The Legend of Nittany Mountain
The following origin story is of unknown date and authorship, but is believed to be based on Henry W. Shoemaker’s original folklore concerning Mount Nittany and Princess Nita-Nee. This legendary origin story appears in The Nittany Valley Society’s 2013 book “The Legends of the Nittany Valley,” available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.
The famed Nittany Lion still strides the ledges and vales of the legendary Mount Nittany. It is as though he embodied the restless spirit of the mysterious Indian Princess Nit-A-Nee who gave her name to the Mountain, the Valley, and the Lion.
According to legend an old Indian warrior and his squaw once lived in the broad valley between the Tussey and Bald Eagle Mountains. Each year the crops they planted were wrested from their fields by a wicked North Wind in the autumn before the harvest. The valley was being deserted in the face of this Wind until a mysterious Indian maiden appeared who taught the tribe to build shields to hold against the wicked winds of the North.
The appreciative Indian tribe called the maiden Nit-A-Nee, which means “wind-breaker,” and made her their Princess.
This Indian Princess fell in love with a handsome Indian brave of the tribe called Lion’s Paw. This fearless Brave was killed in a fierce battle with the wicked wind from the North after his shield was stolen from him while he slept.
When she heard of Lion’s Paw’s death, Princess Nit-A-Nee searched every hill and dale of the land until she found the fearless Indian Brave’s body, still standing even after he had died. She enfolded him in her arms and carried his still erect body back to a place in the center of the Valley where she laid the strong Brave in his grave and built a mound of honor over his strength.
On the last night of the full moon, after she had finally raised the last of the soil and stone over his high mound, a terrible storm came up unleashing itself with thunder and lightening and the wailing of a horrendous wind from the depths of the earth. Every Indian in the Valley shuddered and all eyes were directed to the Indian Brave’s high mound upon which the beautiful maiden Princess Nit-A-Nee was mounted with arms outstretched to touch the sources of the lightning bolts in the sky.
Through the night they watched with awe as the Indian Brave’s burial mound grew and rose into a Mountain penetrating the center of the big valley between the two legs of the Tussey and Bald Eagle ridges. When the dawn finally came a huge Mountain was found standing erect in the center of the Valley.
A legend had been born. The mound and the maiden had given place to a Mountain, and standing on its summit was a Lion surrounded by eleven orphaned male cubs, each of whom had the courage of the fearless Indian Brave and the heart of the mysterious Indian Princess.
From that day forward every place in the valley was safe, and the wind wrested nothing from the fields on which these Lions strode as fearless heroes from the Mountain. The people of the Valley from that date forward knew only happiness and bounteous plenty.
In the fullness of time men came from across the farthest seas to build a college at the foot of this Mountain. The strength and courage of the students of this college became known far and wide. In memory of the fearless Indian Brave and the mysterious Indian Princess, the students of the college erected posts on a field and fought their way across this field as the North Wind had once ravaged the fields of the ancient Indian warrior and his squaw.
As each student learned the destructive power of the North Wind across the fields, he also learned the strength of the Princess known as Wind Breaker, called in her language Nit-A-Nee, and the courage unto death of the Indian Brave called Lion’s Paw. As long as this strength and courage is known in the Valley, Mount Nittany will stand as a breaker against the wicked Wind of the North.
It is passed on from generation to generation that, as long as the fields of the Valley resound each year to the reenactments of the battles between the wicked North Wind and the Indian Brave, the people who live in the valley will be happy and prosperous and safe.
But if the reenactments ever stop, Mount Nittany will lose its strength and disappear, and the wicked Wind of the North will stream down through the valley between the legs of the Tussey and Bald Eagle ridges, searing the land, wresting away all that has been planted and grown there, and scattering the tribes who live there. All the warriors and squaws of the place will then have to abandon the Valley and seek their homes in other places and climes, and learn the customs and ways of strangers.
This is the legend of Mount Nittany. May it stand forever high and strong in our midst, our breaker against the harsh winds of destiny and fate which sweep down from the North, the source of fearless courage and deathless love, both father and mother of the games by which we live.
May Mount Nittany ever rise above us as the Guardian before the gates of Old Penn State. May the mysterious Indian Princess ever stand in our midst as breaker and shield against the destructive power of the winds of fate. And may the Nittany Lion’s cubs forever join in the games which are the guarantee of the life of the land we love.