Tsul 'Kalu

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Tsul 'Kalu, AKA Kalu, Tuli cula and Jutaculla

Origin: Native American folklore


Tsul 'Kalu

Tsul 'Kalu, or just Kalu, is a terribly ancient and wise creature seen sometimes in the backwoods of Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky, look like a tall, skeleton-thin sasquatch covered in shaggy whitish hair, with intelligent, red, slanting eyes (from which the creature's name - meaning "he who has them [eyes] slanting"). The creatures seem to originate from some strange spirit world somewhere deep within the Earth, and possess a crude form of stone-age technology along with the powers to hypnotize victims, read minds, and cast spells.

Tsul 'Kalu Rock Carving

Folklore: Tsul 'Kalu (the slant-eyed or sloping giant) first appeared as a legendary figure of Cherokee mythology who plays the role of "the great lord of the hunt", and as such is frequently invoked in hunting rites and rituals. The tale is one of the best known Cherokee legends and was recorded by Europeans as early as 1823, often using the spellings, Tuli cula and Jutaculla. The name Tsul 'Kalu means literally "he has them slanting/sloping", being understood to refer to his eyes, although the word eye (akta, plural dikta) is not explicitly mentioned. In the plural form it is also the name of a traditional race of giants in the far west. Tsul 'Kalu is said to dwell in a place called Tsunegun'yi. The words Tsul and Tsune and their variations appear in a number of Cherokee place names throughout the Southeastern United States, especially in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, for places where the beasts are believed to emerge from Tsunegun'yi onto our world, typically marked by monolithic slabs of rock carved with strange, scratched runes, pictographs, and symbols resembling some form of writing.

The Folk Mythos: In Manly Wade Wellman's "Nine Yards of Other Cloth (fiction)", the gigantic skeletal creature Kalu, described as being an Appalachian Indian legend, was inspired by Tsul 'Kalu. In the story, the narrator asserts, "Kalu: the Indian word means a bone" (this is possibly due to a confusion on Wellman's part of "'Kalu" with the Cherokee "kola" or Utian "kulu," both of which have that meaning.)

Keeper Notes

  • Tsul 'Kalu is said to dwell in a place called Tsunegun'yi. The words Tsul and Tsune and their variations appear in a number of Cherokee place names throughout the Southeastern United States, especially in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee; a 100-acre (40 ha) patch on a slope of the mountain Tanasee Bald in Jackson County, North Carolina, on the ridge upon which the boundary of Haywood, Jackson, and Transylvania Counties converge, is known by he Cherokee as Tsul 'Kalu Tsunegun'yi (Tsul 'Kalu's Old Field), and it was said that Tsul 'Kalu was responsible for clearing the spot for his residence. The name is sometimes corrupted by Europeans to Jutaculla; consequently the area is also known as the "Jutaculla Old Fields". There is also a large slab of soapstone called "Jutaculla Rock" nearby, which is covered with strange scratches and carvings. These markings are said to have been made by the giant when he would jump from his home on the mountain to the creek below. Another place associated with Tsul 'Kalu, Tsula'sinun'yi (literally "where the footprint is"), is located on the Tuckasegee River, about a mile above Deep Creek in Swain County, North Carolina. Impressions said to have been the footprints of the giant Tsul 'kalu and a deer were found on a rock which was destroyed during railroad building.
  • As a very young child, I once dreamt that, in walking through the hills and woods of Eastern Kentucky or Tennessee around the Big South Fork area, I'd stumbled by accident upon a sacred place, a crevasse in a tall, stony hilltop, opening into a deep crack in the earth, its bottom invisible in shadow, with the ruins of crude, stone buildings carved into the living rock below. I'd been following the sound of a flute-like whistling music, which could almost be taken for wind blowing through the rocks, but it was instead one of a group of three creatures standing in the ruins in the cliff-side below, playing on an elaborately-carved flute while its fellows listened. The creatures I took to be people - after all, they played music, and lived in stone houses even if those houses were carved into the sides of a great crack in the earth, and they wore rags of clothing, after a fashion, so they had to be people! They were like very old people: very tall and strong, but very very thin like the elderly, covered from head to foot in long, fine, wispy, whitish hair, peering up with very intelligent eyes, the eyes of wise men, red, but not frightening - rather, very old, and very sad, eyes that were not meant for sunlight, but for shadows in the sides of cracks in the earth. By the time I'd seen the creatures among their yellow-white stone ruins, the flutist had already stopped playing, and was looking up at me with those old, old eyes, and his fellows turned to look over their shoulders at me, and stared, until the flutist raised up the great paw holding his flute, and beckoned me to come down and join them. None of them actually said anything, but I knew what they would say, if they had spoken: "Come on down! Come down, young one! This is an old place and these are old people who were not supposed to be seen by young people like you, but that's alright. Come down, and we'll strike up a camp fire, and we'll play some of the old songs from before you were born, and we'll tell you some of the old stories from before this place grew old. Come down, child, and talk to us!" But I never went down: I knew I'd come to a secret and dangerous place, and I knew that if I went down there, I would probably not come back. This never seemed like a dream: I thought the whole thing was real, and for years after, after I'd heard stories about "bigfoot" and realized that must have been who I'd seen, I tried to ask my parents where it was that we'd gone that year that I'd wandered off and had seen "bigfoots", but they had no idea what I was talking about: I'd never been to such a place, and in spite of appearances it must have been a dream. (Maybe I'd visited Tsul 'Kalu in the Dreamlands, at the edge of Tsunegun'yi, the secret subterranean cities where they hide from the prying eyes of children like me, the children who came after them!)
    - (a dreamer)

Associated Mythos Elements