Native American Legends
How Glooskap is making arrows, and preparing for a great battle. The twilight of the Indian Gods
A Passamaquoddy Legend
"Is Glooskap living yet?" "Yes, far away; no one knows where.
Some say he sailed away in his stone canoe beyond the sea, to the
east, but he will return in it one day; others, that he went to
the west. One story tells that while he was alive those who went
to him and found him could have their wishes given to them. But
there is a story that if one travels long and is not afraid, he
may still find the great sagamore (sogmo). Yes. He lives
in a very great, a very long wigwam. He always making arrows. One
side of the lodge is full of arrows now. They so thick as that.
When it is all quite full, he will come forth and make war. He never
allows any one to enter the wigwam while he is making these arrows."
"And on whom will he make war?" "He will make war on all,
kill all; there will be no more world, --world all gone. Dunno how
quick,--mebbe long time; all be dead then, mebbe,--guess it will
be long time."
"Are any to be saved by any one?" "Dunno. Me hear
how some say world all burn up some day, water all boil all fire;
some good ones be taken up in good heavens, but me dunno,--me just
hear that. Only hear so."
It was owing to a mere chance question that this account of the
Last Day was obtained from an Indian. It was related to Mrs. W.
Wallace Brown, of Calais, Maine, by Mrs. Le Cool, an old Passamaquoddy
Indian. It casts a great light on the myth of Glooskap, since it
appears that a day is to come when, like Arthur, Barbarossa, and
other heroes in retreat, he is to come forth at a new twilight of
the gods, exterminate the Iglesmani, and establish an eternal
happy hunting-ground. This preparing for a great final battle is
more suggestive of Norse or Scandinavian influence than of aught
else. It is certainly not of a late date, or Christian, but it is
very much like the Edda and Ragnarok. Heine does not observe, in
the Twilight of the Gods, that Jupiter or Mars intend to return
and conquer the world. But the Norsemen expected such a fight, when
arrows would fly like hail, and Glooskap is supposed to be deliberately
preparing for it.
A very curious point remains to be noted in this narration. When
the Indians speak of Christian, or white, or civilized teachings,
they say, "I heard," or, "I have been told." This they never do
is regards their own ancient traditions. When Mrs. Le Cool said
that she "had heard" that some were to be taken up into good heavens,
she declared, in her way, that this was what Christians said, but
that she was not so sure of it. The Northeastern Algonquin always
distinguish very accurately between their ancient lore and that
derived from the whites. I have often heard French fairy tales and
Æsop's fables Indianized to perfection, but the narrator always
knew that they were not N'Karnayoo, "of the old time."
Glooskap is now living in a Norse-like Asa-heim; but there is to
come a day when the arrows will be ready, and he will go forth and
slay all the wicked. Malsum the Wolf, his twin brother, the typical
colossal type of all Evil, will come to life, with all the giant
cannibals, witches, and wild devils slain of old; but the champion
will gird on his magic belt, and the arrows will fly in a rain as
at Ragnarok: the hero will come sailing in his wonderful canoe,
which expands to hold an army. Thus it will be on
"That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
When heaven and earth shall pass away,"
with all things, in blood and death and fire. Then there will come
the eternal happy hunting-grounds.
If this was derived from Christian priests, it must be admitted
that it has changed wonderfully on the way. It is to me very heathen,
grimly archaic, and with the strong stamp of an original. Its resemblance
to the Norse is striking,. Either the Norsemen told it to the Eskimo
and the Indians, or the latter to the Norsemen. None know, after
all, what was going on for ages in the early time, up about Jotunheim,
in the North Atlantic! Vessels came to Newfoundland to fish for
cod since unknown antiquity, and, returning, reported that they
had been to Tartary.
It may be assumed at once that this Indian Last Battle of the Giants,
or of the good hero giants against the Evil, led by the Malsum-Fenris
Wolf, was not derived from the Canadian French. The influence of
the latter is to be found even among the Chippewas, but they never
dealt in myths like this.
It is very remarkable indeed that the one great principle of the
Norse mythology is identical with that of the Indian. So long as
man shall make war and heroism his standard, just so long his hero
god exists. But there will come a day when mankind can war no more,
when higher civilization must prevail. Then there will be a great
final war, and death of the heroes, and death of their foes, and
after all a new world.
"Then shall another come
although I dare not
his name declare.
Few may see
than when Odin
meets the wolf."
The Norsemen may have drawn this from a Christian source; but the
Indian, to judge by form, spirit, and expression, would seem to
have taken it from the Norse.
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