Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Appendix: Historical and Textual Commentary >> Page 273

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Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription HISTORICAL AND TEXTUAL COMMENTARY 273
in 1850, "Summer Travel in the South," and this in turn was expanded to
form large parts of "Idylls of the Apalachian," two lectures written in
1856. Then refreshing his memory with another trip to the area in 1867,
Simms put to work the notes he had taken twenty years earlier and pro-
duced several backwoods tales.
It is likely that Simms recorded these legends, as "when the day was
ended, we lay beside the fires with our hunters, and listened to the story
of their lives, taking notes."5 Three hunters in particular seem to have
inspired the mountain legend: Carson, Green(e), and Jim Fisher. In fact,
several journal entries merely allude to stories not actually recorded, such
as the simple entry in the journal about "Green's wife's story of the male
panther The appetite of the beast for women in pregnancy &c
Horrid story of his eating one in this situation & of the discovery of her
remains by her husband." The journal does not recount the story told by
Green's wife, but several times in Simms's later career he employed some
version of this folk belief.
By 1856 in his second Appalachian lecture Simms had modified the
story into the tradition of Whiteside Mountain. According to this ver-
sion, "a lovely damsel" was seen "toiling up the mountains," weeping and
murmuring a "mournful ballad" which told a "melancholy story." The
girl, soon to give birth, was fleeing some unknown oppressor; finally
"long ere midnight she sank down in a terrible agony." As day dawned,
"a lithe hunter of middle age named Carson rose up from his cabin and
sounded to his dogs, and made ready his rifle and set forth along the
stony ridges." Soon the beagles struck a trail; "their cries, and action"
betrayed their "fear as well as hate"; and Carson "well guessed what sort
of enemy they had tracked and prepared himself accordingly." The
hunter "beheld a great she panther, of the largest size" stalking its
intended prey, the mother with a newborn son. Finally the hunter "aimed
fatally, and the savage fell"; the woman "gave him a single look, a smile,
her arm released the child it fell over upon the sward, and the mother
lay lifeless." Burying the mother, Carson took the child "home to a
maiden sister by whom he was reared and tended. They called him Adam
Eve, knowing no more appropriate name.
This long episode from the lecture is freely adapted in The Cub of the
Panther: A Hunter Legend into the story of Rose Carter's midnight flight
from Fairleigh Lodge. As Rose has succumbed to the cold, snowy night,
the pains of labor, and her increasing fear of the stalking panther, Simms
described "the subtle savage of the mountain gorges approaching
stealthily with catlike tread and agility, and raging with a demoniac