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Native American Legends

Glooscap

A Micmac Legend

The tradition respecting Glooscap is that he came to this country from the east,--far across the great sea; that he was a divine being, though in the form of a man. He was not far from any of the Indians.

When Glooscap went away, he went toward the west. There he is still tented; and two important personages are near him, who are called Kuhkw and Coolpujot,--of whom more anon.

Glooscap was the friend and teacher of the Indians; all they knew of the arts he taught them. He taught them the names of the constellations and stars; he taught them how to hunt and fish, and cure what they took; how to cultivate the ground, as far as they were trained in husbandry. When he first came, he brought a woman with him, whom he ever addressed as Grandmother, a very general epithet for an old woman. She was not his wife, nor did he ever have a wife. He was always sober, grave, and good; all that the Indians knew of what was wise and good he taught them.

His canoe was a granite rock. On one occasion he put to sea in this craft, and took a young woman with him as a passenger. She proved to be a bad girl; and this was manifested by the troubles that ensued. A storm arose, and the waves dashed wildly over the canoe; he accused her of being the cause, through her evil deeds, and so he determined to rid himself of her.

For this purpose he stood in for the land, leaped ashore, but would not allow her to follow; putting his foot against the heavy craft, he pushed it off to sea again with the girl on it, telling her to become whatever she desired to be. She was transformed into a large, ferocious fish, called by the Indians keeganibe, said to have a huge dorsal fin,--like the sail of a boat, it is so large and high out of the water.

The Indians sometimes visit Glooscap at his present residence, so says tradition; this is in a beautiful land in the west. He taught them when he was with them that there was such a place, and led them to look forward to a residence there, and to call it their beautiful home in the far west,--where, if good, they would go at death.

The journey to that fair region far away is long, difficult, and dangerous; the way back is short and easy. Some years ago, seven stout-hearted young men attempted the journey, and succeeded. Before reaching the place, they had to pass over a mountain, the ascent of which was up a perpendicular bluff, and the descent on the other side was still more difficult, for the top hung far over the base. The fearful and unbelieving could not pass at all; but the good and confident could travel it with ease and safety, as though it were a level path.

Having crossed the mountain, the road ran between the heads of two huge serpents, which lay just opposite each other; and they darted out their tongues, so as to destroy whomsoever they hit. But the good and the firm of heart could dart past between the strokes of their tongues, so as to evade them. One more difficulty remained; it was a wall, as of a thick, heavy cloud, that separated the present world from that beautiful region beyond.

This cloudy wall rose and fell at intervals, and struck the ground with such force that whatever was caught under it would be crushed to atoms; but the good could dart under when it rose, and come out on the other side unscathed.

This our seven young heroes succeeded in doing. There they found three wigwams,--one for Glooscap, one for Coolpujot, and one for Kuhkw. These are all mighty personages, but Glooscap is supreme; the other two are subordinates. Coolpujot has no bones. He cannot move himself, but is rolled over each spring and fall by Glooscap's order, being turned with handspike's; hence the name Coolpujot (rolled over by handspike's). In the autumn he is turned towards the west, in the spring towards the east; and this is a figure of speech, denoting the revolving seasons of the year, his mighty breath and looks, by which he can sweep down whole armies and work wonders on a grand scale, indicating the weather: frost, snow, ice, and sunshine.

Kuhkw means Earthquake; this mighty personage can pass along under the surface of the ground, making all things shake and tremble by his power.

All these seven visitors had requests to proffer, and each received what he asked for; though the gift did not always correspond with the spirit of the request, it oftentimes agreed with the letter. For instance, one of these seven visitors was wonderfully enamored of a fine country, and expressed a desire to remain there, and to live long; whereupon, at Glooscap's direction, Earthquake took him and stood him up, and he became a cedar-tree.

When the wind blew through its boughs, they were bent and broken with great fracas,--making a thunder-storm that rolled far and wide over the country, accompanied by strong winds, which scattered the cedar-boughs and seeds in all directions, producing all the cedar-groves that exist in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and elsewhere.

The other men started, and reached home in a short time.

One of them had asked for a medicine that would be effectual in curing disease. This he obtained; but, neglecting to follow implicitly the directions given, he lost it before he reached home. It was carefully wrapped up in a piece of paper, and he was charged not to undo the parcel until he reached home. His curiosity got the better of his judgment; he could not see what difference it could make if he just looked at his prize as he was going along. So he undid the parcel, and presto! the medicine slipped out on the ground, spread and slid in all directions, covering up the face of the earth, and vanishing from sight.

On another occasion several young men went to see Glooscap in his present abode. One of them went to obtain the power of winning the heart of some fair one, which all his unaided skill had failed hitherto to do; an hundred times he had tried to get a wife, but the girls all shunned him. Many of the party who started on this perilous expedition failed to overcome the difficulties that lay in their way, and turned back, baffled and defeated; but several of them succeeded.

They were all hospitably entertained; all presented their requests, and were favorably heard. The man who sought power to captivate some female heart was the last to proffer his petition. Glooscap and his two subordinates conferred together in a whisper, and then Earthquake informed him that his ugly looks and still more ugly manners were the chief hindrances to his success; but they must try to help him.

So he was handed a small parcel, and directed not to open it until he reached his own village; this he took, and they all set off for home together. The night before they arrived, he could restrain his curiosity no longer; he opened the parcel, the foolish fellow! Out flew young women by the scores and hundreds, covering the face of the earth, piling themselves in towering heaps, and burying the poor fellow, crushing him to the earth under the accumulating weight of their bodies. His comrades had cautioned him against disobeying the mandate, and had begged him not to undo the parcel; but he had not heeded the caution.

They now heard him calling for help, but he called in vain, they could not help him; and his cries became fainter and fainter, and finally ceased altogether. Morning came at last. The young women had all vanished, and the fragments of their comrade were scattered over the ground; he had been killed and ground to atoms as the result of his unbridled curiosity and disobedience.

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