The Pale Faced Lightning
Category: ALONG THE ROCKY RANGE
Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land
Twenty miles from the capital of Arizona stands Mount Superstition--the
scene of many traditions, the object of many fears. Two centuries ago a
tribe of Pueblo dwarfs arrived near it and tilled the soil and tended
their flocks about the settlements that grew along their line of march.
They were little people, four feet high, but they were a thousand strong
and clever. They were peaceful, like all intelligent people, and the
mystery surrounding their incantations and sun-worship was more potent
than a show of arms to frighten away those natural assassins, the
After they had lived near the mountain for five years the little people
learned that the Zunis were advancing from the south and made
preparations for defence. Their sheep were concealed in obscure valleys;
provisions, tools, and arms were carried up the mountain; piles of stone
were placed along the edges of cliffs commanding the passes. This work
was superintended by a woman with a white face, fair hair, and commanding
form, who was held in reverence by the dwarfs; and she it was--the Helen
of a New-World Troy--who was causing this trouble, for the Zunis claimed
her on the ground that they had brought her from the waters of the rising
sun, and that it was only to escape an honorable marriage with their
chief that she had fled to the dwarfs.
Be that as it might, the Zunis marched on, meeting with faint resistance
until, on a bright afternoon, they massed on a slope of the mountain,
seven hundred in number. The Apaches, expecting instant defeat of the
little men, watched, from neighboring hills, the advance of the
invaders as they climbed nimbly toward the stone fort on the top of the
slope, brandishing clubs and stone spears, and bragging, as the fashion
of a red man is--and sometimes of a white one.
At a pool outside of the walls stood the pale woman, queenly and calm,
and as her white robe and brown hair fluttered in the wind both her
people and the foe looked upon her with admiration. When but a hundred
yards away the Zunis rushed toward her with outstretched arms, whereupon
she stooped, picked up an earthen jar, emptied its contents into the
pool, and ran back. In a moment sparks and balls of fire leaped from
crevices in the rocks, and as they touched the Indians many fell dead.
Others plunged blindly over the cliffs and were dashed to pieces.
In a few minutes the remainder of the force was in full retreat and not
an arrow had been shot. The Apaches, though stricken with terror at these
pyrotechnics, overcame the memory of them sufficiently in a couple of
years to attempt the sack of the fort on their own account, but the queen
repelled them as she had forced back the Zunis, and with even greater
slaughter. From that time the dwarfs were never harmed again, but they
went away, as suddenly as they had come, to a secret recess in the
mountains, where the Pale Faced Lightning still rules them.
Some of the Apaches maintain that her spirit haunts a cave on
Superstition Mountain, where her body vanished in a blaze of fire, and
this cave of the Spirit Mother is also pointed out on the south side of
Salt River. A skeleton and cotton robes, ornamented and of silky texture,
were once found there. It is said that electrical phenomena are frequent
on the mountain, and that iron, copper, salt, and copperas lying near
together may account for them.
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