Native American Legends
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
A Passamaquoddy Legend
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 Oonahgemessuk, 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 Mikumwess said ... called
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
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 Völuspa 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 ash 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...
Tile 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
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
(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.
According to the Edda, the order of births on earth was as follows:--
First, two giants were born from the mother's armpit.
Secondly, the dwarfs were created.
Thirdly, man was made from the ash-tree.
According to the Wabanaki, this was the order:--
First, two giants were born, one from his mother's armpit.
Secondly, the dwarfs (Mikumwessuk) were created from the bark of
Thirdly, man was made from the trunk of the ash.
The account of the creation of the dwarfs is wanting in the present
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