The Algonquin Legends of New England, by Charles G. Leland, , at sacred-texts.com
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.
I am indebted for this legend to Mr. Edward Jack, of Fredericton, N. B. "I give it to you," he writes, "just as it came from an Indian's lips, as he sat before the fire in my room this evening, smoking his tobacco mixed with willow bark. He has an endless store of Indian lore." It may be observed that this story gives a far more ingenious reason for Glooskap's telling his brother what would be his bane than appears in the other version. For he tells him what would indeed deprive him of life, but not forever.
No one can compare the story of Glooskap with that of Manobozho--Hiawatha and the like, as given by Schoolcraft or Cusick, and not decide that the latter seems to be a second-hand version of the former. In one we have the root of the bulrush,--not the light, feathery rush itself. In this story, as in that of Balder and Loki, it is the very apparent harmlessness of the bane which points the incident. Manobozho's father says that a black rock will kill him; but it does not, although he flies before it. Glooskap declares that a
handful of down will cause his death. The double entendre of the swoon is entirely wanting in the Western tale, as is the apparent harmlessness of the medium of death. In the Edda the mistletoe, the softest, and apparently the least injurious, of plants, kills Balder; in the Wabanaki tale it is a ball of down or a rush. The Chippewas change it, like savages, to a substantial root and a black rock, thereby manifesting an insensibility to the point of the original, which is that the most trifling thing may be the cause of the most terrible events.