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How Glooskap sailed through the great cavern of darkness

A Micmac Legend

Now it is told in another tradition--and men tell even this differently--that pitché, in these old times Glooskap's seven neighbors, who were all so many different animals, took away his family, and that he followed them, even as it has been written, unto Newfoundland. And when he came there it was night, and, finding Marten alone, he took him forth into the forest to seek food, putting his belt on the boy, which gave him such power that he hunted well and got much meat.

So it came to pass that the next morning Dame Kah-kah-gooch, the Crow, observed that Marten was drying meat on his wigwam. And this she spread abroad. But when the people learned that the child had done this, a great fear came upon them all, and they sat every man in his lodge and awaited death, for they knew that the Master had come.

And he indeed came; but when he saw them all as frightened as rabbits before the wild-cat, he laughed aloud and forgave them, for he was noble and generous. And as they were hungry--for he had come in hard times--he gave them much venison, and sorrow departed from their wigwams. But as they had left him of old, he now left them. When they knew him not they left him to die; now that they know him they feared lest they should perish without him. But he turned his steps towards other paths.

Now having made a canoe, the Master, with Marten and Dame Bear, went upon a mighty river. As the story says, it was broad and beautiful at first, and so they sailed away down towards its mouth. Then they came to great cliffs, which gathered round and closed over them. But the river ran on beneath these, and ever on far underground, deeper and deeper in the earth, till it dashed headlong into rapids, among rocks and ravines, and under cataracts which were so horrible that death seemed to come and go with every plunge of the canoe. And the water grew narrower and the current more dreadful, and fear came upon Marten and the woman, so that they died. But the Master sat with silent soul, though he sang the songs of magic, and so passed into the night, but came forth again into sunlight. And there was a lonely wigwam on the bank, into which he bore Marten and the grandmother, and saying, "Numchahse! arise!" lo, they arose, and deemed they had only slept. And now Glooskap had gained the greatest power.

This incident of passing through darkness, on a roaring stream in a frail bark, before emerging to sunlight or illumination, was not only in the ancient heathen myths. We are reminded of it by the storm through which Jesus passed with the disciples. That it made a great impression upon the Indians is shown by its being told of Pulewech, the Partridge, who is a type of Glooskap, and who, like him, makes war on the powers of evil, set forth in the Porcupines. The Indians, who imagined and selected so many wild and terrible tests to form the Shaman, or sorcerer, as well as the warrior, would hardly neglect that of de profundis clamavi, the storm, the waves, darkness, and the roaring flood.

If there is really any Norse influence in this tale, this river must be the one mentioned in the Vafthrudnismal,--

"Ifing the stream is called
which earth divides between
the Jötuns and the gods.
Open it shall run
throughout all time.
On that stream no ice shall be."

It will be observed that, having gone down or across this, stream, Pulewech finds himself in the country of the Evil sorcerers; that is, Jötunheim. To conquer a river among the Norse, in a dream, was a sign of victory; to be carried away by one was a terrible omen.

"Me thought a river ran
Through the whole house,
that it roared violently,
rushed over the benches,
brake the feet of you
brothers twain;
Nothing the water spared;
Something that will portend."
(Atlamâl, in Groenlenzku, 25.)

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