May 09, 2010

Hannah Duston Part II - Was She Helped by a Fairy?

OK, here's the follow up to my initial post about Hannah Duston.

One of the big mysteries surrounding Hannah is how she managed to murder and scalp 10 of her captors while they slept. Wouldn't someone have screamed and woken everyone else? A few years ago I found one possible answer to this question in Eva Speare's 1932 collection, New Hampshire Folk Tales.

According to one Mrs. J. G. MacMurphy of Derry, New Hampshire, a benevolent fairy queen named Tsienneto (Neto for short) lived in Derry's Beaver Lake. Neto took pity on Hannah when she and her captors stopped by the lake as they were heading away from Haverhill, and promised to "accompany her unseen by her captors and to supply all her needs." Neto followed Hannah and the Indians up the Merrimac river, and eventually cast a spell over the Indians so they would sleep soundly while Hannah killed them. Afterwards, Neto helped Hannah and her companions return safely to Haverhill.

Hmmmm. I don't know if I'm entirely satisfied by Mrs. MacMurphy's explanation.

The local Indians certainly believed in beings that are similar to European fairies. But why would a local native American fairy help a Puritan English settler against local Indians? The Puritans wanted to eradicate native supernatural beliefs. Would Neto really help someone who was probably anti-fairy?

I've never seen this story anyplace except Eva Speare's book, so it's possible Mrs. MacMurphy made Tsienneto up. However...

There is a Tsienneto Road in Derry (although there's no proof its named after a fairy) and the Hollow Hills ghost site mentions a different Tsienneto story from another Eva Speare book, Stories of New Hampshire. In that story, Tsienneto saves someone named John Stark from being shot. I'm assuming it's Revolutionary War hero John Stark, who is famous for coining the phrase "Live Free or Die."

Maybe there's something to this Tsienneto legend after all. I'll have to find Stories of New Hampshire. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any information about Tsienneto!


Heather Rojo said...

There is a 1907 book called "Tsiennetto: A legend of Beaver Lake" by Richardson, you might find it in the Derry Library. Locally, Tsiennetto is supposed to be the Indian name for Beaver Lake or Beaver Brook. Remember that Nutfield (now Derry and Londonderry) was settled by Scots Irish, who have a long tradition of believing in the "Wee Folk."

Peter M. said...

Hi Heather!

Thanks for the info about the book. Maybe Tsienneto really does have a long history! I'll try to track it down and see where else she may have been involved in early New England.

Anonymous said...

Could be Tsienneto was offended by Hannah's newborn baby being killed so off-handedly, and decided to help Hannah instead of the Indians...