Native American Legends
The origin of the Thunderbird
A Passamaquoddy Legend
This is a legend of long, long ago times. Two Indians desired to
find the origin of thunder. They traveled north and came to a high
mountain. These mountains performed magically. They drew apart,
back and forth, then closed together very quickly.
One Indian said, "I will leap through the cleft before it
closes. If I am caught, you continue to find the origin of thunder."
The first one succeeded in going through the cleft before it closed,
but the second one was caught and squashed.
On the other side, the first Indian saw a large plain with a group
of wigwams, and a number of Indians playing a ball game. After a
little while, these players said to each other, "It is time
to go." They disappeared into their wigwams to put on wings,
and came out with their bows and arrows and flew away over the mountains
to the south. This was how the Passamaquoddy Indian discovered the
homes of the Thunderbirds.
The remaining old men of that tribe asked the Passamaquoddy Indian,
"What do you want? Who are you?" He replied with the story
of his mission. The old men deliberated how they could help him.
They decided to put the lone Indian into a large mortar, and they
pounded him until all of his bones were broken. They moulded him
into a new body with wings like thunderbird, and gave him a bow
and some arrows and sent him away in flight. They warned him not
to fly close to trees, as he would fly so fast he could not stop
in time to avoid them, and he would be killed.
The lone Indian could not reach his home because the huge enemy
bird, Wochowsen, at that time made such a damaging wind. Thunderbird
is an Indian and he or his lightning would never harm another Indian.
But Wochowsen, great bird from the south, tried hard to rival Thunderbird.
So Passamaquoddies feared Wochowsen, whose wings Glooscap once had
broken, because he used too much power.
A result was that for a long time air became stagnant, the sea
was full of slime, and all of the fish died. But Glooscap saw what
was happening to his people and repaired the wings of Wochowsen
to the extent of controlling and alternating strong winds with calm.
Legend tells us this is how the new Passamaquoddy thunderbird,
the lone Indian who passed through the cleft, in time became the
great and powerful Thunderbird, who always has kept a watchful eye
upon the good Indians.
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