Appalachian Folklore- history or hypothesis?
With the days getting longer and warmer, it seems like the the weather draws us outside. And with summer approaching (yay), I’m sure hiking is something most Asheville natives like to do from time to time.
Luckily, trails are all around, in the WNC’s national forests and NC’s state parks/ reserves. The Appalachian Trail doesn’t exactly cut across Asheville, but it has great trails if you’re willing to venture a little farther.
Those who have followed the white blazes know that many stories and memories come from the AT.The mountains are timeless. Over the years, countless ghost stories and other supernatural encounters have been recorded and some of them dive deep into Southern American history.
I recently found a story I had never heard before that expands an ancient race in the Appalachian mountain’s pre-european’s arrival.
“In the mountains of the Southern Appalachians, from North Carolina down through Georgia and Alabama, the remains of ancient stone structures line the ridges. Some of these are additions to natural rock formations, others are entirely man-made. So, who built these structures?
The Moon-Eyed People are a race of small men who, according to Cherokee legend, once lived in the Southern Appalachians. The Moon-Eyed People were said to be physically very different from the Cherokee, with beards and having pale, perfectly white skin. They were called Moon-Eyed because they were unable to see in daylight because their sensitive eyes were blinded by the sun. For this reason, they were strictly nocturnal and lived in underground caverns.
One of the most famous structure associated with The Moon-Eyed People is just over the North Carolina border in Georgia at Fort Mountain. Now a state park, Fort Mountain gets its name from the 850 foot long stone wall that varies in height from two to six feet and stretches along the top of the ridge. This stone wall is thought to have been constructed around 400-500 A.D.
According to one Cherokee legend, this wall is a remnant of a war that the Moon-Eyed people fought and lost against the neighboring Creek nation. That story says the Creeks drove the Moon-Eyed People from their homeland during a full moon when even that pale light of was strong enough to blind the nocturnal people.
Another version of the story has is that it was the Cherokee themselves who waged war against the Moon-Eyed People, driving them from their home at Hiwassee (a village near what is now Murphy, North Carolina) west into Tennessee. Both versions of the story say the Moon-Eyed People began living underground after losing the war.
Because the description of the Moon-Eyed People is that they are pale-skinned and bearded, this has led to some amount of speculation, quite a bit of it wild, that the legend of the Moon-Eyed People represents a Cherokee folk memory of contact with a group of European settlers who made it to the new world before Columbus set sail. Particularly, the Cherokee legend of the Moon-Eyed People has been matched up with the Welsh legend of Prince Madoc.
According to the Welsh story, Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd was a Welsh prince who, disenchanted with the civil war wrecking his homeland, set sail with his brother Rhirid and a few followers in 1170 across the Atlantic Ocean. They are legended to have landed somewhere around Mobile Bay, Alabama.
After some exploring up and down the rivers of Southern America, Madoc decided he liked the place well enough and decided to move in. Leaving Rhirid and some of his fellow Welshmen behind, Madoc returned to his native country and recruited enough followers to fill 10 ships. He and his colonists set sail back to America and was never heard from in Wales again.
Some have speculated that the Moon-Eyed People are the descendants of Madoc’s colonists, and that it was these Welshmen who fought a war with the Cherokee and built the stone forts that dot the ridges of the mountains.
Driven out by the Cherokee, Madoc’s descendants supposedly found their way south to Florida and Alabama, where they continued to live. Slowly, they absorbed bits of Native American culture until they became a strange tribe of pale Indians, living and dressing in native ways but speaking Welsh and living underground.
This story was found at the North Carolina ghosts and legends site, which has more stuff like this if you want check it out.