A Tutelo Folk Tale

Anyone who has ever planted a garden knows that you can’t put two plants in the same spot. They’ll compete and choke each other out, with predictably disastrous results. The gardeners of the Tutelo people of the American Southeast noticed a remarkable exception, however. Their storytellers explained it with this tale.

In the days before men and women walked upon the earth, the plants and animals all lived in a big village beside a great river. Back then all the animals and the plants walked and talked just as we humans do now.

One bright morning, all the men of the village heard a woman’s voice, singing beautifully:

Who will come and marry me?
Who will marry me?
Let him come and ask if he
Wants to marry me.

The beautiful voice belonged to the Bean Woman, one of the most attractive and eligible ladies around. The bachelors came from far and wide to plight their troth. First came Bear Man. "Come and be my wife, and I will give you delicious honey and grubs," he said.

But lovely Bean Woman turned him down, saying she could never eat such food.

The same thing happened to mighty Cougar Man, great hunter that he was. She did not need venison to survive, only sunlight.

Beaver Man offered to build her a magnificent lodge of sturdy wood and mud, but this would never do, and she shook her head sadly.

Was there no eligible gentleman who would offer her the one thing she needed?

Oak Man came with an offer, he would shelter lovely Bean Woman under his mighty arms. While I’m sure his words were touching, they were ultimately pretty well misguided, because—as we previously stated—she needed sunlight, not shade.

Oak Man remained a bachelor that day.

Along came Corn Man, tall and proud. Bean Woman, doubtless tired of the dating game by now, looked at this stranger with a jaundiced eye.

"And what do you offer, handsome stranger?" Bean Woman asked.

"Bean Woman, if you will be my bride, I will support you with my strong body, so that you will always live in the sun’s light." He said.

As she wrapped her arms around him, Bean Woman was almost in tears of joy, "This is how it was meant to be! The Great Creator made us to be together."

And so, when the Tutelo gardeners would plant beans and corn on the same plot of soil, the beanstalks would use the corn plants’ sturdy stems as natural trellises. The beans fertilize the ground with their roots, and the two plants, together in a delicate and joyous embrace, reminded the gardeners of the nurturing and supportive marriage of Corn Man and Bean Woman.


References:
"The Bean Woman" retold by Joseph Bruchac in Parabola Volume 26, issue 1, pp. 24-25.
Adapted with a free hand by Junkill for his brother's wedding!

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