The Spearfinger Legend of the Smoky Mountains

Posted by junketseo in Gatlinburg Haunts
The Spearfinger Legend of the Smoky Mountains - Photo

During the 19th century, hopeful prospectors rushed to the Great Smoky Mountains, anticipating the opportunity to mine from the productive Smoky Mountain Gold Mine. Would they have been so invested in their venture had they known ‘ole Spearfinger could have been lingering nearby? The native Cherokee indeed defeated the wretched hag many moons ago, but evil always returns, and this monstrous fiend is the embodiment of pure evil.   


Bred from the Cherokee tribes of the Great Smoky Mountain region, the legend of Spearfinger is intended as a cautionary tale. It reminds locals of the region’s tangible perils and the need to remain ever-vigilant. At least, one can hope it’s merely a legend.    


The abomination once beckoned from the shadows; it’s one long finger stretching from the underworld, scraping away at the unwavering spirit and resilience of the Cherokee people. A master of deception, only those who heed the warnings of the Eastern Band of Cherokee may survive their time in the mountainous range dividing North Carolina and Tennessee. 


Does Spearfinger still stalk the border between Tennessee and North Carolina? 


It’s believed that the Spearfinger continues to make an appearance in the afterlife, pointing to where her stone structure fell. Keep reading to learn more. To discover the most haunted places in Tennessee, join us on a Gatlinburg ghost tour!


The Liver Eater of the Great Smoky Mountains


Native American legends are abundant across the United States. Few may be as vile and dreadful as Spearfinger, the old monster that once called (or perhaps still calls) the Great Smoky Mountains its home. It’s easy to mistake the Cherokee legend for a campfire ghost story. Still, the deceiver has haunted Chilhowee Mountain and lands around the Nantahala River for generations, terrorizing young natives with her taste for human livers.


Known to local tribes as U’tlun’ta, Cherokee for “the one with the pointed spear,” Spearfinger is described as having skin made of an impenetrable stone and one long, pointed finger sharpened to a deadly point on her left hand. Some depictions vary slightly, with other accounts replacing the finger with a sharpened obsidian knife. In her other hand, she grips her exposed heart. 


With the sharpened appendage, Spearfinger effortlessly cuts into the flesh of her victims to extract her bloodied prize. Why Spearfinger favors the liver is unknown, but she’s not shy of her intent. Her haunting chant echoes her love for livers through the mountains, sending shivers down the spines of all who hear it :

Uwe la na tsiku. Su sa sai.

Liver, I eat it. Su sa sai.

Uwe la na tsiku. Su sa sai


A Master of Disguise and Deception


The alluring voice of U’tlun’ta is carried by the natural breezes of the Great Smoky Mountains, alerting warriors, hunters, and children of her presence. Those wise enough will seek shelter and wait until her voice and thundering footsteps disappear. Those who wish to defy the legend of Spearfinger are sure to meet her — though they may never know it. 


Spearfinger has a horrific form, a stone-skinned elderly figure shrouded in a cloak of leaves and rocks,  but she’s a deceiver who can change her appearance to trick her targets into their demise. For the children of the local Cherokee tribes, she’d take the form of a lost tribe elder to earn their trust. When she got close enough, the legend says she’d stroke the child’s hair, lulling them into a deep sleep before she struck with her sharpened finger.


Without leaving a mark on the victim’s body, she’d dig the obsidian tip into their flesh, often through the back of the neck or by the heart, and extract their liver. In a swift motion, it would be gone, the blood from the organ adding to the permanent red staining around her mouth. 


When her victim awoke, she would be gone, the only evidence of her stealthy attack being a slow and painful demise as the child’s body fails without the vital organ. 


The Death of the Spearfinger


According to Cherokee legend, Spearfinger was eventually defeated by the local tribes. They tried for years to kill the villainous monster, using water to drown her and massive concealed pits to trap and burn her alive. Her stone skin kept her impervious to every mortal attempt on her life, but her fate changed with the arrival of the tsi-kilili. The tiny bird, also known as the Carolina chickadee, is believed by the Cherokee to be a celestial being who swooped down from the skies to help end Spearfinger’s madness. 


Cherokee warriors had set a trap for the witch, burning brush near a pit, knowing she’d be attracted to the smoke and fire as she always had been. With the kindling ablaze, the warriors lay in wait until the liver-eating savage descended upon their position, disguised as a recognizable elder from the Cherokee village. It wasn’t until she fell into the hidden pit that the ugly wretch showed her true form. Arrows flew from the hidden Cherokee but broke on impact against the stone skin. 


It was a futile attempt to eradicate the demon of the Great Smoky Mountains, but just when all hope seemed lost, a sign soared down from above. It was a titmouse, which perched itself on a tree near the fallen Spearfinger and sang a gentle song. The warriors heard it as “u’nahu,” or heart, and took aim at the fiend’s chest. Arrows continued to deflect off the beast, and fearing the titmouse had lied, the Cherokee cut out its tongue and sent it off.


Before Spearfinger could escape, though, the real hero, the tsi-kilili, flew down and perched on the struggling witch’s right hand. The warriors now understood and aimed their arrows at the exposed appendage. Though Spearfinger fought to keep her heart protected, it was soon pierced by the well-forged tip of a Cherokee arrow, ending her reign of terror over the Great Smoky Mountains. 


There is another slightly different and less dramatic version of Spearfinger’s death, where a band of warriors simply sought the witch’s home and defeated her in a quick confrontation without the help of the tsi-kilili’s song. 


What Still Lurks in the Great Smoky Mountains?


Regardless of how the Cherokee vanquished Spearfinger, they could finally live among the wildlife of the Great Smoky Mountains without fear of having their liver siphoned from their bodies.


At least, that’s the happy version of how this legend ends. The reality is that the Cherokee, and all living near the Great Smoky Mountains, still have plenty to fear, for the deep rumbling of the Stone Man’s song echoes throughout the mountains. This powerful enemy of Spearfinger offers no respite from the fear of what terrors live in the mountainous region.


And much like his dispatched enemy, the Stone Man, too, loves human livers. If you’re ever in the Great Smoky Mountains, listen closely, and you may just hear the rumblings and song of the liver-eating brute made of stone.


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