This week's Oddity takes us on a visit into folklore.
The Return of the Indian Princess
Why is it that every waterfall in the United States has the same dreary 'Indian Princess' tale attached to it? You know the one: Princess Noccahula loved some Indian brave. Her dad, of course, wanted her to marry a neighbouring chief. Princess Noccahula jumped off the waterfall to a romantic Death for Lurve.
In the first place, the Cherokee were matriarchal. In the second place, dynastic marriages are a European idea, and would not have occurred to the Eastern Woodland Indians. In the third place…those settlers had been listening to too many border ballads. It sounds like the plot of Childe Ballade Number 42, to us.
This sort of thing annoys both historians and folklorists. But we are informed that it is not possible to visit Noccahula Falls in Gadsden, Alabama, without some tour guide going on about the romantic Indian Princess.
There's even a statue to Princess Noccahula. Made of copper from pennies donated by schoolchildren. Shame on those people. It's not as if it's not a common practice. Going around pandering to ignorant romanticism is usually called 'chiefing' in the Cherokee community, and it's an old tradition in these parts. The Editor's grandpappy used to tell everybody that his mama was an 'Indian princess'. Naturally, letters patent have not been forthcoming, but hey, we believed him.
A waterfall is a beautiful object all by itself. We assume that most people have the good sense not to leap off them, for lurve or any other reason. Just enjoy this picture, courtesy of Carol M Highsmith and the Library of Congress. And if you want to know more about the waterfall, read this web account by an annoyed local.