Native American Legends
How Glooscap conquered the great Bull-Frog, and in what manner all the Pollywogs, Crabs, Leeches, and other water creatures were created
A Passamaquoddy and Micmac Legend
N'karnayoo, of old times, there was an Indian village far
away among the mountains, little known to other men. And the dwellers
therein were very comfortable: the men hunted every day, the women
did the work at home, and all went well in all things save in this.
The town was by a brook, and except in it there was not a drop of
water in all the country round, unless in a few rain-puddles. No
one there had ever found even a spring.
Now these Indians were very fond of good water. The brook was of
a superior quality, and they became dainty over it.
But after a time they began to observe that the brook was beginning
to run low, and that not in the summer time, but in autumn, even
after the rains. And day by day it diminished, until its bed was
as dry as a dead bone in the ashes of a warm fire.
Now it was said that far away up in the land where none had ever
been there was on this very stream another Indian village; but what
manner of men dwelt therein no one knew. And thinking that these
people of the upper country might be in some way concerned in the
drought, they sent one of their number to go and see into the matter.
And after he had traveled three days he came to the place; and
there he found that a dam had been raised across the rivulet, so
that no water could pass, for it was all kept in a pond. Then asking
them why they had made this mischief, since the dam was of no use
to them, they bade him go and see their chief, by whose order this
had been built.
And when he came to him, lo, there lay lazily in the mud a creature
who was more of a monster than a man, though he had a human form.
For he was immense to measure, like a giant, fat, bloated, and brutal
to behold. His great yellow eyes stuck from his head like pine-knots,
his mouth went almost from ear to ear, and he had broad, skinny
feet with long toes, exceeding marvelous.
The messenger complained to this monster, who at first said nothing,
and then croaked, and finally replied in a loud bellow,-
"Do as you choose,
Do as you choose,
Do as you choose.
"What do I care?
What do I care?
What do I care?
"If you want water,
If you want water,
If you want water,
Go somewhere else."
Then the messenger remonstrated, and described the suffering of
the people, who were dying of thirst. And this seemed to please
the monster, who grinned. At last he got up, and, making a single
spring to the dam, took an arrow and bored a hole in it, so that
a little water trickled out, and then he bellowed,
"Up and begone!
Up and begone!
Up and begone!"
So the man departed, little comforted. He came to his home, and
for a few days there was a little water in the stream; but this
soon stopped, and there was great suffering again.
Now these Indians, who were the honestest fellows in all the world,
and never did harm to any one save their enemies, were in a sorry
pickle. For it is a bad thing to have nothing but water to drink,
but to want that is to be mightily dry. And the great Glooskap,
who knew all that was passing in the hearts of men and beasts, took
note of this, and when he willed it he was among them; for he ever
came as the wind comes, and no man wist how.
And just before he came all of these good fellows had resolved
in council that they would send the boldest man among them to certain
death, even to the village which built the dam that kept the water
which filled the brook that quenched their thirst, whenever it was
not empty. And when there he was either to obtain that they should
cut the dam, or do something desperate, and to this intent he should
go armed, and sing his death-song as he went. And they were all
Then Glooskap, who was much pleased with all this, for he loved
a brave man, came among them looking terribly ferocious; in all
the land there was not one who seemed half so horrible. For he appeared
ten feet high, with a hundred red and black feathers in his scalp-lock,
his face painted like fresh blood with green rings round his eyes,
a large clam-shell hanging from each ear, a spread eagle, very awful
to behold, flapping its wings from the back of his neck, so that
as he strode into the village all hearts quaked. Being but simple
Indians, they accounted that this must be, if not Lox the Great
Wolverine, at least Mitche-hant, the devil himself in person, turned
Wabanaki; and they admired him greatly, and the squaws said they
had never seen aught so lovely.
Then Glooskap, having heard the whole story, bade them be of good
cheer, declaring that he would soon set all to rights. And he without
delay departed up the bed of the brook; and coming to the town,
sat down and bade a boy bring him water to drink. To which the boy
replied that no water could be had in that town unless it were given
out by the chief. "Go then to your chief," said the Master, "and
bid him hurry, or, verily, I will know the reason why." And this
being told, Glooskap received no reply for more than an hour, during
which time he sat on a log and smoked his pipe. Then the boy returned
with a small cup, and this not half full, of very dirty water.
So he arose, and said to the boy, "I will go and see your chief,
and I think he will soon give me better water than this." And having
come to the monster, he said, "Give me to drink, and that of the
best, at once, thou Thing of Mud!" But the chief reviled him, and
said, "Get thee hence, to find water where thou canst." Then Glooskap
thrust a spear into his belly, and lo! there gushed forth a mighty
river; even all the water which should have run on while in the
rivulet, for he had made it into himself. And Glooskap, rising high
as a giant pine, caught the chief in his hand and crumpled in his
back with a mighty grip. And lo! it was the Bull-Frog. So he hurled
him with contempt into the stream, to follow the current.
And ever since that time the Bull-Frog's back has crumpled wrinkles
in the lower part, showing the prints of Glooskap's awful squeeze.
Then he returned to the village; but there he found no people,
- no, not one. For a marvelous thing had come to pass during his
absence, which shall be heard in every Indian's speech through all
the ages. For the men, being, as I said, simple, honest folk, did
as boys do when they are hungry, and say unto one another, "What
would you like to have, and what you?" "Truly, I would be
pleased with a slice of hot venison dipped in maple-sugar and bear's
oil." "Nay, give me for my share succotash and honey." Even so these
villagers had said, "Suppose you had all the nice cold, fresh,
sparkling, delicious water there is in the world, what would you
And one said that he would live in the soft mud, and always be
wet and cool.
And another, that he would plunge from the rocks, and take headers,
diving, into the deep, cold water, drinking as he dived.
And the third, that he would be washed up and down with the rippling
waves, living on the land, yet ever in the water.
Then the fourth said, "Verily, you know not how to wish, and I
will teach you. I would live in the water all the time, and swim
about in it forever."
Now it chanced that these things were said in the hour which, when
it passes over the world, all the wishes uttered by men are granted.
And so it was with these Indians. For the first became a Leech,
the second a Spotted Frog, the third a Crab, which is washed up
and down with the tide, and the fourth a Fish. Ere this there had
been in all the world none of the creatures which dwell in the water,
and now they were there, and of all kinds. And the river came rushing
and roaring on, and they all went head-long down to the sea, to
be washed into many lands over all the world.
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