Native American Legends
The tale of Glooskap as told by another Indian. Showing how the Toad and Porcupine lost their noses
A Micmac Legend
In the old time. Far before men knew themselves, in the light before
the sun, Glooskap and his brother were as yet unborn; they waited
for the day to appear. Then they talked together, and the youngest
said, "Why should I wait? I will go into the world and begin my
life at once." Then the elder said, "Not so, for this were a great
evil."' But the younger gave no heed to any wisdom: in his wickedness
he broke through his mother's side, he rent the wall; his beginning
of life was his mother's death.
Now, in after years, the younger brother would learn in what lay
the secret of the elder's death. And Glooskap, being crafty, told
the truth and yet lied; for his name was the Liar, yet did he never
lie for evil or aught to harm. So he told his brother that the blow
of a ball, or handful of the down of feathers, would take away his
life; and this was true, for it would stun him, but it would not
prevent his returning to life. Then Glooskap asked the younger for
his own secret. And he, being determined to give the elder no time,
answered truly and fearlessly, "I can only be slain by the stroke
of a cat-tail or bulrush."
And then the younger, having gathered the down of bird's feathers,
struck the elder, so that he fell dead, and therein he told the
truth. But he soon recovered, and in that was his deceit. Howbeit
it was well for the world and well for him that he then gathered
bulrushes and smote his younger brother, so that he died. But the
plant never grew that could harm the Master, wherefore he is alive
to this day.
Who was his mother? The female Turtle was his mother.
The Master was the Lord of Men and Beasts. Beasts and Men, one
as the other, he ruled them all. Great was his army, his tribe was
All. In it the Great Golden Eagle was a chief; he married a female
Caribou. The Turtle was Glooskap's uncle; he married a daughter
of the Golden Eagle and Caribou. Of all these things there are many
and long traditions. Our people tell them in the winter by the fire:
the old people know them; the young forget them and the wisdom which
is in them.
When the Turtle married, the Master bade him make a feast, and
wished that the banquet should be a mighty one. To do this he gave
him great power. He bade him go down to a point of rocks by the
sea, where many whales were always to be found. He bade him bring
one; he gave him power to do so, but he set a mark, or an appointed
space, and bade him not go an inch beyond it. So the Turtle went
down to the sea; he caught a great whale, he bore it to camp; it
seemed to him easy to do this. But like all men there was in him
vain curiosity; the falsehood of disobedience was in him, and to
try the Master he went beyond the mark; and as he did this he lost
his magic strength; he became as a man; even as a common mortal
his nerves weakened, and he fell, crushed flat beneath the weight
of the great fish.
Then men ran to Glooskap, saying that Turtle was dead. But the
Master answered, "Cut up the Whale; he who is now dead will revive."
So they cut it up; (and when the feast was ready) Turtle came in
yawning, and stretching out his leg he cried, "How tired I am! Truly,
I must have overslept myself." Now from this time all men greatly
feared Glooskap, for they saw that he was a spirit.
It came to pass that the Turtle waxed mighty in his own conceit,
and thought that he could take Glooskap's place and reign in his
stead. So he held a council of all the animals to find out how he
could be slain. The Lord of Men and Beasts laughed at this. Little
did he care for them!
And knowing all that was in their hearts, he put on the shape of
an old squaw and went into the council-house. And he sat down by
two witches: one was the Porcupine, the other the Toad; as women
they sat there. Of them the Master asked humbly how they expected
to kill him. And the Toad answered savagely, "What is that to thee,
and what hast thou to do with this thing?" "Truly," he replied,
"I meant no harm," and saying this he softly touched the tips of
their noses, and rising went his way. But the two witches, looking
one at the other, saw presently that their noses were both gone,
and they screamed aloud in terror, but their faces were none the
less flat. And so it came that the Toad and the Porcupine both lost
their noses and have none to this day.
Glooskap had two dogs. One was the Loon (Kwemoo), the other the
Wolf (Malsum). Of old all animals were as men; the Master gave them
the shapes which they now bear. But the Wolf and the Loon loved
Glooskap so greatly that since he left them they howl and wail.
He who hears their cries over the still sound and lonely lake, by
the streams where no dwellers are, or afar at night in the forests
and hollows, hears them sorrowing for the Master.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends