This classic collection contains myths, legends, and folklore of the principal Wabanaki, or northeastern Algonquin Indians, i.e. the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots of Maine and the Micmacs of New Brunswick. Most of this material was gathered directly from Indian narrators by Charles G. Leland (1824-1903), a brilliant and gifted Philadelphia-born journalist, essayist, and folklorist.
In compiling the work, Leland noted interesting affinities between the myths of the Northeastern tribes and those of the Eskimos, and striking similarities between the myths of the Algonquins and the Eddas, sagas and popular tales of Scandinavia. For example, may of the stories in this book deal with Glooskap, a divinity with strong resemblances to such Norse gods as Thor and Odin. We learn how Glooskap made man from an ash tree, named the animals, gave gifts to men, went to England and France and made America known to the Europeans, and performed many other curious deeds. Here too are the merry tales of Lox, the Mischief-maker, who bears a strong resemblance to Loki of Scandinavian mythology. Also included are the amazing adventures of Master Rabbit, the Chenoo legends, stories of At-o-sis the serpent, the story of the Three Strong Men, the Weewillmekq', tales of magic, and more.
Myths and legends provide unique and authentic sources of knowledge about our deepest instincts and ways of interpreting the world and our place in it. This volume remains one of the most powerful and revealing studies of the Algonquin versions of such myths, a thorough, comprehensive collection that will prove invaluable to any student of American Indian culture or myth, folklore, and religion. General readers will also find these tales highly readable and delightfully entertaining.
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By Charles G. Leland
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
GLOOSKAP THE DIVINITY.
Of Glooskap's Birth, and of his Brother Malsum the Wolf.
Now the great lord Glooskap, who was worshiped in after-days by all the Wabanaki, or children of light, was a twin with a brother. As he was good, this brother, whose name was Malsumsis, or Wolf the younger, was bad. Before they were born, the babes consulted to consider how they had best enter the world. And Glooskap said, "I will be born as others are." But the evil Malsumsis thought himself too great to be brought forth in such a manner, and declared that he would burst through his mother's side. And as they planned it so it came to pass. Glooskap as first came quietly to light, while Malsumsis kept his word, killing his mother.
The two grew up together, and one day the younger, who knew that both had charmed lives, asked the elder what would kill him, Glooskap. Now each had his own secret as to this, and Glooskap, remembering how wantonly Malsumsis had slain their mother, thought it would be misplaced confidence to trust his life to one so fond of death, while it might prove to be well to know the bane of the other. So they agreed to exchange secrets, and Glooskap, to test his brother, told him that the only way in which he himself could be slain was by the stroke of an owl's feather, though this was not true. And Malsumsis said, "I can only die by a blow from a fern-root."
It came to pass in after-days that Kwah-beet-a-sis, the son of the Great Beaver, or, as others say, Miko the Squirrel, or else the evil which was in himself, tempted Malsumsis to kill Glooskap; for in those days all men were wicked. So taking his bow he shot Ko-ko-khas the Owl, and with one of his feathers he struck Glooskap while sleeping. Then he awoke in anger, yet craftily said that it was not by an owl's feather, but by a blow from a pine-root, that his life would end.
Then the false man led his brother another day far into the forest to hunt, and, while he again slept, smote him on the head with a pine-root. But Glooskap arose unharmed, drove Malsumsis away into the woods, sat down by the brook-side, and thinking over all that had happened, said, "Nothing but a flowering rush can kill me." But the Beaver, who was hidden among the reeds, heard this, and hastening to Malsumsis told him the secret of his brother's life. For this Malsumsis promised to bestow on Beaver whatever he should ask; but when the latter wished for wings like a pigeon, the warrior laughed, and scornfully said, "Get thee hence; thou with a tail like a file, what need hast thou of wings?"
Then the Beaver was angry, and went forth to the camp of Glooskap, to whom he told what he had done. Therefore Glooskap arose in sorrow and in anger, took a fern-root, sought Malsumsis in the deep, dark forest, and smote him so that he fell down dead. And Glooskap sang a song over him and lamented.
The Beaver and the Owl and the Squirrel, for what they did and as they did it, all come again into these stories; but Malsumsis, being dead, was turned into the Shick-shoe mountains in the Gaspé peninsula.
For this chapter and parts of others I am indebted to the narrative of a Micmac Indian, taken down by Mr. Edward Jock; also to another version in the Rand MS. The story is, in the main points, similar to that given by David Cusick in his History of the Six Nations, of Enigorio the Good Mind, and Enigonhahetgea, Bad Mind, to which I shall refer anon.
It is very evident that in this tradition Glooskap represents the Good principle, and Malsumsis, the little wolf, — that is the Wolf who is the Younger, rather than little or small, — the Evil one. Malsum typifies destruction and sin in several of these tales. He will arise at the last day, when Glooskap is to do battle with all the giants and evil beasts of olden time, and will be the great destroyer. Malsum is the Wolf Fenris of this the true Indian Edda.
For a further comment on this birth of the twins and its resemblance to a passage in the Edda, the reader is referred to the notes on the next chapter.
How Glooskap made the Elves and Fairies, and then Man of an Ash Tree, and last of all, Beasts, and of his Coming at the Last Day.
Glooskap came first of all into this country, into Nova Scotia, Maine, Canada, into the land of the Wabanaki, next to sunrise. There were no Indians here then (only wild Indians very far to the west).
First born were the Mikumwess, the Oonabgemes-suk, the small Elves, little men, dwellers in rocks.
And in this way he made Man: He took his bow and arrows and shot at trees, the basket-trees, the Ash. Then Indians came out of the bark of the Ash-trees. And then the Mikumwees said ... called tree-man....
Glooskap made all the animals. He made them at first very large. Then he said to Moose, the great Moose who was as tall as Ketawkqu's, "What would you do should you see an Indian coming?" Moose replied, "I would tear down the trees on him." Then Glooskap saw that the Moose was too strong, and made him smaller, so that Indians could kill him.
Then he said to the Squirrel, who was of the size of a Wolf, "What would you do if you should meet an Indian?" And the Squirrel answered, "I would scratch down trees on him." Then Glooskap said, "You also are too strong," and he made him little.
Then he asked the great White Bear what he would do if he met an Indian; and the Bear said, "Eat him." And the Master bade him go and live among rocks and ice, where he would see no Indians.
So he questioned all the beasts, changing their size or allotting their lives according to their answers.
He took the Loon for his dog; but the Loon absented himself so much that he chose for this service two wolves, — one black and one white. But the Loons are always his tale-bearers.
Many years ago a man very far to the North wished to cross a bay, a great distance, from one point to another. As he was stepping into his canoe he saw a man with two dogs, — one black and one white, — who asked to be set across. The Indian said, "You may go, but what will become of your dogs?" Then the stranger replied, "Let them go round by land." "Nay," replied the Indian, "that is much too far." But the stranger saying nothing, he put him across. And as they reached the landing place there stood the dogs. But when he turned his head to address the man, he was gone. So he said to himself, "I have seen Glooskap."
Yet again, — but this was not so many years ago, — far in the North there were at a certain place many Indians assembled. And there was a frightful commotion, caused by the ground heaving and rumbling; the rocks shook and fell, they were greatly alarmed, and lo! Glooskap stood before them, and said, "I go away now, but I shall return again; when you feel the ground tremble, then know it is I." So they will know when the last great war is to be, for then Glooskap will make the ground shake with an awful noise.
Glooskap was no friend of the Beavers; he slew many of them. Up on the Tobaic are two salt-water rocks (that is, rocks by the ocean-side, near a freshwater stream). The Great Beaver, standing there one day, was seen by Glooskap miles away, who had forbidden him that place. Then picking up a large rock where he stood by the shore, he threw it all that distance at the Beaver, who indeed dodged it; but when another came, the beast ran into a mountain, and has never come forth to this day. But the rocks which the master threw are yet to be seen.
This very interesting tradition was taken down by Mrs. W. Wallace Brown from a very old Passamaquoddy Indian woman named Molly Sepsis, who could not speak a word of English, with the aid of another younger woman named Sarah.
It will be observed that it is said in the beginning that Glooskap produced the first human beings from the ash-tree. Ash and Elm in the Edda were the Adam and Eve of the human race. There were no intelligent men on earth —
"Until there came three
mighty and benevolent
Aesir to the world
from their assembly
Ash and Embla (Ash and Elm),
void of destiny.
"Spirit they possessed not,
sense they had not,
blood nor motive powers,
nor goodly color.
Spirit gave Odin,
sense gave Hoenir,
blood gave Lodur
and good color."
It is certain, however, that the ash was the typic tree of all life, since the next verse of the Voluspa is devoted to Yggdrasil, the tree of existence, or of the world itself. It may be observed that in the Finnish poem of Kalévala it is by the destruction of the great oak that Wäinämöien, aided by the hero of the sea, causes all things to grow. The early clearing away of trees, as a first step towards culture, may be symbolized in the shooting of arrows at the ash.
The wolf, as a beast for the deity to ride, is strongly Eddaic.
"Magic songs they sung,
rode on wolves,
the god (Odin) and gods.
We have here within a few lines, accordingly, the elm as the parent of mankind, and wolves as the beasts of transport for the supreme deity, both in the Indian legend and in the Edda.
As Glooskap is directly declared in one tradition to keep by him as an attendant a being who is the course of the sun and of the seasons, it may be assumed that the black and white wolf represent day and night.
Again, great stress is laid in the Glooskap legend upon the fact that the last great day of battle with Malsum the Wolf, and the frost-giants, stone-giants, and other powers of evil, shall be announced by an earthquake.
Ash yet standing,
groans that aged tree ...
and the Wolf runs ...
The monster's kin goes
all with the Wolf....
The stony hills are dashed together,
The giantesses totter.
Then arises Hlin's second grief
When Odin goes
with the wolf to fight."
Word for word, ash-tree, giantesses, the supreme god fighting with a wolf, and falling hills, are given in the Indian myth. This is not the Christian Day of Judgment, but the Norse.
In this myth Glooskap has two wolves, one black and the other white. This is an indication of day and night, since he is distinctly stated to have as an attendant Kulpejotei, who typifies the course of the seasons. In the Eddas (Ragnarok) we are told that one wolf now follows the sun, another the moon; one Fenris, the other Moongarm : —
"The moon's devourer
In a troll's disguise."
The magic arrows of Glooskap are of course worldwide, and date from the shafts of Abaris and those used among the ancient Jews for divination. But it may be observed that those of the Indian hero are like the "Guse arrows," described in Oervarodd's Saga, which always hit their mark and return to the one who shoots them.
It is important here to compare this old Algonquin account of the Creation with that of the Iroquois, or Six Nations, as given by David Cusick, himself an Indian : —
"There was a woman who was with child, with twins. She descended from the higher world, and was received on the turtle. While she was in the distress of travail, one of the infants in her womb was moved by an evil desire, and determined to pass out under the side of the parent's arm, and the other infant endeavored in vain to prevent his design. They entered the dark world by compulsion, and their mother expired in a few minutes. One of them possessed a gentle disposition, and was named Enigorio, the Good Mind. The other possessed an insolence of character, and was called Enigonhahetgea; that is, the Bad Mind. The Good Mind was not content to remain in a dark situation, and was desirous to create a great light in the dark world; but the Bad Mind was desirous that the world should remain in its original state. The Good Mind, determined to prosecute his design, began the work of creation. Of his mother's head he made the sun, of her body the moon. After he had made creeks and rivers, animals and fishes, he formed two images of the dust of the ground in his own likeness, male and female, and by his breathing into their nostrils he gave them living souls, and named them ea gwe howe, that is a real people; and he gave the Great Island all the animals — of game for the inheritance of the people.... The Bad Mind, while his brother was making the universe, went through the island, and made numerous high mountains and falls of water and great steeps, and also created reptiles which would be injurious to mankind; but the Good Mind restored the island to its former condition. The Bad Mind made two images of clay in the form of mankind, but while he was giving them existence they became apes. The Good Mind discovered his brother's contrivances, and aided in giving them living souls.
"Finding that his brother continually thwarted him, the Good Mind admonished him to behave better. The Bad Mind then offered a challenge to his brother, on condition that the victor should rule the universe. The Good Mind was willing. He falsely mentioned that whipping with flags [bulrushes] would destroy his temporal life, and earnestly solicited his brother to observe the instrument of death, saying that by using deer-horns he would expire. [This is very obscure in Cusick's Indian-English.] On the day appointed the battle began; it lasted for two days; they tore up the trees and mountains; at last the Good Mind gained the victory by using the horns. The last words uttered by the Bad Mind were that he would have equal power over the souls of mankind after their death, and so sank down to eternal doom and became the Evil Spirit."
Contrasted with this hardly heathen cosmogony, which shows recent Bible influence throughout, the Algonquin narrative reads like a song from the Edda. That the latter is the original and the older there can be no doubt. Between the "Good Mind," making man "from the dust of the earth," and Glooskap, rousing him by magic arrows from the ash-tree, there is a great difference. It may be observed that the fight with horns is explained in another legend in this book, called the Chenoo, and that these horns are the magic horns of the Chepitch calm, or Great Serpent, who is somewhat like the dragon.
In the Algonquin story, two Loons are Glooskap's "tale-bearers," which occasion him great anxiety by their prolonged absences. This is distinctly stated in the Indian legend, as it is of Odin's birds in the Edda. Odin has, as news-bringers, two ravens.
"Hugin and Munin
Fly each day
over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin
that he comes not back,
yet more anxious am I
The Loons, indeed, occasioned Glooskap so much trouble by absences that he took wolves in their place. The ravens of the Edda are probably of biblical origin. But it is a most extraordinary coincidence that the Indians have a corresponding perversion of Scripture, for they say that Glooskap, when he was in the ark, that is as Noah, sent out a white dove, which returned to him colored black, and became a raven. This is not, however, related as part of the myth.
The Ancient History of the Six Nations, by David Cusick, gives us in one particular a strange coincidence with the Edda. It tells us that the Bad Mind, the principle of Evil, forced himself out into life, as Cusick expresses it in his broken Indian-English, "under the side of the parent's arm ;" that is, through the armpit. In the Edda (Vafthrudnismal, 33) we are told of the first beings born on earth that they were twins, begotten by the two feet of a giant, and born out of his armpit.
"Under the armpit grew,
't is said of the Hrîmthurs,
a girl and boy together;
foot with foot begat,
of that wise Jötun,
a six-headed son."
There are in these six lines six coincidences with red Indian mythology: (1.) The Evil principle as a Jötun's first-born in the one and the Bad Mind in the other are born of the mother's armpit. (2.) In one of the tales of Lox, the Indian devil, also a giant, we are told that his feet are male and female. (3.) In both faiths this is the first birth on earth. (4.) The six-headed demon appears in a Micmac tale. (5.) There is in both the Eddaic and the Wabanaki account a very remarkable coincidence in this: that there is a Titanic or giant birth of twins on earth, followed by the creation of man from the ash-tree. (6.) The Evil principle, whether it be the Wolf-Lox in the Wabanaki myths, or Loki in the Norse, often turns himself into a woman. Thus the male and female sex of the first-born twins is identified.
Excerpted from Algonquin Legends by Charles G. Leland. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of Contents
GLOOSKAP THE DIVINITY.,
THE MERRY TALES OF LOX, THE MISCHIEF MAKER, - COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE INDIAN,
THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF MASTER RABBIT,
THE CHENOO LEGENDS.,
AT-O-SIS, THE SERPENT.,
THE INVISIBLE ONE.,
STORY OF THE THREE STRONG MEN.,
TALES OF MAGIC.,