Native American Legends
How Glooskap made his Uncle Mikchich the Turtle into a
Great Man, and got him a Wife. Of Turtles' Eggs, and how
Glooskap vanquished a Sorcerer by smoking Tobacco.
A Micmac Legend
Now when Glooskap left Uktukamkw, or Newfoundland, it was in a
canoe, and he came to Piktook (Micmac for Pictou), which means the
bubbling up of air, because there is much bubbling in the water
near that place. And here there was an Indian village, and in that
place the Master met with a man whom he loved all his life.
And this was not because this man, whose name in Micmac is Mikchich
and in Passamaquoddy Chick-we-notchk, meaning the Turtle, was great,
or well favored, or rich. For truly he was none of these, being
very poor and lazy, no longer young, and not very clever or wise
in any way. It is said that he was indeed Glooskap's uncle, but
others think that this was by adoption. However, this old fellow
bore all his wants with such good nature that the Master, taking
him in great affection, resolved to make of him a mighty man. Which
came to pass, and that in a strange manner, as we shall see.
For coming to Piktook, where there were above a hundred wigwams,
Glooskap, being a very handsome, stately man, with the manner of
a great chief, was much admired, and that not a little by all the
women, so that every one wished to have him in the house. Yet he
gave them all the go-by, and dwelt with his old uncle, in whose
quaint ways and old-time stories he took great delight. And there
was to be a great feast with games, but Glooskap did not care to
go, either as a guest or a performer in the play.
Still he inquired of Mikchich if he would not take part in it,
telling him that all the maidens would be there, and asking him
why he had never married, and saying that he should not live alone.
Then the uncle said, "Poor and old and plain am I; I have not even
garments fit for a feast; better were it for me to smoke my pipe
at home." "Truly, if that be all, uncle," replied Glooskap, "I trow
I can turn tailor and fit you to a turn; and have no care as to
your outside or your face, for to him who knows how, 't is as easy
to make a man over as a suit of clothes." "Yes; but, nephew," said
Mikchich, "how say you as to making over the inside of a mortal?"
"By the great Beaver!" answered the Master, "that is something harder
to do, else I were not so long at work in this world. But before
I leave this town I shall do that also for you; and as for this
present sport, do but put on my belt." And when he had done that,
Mikchich became so young and handsome that no man or woman ever
saw the like. And then Glooskap dressed him in his own best clothes,
and promised him that to the end of his days, whenever he should
be a man, he would be the comeliest of men; and because he was patient
and tough, he should, as an animal, become the hardest to kill of
all creatures on the face of the earth, as it came to pass.
So Mikchich went to the feast. Now the chief of Piktook had three
beautiful daughters, and the youngest was the loveliest in the land.
And on her he cast his eyes, and returning said, "I have seen one
whom I want." Now all the young men in Piktook desired this girl,
and would kill any one who would win her.
So the next day Glooskap, taking a bunch. of wawbap (Passamaquoddy:
wampum), went to the chief and proposed for Mikchich, and the mother
at once said "Yes." So the girl made up a bed of fresh twigs and
covered it with a great white bear-skin, and went to Mikchich, and
they returned and had dried meat for supper. So they were married.
Now Turtle seemed to be very lazy, and when others hunted he lounged
at home. One day his young wife said to him that if this went on
thus they must soon starve. So he put on his snow-shoes and went
forth, and she followed him to see what he would do. And he had
not gone far ere he tripped and fell down, and the girl, returning,
told her mother that he was worthless. But the mother said, "He
will do something yet. Be patient."
One day it came to pass that Glooskap. said to Mikchich, "Tomorrow
there will be a great game at ball, and you must play. But because
you have made yourself enemies of all the young men here, they will
seek to slay you, by crowding all together and trampling upon you.
And when they do this it will be by your father-in-law's lodge,
and to escape them I give you the power to jump high over it. This
you may do twice, but the third time will be terrible for you, and
yet it must be."
All this happened as he foretold; for the young men indeed tried
to take his life, and to escape them Mikchich jumped over the lodge,
so that he seemed like a bird flying. But the third time he did
this he was caught on the top of the tent-poles, and hung there
dangling in the smoke which rose from below.
Then Glooskap, who was seated in the tent, said, "Uncle, I will
now make you the sogmo, or great chief of the Tortoises,
and you shall bear up a great nation." Then he smoked Mikchich so
long that his skin became a hard shell, and the marks of the smoke
may be seen thereon to this day. And removing his entrails he destroyed
them, so that but one short one was left. And he cried aloud, "Milooks!
(Micmac) My nephew, you will kill me!" But the nephew replied, "Not
so. I am giving you great life. From this time you may roll through
a flame and never feel it, and live on land or in the water. And
though your head be cut off, it will live for nine days, and your
heart, even, shall beat as long when taken from your body." So Mikchich
And this came betimes, for he soon had need of it all. For the
next day all the men went on a hunt, and the Master warned him that
they would seek to slay him. Now the young men went on before, and
Turtle lingered behind; but all at once he made a magic flight far
over their heads, unseen, and deep in the forest he slew a moose.
Then he drew this to the snow-shoe track or road, and when his foes
came up there he sat upon the moose, smoking, and waiting for them.
Now Glooskap had told them that they would see some one come out
ahead of them all that day, and when this came to pass they were
more angered in their hearts than ever.
So they plotted to kill Turtle, and his nephew, who was about to
leave, told him how it would be. "First of all, they will build
a mighty fire and throw you in it. But do thou, O uncle, go cheerfully,
for by my power thou wilt in nowise suffer. Then they will speak
of drowning, but thou must beg and pray that this may not be; and
then they will the more seek to do so, and thou shalt fight them
to the bitter end, and yet it shall be."
And as he said, so it came to pass; and Mikchich, being of good
cheer, bade farewell to his nephew. And they seized him and threw
him into a great fire, but he turned over and went to sleep in it,
being very lazy; and when the fire had burnt out he awoke, and called
for more wood, because it was a cold night.
Then they seized him yet again, and spoke of drowning. But, hearing
this, he, as if he were in mortal dread, begged them not to do this
thing. And he said they might cut him to pieces, or burn him, as
they would, but not to throw him into the water. Therefore they
resolved to do so, and dragged him on. Then he screamed horribly
and fought lustily, and tore up trees and roots and rocks like a
madman; but they took him into a canoe and paddled out into the
middle of the lake (or to the sea), and, throwing him in, watched
him sink as he vanished far down below. So they thought him dead,
and returned rejoicing.
Now the next day at noon there was a hot sunshine, and something
was seen basking on a great rock, about a mile out in the lake.
So two young men took a canoe and went forth to see what this might
be. And when they came to the edge of the rock, which was about
a foot high, there lay Mikchich sunning himself; but seeing them
coming to take him, he only said, "Good-by," and rolled over plump
into the water, where he is living to this day. In memory whereof
all turtles, when they see any one coming, tip-tilt themselves over
into the water at once.
And Turtle lived happily with his wife, and she had a babe. Now
it happened in after-days that Glooskap came to see his uncle, and
the child cried. "Dost thou know what he says?" exclaimed the Master.
"Truly, not I," answered Mikchich, "unless it be the language of
the Mu-se-gisk (Passamaquoddy: Spirits of the Air), which no man
knoweth." "Well," replied Glooskap, "he is talking of eggs, for
he says 'Hoo-wah! hoo-wah!' which methinks is much
the same as 'Waw-wun, waw-wun.' And this in Passamaquoddy
means egg. "But where are there any?" asked Mikchich. Then Glooskap
bade him seek in the sand, and he found many, and admired and marveled
over them greatly; and in memory of this, and to glorify this jest
of Glooskap, the Turtle layeth eggs even to this day.
The great Glooskap was a right valiant smoker; in all the world
was no man who loved a pipe of good tobacco so much as he. In those
days the summers were longer in the land of the Wabanaki, the sun
was warmer, and the Indians raised tomawe (Passamaquoddy:
tobacco), and solaced themselves mightily therewith. And there came
to Glooskap a certain evil-minded magician, who sought to take his
life, as the Master very well knew, for he read the hearts of men
as if they had been strings of wampum. And this m'téoulin
(Passamaquoddy: magician), believing himself to be greatest in all
things, thought to appall Glooskap by outdoing him at first in something
at which he excelled; for a fish is frightened when another swims
faster, but not till then.
And the man sat down to smoke with an exceeding long pipe with
a great bowl, but that of Glooskap grew to be much greater. Then,
having filled his pipe, the sorcerer exhausted and burnt it out
at one pull, and then blew all the smoke out of his nose at one
puff. So he sat and looked at the Master. But Glooskap, whose pipe
held ten times as much tobacco, did the same, and blowing it out
split the rocky ground, so that a great chasm opened before them.
Then they were silent awhile, till the Master said, "If you can
do that you may kill me." But he could not, and so went back with
shame to those who had sent him.
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