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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 rejoiced greatly.

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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