The Maid of the Mist
A Native American Myth
S. E. Schlosser
She lost her husband and her hope at a young age, and the beautiful girl could not find her way through the sorrow upon sorrow that was her lot in life. So she stepped one day into her canoe, singing a death song softly to herself, and paddle out into the current. Soon the canoe was caught by the rough waves and hurtled toward the falls. But as it pitched over and she fell, Heno, the god of thunder who lived in the falls, caught the maiden gently in his arms and carried her to his home beneath the thundering veil of water.
Heno and his sons ministered to the grieving girl, and she stayed with them until her heart healed within her. Then the younger son spoke words of love to the maiden and they married, to the delight of the god of thunder. A young son was born to the couple, and he followed his grandfather everywhere, learning what it meant to be a god of thunder.
The only shadow on the happiness of the maiden in the mist was a continual longing to see her people one more time. Her chance came in an unexpected and unwelcome way. A great snake came down the mighty river and poisoned the waters of her people. They grew sick and were dying. Soon the snake would return to devour the dead until my people were all gone. It was Heno himself who gave her the news, and she begged that she might return for one hour to warn her people of the danger. The god himself lifted her through the falls and set her down among her people to give warning about the evil snake that was causing such pestilence among them. She advised them to move to a higher country until the danger was past, and they agreed. Then Heno came and took the maiden back to her husband and her home.
In a few days, the giant serpent returned to the village, seeking the bodies of those who had died from the poison it had spread. When the snake realized that the people had deserted the village, it hissed in rage and turned upstream to search for them. But Heno heard the voice of the serpent and rose up through the mist of the falls. He threw a great thunderbolt at the creature and killed it in one mighty blast. The giant body of the creature floated downstream and lodged just above the cataract, creating a large semi-circle that deflected huge amounts of water into the falls at the place just above the god's home. Horrified by this disastrous turn of events, Heno swept in through the falls and did his best to stop the massive influx of water, but it was too late.
Seeing that his home would soon be destroyed, Heno called for the maiden and his sons to come away with him. The younger son caught up his wife and child and followed Heno through the water of the falls and up into the sky, where the Thunderer made them a new home. From this place, they watch over the people of the earth, while Heno thunders in the clouds as he once thundered in the vapors of the great falls. To this day, an echo of the Heno's voice can be heard in the thunder of the mighty waters of Niagara Falls.
Excerpt from Spooky New York by S.E. Schlosser.
When I heard the distant roaring of the great falls, my hands began to tremble, and the peace I had felt when I first set foot in my canoe fled. It was, I think, the realization that there would be physical pain before death that made me shiver and shake. I prayed to the Thunderer that my death would be swift and that my courage would remain with me until the end. Then I threw my useless paddle away as the canoe entered the rapids and I watched the falls growing nearer, the sky reaching down to touch the very edge of the water as it plunged into the abyss. I gripped the sides of the canoe as the current heaved the small craft to and fro, moving me swiftly to my end...