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Native American Legends

How Glooskap, leaving the World, all the animals mourned for him, and how, Ere he departed, he gave gifts to men

A Micmac Legend

Now Glooskap had freed the world from all the mighty monsters of an early time: the giants wandered no longer in the wilderness; the cullo terrified man no more, as it spread its wings like the cloud between him and the sun; the dreadful Chenoo of the North devoured him not; no evil beasts, devils, and serpents were to be found near his home. And the Master had, moreover, taught men the arts which made them happier; but they were not grateful to him, and though they worshiped him they were not the less wicked.

"Now when the ways of men and beasts waxed evil they greatly vexed Glooskap, and at length he could no longer endure them, and he made a rich feast by the shore of the great Lake Minas. All the beasts came to it, and when the feast was over he got into a great canoe, and the beasts looked after him till they saw him no more. And after they ceased to see him, they still heard his voice as he sang; but the sounds grew fainter and fainter in the distance, and at last they wholly died away; and then deep silence fell on them all, and a great marvel came to pass, and the beasts, who had till now spoken but one language, were no longer able to understand each other, and they fled away, each his own way, and never again have they met together in council. Until the day when Glooskap shall return to restore the Golden Age, and make men and animals dwell once more together in amity and peace, all Nature mourns. And tradition says that on his departure from Acadia the Great Snowy Owl retired to the deep forests, to return no more until he could come to welcome Glooskap; and in those sylvan depths the owls even yet repeat to the night Koo-koo-skoos! which is to say in the Indian tongue, 'Oh, I am sorry! Oh, I am sorry!' And the Loons, who had been the huntsmen of Glooskap, go restlessly up and down through the world, seeking vainly for their master, whom they cannot find, and wailing sadly because they find him not."

But Ere the Master went away from life, or ceased to wander in the ways of men, he bade it be made known by the Loons, his faithful messengers, that before his departure years would pass, and that whoever would seek him might have one wish granted, whatever that wish might be. Now, though the journey was long and the trials were terrible which those must endure who would find Glooskap, there were still many men who adventured them.

Now ye shall hear who some of these were and what happened to them. And this is the first tale as it was told me in the tent of John Gabriel, the Passamaquoddy.

When all men had heard that Glooskap would grant a wish to any one who would come to him, three Indians resolved to try this thing; and one was a Maliseet from St. John, and the other two were Penobscots from Old Town. And the path was long and the way was hard, and they suffered much, and they were seven years on it ere they came to him. But while they were yet three months' journey from his dwelling, they heard the barking of his dogs, and as they drew nearer, day by day, it was louder. And so, after great trials, they found the lord of men and beasts, and he made them welcome and entertained them.

But, ere they went, he asked them what they wanted. And the eldest, who was an honest, simple man, and of but little account among his people, because he was a bad hunter, asked that he might excel in the killing and catching of game. Then the Master gave him a flute, or the magic pipe, which pleases every ear, and has the power of persuading every animal to follow him who plays it. And he thanked the lord, and left.

Now the second Indian, being asked what he would have, replied, "The love of many women". And when Glooskap, asked how many, he said, "I care not how many, so that there are but enough of them, and more than enough." At hearing this the Master seemed displeased, but, smiling anon, he gave him a bag which was tightly tied, and told him not to open it until he had reached his home. So he thanked the lord, and left.

Now the third Indian was a gay and handsome but foolish young fellow, whose whole heart was set on making people laugh, and on winning a welcome at every merry-making. And he, being asked what he would have or what he chiefly wanted, said that it would please him most to be able to make a certain quaint and marvelous sound or noise, which was frequent in those primitive times among all the Wabanaki, and which it is said may even yet be heard in a few sequestered wigwams far in the wilderness, away from men; there being still here and there a deep magician, or man of mystery, who knows the art of producing it. And the property of this wondrous sound is such that they who hear it must needs burst into a laugh; whence it is the cause that the men of these our modern times are so sorrowful, since that sound is no more heard in the land. And to him Glooskap, was also affable, sending Marten into the woods to seek a certain mystical and magic root, which when eaten would make the miracle the young man sought. But he warned him not to touch the root ere he got to his home, or it would be the worse for him. And so he thanked the lord, and left.

It had taken seven years to come, but seven days were all that was required to tread the path returning to their home, that is, for him who got there. Only one of all the three beheld his lodge again. This was the hunter, who, with his pipe in his pocket, and not a care in his heart, trudged through the woods, satisfied that so long as he should live, there would always be venison in the larder.

But he who loved women, and had never won even a wife, was filled with anxious wishfulness. And he had not gone very far into the woods before he opened the bag. And there flew out by hundreds, like white doves, swarming all about him, beautiful girls, with black burning eyes and flowing hair. And wild with passion the winsome witches threw their arms about him, and kissed him as he responded to their embraces; but they came ever more and more, wilder and more passionate. And he bade them give way, but they would not, and he sought to escape, but he could not; and so panting, crying for breath, smothered, he perished. And those who came that way found him dead, but what became of the girls no man knows.

Now the third went merrily onward alone, when all at once it flashed upon his mind that Glooskap had given him a present, and without the least heed to the injunction that he was to wait till he had reached his home drew out the root and ate it; and scarce had he done this ere he realized that he possessed the power of uttering the weird and mystic sound to absolute perfection. And as it rang o'er many a hill and dale, and woke the echoes of the distant hills, until 't was answered by the solemn owl, he felt that it was indeed wonderful. So he walked on gayly, trumpeting as he went, over hill and vale, happy as a bird.

But by and by he began to weary of himself. Seeing a deer he drew an arrow and stealing silently to the game was just about to shoot, when despite himself the wild, unearthly sound broke forth like a demon's warble. The deer bounded away, and the young man cursed! And when he reached Old Town, half dead with hunger, he was worth little to make laughter, though the honest, Indians at first did not fail to do so, and thereby somewhat cheered his heart. But as the days went on they wearied of him, and, life becoming a burden, he went into the woods and slew himself. And the evil spirit of the night-air, even Bumole, or Pamola, from whom came the gift, swooped down from the clouds and bore him away to 'Lahmkekqu', the dwelling place of darkness, and he was no more heard of among men.

As regards the destruction of the giants by Glooskap, it may be observed that the same tradition exists among the Six Nations. Cusick tells us that about 1250 years before Columbus discovered America a powerful tribe called Otne-yar-heh, that is, Stone Giants, who were ravenous cannibals, overran the country, and nearly exterminated the inhabitants.

These Stone Giants practiced themselves in rolling on the sand; by this means their bodies became hard. Then Tas-enyawa-gon, the Holder of the Heavens, came to earth as a giant, and, being made their chief, led them into a hollow, where he overwhelmed them with rocks. Only one escaped to the far North. The reader will recognize in these the Chenoos, or Kewahqu', who cover themselves with pitch and roll on the ground. But no one can deny that, while that which Cusick narrates has much in common with the mythology of the Wabanaki, it is much less like that of the Edda; that Indian grotesqueness has in it greatly perverted an original; and finally, that it certainly occupies a position midway between the mythology of the Northeastern Algonquins and that of the Chippewas, Ottawas, and other Western tribes. Examination shows this in every story. Thus the Wabanaki warrior makes his bow infallible in aim by stringing it with a cord made of his sister's hair. This is Norse, as it was of old Latin. But in the Iroquois the young man "adorns his arms with the hairs of his sister." Here the tradition has begun to weaken.

It may be interesting to visitors to Niagara to know that the army of Stone Giants crossed the river during their journey just below the Falls.

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