For as long as anyone can remember, children in Pascagoula, Mississippi have grown up hearing the Legend of the Singing River, and listening on warm summer nights for its mysterious song. In The Last of the Pascagoula, the river becomes a place for Kate, Claire and Tom to share their dreams and fears, to talk about what it means to be a part of something bigger than one’s self, and what it means to be left behind.
Legend of the Singing River
The Singing River, another name for the Pascagoula River, is known throughout the world for its mysterious music. The singing sounds like a swarm of bees in flight and is best heard in late evenings during late summer and autumn. Barely heard at first, the music seems to grow nearer and louder until it sounds as though it comes directly under foot.
An old legend connects the sound with the mysterious extinction of the Pascagoula Tribe of Indians. Pascagoula means ‘bread eaters.’ The Pascagoula were a gentle tribe of contented, innocent, and inoffensive people, while on the other hand the Biloxi were a tribe who considered themselves the ‘first people’ and were enemies of the Pascagoula. Anola, a princess of the Biloxi tribe, was in love with Altama, Chief of the Pascagoula tribe. She was betrothed to a chieftain of her own tribe, but fled with Altama to his people. The spurned and enraged Biloxi chieftain led his Biloxi braves to war against Altama and the neighboring Pascagoula. The Pascagoula swore they would either save the young chieftain and his bride or perish with them. When thrown into battle the Pascagoula were outnumbered and faced with enslavement by the Biloxi tribe or death. With their women and children leading the way, the Pascagoula joined hands and began to chant a song of death as they walked into the river until the last voice was hushed by the dark, engulfing waters.
Many believe the modern day sound is that of the death song of the Pascagoula tribe. Various hypothetical scientific explanations have been offered for this phenomenon, but none have been proven.
From the City of Pascagoula web site.
Tom and I talked about the Pascagoula lots of nights, walking along the edge of the river and looking off toward the south where the tribe was supposed to have walked in, but in spite of the fact that both my grandfather and Tom swore they’d heard the river sing I tended toward only a feigned belief in the song’s existence, much less its source. I loved the story, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually believe it. I valued the Pascagoula purely for what they did for me; they made a bridge between me and my grandfather, and they created a way for Tom and me to talk about dying.
— Excerpt from The Last of the Pascagoula