Sacred Texts  Native American  Northeast  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Algonquin Legends of New England, by Charles G. Leland, [1884], at

Of Glooskap and the Three Other Seekers.


Of old time. Now when it was noised abroad that whoever besought Glooskap could obtain the desire of his heart, there were three men who said among themselves, "Let us seek the Master." So they left their home in the early spring when the bluebird first sang, and walked till the fall frosts, and then into winter, and ever on till the next midsummer. And having come to a small path in a great forest, they followed it, till they came out by a very beautiful river; so fair a sight they had never seen, and so went onward till it grew to be a great lake. And so they kept to the path which, when untrodden, was marked by blazed trees, the bark having been removed, in Indian fashion,




p. 99

on the side of the trunk which is opposite the place where the wigwam or village lies towards which it turns. So the mark can be seen as the traveler goes towards the goal, but not while leaving it.

Then after a time they came to a long point of land running out into the lake, and, having ascended a high hill, they saw in the distance a smoke, which guided them to a large, well-built wigwam. And, entering, they found seated on the right side a handsome, healthy man of middle age, and by the other a woman so decrepit that she seemed to be a hundred years old. Opposite the door, and on the left side, was a mat, which seemed to show that a third person had there a seat.

And the man made them welcome, and spoke as if he were weleda'asit kesegvou (M.)--well pleased to see them, but did not ask them whence they came or whither they were going, as is wont among Indians when strangers come to their homes or are met in travel. Erelong they heard the sound of a paddle, and then the noise of a canoe being drawn ashore. And there came in a youth of fine form and features and well clad, bearing weapons as if from hunting who addressed the old woman as Kejoo, or mother, and told her that he had brought game. And with sore ado--for she was feeble--the old dame tottered out and brought in four beavers; but she was so much troubled to cut them up that the elder, saying to the younger man Uoh-keen! (M.), "My brother," bade him do the work. And they supped on beaver.

p. 100

So they remained for a week, resting themselves, for they were sadly worn with their wearisome journey, and also utterly ragged. And then a wondrous thing came to pass, which first taught them that they were in an enchanted land. For one morning the elder man bade the younger wash their mother's face. And as he did this all her wrinkles vanished, and she became young and very beautiful; in all their lives the travelers had never seen so lovely a woman. Her hair, which had been white and scanty, now hung to her feet, dark and glossy as a blackbird's breast. Then, having been clad in fine array, she showed a tall, lithe, and graceful form at its best.

And the travelers said to themselves, "Truly this man is a great magician!" They all walked forth to see the place. Never was sunshine so pleasantly tempered by a soft breeze; for all in that land was fair, and it grew fairer day by day to all who dwelt there. Tall trees with rich foliage and fragrant flowers, but without lower limbs or underbrush, grew as in a grove, wide as a forest, yet so far apart that the eye could pierce the distance in every direction.

Now when they felt for the first time that they were in a new life and a magic land, he that was host asked them whence they came and what they sought. So they said that they sought Glooskap. And the host replied, "Lo, I am he!" And they were awed by his presence, for a great glory and majesty now sat upon him. As the woman had changed, so had he, for all in that place was wonderful.

p. 101

Then the first, telling what he wanted, said, "I am a wicked man, and I have a bad temper. I am prone to wrath and reviling, yet I would fain be pious, meek, and holy."

And the next said, "I am very poor, and my life is hard. I toil, but can barely make my living. I would fain be rich."

Now the third replied, "I am of low estate, being despised and hated by all my people, and I wish to be loved and respected." And to all these the Master made answer, "So shall it be!"

And taking his medicine-bag (Upsakumoode, M.) he gave unto each a small box, and bade them keep it closed until they should be once more at home. 1 And on returning to the wigwam. he also gave to each of them new garments; in all their lives they had never seen or heard of such rich apparel or such ornaments as they now had. Then when it was time to depart, as they knew not the way to their home, he arose and went with them. Now they had been more than a year in coming. But he, having put on his belt, went forth, and they followed, till in the forenoon he led them to the top of a high mountain, from which in the distance they beheld yet another, the blue outline of which could just be seen above the horizon. And having been told that their way was unto it, they

p. 102

thought it would be a week's journey to reach it. But they went on, and in the middle of the afternoon of the same day they were there, on the summit of the second mountain. And looking from this afar, all was familiar to them--hill and river, and wood and lakes; all. was in their memory. "And there," said the Master, pointing unto it,--"there is your own village!" So he left them alone, and they went on their way, and before the sun had set were safe at home.

Yet when they came no one knew them, because of the great change in their appearance and their fine attire, the like of which had never been seen by man in those days. But having made themselves known to their friends, all that were there of old and young gathered together to gaze upon and hear what they had to say. And they were amazed.

Then each of them, having opened his box, found therein an unguent, rich and fragrant, and with this they rubbed their bodies completely. And they were ever after so fragrant from the divine anointing that all sought to be near them. Happy were they who could but sniff at the blessed smell which came from them.

Now he who had been despised for his deformity and weakness and meanness became beautiful and strong and stately as a pine-tree. There was no man in all the land so graceful or of such good behavior.

And he who had desired abundance had it, in all fullness, his wish. For the moose and caribou came

p. 103

to him in the forest, the fish leaped into his nets, all men gave unto him, and he gave unto all freely, to the end.

And he that had been wicked and of evil mind, hasty and cruel, became meek and patient, good and gentle, and he made others like himself. And he had his reward, for there was a blessing upon him as upon all those who had wished wisely even unto the end of their days. 1


101:1 In this version (Rand manuscript) there is a fourth Indian introduced,--he who would fain be tall and long-lived, and is changed to a tree. As it is precisely the same tale as that of the three who became cypresses or pines, I have not repeated it.

103:1 This beautiful story, in its original simplicity, reminds one of the tenderest biblical narratives. There is in it nothing reflected or second-hand; it is a very ancient or truly aboriginal tale. I can but sincerely regret my utter inability to do justice to it. The pen of a great master would be required to describe the fairyland freshness and light of Glooskap's home as it is felt in the original by men far more familiar with the forest in all its loveliness at all seasons than any white writer can be. The naïveté or simplicity of the pilgrims is as striking as that of the narrator or poet, to whom fine clothes--a Homeric trait--are as wonderful as all the deeds of magic which he describes.

In this and other tales a man is represented as being punished by being turned into a tree, so that he can never leave a certain spot. This is a kind of imprisonment. In the Edda the Ash Yggdrasil is the prison of Iduna.

"She ill brooked
her descent
under the hoar tree's
trunk confined."
(Hrofnagaldr Odins, 7.)

It is to keep a man or a woman in a certain place, as prisoner, that the characters described in the Indian. and Norse myths arc put into trees.

This was related to Mr. Rand by Benjamin Brooks,--a Micmac.

Next: Of Glooskap and the Sinful Serpent