. The elders all agreed to this plan, and the people agreed as well. And so, it was decreed, the contest would begin the next day, and the victor would take the Princess' hand.

Little did anyone know, but Princess Falling Rock's heart had already been won. For the Princess had fallen deeply in love with Prince Little Sapling months before, and many times had they met upon the shores of the Great River, beneath the light of the smiling Moon, to express their undying love to one another. Never before could they have met in open daylight, for their romance would have been an act of war. But now, in light of recent events, the two again renewed their vows of love. And Little Sapling, there beneath the smiling Moon, beside the gentle waters of the Great River, did take a solemn oath, and promised his dearest Princess Falling Rock that he would defeat his stronger brothers and win her hand.

Upon the rising of the sun, the two tribes again gathered around the sacred totem. The first day of the contest had arrived! Tensed and steeled for the coming challenge, the sons of Mighty Oak stood before the tribes, and all were pleased to see them eager and ready. Then Chief Rolling Boulder stood before them all, and gave them all the first day's challenge. The test? A great hunt. Each son of Mighty Oak would take only his bow and three arrows and enter the Great Wood, and he who returned before sundown with the largest game would win the test.

Surely, Prince Little Oak, the great hunter, would be the favorite for this event, but Prince Little Sapling again assured his love that he would do his best to win. So upon the dawning of the sun, the three sons of Mighty Oak set upon their task, entering into the Great Wood.

And so, the Mighty Sun, in all his glory, traveled his course across the heavens, from the east to overhead at midday, then traveled on to meet the rolling mountains to the west. Before long the first of Mighty Oak's sons did return. It was Little Sapling, carrying slung over his shoulder three small rabbits, each one bigger than the last! He approached the lodge of meeting and stood before the mighty chiefs. "Great Mighty Chiefs," said he, "I have returned and bring to you these rabbits three, in hopes that this offering from the Great Woods will win the hand of the fair princess." With that, he returned unto his lodge and rested.

The sun continued on his path unto the west, and before too long, the second of the chief's sons returned. It was Prince Mighty Elm, the warrior, with a great buck draped across his shoulders! He approached the lodge of meeting and stood before the mighty chiefs. "Great Mighty Chiefs," said he, "I have returned and bring to you this great deer, in hopes that this offering from the Great Woods will win the hand of the fair princess." With that, he returned unto his lodge and rested.

Finally, just before the sun did set behind the western mountains, the last of the great chief's sons returned. It was Little Oak, the hunter, dragging behind him on a make-shift sled the carcass of a great black bear! He approached the lodge of meeting and stood before the mighty chiefs. "Great Mighty Chiefs," said he, "I have returned and bring to you this great bear, in hopes that this offering from the Great Woods will win the hand of the fair princess." With that, he returned unto his lodge and rested.

And so, Prince Little Oak, the great hunter, was unanimously declared the victor of the first day's test. The tribes rejoiced, and each one returned unto his lodge to ready for the coming day, and the next test. But, that night, beside the whispering waters of the Great River, beneath the light of the ever smiling Moon, Prince Little Sapling again renewed his vow before his love, the Princess Falling Rock, and promised her that he would defeat his stronger brothers in the next day's challenge, and win her hand in marriage.

And the moon ran her course through the heavens, and morning came. The next day of the contest had arrived.

The people gathered again around the sacred totem, and again the three princes presented themselves before the people. The mighty chiefs stood before them, and Chief Mighty Oak presented the next challenge. The test? To travel to the distant village of their common enemy, a murderous tribe that threatened the peace of everyone within the Great Wood. Here, they would stealthily enter into the village and take the scalp of their most powerful warrior. A most dangerous mission, indeed! He who returned with the warrior's scalp would win the day's contest.

Surely, Prince Mighty Elm, the great warrior, would be the favorite for this event, but Prince Little Sapling again assured his love that he would do his best to win. So upon the dawning of the sun, the three sons of Mighty Oak set upon their task, entering into the Great Wood.

And so, the Mighty Sun, in all his glory, traveled his course across the heavens, from the east to overhead at midday, then traveled on to meet the rolling mountains to the west. It would take at least a day for the three brothers to reach the distant village, and so, when the sun did hide his face and surrender the night unto the moon, the people slept fitfully, with great anticipation, at what the next day would bring. None slept less than Princess Falling Rock, who lay within her father's lodge, with dread and excitement. Would her loving Little Sapling win the test? Would she be forced to wed his brother?

The moon sunk low beneath the mountains as the sun peeked o'er the eastern trees. A shout from the edge of the Great Wood caught all's attention, and soon it was confirmed; the first of Mighty Oak's sons did return! It was Little Sapling, badly injured, limping into the village! He approached the lodge of meeting and stood before the mighty chiefs. "Great Mighty Chiefs," said he, "I have returned, but, alas, I failed to complete the quest, for I was overcome before I set foot into the village. I was forced to retreat." Disheartened, he trudged back to his lodge, bruised, battered, and bleeding, and he rested.

As the sun continued his path and reached his apex, the second of the chief's sons returned. It was Prince Little Oak, the hunter, and he, too, was badly injured! He approached the lodge of meeting and stood before the mighty chiefs. "Great Mighty Chiefs," said he, "I have returned, but, alas, I failed to complete the quest, for I was overcome before I reached their village square. I was forced to retreat." Disheartened, he trudged back to his lodge, bruised, battered, and bleeding, and he rested.

The sun did run his course, and just before he sunk low behind the western mountains, the last of the great chiefs sons returned. It was Mighty Elm, the warrior, triumphantly carrying a bloodied scalp in his hand! He approached the lodge of meeting and stood before the mighty chiefs. "Great Mighty Chiefs!" said he. "I have returned, and bear with me the scalp of the blood-thirsty warrior who has plagued our peoples for so long! I was almost overcome several times, but I faced him with the fierceness of the mountain lion and the swiftness of the eagle!" And, victorious, he limped back to his lodge, bruised, battered, and bleeding, and he rested.

And so, Prince Mighty Elm, the great warrior, was unanimously declared the victor of the second day's test. The tribes rejoiced, and each one returned unto his lodge to ready for the coming day, and the final test. But, that night, beside the whispering waters of the Great River, beneath the light of the ever smiling Moon, Prince Little Sapling again renewed his vow before his love, the Princess Falling Rock. He had lost the first days' tests, but the final task would be the most important, and the most perilous. He promised her that he would defeat his stronger brothers in the next day's challenge, and win her hand in marriage.

And the moon ran her course through the heavens, and morning came. The last day of the contest had arrived.

Once again, the people gathered around the sacred totem, and the three princes stood before them in the growing light of the dawning sun. The mighty chiefs stood before them, and Chief Rolling Boulder charged them with the final challenge. The test? To travel to the summit of the Great Mountain, and seek a vision from the Great Spirit. It was he upon whom the Great Spirit smiled that would surely be a great leader, and would be most worthy to marry the Princess Falling Rock and lead the people for many moons to come.

Now, the victor in this quest was anyone's guess. Would it be the great hunter, Little Oak? Could it be the mighty warrior, Mighty Elm? Would it be the great chief's other son, Little Sapling? No one knew. But Prince Little Sapling again pledged his love to the beautiful princess, and assured her he would do his best to win. So, as the dawning sun shone his light upon the wakening world, the three sons of Mighty Oak set upon their task, entering into the Great Wood, on their way to seek the Great Mountain's summit.

And so, the Mighty Sun, in all his glory, traveled his course across the heavens, from the east to overhead at midday, then traveled on to meet the rolling mountains to the west. It would take at least a day for the three brothers to reach the foot of the Great Mountain, and so, when the sun did hide his face and surrender the night unto the moon, the people slept fitfully, with great anticipation, at what the next day would bring. None slept less than Princess Falling Rock, who lay within her father's lodge, with dread and excitement. What dangers did the brothers face? Would any be worthy of the Great Spirit's vision? Would her Little Sapling return to her victorious?

The moon sunk low beneath the mountains as the sun peeked o'er the eastern trees. A shout from the edge of the Great Wood caught all's attention, and soon it was confirmed; the first of Mighty Oak's sons did return! It was Mighty Elm, the warrior, cradling his arm and wincing in pain! He approached the lodge of meeting and stood before the mighty chiefs. "Great Mighty Chiefs," said he, "I have returned, but, alas, I have not seen a vision. While I began the perilous climb, I lost my footing and broke my arm. I was unable to finish the task." Disheartened, he trudged back to his lodge, bruised and battered, and he rested.

And the sun did run his course across the sky, and evening came, and morning came. Another full day had passed. And with the dawning of the new day's sun, another shout did awaken the village. The second of the chief's sons had returned! It was Little Oak, the hunter, limping, clutching his leg and wincing in pain! He approached the lodge of meeting and stood before the mighty chiefs. "Great Mighty Chiefs," said he, "I have returned, but, alas, I have not seen a vision. While I was climbing midway to the summit, I lost my footing and broke my leg. I was unable to finish the task." Disheartened, he trudged back to his lodge, bruised and battered, and he rested.

And the sun did run his course across the sky, and evening came. That night, beneath the smiling Moon and beside the whispering waters of the Great River, the Princess Falling Rock stood alone, her heart a mix joy and terror. Her Little Sapling had far surpassed his stronger brothers, and should he return, he would surely win the test. But what dangers did he face? No one had ever reached the Great Mountain's summit, for the way was steep and the climb most dangerous. So, there with the Great River and the Smiling Moon as her witness, she prayed to the Great Spirit to keep her love free from harm, and deliver him back to her safely.

Before long, the moon did surrender her place in the sky, and the sun returned to warm the earth. But the watchmen gave no shout of notice. Little Sapling had not returned. The sun continued on his trek, and stood overhead in brilliant shining of the midday heat, and still the young prince had not returned. And when the sun did lower his head behind the western mountains, Little Sapling still had not returned.

Evening gave way to morning, and morning into midday, and midday into evening, and still the small prince had not returned. One day passed, and then another, and by the third, the two tribes were filled with rumor and worry. Where was Prince Little Sapling? Why had he not returned? Could he have reached the summit of the Great Mountain, and seen a vision of the Great Spirit? Or had something else, something dreadful, happened to the young son of Mighty Oak?

On the dawning of the fourth day, the people came to the great chiefs, imploring for their help. The young prince had not yet returned; surely a party should be sent to find him. So Chief Rolling Boulder and Chief Mighty Oak met in conference, and debated on the young man's fate. When they came out from the lodge of meeting, their faces were grave and stern. "We know your pain. We know your worry. But the young Prince Little Sapling is on a quest. We cannot send a party to find him. What if we go in search of him, and because of us, the Great Spirit leaves him, and takes away his vision? Stand firm, our people, and give patience. We will give the young prince a few more days, and then, if he does not return, we shall fear the worst, and search for him."

And so, the people heeded the great chief's words, and returned unto their lodges. But the sons of Mighty Oak pressed their father further. "Oh, Great Chiefs, please let us search for our brother! We agree he has defeated us in this task, but let us find him and see that he is safe. If we find him with the Great Spirit, we will return here, and let him be. But what if we find him attacked by a wild animal, or fallen and unable to help himself?"

But the great chiefs stood firm. Said Mighty Oak, "It is noble that you seek to aid your brother, but this is his own quest. As you have returned, despite your injuries, so must he. If he does not return within a few more days, than you yourselves may lead the search to find him." And the brothers, discouraged, returned unto their lodges to ponder their brother's fate.

But none was as heartbroken as Princess Falling Rock. Her sweet prince was there, somewhere on the Great Mountain, far away, with no one to help him. What if he had fallen, as his brothers? What if the winds had swept him from the mountain's face? The torment was too much for her young heart to bear. And so, that night, beneath the Smiling Moon and by the whispering waters of the Great River, she made a solemn oath, an earnest pledge, that she would not rest until she knew her lover's fate. And underneath the cover of the night's blanket of darkness and stars, she prepared a package of food and herbs, and stole away into the Great Wood, on her way to the Great Mountain.

When morning came, there still was no sign of Prince Little Sapling. But a new shout arose. The Princess Falling Rock was missing! When the news spread through the tribes, no time was lost. Immediately, the people began to frantically search, turning over every stone. But still the princess could not be found! An emergency meeting was called, and the people waited breathlessly outside the lodge of meeting. Finally, the two great chiefs came forth, and called upon the remaining sons of Mighty Oak. A party was formed, and taking every able-bodied brave they could find, then set out into the Great Wood to find her and her love, Prince Little Sapling.

Alas, the party would return, but without success. They would search again, but to no avail. As days gave into weeks, and weeks into moons, and moons into seasons, the searchers would still continue, but no sign of the prince or princess could be found. Neighboring tribes were called into the search, and even when the White Man entered into the valley, they too were asked if they had seen them. But never could the two young lovers be found.

And so their legend grows. Some say the lovers still roam the Great Mountain's perilous peak, Prince Little Sapling seeking the Great Spirit's vision so he can claim his love, and Princess Falling Rock searching endlessly for her missing prince. To this day, they roam the mountains, searching for each other and their longing love. And that is why, even today, when you travel through the mountains, you may see along the road a sign that says, "Watch for Falling Rock."


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