Where do lessons of morality begin? Do they come in big packages that can’t be avoided? Or are they small gifts of opportunities to do the right thing? How small is to small when it comes to Walking Your Talk©?
There is an image circulating around Facebook sharing an old Cherokee legend and attributing the authorship to an anonymous person. Being a writer I often find it insulting when someone quotes a work, yet doesn’t give the credit to the original author. You have the Library of Alexandria at your fingertips. It doesn’t take much to look up an original artist for a picture or search for who originally said a particular quote you like. It only takes a bit of your time and a little effort.
Often times the “shared” information on social media networks are incorrect or inaccurate as well. So sometimes it really does help if you search for a legitimate source for information before you share the post or tweet and continue the process of misinformation. Such is the case with the “Cherokee Legend” also known as “Two Wolves Within“. A story that has great wisdom and many lessons within its words.
The post that inspired this short article is attributed to Cherokee Legend. In fact that’s what the post is called “Cherokee Legend” and it goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
While the “legend” is a good one, it does a disservice to the original story. Many Cherokee see this version of the story as the “White man’s Tale” because it leaves out a vital part of the story.
Two Wolves Within
The original “legend” is known as “Two Wolves Within” and put in context it provides greater insight and inspiration to the moral lesson being told. It is also attributed to Sequoyah, who developed the system of Cherokee writing.
This story was told to me by my Cherokee teacher. I have since researched the original story as much as I have been able to, but even then many people link the story to an anonymous Cherokee grandfather. But most I speak with who share the Cherokee history through oral tradition, attribute this “legend” to Sequoyah.
An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.
Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”
You can learn more about the Cherokee at Legends of America – The Cherokee.