The Algonquin Legends of New England, by Charles G. Leland, , at sacred-texts.com
It is well known unto all Indians who still keep the true faith of the olden time that there are wondrous dwellers in the lonely woods, such as elves and fairies, called by the Micmacs Mikumwessos, and by the Passamaquoddies Oonahgemessos. And these can
work great wonders, and also sing so as to charm the wildest beasts. From them alone come the magic pipes or flutes, which sometimes pass into possession of noted sorcerers and great warriors; and when these are played upon, the woman who hears the melody is bewitched with love, and the moose and caribou follow the sound even to their death. And when the Megumawessos are pleased with a mortal they make him a fairy, even like themselves.
N'Karnayoo. In old times there was an Indian village, and in it were two young men, 1 who had heard that Glooskap, ere he left the world, would bestow on those who came to him whatever they wanted. So they went their way, an exceeding long pilgrimage, until they came to a great island, where he dwelt. And there they first met with Dame Bear and Marten, and next with the Master himself. Then they all, sitting down to supper, had placed before them only one extremely small dish, and on this there was a tiny bit of meat, and nothing more. But being a bold and jolly fellow, the first of the pilgrims, thinking himself mocked for sport, cut off a great part of the meat, and ate it, when that which was in the dish grew in a twinkling to its former size; and so this went on all through the supper, every one eating his fill, the dish at the end being as full as ever.
Of these two, one wished to become a Mikumwess,
and the other to win a very beautiful girl, the daughter of a great chief, who imposed such cruel tasks on all who came for her, that they died in attempting them.
And the first was taken by Glooskap; and after he had by a merry trick covered him with filth and put him to great shame, he took him to the river, and after washing him clean and combing his hair gave him a change of raiment and a hair string of exceeding great magic virtue, since when he had bound it on he became a Mikumwess, having all the power of the elfin-world. And also because he desired to excel in singing and music, the Master gave him a small pipe, and it was that which charmed all living beings; 1 and then singing a song bade him join in with him. And doing this he found that he could sing, and ever after had a wondrous voice.
Now to seek the beautiful girl it was necessary to sail afar over the sea; and during this adventure the Mikumwess was charged to take care of the younger pilgrim. So he begged the Master to lend him his canoe. And Glooskap answered, "Yes, I will do this for thee, if thou wilt honestly return it when thou needest it no more. Yet in very truth I did never
yet lend it to mortal man but that I had to go after it myself." 1
Thereupon the young man promised most faithfully that he would indeed return the canoe, and with this they got them ready for the journey. But when they came to the bay there was no canoe, and they knew not what was to be done. But Glooskap pointed to a small island of granite which rose amid the waves, and it was covered with tall pine-trees. "There is my canoe!" said he; 2 and when he had taken them unto it, it became a real canoe, with masts, and they set sail on it, rejoicing.
So they came in time to a very large island, where they drew up the canoe and hid it in the bushes. Then they went forward to seek for people, and found
a village in which dwelt the chief who had the beautiful daughter, in seeking whom so many had lost their lives.
And having found him, they went into his wigwam, and were placed on the seat of honor. Now when an Indian seeks a wife, he or his mutual friend makes no great ado about it, but utters two words, which tell the whole story. And these are Sewin-coadoo-gwahloogwet', which mean in Micmac, "I am tired of living alone." And the chief, hearing this, consented that the young man should marry her whom he sought, but on one condition: and this was that he should slay and bring unto him the head of a certain horned dragon, called in Micmac Chepichcalm. 1 So this was agreed upon, and the two strangers went to the wigwam which was assigned them.
Now in the night he that was Mikumwess arose and went alone and afar until he came to the den of the dragon, and this was a great hole in the ground. And over this he laid a mighty log, and then began the magic dance around the den. So the serpent, or the great Chepichcalm, hearing the call, came forth, putting out his head after the manner of snakes, waving it all about in every way and looking round him.
[paragraph continues] While doing this he rested his neck upon the log, when the Indian with a blow of his hatchet severed it. Then taking the head by one of the shining yellow horns he bore it to his friend, who in the morning gave it to the chief. And the old man said to himself, "This time I fear me I shall lose my child."
Yet the young man had more to do; for the chief said, "I would fain see my son coast down yonder hill on a hand-sled." Now this hill was an exceeding high mountain; the sides thereof were ragged with rocks and terrible with trees and ice. Then two toboggins 1 were brought out, one of them for the two strangers, and this he that was Mikumwess was to direct. And on the other were two powerful men, and these were both boo-oinak, 2 who hoped to see the former soon fall out, and then to run over them. And at the word they went flying fearfully down the mountain, and yet ever faster, as if to death. And soon he that sought the girl went whirling headlong from the sled, and the two boo-oinak gave a loud hurrah; for they knew not that this had been done with intent by the Mikumwess, that he might get them before him. So he put forth his hand, and, seizing the younger man, turned a little aside, but in an instant went on after; and erelong the sled of the boo-oinak stopped, but the other, bounding upwards from a mighty wall of ice, flew far
over their heads onwards; nor did it stop in the valley, but, running with tremendous speed up the opposite hill and into the village, struck the side of the chief's wigwam, ripping it up from end to end ere it stopped. And the old man, seeing this, said, "This time I have lost my daughter!"
Yet the young man had more to do; for the chief said, "There is here a man who has never been beaten in running, and thou must strive with him in that and overcome him, to win thy wife." And the race was appointed; but ere it came off he that was Mikumwess lent to his friend the magic pipe to give him power. 1 And when he that was the racer of the village met the young man, the youth said, "Who art thou?" and he replied, "I am Wey-ad-esk" (the Northern Lights, M.); "but who art thou?" And he answered, "I am Wosogwodesk" (the Chain Lightning). And they ran. In an instant they were no longer in sight; they were far away over the most distant hills. Then all sat and waited, and ere it was noon he that was the Chain Lightning returned, and he was not out of breath, nor weary, and he had gone round the world. And at evening they saw the Northern Lights return, and he trembled and quivered with fatigue; yet for all
that he had not been round the world, but had turned back. And the old chief, seeing him beaten, exclaimed, "This time I shall lose my child!"
And yet there was another trial of the young man ere he could win her whom he wanted. For the chief had a man whom no one could overcome in swimming and diving, and it was chiefly in this last thing that he excelled. And the young man must strive with him. And when they met he asked the man of the village his name, and he replied, "I am an Ukchigumooech" (a Sea Duck, M.); "but who are you?" And he answered, "I am a Kweemoo" (a Loon, M.). So they dived, and after a time the Sea Duck rose again for breath, but those who waited waited long indeed ere they saw the Loon. And an hour passed, and he came not, and yet another ere they beheld him; but when he at last rose the old chief said, "This is the end of all our weary work, for this time truly I have lost my child."
Yet it was not the end of the wonderful deeds which were done in that village by the power of the great Glooskap. For the Mikumwess, at the great dance which was held that evening at the wedding, astonished all who beheld him. As he danced around the circle, upon the very hard beaten floor, they saw his feet sink deeper at every step, and ever deeper as the dance went on; ploughing the ground up into high, uneven ridges, forming a trench as he went, until at length only his head was to be seen. 1 And
this ended the dancing for that night, since the ground was no longer to be danced upon by anybody except wizards and witches.
Then the young man and his wife and the Mikumwess entered their canoe and sailed boosijk (homewards, M.). And yet their trials were not over. 1 For they had not gone far ere they saw an awful storm coming to meet them; and he that had the Elfin spells knew that it was raised by boo-oin, or sorcery, since these storms are the worst of all. Then, without fear, he rose, and, filling his lungs and puffing his cheeks, he blew against the tempest, wind against wind, until he blew the wind away, and the great water was aoobuneak', as calm and smooth as before.
So they sailed on over the sunlit sea, but it was not long before the Elf-gifted saw rising among the
waves far before them a dark mass, which soon proved to be a tremendous beast coming to attack them. And as he drew near they saw it was Quahbeet, the giant beaver, and his eyes were angry. 1 But the Mikumwess, seeing this, steered straight to meet the monster, and, coming to him, said, "I am the great hunter of beavers; lo, I am their butcher; many a one has fallen by my hand." 2 Now the Beaver had placed himself under water, with his tail out of it and rising upwards, that he might sink the canoe with a blow thereof; for the Beaver strikes mightily in such wise, as is his wont. But he of the magic power, with one blow of his tomahawk, cut the tail from the body, and sailed onward.
Yet they had not gone far ere, on rounding a point, they saw before them another animal of giant size, who likewise had his tail in the air, waiting to overcome them, and this was A-bekk-thee-lo (M.), the Skunk. Yet ere he made his hideous attack the Mikumwess, ever on the watch, caught up his spear, and, hurling it, pierced A-bekk-thee-lo, who did but kick two or three times ere he died. And, stepping ashore, he who had slain him took a pole, a long dead pine, which lay upon the sand, and, transfixing the Skunk, lifted him high in air, and, planting the tree
on the ground, left him, saying scornfully, as he left, "Lik cho je nain!" which, being interpreted, meaneth, "And now show your tail there!" 1
So they returned safely. And Glooskap met them at the landing, and his first words were, "Well, my friends, I see that you have brought back my canoe." And they answered, "We have, indeed." Then he inquired, "Has all gone well with ye?" And they replied that it had. Then Glooskap, laughing, let them know that in all they had experienced he had been busy, and that in all their triumphs he had had a hand. And to the Mikumwess he said, "Go now thy ways, thou and these, and ever lead happy lives: thou amid the Elfin, they among mankind. And be sure of this, that if danger or trouble should come to you, you have but to think of me, and verily aid will come. So they rose and went to their wigwams. 2
82:1 According to another Micmac version of this legend, the elder of these pilgrims was Keekwahjoo, the Badger, and the younger Caktoogwasees, or Little Thunder.
83:1 The identity of these incidents with those of "classic" times is worth noting. There is a lustration and the clothing the neophyte in a new garment, and he receives the magic fillet, as in the Mysteries of the old world. Nor is the resemblance of the pipe to that of Orpheus less striking. In many respects this is the most remarkable old Indian myth I have ever met with.
84:1 One of the traits of bonhomie and common humanity which continually occur in the Glooskap tales, even in the most serious situations and solemn myths. In this respect the resemblance of the Northwest Algonquin tales to the Norse is truly striking. The canoe is among all Indians, even in Central America, exactly what the umbrella is in civilized society. With all his immense originality Glooskap had a number of "old Joes," of which he never seems to have tired. One was the inexhaustible dish, and another the giant skunk set upon end to salute his visitors, and this of the canoe was probably the commonest of all. He is a true Indian divinity, shining like the lightning and striking only when there is a storm, but appearing like the Aurora Borealis, or even the Robin Goodfellow-Will-o'-the-Wisp at others.
84:2 Another standard "piece of witt" with the incorrigible joker. Glooskap's "floating island" was served up as a dessert to all guests, and I doubt not that if the double meaning of the word had been known to him, they would have had that too.
85:1 Vide "Supernatural Beings." The Chepichcalm (M.) is an immense horned serpent or wingless dragon. It is probably identical with the Wiwillmekq' (P. and Pen.), which is a singular horned worm found on trees or by water. It is believed to be capable of assuming a vast size and to be gifted with supernatural powers.
86:1 Toboggin: a sled or sledge.
86:2 Magicians, the original of pow-wow-in. It is apparently the same in meaning as the angakok of the neighboring Eskimo.
87:1 It may be observed that Indian magic depends on fetich, or objects having innate power. Glooskap himself relies on his belt, and when he lends it to Marten, the boy becomes "manitoo," as the more Western Indians term it. There is in the early red Indian mythology really no God; only more or less powerful magicians.
88:1 This is very characteristic of the true magician, both in the p. 89 Algonquin and Eskimo folk-lore. "The angakok," or sorcerer of Greenland, "after meeting with tomarsuk, or guardian spirits, sometimes manifested it by his feet sinking into the rocky ground just as if into snow." (Rink.) This phrase indicates the Northern origin of the idea, which occurs in many Indian stories. I have been assured in all faith that there is a Passamaquoddy m'téoulin, or sorcerer, now living, who can walk up to his knees in a floor or in the paved street, and an honest and trustworthy Indian assured me that he had seen him do it.
89:1 These subsequent trials were not inflicted by the old chief, but were, as appears by comparison with other legends, simply jokes played by the incorrigible Glooskap. It is most probable that in its original form this remarkable myth was all maya, or illusion, and the whole a series of illusions, caused by the arch-conjurer, typifying natural phenomena.
90:1 From the beginning, when Quahbeetsis, the son of the Beaver, inspired Malsumsis with hatred of Glooskap, this quadruped appears as an enemy.
90:2 This is oddly like the speech of the beaver-killer in The Hunting of the Snark.
91:1 The Skunk is here a parody on the Beaver.
91:2 In its earlier form this must have been a very remarkable narrative, or poem. That the two combatants in the race were originally the personified Northern Lights and Lightning, and that these were not merely names assumed for boasting, is shown by the incident that the Lightning actually passed round the world, while the Aurora Borealis only covered a portion of it. The diving is either a later addition, or it represents the same stupendous spirits taking on the appearance of mastering the element of water as well as that of fire. Without carrying the Solar myth theory to extremes, it cannot be denied that Glooskap appears in several of these stories as Spring, or as the melter of ice, the conqueror of the frozen stream and of the iceberg. In this narrative he is active and creative Nature itself, directing and sporting with the warring elements. His vast practical joking p. 92 cannot fail to remind the reader yet again of the Norse deities and their jovial household godhood.
This tradition is Micmac, and taken almost entirely from Mr. Rand's manuscript. It should be borne in mind that it is not from a single story of this collection, but from a careful analysis and comparison of them all, that their entire value is to be ascertained.
Certain incidents in this tale deserve special attention. The young men go to a land of evil sorcerers, of boo-oin. When one is required to run a race he conquers because he is really the Lightning. When Thor visits Utgard Loki, there is also a race, in which Hugi wins, because he is Thought disguised as a man. Glooskap has a canoe, which is sometimes immensely large, but which at other times shrinks to a very small size. In the Edda, Odin is said to have had made for him by the dwarfs a boat, Skidbladnir, which, like Glooskap's bark, expanded or diminished. Sigurd, in the New Edda, is obliged to kill a dragon, and it is very remarkable that he does it by a special previous preparation. That is to say, he digs a little ditch, and when the dragon crawls over it the hero pierces him with his sword. In this story the Indian lays a log over the dragon's hole, to enable him to chop his head off. The dragon, or horned snake, is an old-time tradition in America, or pre-Columbian.