The Algonquin Legends Of New England - Charles Godfrey Leland - ebook

The Algonquin Legends Of New England ebook

Charles Godfrey Leland



This book is annotated with a rare biographical sketch of the author, written by Elizabeth Robins Pennell. This work contains a collection of the myths, legends, and folk-lore of the principal Wabanaki, or Northeastern Algonquin, Indians; that is to say, of the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots of Maine, and of the Micmacs of New Brunswick. All of this material was gathered directly from Indian narrators. Contents: Preface. Introduction Glooskap The Divinity. The Legend Of Glooskap. The Merry Tales Of Lox, The Mischief Maker, The Amazing Adventures Of Master Rabbit The Chenoo Legends. Thunder Stories At-O-Sis, The Serpent The Partridge The Invisible One. Story Of The Three Strong Men. The Weewillmekq'. Tales Of Magic. Glint-Wah-Gnour Pes Sausmok. The Song Of The Stars.

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The Algonquin Legends Of New England

Charles G. Leland


Charles Godfrey Leland - In Philadelphia And London

The Algonquin Legends Of New England



Glooskap The Divinity.

The Legend Of Glooskap.

The Merry Tales Of Lox, The Mischief Maker,

The Amazing Adventures Of Master Rabbit

The Chenoo Legends.

Thunder Stories

At-O-Sis, The Serpent

The Partridge

The Invisible One.

Story Of The Three Strong Men.

The Weewillmekq'.

Tales Of Magic.

Glint-Wah-Gnour Pes Sausmok.

The Song Of The Stars.

The Algonquin Legends Of New England, C. G. Leland

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Germany

ISBN: 9783849622657

[email protected]

Cover Design: @ infanta –


To describe the home of a homeless man is not over easy. For the last sixteen or eighteen years Mr. Leland has been as great a wanderer as the gypsies of whom he loves to write. During this time he has pitched his tent, so to speak, in many parts of America and Europe and even of the East. He has gone from town to town and from country to country, staying here a month and there a year, and again in some places, as in London and Philadelphia, he has remained several years. But, as he himself graphically says, it is long since he has not had trunks in his bedroom.

However, if to possess a house is to have a home, then Mr. Leland must not be said to be homeless. He owns a three-storied, white- and green-shuttered, red-brick house with marble steps, of that conventional type which is so peculiarly a feature of Philadelphia — his native town. It is in Locust Street above Fifteenth — one of the eminently respectable and convenient neighborhoods for which Philadelphia is famous, with St. Mark's Church near at hand and a public school not far off. But besides this respectability which Philadelphians in general hold so dear, Locust Street boasts of another advantage of far more, importance to Mr. Leland in particular. Just here it is without the horse-car track which stretches from one end to the other of almost all Philadelphia streets, and hence it is a pleasant, quiet quarter for a literary man. Here Mr. Leland lived for just six months, surrounded by all sorts of quaint ornaments and oddities (though it was then years before the mania for bric-a-brac had set in), and by his books, these including numbers of rare and racy volumes from which he has borrowed so many of the quotations which give an Old World color and piquancy to his writings. It was while he was living in his Locust Street home that his health broke down. His illness was the result of long, almost uninterrupted newspaper work. He had worked on the Bulletin and on New York and Boston papers, and he had edited Vanity Fairy The Continental Monthly, Grahams Magazine and Forney's Press. In addition to this regular work, he had found time to translate Heine, to write his "Sunshine in Thought," his " Meister Karl's Sketch-book," and his "Breitmann Ballads," which had made him known throughout the English-speaking world as one of the first living English humorists. But now he was obliged to give up all literary employments, and, having inherited an independent fortune from his father, he was able to shut up his house and go on a pleasure-trip to Europe, where he began the wanderings which have not yet ceased.

Nowadays, therefore, one might well ask, " Where is his home ? — in a Philadelphia hotel or lodgings, or at the Langham, in London — in a gypsy tent, or in an Indian wigwam ? — on the road, or in the town? But, ubi bene, ibi patria ; where a man is happy, there is his country ; and his home too, for that matter ; and Mr. Leland, if he has his work, is happy in all places and at all times ; and furthermore, ever since his health was re-established, he has found or made work wherever he has been. He is a man who is never idle for a minute, and he counts as the best and most important work of his life that which has occupied him during the last few years. Consequently, paradoxical as it may sound, even in his wanderings he has always been at home. During the eleven years he remained abroad he lived in so many different places it would be impossible to enumerate them all. He spent a winter in Russia ; another in Egypt ; he summered on the Continent, and in the pretty villages or gay seashore towns of England. At times his principal headquarters were in London, now at the Langham and now at Park Square. It was at this latter residence that he gave Saturday afternoon receptions, at which one was sure to meet the most eminent men and women of the literary and artistic world of London, and which will not soon be forgotten by those who had the pleasure to be bidden to them. The first part of his last book about the gypsies is a pleasant, but still imperfect, guide to his wanderings of this period. There, in one paper, we find him spending charming evenings with the fair Russian gypsies in St. Petersburg ; in another, giving greeting to the Hungarian Romanies who played their wild czardas at the Paris Exposition. Or we can follow his peaceful strolls through the English meadows and lanes near Oatlands Park, or his adventures with his not over-respectable but very attractive friends at the Hampton races. One gypsy episode carries him to Aberistwyth, a second to Brighton, a third to London streets or his London study. Thus he tells the tale, as no one else could, of his life on the road.

In December, 1878, he returned to Philadelphia, where he established himself in large and pleasant rooms in Broad Street, not knowing how long he might stay in America, and unwilling, because of this uncertainty, to settle down in his own house. He lived there, however, for four years and a half, travelling but little save in the summer, when, to escape from the burning brick-oven which Philadelphia becomes at that season, he fled to Rye Beach or to the White Mountains, to Mount Desert or to far Campobello, in New Brunswick, where, in the tents almost hidden by the sweet pine woods, he listened to the Algonkin legends which he published in book form three or four years ago. The house in which he made his home for the time being is a large redbrick mansion on the left side of Broad Street, between Locust and Walnut streets. His apartments were on the ground floor, and the table at which he worked, writing his Indian book or making the designs for the series of art manuals he was then editing, was drawn close to one of the windows looking out upon the street. There, between the hours of nine and one in the morning, he was usually to be found. From the street one could in passing catch a glimpse of the fine strong head which so many artists have cared to draw, and which Le Gros has etched ; of the long gray beard, and of the brown velveteen coat — not that famous coat to which Mr. Leland bade so tender a farewell in his gypsy book, but another, already endeared to him by many a lively recollection of gypsy camps and country fairs. Here there was little quiet to be had. Broad Street is at all times noisy, and it is moreover the favorite route for all the processions, military or political, by torchlight or by daylight, that ever rejoice the hearts of Philadelphia's children. It is a haunt, too, of pitiless organ-grinders and importunate beggars. Well I remember the wretched woman who set up her stand, and her tuneless organ, but a few steps beyond Mr. Leland's window, grinding away there day after day, indifferent to expostulations and threats, until at last the civil authorities had to be appealed to. For how much unwritten humor, for how many undrawn designs, she is responsible, who can say ? But then, on the other hand, the window had its advantages. Stray gypsies could not pass unseen, and from it friendly tinkers could be easily summoned within. But for this post of observation I doubt if Owen Macdonald, the tinker, would have paid so many visits to Mr. Leland's rooms, and hence if he would have proved so valuable an assistant in the preparation of the dictionary of shelta, or tinker's talk, a Celtic language lately discovered by Mr. Leland. "Pat" (or Owen) was a genuine tinker, and " no tinker was ever yet astonished at anything." He never made remarks about the room into which he was invited, but I often wondered what he thought of it, with its piles of books and drawings and papers, and its walls covered with grotesquely decorated placques and strange musical instruments, from a lute of Mr. Leland's own fashioning to a Chinese mandolin, its mantelshelf and low book-cases crowded with Chinese and Hindu deities, Venetian glass, Etruscan vases, Indian birch-bark boxes, and Philadelphia pottery of striking form and ornament. It had been but an ordinary though large parlor when Mr. Leland first moved into it, but he soon gave it a character all its own, surrounding himself with a few of his pet household gods, the others with his books being packed away in London and Philadelphia warehouses waiting the day when he will collect them together and set them up in a permanent home.

The reason Mr. Leland remained so long in the Broad Street house was because he was interested in a good work which detained him year after year in Philadelphia. While abroad he had seen and studied many things besides gypsies, and he had come home with new ideas on the subject of education, to which he immediately endeavored to give active expression. His theory was that industrial pursuits could be made a part of every child's education, and that they must be comparatively easy. The necessity of introducing some sort of hand-work into public school education had long been felt by the Philadelphia School Board, and indeed by many others throughout the country. It had been proved that to teach trades was an impossibility. It remained for Mr. Leland to suggest that the principles of industrial or decorative art could be readily learned by even very young children at the same time that they pursued their regular studies. He laid his scheme before the school directors, and they, be it said to their credit, furnished him with ample means for the necessary experiment. This was so successful, that before the end of the first year the number of children sent to him increased from a mere handful to one hundred and fifty. Before he left America there were more than three hundred attending his classes. It is true that Pestalozzi and Frobel had already arrived at the same theory of education. But, as Carl Werner has said, Mr. Leland was the first person in Europe or America who seriously demonstrated and proved it by practical experiment.

These classes were held at the Hollingsworth schoolhouse in Locust Street above Broad, but a few steps from where he lived. It is simply impossible not to say a few words here about it, since Mr. Leland was as much at home in the schoolhouse as in his own rooms. Four afternoons every week were spent there. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he himself gave lessons in design to the school children, going from one to the other with an interest and an attention not common even among professional masters. When, after the rounds were made, there were a few minutes to spare — which did not often happen — he went into the next room, where other children were busy under teachers, working out their own designs in wood or clay or leather. I think in many of the grotesques that were turned out from that modeling table — in the frogs and the serpents and sea-monsters twining about vases, and the lizards serving as handles to jars — Mr. Leland's influence could be easily recognized. On Saturdays he was again there, superintending a smaller class of reposed workers. In England he had found what could really be done by cold hammering brass on wood, and in America he popularized this discovery. When he first began to teach the children, this sort of work being as yet little known, I remember there was one boy, rather more careless but more businesslike than his fellow-hammerers, who during his summer holidays made over two hundred and eighteen dollars by beating out on placque after placque a few designs (one an Arabic inscription), which he had borrowed from Mr. Leland. But after the children's class was enlarged and a class was started at the Ladies' Decorative Art Club established by Mr. Leland, work had to be more careful and original to be profitable. On Mondays the Decorative Art Club engaged Mr. Leland's time, many of its members meeting to learn design in the Hollingsworth school-rooms, which were larger and better lighted than those in their club-house. This club, which in its second year had no less than two hundred members, also owes its existence entirely to Mr. Leland, who is still its president. When it is remembered that both in the school and in the club he worked from pure motives of interest in his theory and its practical results, and with no other object in view but its ultimate success, the extent of his earnestness and zeal may be measured.

It may be easily understood that this work, together with his literary occupations, left him little time for recreation. But still there were leisure hours ; and in the fresh springtime it was his favorite amusement to wander from the city to the Reservoir, with its pretty adjoining wood beyond Camden, or to certain other well-known, shady, flowery gypseries in West Philadelphia or far-out Broad Street, where he knew a friendly Sarshan ? (" How are you ? ") would be waiting for him. Or else on cold winter days, when sensible Romanies had taken flight to the South or were living in houses, he 'liked nothing better than to stroll through the streets, looking in at shop-windows ; exchanging a few words in their vernacular with the smiling Italians selling chestnuts and fruit at street corners, or stray Slavonian dealers (Slovak or Croat) in mouse and rat-traps, or with other " interesting varieties of vagabonds"; stopping in bric-a-brac shops and meeting their German-Jew owners with a brotherly "Sholem aleichem" and bargaining with unmistakable familiarity with the ways of the trade ; or else, perhaps, ordering tools and materials, buying brass and leather for his classes. Indeed, he was scarcely less constant to Chestnut Street than Walt Whitman or Mr. Boker. But while Walt Whitman in his daily walks seldom went above Tenth Street, Mr. Leland seldom went below it, turning there to go to the Mercantile Library, which he visited quite as often as the Philadelphia Library, of which he has long been a shareholder; while Mr. Boker seemed to belong more particularly to the neighborhood of Thirteenth or Broad Street, where he was near the Union League and the Philadelphia Club. Almost everybody must have known by sight these three men, all so striking in personal appearance. Mr. Leland rarely went out in the evenings. Then he rested and was happy in his large easy chair, with his cigar and his book. There never was such an insatiable reader, not even excepting Macaulay. It was then, and is still, his invariable custom to begin a book immediately after dinner and finish it before going to bed, never missing a line ; and he reads everything, from old black-letter books to the latest volume of travels or trash, from Gaboriau's most sensational novel to the most abstruse philosophical treatise. His reading is as varied as his knowledge.

I have thus dwelt particularly on his life in Philadelphia, because, during the four and a half years he spent there — a long period for him to give to any one place — he had time to fall into regular habits and to lead what may be called a home life ; and also because his way of living since he has been back in England has changed but slightly. He now has his headquarters at the Langham. He still devotes his mornings to literary work and many of his afternoons to teaching decorative art. He is one of the directors of the Home Arts Society, which but for him would never have been ; Mrs. Jebb, one of its most zealous upholders, having modeled the classes which led to its organization wholly upon his system of instruction, and in cooperation with him. The society has its chief office in the Langham chambers, close to the hotel ; there Mr. Leland teaches and works just as he did in the Hollingsworth school-rooms. Lord Brownlow is the president of this association, Lady Brownlow, his wife, taking an active interest in it ; and Mr. Walter Besant is the treasurer. Mr. Leland is also the father or founder of the famous Rabelais Club, in which the chair was generally taken by the late Lord Houghton. For amusement, the Philadelphian now has all London, of which he is as true a lover as either Charles Lamb or Leigh Hunt was of old ; and for reading purposes he has the British Museum and Mudie's at his disposal ; so in these respects it must be admitted he is better off than he was in Philadelphia. He knows, too, all the near and far gypsy haunts by English wood and wold, and he is certain he will be heartily welcomed to the Derby or any country fair. But he has many friends and admirers in England outside of select gypsy circles. Unfortunately he has lost the two friends with whom he was once most intimate, Prof. E. H. Palmer, the Arabic scholar, having been killed by the Arabs, and Mr. Trubner, the publisher, having died while Mr. Leland was in America. Of his other numerous English acquaintances, he is most frequently with Mr. Walter Besant, the novelist, and Mr. Walter Pollock, the editor of The Saturday Review, for whom he occasionally writes a criticism or a special paper. However, despite the many inducements that can be offered him, he goes seldom into society. He prefers to give all his energies to the writing by which he amuses so many readers, and to his good work in the cause of education.

Elizabeth Robins Pennell.



When I began, in the summer of 1882, to collect among the Passamaquoddy Indians at Campobello, New Brunswick, their traditions and folk-lore, I expected to find very little indeed. These Indians, few in number, surrounded by white people, and thoroughly converted to Roman Catholicism, promised but scanty remains of heathenism. What was my amazement, however, at discovering, day by day, that there existed among them, entirely by oral tradition, a far grander mythology than that which has been made known to us by either the Chippewa or Iroquois Hiawatha Legends, and that this was illustrated by an incredible number of tales. I soon ascertained that these were very ancient. The old people declared that they had heard from their progenitors that all of these stories were once sung; that they themselves remembered when many of them were poems. This was fully proved by discovering manifest traces of poetry in many, and finally by receiving a long Micmac tale which had been sung by an Indian. I found that all the relaters of this lore were positive as to the antiquity of the narratives, and distinguished accurately between what was or was not pre-Columbian. In fact, I came in time to the opinion that the original stock of all the Algonquin myths, and perhaps of many more, still existed, not far away in the West, but at our very doors; that is to say, in Maine and New Brunswick. It is at least certain, as the reader may convince himself, that these Wabanaki, or Northeastern Algonquin, legends give, with few exceptions, in full and coherently, many tales which have only reached us in a broken, imperfect form, from other sources.

This work, then, contains a collection of the myths, legends, and folk-lore of the principal Wabanaki, or Northeastern Algonquin, Indians; that is to say, of the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots of Maine, and of the Micmacs of New Brunswick. All of this material was gathered directly from Indian narrators, the greater part by myself, the rest by a few friends; in fact, I can give the name of the aboriginal authority for every tale except one. As my chief object has been simply to collect and preserve valuable material, I have said little of the labors of such critical writers as Brinton, Hale, Trumbull, Powers, Morgan, Bancroft, and the many more who have so ably studied and set forth red Indian ethnology. If I have rarely ventured on their field, it is because I believe that when the Indian shall have passed away there will come far better ethnologists than I am, who will be much more obliged to me for collecting raw material than for cooking it.

Two or three subjects have, it is true, tempted me into occasional commenting. The manifest, I may say the undeniable, affinity between the myths and legends of the Northeastern Indians and those of the Eskimo could hardly be passed over, nor at the same time the identity of the latter and of the Shaman religion with those of the Finns, Laplanders, and Samoyedes. I believe that I have contributed material not devoid of value to those who are interested in the study of the relations of the aborigines of America with the Mongoloid races of the Old World. This is a subject which has been very little studied through the relations of these Wabanaki with the Eskimo.

A far more hazardous venture has been the indicating points of similarity between the myths or tales of the Algonquins and those of the Norsemen, as set forth in the Eddas, the Sagas, and popular tales of Scandinavia. When we, however, remember that the Eskimo once ranged as far south as Massachusetts, that they did not reach Greenland till the fourteenth century, that they had for three centuries intimate relations with Scandinavians, that they were very fond of legends, and that the Wabanaki even now mingle with them, the marvel would be that the Norsemen had not left among them traces of their tales or of their religion. But I do not say that this was positively the case; I simply set forth in this book a great number of curious coincidences, from which others may draw their own conclusions. I confess that I cannot account for these resemblances save by the so-called "historical theory" of direct transmission; but if any one can otherwise explain them I should welcome the solution of what still seems to be, in many respects, a problem.

I am, in fact, of the opinion that what is given in this work confirms what was conjectured by David Crantz, and which is thus expressed in his History of Greenland (London, 1767): "If we read the accounts which have been given of the most northerly American Indians and Asiatic Tartars, we find a pretty great resemblance between their manner of life, morals, usages, and notions and what has been said in this book of the Greenlanders, only with this difference: that the farther the savage nations wandered towards the North, the fewer they retained of their ancient conceptions and customs. As for the Greenlanders, if it be true, as is supposed, that a remnant of the old Norway Christians incorporated themselves and became one people with them, the Greenlanders may thence have heard and adopted some of their notions, which they may have new-modeled in the coarse mould of their own brain."

Among those who have greatly aided me in preparing this work I deem it to be a duty to mention MISS ABBY ALGER, of Boston, to whom it is cordially dedicated; the REV. SILAS T. RAND, of Hantsport, Nova Scotia, who lent me a manuscript collection of eighty-five Micmac tales, and communicated to me, with zealous kindness, much information by letter; and MRS. W. WALLACE BROWN, of Calais, Maine. It was through this lady that I derived a great proportion of the most curious folk-lore of the Passamaquoddies, especially such parts as coincided with the Edda. With these I would include MR. E. JACK, of Fredericton, New Brunswick. When it is remembered that there are only forty-two of the Hiawatha Legends of Schoolcraft, out of which five books have been made by other authors, and that I have collected more than two hundred, it will be seen how these friends must have worked to aid me.


Among the six chief divisions of the red Indians of North America the most widely extended is the Algonquin. This people ranged from Labrador to the far South, from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains, speaking forty dialects, as the Hon. J. H. Trumbull has shown in his valuable work on the subject. Belonging to this division are the Micmacs of New Brunswick and the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes of Maine, who with the St. Francis Indians of Canada and some smaller clans call themselves the Wabanaki, a word derived from a root signifying white or light, intimating that they live nearest to the rising sun or the east. In fact, the French-speaking St. Francis family, who are known par eminence as "the Abenaki," translate the term by point du jour.

The Wabanaki have in common the traditions of a grand mythology, the central figure of which is a demigod or hero, who, while he is always great, consistent, and benevolent, and never devoid of dignity, presents traits which are very much more like those of Odin and Thor, with not a little of Pantagruel, than anything in the characters of the Chippewa Manobozho, or the Iroquois Hiawatha. The name of this divinity is Glooskap, meaning, strangely enough, the Liar, because it is said that when he left earth, like King Arthur, for Fairyland, he promised to return, and has never done so. It is characteristic of the Norse gods that while they are grand they are manly, and combine with this a peculiarly domestic humanity. Glooskap is the Norse god intensified. He is, however, more of a giant; he grows to a more appalling greatness than Thor or Odin in his battles; when a Kiawaqu', or Jotun, rises to the clouds to oppose him, Glooskap's head touches the stars, and scorning to slay so mean a foe like an equal, he kills him contemptuously with a light tap of his bow. But in the family circle he is the most benevolent of gentle heroes, and has his oft-repeated little standard jokes. Yet he never, like the Manobozho-Hiawatha of the Chippewas, becomes silly, cruel, or fantastic. He has his roaring revel with a brother giant, even as Thor went fishing in fierce fun with the frost god, but he is never low or feeble.

Around Glooskap, who is by far the grandest and most Aryan-like character ever evolved from a savage mind, and who is more congenial to a reader of Shakespeare and Rabelais than any deity ever imagined out of Europe, there are found strange giants: some literal Jotuns of stone and ice, sorcerers who become giants like Glooskap, at will; the terrible Chenoo, a human being with an icy-stone heart, who has sunk to a cannibal and ghoul; all the weird monsters and horrors of the Eskimo mythology, witches and demons, inherited from the terribly black sorcery which preceded Shamanism, and compared to which the latter was like an advanced religion, and all the minor mythology of dwarfs and fairies. The Indian m'teoulin, or magician, distinctly taught that every created thing, animate or inanimate, had its indwelling spirit. Whatever had an idea had a soul. Therefore the Wabanaki mythology is strangely like that of the Rosicrucians. But it created spirits for the terrible Arctic winters of the north, for the icebergs and frozen wastes, for the Northern Lights and polar bears. It made, in short, a mythology such as would be perfectly congenial to any one who has read and understood the Edda, Beowulf, and the Kalevala, with the wildest and oldest Norse sagas. But it is, as regards spirit and meaning, utterly and entirely unlike anything else that is American. It is not like the Mexican pantheon; it has not the same sounds, colors, or feelings; and though many of its incidents or tales are the same as those of the Chippewas, or other tribes, we still feel that there is an incredible difference in the spirit. Its ways are not as their ways. This Wabanaki mythology, which was that which gave a fairy, an elf, a naiad, or a hero to every rock and river and ancient hill in New England, is just the one of all others which is least known to the New Englanders. When the last Indian shall be in his grave, those who come after us will ask in wonder why we had no curiosity as to the romance of our country, and so much as to that of every other land on earth.

Much is allowed to poets and painters, and no fault was found with Mr. Longfellow for attributing to the Iroquois Hiawatha the choice exploits of the Chippewa demi-devil Manobozho. It was "all Indian" to the multitude, and one name answered as well in poetry as another, at a time when there was very little attention paid to ethnology. So that a good poem resulted, it was of little consequence that the plot was a melange of very different characters, and characteristics. And when, in connection with this, Mr. Longfellow spoke of the Chippewa tales as forming an Indian Edda, the term was doubtless in a poetic and very general sense permissible. But its want of literal truth seems to have deeply impressed the not generally over particular or accurate Schoolcraft, since his first remarks in the Introduction to the Hiawatha Legends are as follows:—

"Where analogies are so general, there is a constant liability to mistakes. Of these foreign analogies of myth-lore, the least tangible, it is believed, is that which has been suggested with the Scandinavian mythology. That mythology is of so marked and peculiar a character that it has not been distinctly traced out of the great circle of tribes of the Indo-Germanic family. Odin and his terrific pantheon of war gods and social deities could only exist in the dreary latitudes of storms and fire which produce a Hecla and a Maelstrom. These latitudes have invariably produced nations whose influence has been felt in an elevating power over the world. From such a source the Indian could have derived none of him vague symbolisms and mental idiosyncrasies which have left him as he is found to-day, without a government and without a god."

This is all perfectly true of the myths of Hiawat'ha-Manobozho. Nothing on earth could be more unlike the Norse legends than the "Indian Edda" of the Chippewas and Ottawas. But it was not known to this writer that there already existed in Northeastern America a stupendous mythology, derived from a land of storms and fire more terrible and wonderful than Iceland; nay, so terrible that Icelanders themselves were appalled by it. "This country," says the Abbe Morillot, "is the one most suggestive of superstition. Everything there, sea, earth, or heaven, is strange." The wild cries which rise from the depths of the caverned ice-hills, and are reechoed by the rocks, icebergs, or waves, were dreadful to Egbert Olafson in the seventeenth century. The interior is a desert without parallel for desolation. A frozen Sahara seen by Northern lightning and midnight suns is but a suggestion of this land. The sober Moravian missionary Crantz once only in his life rose to poetry, when more than a century ago he spoke of its scenery. Here then was the latitude of storm and fire required by Schoolcraft to produce something wilder and grander than he had ever found among Indians. And here indeed there existed all the time a cycle of mythological legends or poems such as he declared Indians incapable of producing. But strangest of all, this American mythology of the North, which has been the very last to become known to American readers, is literally so nearly like the Edda itself that as this work fully proves, there is hardly a song in the Norse collection which does not contain an incident found in the Indian poem-legends, while in several there are many such coincidences. Thus, in the Edda we are told that the first birth on earth was that of a giant girl and boy, begotten by the feet of a giant and born from his armpit. In the Wabanaki legends, the first birth was of Glooskap, the Good principle, and Malsum the Wolf, or Evil principle. The Wolf was born from his mother's armpit. He is sometimes male and sometimes female. His feet are male and female, and converse. We pass on only twelve lines in the Edda (Vafthrudnismal, 36) to be told that the wind is caused by a giant in eagle's plumage, who sits on a rock far in the north "at the end of heaven." This is simply and literally the Wochowsen or Windblower of the Wabanaki word for word,—not the "Thunder-Bird" of the Western Indians. The second birth on earth, according to the Edda, was that of man. Odin found Ash and Elm "nearly powerless," and gave them sense. This was the first man and woman. According to the Indians of Maine, Glooskap made the first men from the ash-tree. They lived or were in it, "devoid of sense" till he gave it to them. It is to be observed that primevally among the Norse the ash alone stood for man. So it goes on through the whole Edda, of which all the main incidents are to be found among the sagas of the Wabanaki. The most striking of these are the coincidences between Lox (lynx, wolf, wolverine, badger, or raccoon, and sometimes man) and Loki. It is very remarkable indeed that the only two religions in the world which possess a devil in whom mischief predominates should also give to each the same adventures, if both did not come from the same source. In the Hymiskvida of the Edda, two giants go to fish for whales, and then have a contest which is actually one of heat against cold. This is so like a Micmac legend in every detail that about twenty lines are word for word the same in the Norse and Indian. The Micmac giants end their whale fishing by trying to freeze one another to death.

It is to the Rev. Silas T. Rand that the credit belongs of having discovered Glooskap, and of having first published in the Dominion Monthly several of these Northern legends. After I had collected nearly a hundred among the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians, this gentleman, with unexampled kindness, lent me a manuscript of eighty-four Micmac tales, making in all nine hundred folio pages. Many were similar to others in my collection, but I have never yet received a duplicate which did not contain something essential to the whole. Though the old Indians all declare that most of their lore has perished, especially the more recondite mythic poems, I am confident that much more remains to be gathered than I have given in this work. As it is, I have omitted many tales simply because they were evidently Canadian French stories. Yet all of these, without exception, are half Indian, and it may be old Norse modified; for a French story is sometimes the same with one in the Eddas. Again, for want of room I have not given any Indian tales or chronicles of the wars with the Mohawks. Of these I have enough to make a very curious volume.

These legends belong to all New England. Many of them exist as yet among the scattered fragments of Indian tribes here and there. The Penobscots of Oldtown, Maine, still possess many. In fact, there is not an old Indian, male or female, in New England or Canada who does not retain stories and songs of the greatest interest. I sincerely trust that this work may have the effect of stimulating collection. Let every reader remember that everything thus taken down, and deposited in a local historical society, or sent to the Ethnological Bureau at Washington, will forever transmit the name of its recorder to posterity. Archaeology is as yet in its very beginning; when the Indians shall have departed it will grow to giant-like proportions, and every scrap of information relative to them will be eagerly investigated. And the man does not live who knows what may be made of it all. I need not say that I should be grateful for such Indian lore of any kind whatever which may be transmitted to me.

It may very naturally be asked by many how it came to pass that the Indians of Maine and of the farther north have so much of the Edda in their sagas; or, if it was derived through the Eskimo tribes, how these got it from Norsemen, who were professedly Christians. I do not think that the time has come for fully answering the first question. There is some great mystery of mythology, as yet unsolved, regarding the origin of the Edda and its relations with the faiths and folk-lore of the elder Shamanic beliefs, such as Lapp, Finn, Samoyed, Eskimo, and Tartar. This was the world's first religion; it is found in the so-called Accadian Turanian beginning of Babylon, whence it possibly came from the West. But what we have here to consider is whether the Norsemen did directly influence the Eskimo and Indians. Let us first consider that these latter were passionately fond of stories, and that they had attained to a very high standard of culture as regards both appreciation and invention. They were as fond of recitations as any white man is of reading. Their memories were in this respect very remarkable indeed. They have taken into their repertory during the past two hundred years many French fairy tales, through the Canadians. Is it not likely that they listened to the Northmen?

It is not generally noted among our learned men how long the Icelanders remained in Greenland, how many stories are still told of them by the Eskimo, or to what extent the Indians continue to mingle with the latter. During the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, says the Abbe Morillot, "there were in Greenland, after Archbishop Adalbert, more than twenty bishops, and in the colony were many churches and monasteries. In the Oestrbugd, one of the two inhabited portions of the vast island, were one hundred and ninety villages, with twelve churches. In Julianshaab, one may to-day see the ruins of eight churches and of many monasteries." In the fifteenth century all these buildings were in ruins, and the colony was exterminated by the pestilence or the natives. But among the latter there remained many traditions of the Scandinavians associated with the ruins. Such is the story of Oren'gortok, given by the Abbe Morillot, and several are to be found in Rink's Legends. When we learn that the Norsemen, during their three centuries of occupation of Greenland, brought away many of the marvelous tales of the Eskimo, it is not credible that they left none of their own. Thus we are told in the Floamanna Saga how a hero, abandoned on the icy coast of Greenland, met with two giant witches (Troldkoner), and cut the band from one of them. An old Icelandic work, called the Konungs Skuggsjo (Danish, Kongespeilet), has much to say of the marvels of Greenland and its monsters of the sea. On the other hand, Morillot declares that the belief in ghosts was brought to Greenland by the Icelanders and Scandinavians. The sagas have not been as yet much studied with a view to establishing how much social intercourse there was between the natives and the colonists, but common experience would teach that during three centuries it must have been something.

There has always been intercourse between Greenland and Labrador, and in this latter country we find the first Algonquin Indians. Even at the present day there are men among the Micmacs and Passamaquoddies who have gone on their hunting excursions even to the Eskimo. I myself know one of the latter who has done so, and the Rev. S. T. Rand, in answer to a question on the subject, writes to me as follows:—

"Nancy Jeddore, a Micmac woman, assures me that her father, now dead, used to go as far as the wild (heathen) Eskimo, and remained once for three years among the more civilized. She has so correctly described their habits that I am satisfied that her statements are correct." [Footnote: The word Eskimo is Algonquin, meaning to eat raw fish, Eskumoga in Micmac, and people who eat raw flesh, or Eskimook, that is, eski, raw, and moo-uk, people. This word recalls in-noo-uk, people, and spirits, in Eskimo, Innue, which has the same double meaning. This was all suggested to me by an Indian.]

These Eskimo brought from the Old World that primeval gloomy Shaman religion, or sorcery, such as is practiced yet by Laplanders and Tartars, such as formed the basis of the old Accadian Babylonian cultus, and such as is now in vogue among all our own red Indians. I believe that it was from the Eskimo that this American Shamanism all came. In Greenland this faith assumed its strangest form; it made for itself a new mythology. The Indians, their neighbors, borrowed from this, but also added new elements of an only semi-Arctic character. Thus there is a series of steps, but every one different, from the Eskimo to the Wabanaki, of Labrador, New Brunswick, and Maine, from the Wabanaki to the Iroquois, and from the Iroquois to the more western Indians. And while they all have incidents in common, the character of each is radically different.

It may be specially noted that while there is hardly an important point in the Edda which may not be found, as I have just shown, in Wabanaki legends, there is very little else in the latter which is in common with such Old World mythology as might have come to the Indians since the discovery by Columbus. Excluding French Canadian fairy tales, what we have left is chiefly Eskimo and Eddaic, and the proportion of the latter is simply surprising. There are actually more incidents taken from the Edda than there are from lower sources. I can only account for this by the fact that, as the Indians tell me, all these tales were once poems, handed down from generation to generation, and always sung. Once they were religious. Now they are in a condition analogous to that of the German Heldenbuch. They have been cast into a new form, but they are not as yet quite degraded to the nursery tale.

It may be objected that if the Norsemen in Greenland were Christians it is most unlikely that they would have taught the legends of the Edda to the heathen; to which I reply that some scholar a few centuries hence may declare it was a most improbable thing that Christian Roman Catholic Indians should have taught me the tales of Glooskap and Lox. But the truth is, we really know very little as to how soon wandering Vikings went to America, or how many were here.

I would say in conclusion that, while these legends of the Wabanaki are fragmentary and incomplete, they still read like the fragments of a book whose subject was once broadly and coherently treated by a man of genius. They are handled in the same bold and artistic manner as the Norse. There is nothing like them in any other North American Indian records. They are, especially those which are from the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot, inspired with a genial cosmopolite humor. While Glooskap is always a gentleman, Lox ranges from Punch to Satan; passing through the stages of an Indian Mephistopheles and the Norse Loki, who appears to have been his true progenitor. But neither is quite like anything to be found among really savage races. When it is borne in mind that the most ancient and mythic of these legends have been taken down from the trembling memories of old squaws who never understood their inner meaning, or from ordinary senaps who had not thought of them since boyhood, it will be seen that the preservation of a mass of prose poems, equal in bulk to the Kalevala or Heldenbuch, is indeed almost miraculous.


Of Glooskap's Birth, and of his Brother Malsum the Wolf.

Now the great lord Glooskap, who was worshiped in after-days by all the Wabanaki, or children of light, was a twin with a brother. As he was good, this brother, whose name was Malsumsis, or Wolf the younger, was bad. Before they were born, the babes consulted to consider how they had best enter the world. And Glooskap said, "I will be born as others are." But the evil Malsumsis thought himself too great to be brought forth in such a manner, and declared that he would burst through his mother's side. [Footnote: The reader of Rabelais cannot fail to recall here the remarks of the author as to the extraordinary manner in which it pleased the giant Gargantua to come into the world. The Armenians believe that Christ was born through the right side of the Virgin. The Buddhists say the same of Buddha's birth. (Heth and Moab, London, 1883.) Another and as I believe the correct account declares that Malsum the Wolf was born from his mother's armpit.] And as they planned it so it came to pass. Glooskap as first came quietly to light, while Malsumsis kept his word, killing his mother.

The two grew up together, and one day the younger, who knew that both had charmed lives, asked the elder what would kill him, Glooskap. Now each had his own secret as to this, and Glooskap, remembering how wantonly Malsumsis had slain their mother, thought it would be misplaced confidence to trust his life to one so fond of death, while it might prove to be well to know the bane of the other. So they agreed to exchange secrets, and Glooskap, to test his brother, told him that the only way in which he himself could be slain was by the stroke of an owl's feather, [Footnote: There are different readings of this incident. In Mr. Band's manuscript the alleged means of Glooskap's death is described as being a cat-tail flag (haw-kwee-usqu', Passamaquoddy), while a handful of bird's down is the bane of Malsum the Wolf. The termination sis is a diminutive, here meaning the younger.] though this was not true. And Malsumsis said, "I can only die by a blow from a fern-root."

It came to pass in after-days that Kwah-beet-a-sis, the son of the Great Beaver, or, as others say, Miko the Squirrel, or else the evil which was in himself, tempted Malsumsis to kill Glooskap; for in those days all men were wicked. So taking his bow he shot Ko-ko-khas the Owl, and with one of his feathers he struck Glooskap while sleeping. Then he awoke in anger, yet craftily said that it was not by an owl's feather, but by a blow from a pine-root, that his life would end.

[Illustration: Glooskap killing his brother the wolf]

Then the false man led his brother another day far into the forest to hunt, and, while he again slept, smote him on the head with a pine-root. But Glooskap arose unharmed, drove Malsumsis away into the woods, sat down by the brook-side, and thinking aver all that had happened, said, "Nothing but a flowering rush can kill me." But the Beaver, who was hidden among the reeds, heard this, and hastening to Malsumsis told him the secret of his brother's life. For this Malsumsis promised to bestow on Beaver whatever he should ask; but when the latter wished for wings like a pigeon, the warrior laughed, and scornfully said, "Get thee hence; thou with a tail like a file, what need hast thou of wings?"

Then the Beaver was angry, and went forth to the camp of Glooskap, to whom he told what he had done. Therefore Glooskap arose in sorrow and in anger, took a fern-root, sought Malsumsis in the deep, dark forest, and smote him so that he fell down dead. And Glooskap sang a song over him and lamented.

The Beaver and the Owl and the Squirrel, for what they did and as they did it, all come again into these stories; but Malsumsis, being dead, was turned into the Shick-shoe mountains in the Gaspe peninsula.

For this chapter and parts of others I am indebted to the narrative of a Micmac Indian, taken down by Mr. Edward Jock; also to another version in the Rand MS. The story is, in the main-points, similar to that given by David Cusick in his History of the Six Nations, of Enigorio the Good Mind, and Enigonhahetgea, Bad Mind, to which I shall refer anon.

It is very evident that in this tradition Glooskap represents the Good principle, and Malsumsis, the little wolf,—that is the Wolf who is the Younger, rather than little or small,—the Evil one. Malsum typifies destruction and sin in several of these tales. He will arise at the last day, when Glooskap is to do battle with all the giants and evil beasts of olden time, and will be the great destroyer. Malsum is the Wolf Fenris of this the true Indian Edda.

For a further comment on this birth of the twins and its resemblance to a passage in the Edda, the reader is referred to the notes on the next chapter.

How Glooskap made the Elves and Fairies, and then Man of an Ash Tree, and last of all, Beasts, and of his Coming at the Last Day.


Glooskap came first of all into this country, into Nova Scotia, Maine, Canada, into the land of the Wabanaki, next to sunrise. There were no Indians here then (only wild Indians very far to the west).

First born were the Mikumwess, the Oonabgemessuk, the small Elves, little men, dwellers in rocks.

And in this way he made Man: He took his bow and arrows and shot at trees, the basket-trees, the Ash. Then Indians came out of the bark of the Ash-trees. And then the Mikumwees said … called tree-man…. [Footnote: The relater, an old woman, was quite unintelligible at this point.]

Glooskap made all the animals. He made them at first very large. Then he said to Moose, the great Moose who was as tall as Ketawkqu's, [Footnote: A giant, high as the tallest pines, or as the clouds.] "What would you do should you see an Indian coming?" Moose replied, "I would tear down the trees on him." Then Glooskap saw that the Moose was too strong, and made him smaller, so that Indians could kill him.

Then he said to the Squirrel, who was of the size of a Wolf, "What would you do if you should meet an Indian?" And the Squirrel answered, "I would scratch down trees on him." Then Glooskap said, "You also are too strong," and he made him little. [Footnote: Another account states that Glooskap took the Squirrel in his hands and smoothed him down.]

Then he asked the great White Bear what he would do if he met an Indian; and the Bear said, "Eat him." And the Master bade him go and live among rocks and ice, where he would see no Indians.

So he questioned all the beasts, changing their size or allotting their lives according to their answers.

He took the Loon for his dog; but the Loon absented himself so much that he chose for this service two wolves,—one black and one white, [Footnote: Dogs are used for beasts of burden, to draw sledges, in the North.] But the Loons are always his tale-bearers. Many years ago a man very far to the North wished to cross a bay, a great distance, from one point to another. As he was stepping into his canoe he saw a man with two dogs,—one black and one white,—who asked to be set across. The Indian said, "You may go, but what will become of your dogs?" Then the stranger replied, "Let them go round by land." "Nay," replied the Indian, "that is much too far." But the stranger saying nothing, he put him across. And as they reached the landing place there stood the dogs. But when he turned his head to address the man, he was gone. So he said to himself, "I have seen Glooskap."

Yet again,—but this was not so many years ago,—far in the North there were at a certain place many Indians assembled. And there was a frightful commotion, caused by the ground heaving and rumbling; the rocks shook and fell, they were greatly alarmed, and lo! Glooskap stood before them, and said, "I go away now, but I shall return again; when you feel the ground tremble, then know it is I." So they will know when the last great war is to be, for then Glooskap will make the ground shake with an awful noise.

Glooskap was no friend of the Beavers; he slew many of them. Up on the Tobaic are two salt-water rocks (that is, rocks by the ocean-side, near a freshwater stream). The Great Beaver, standing there one day, was seen by Glooskap miles away, who had forbidden him that place. Then picking up a large rock where he stood by the shore, he threw it all that distance at the Beaver, who indeed dodged it; but when another came, the beast ran into a mountain, and has never come forth to this day. But the rocks which the master threw are yet to be seen.

This very interesting tradition was taken down by Mrs. W. Wallace Brown from a very old Passamaquoddy Indian woman named Molly Sepsis, who could not speak a word of English, with the aid of another younger woman named Sarah.

It will be observed that it is said in the beginning that Glooskap produced the first human beings from, the ash-tree. Ash and Elm in the Edda were the Adam and Eve of the human race. There were no intelligent men on earth—

"Until there came three mighty and benevolent Aesir to the world from their assembly nearly powerless, Ash and Embla (Ash and Elm), void of destiny.

  "Spirit they possessed not,   sense they had not,   blood nor motive powers,   nor goodly color.   Spirit gave Odin,   sense gave Hoenir,   blood gave Lodur,   and good color." [Footnote: The Edda of Saemund, translated by Benjamin Thorpe. London: Trubner & Co. 1866. Voluspa, v. 17, 18.]

It is certain, however, that the ash was the typic tree of all life, since the next verse of the Voluspa is devoted to Yggdrasil, the tree of existence, or of the world itself. It may be observed that in the Finnish poem of Kalevala it is by the destruction of the great oak that Wainamoien, aided by the hero of the sea, causes all things to grow. The early clearing away of trees, as a first step towards culture, may be symbolized in the shooting of arrows at the ash.

The wolf, as a beast for the deity to ride, is strongly Eddaic.

  "Magic songs they sung,   rode on wolves,   the god (Odin) and gods." [Footnote: Rognnir og regin. Odin and the Powers. Note by B. Thorpe to the Hrafnagalar Odins, in Edda, p.30.]

We have here within a few lines, accordingly, the elm as the parent of mankind, and wolves as the beasts of transport for the supreme deity, both in the Indian legend and in the Edda.

As Glooskap is directly declared in one tradition to keep by him as an attendant a being who is the course of the sun and of the seasons, it may be assumed that the black and white wolf represent day and night.

Again, great stress is laid in the Glooskap legend upon the fact that the last great day of battle with Malsum the Wolf and the frost-giants, stone-giants, and other powers of evil, shall be announced by an earthquake.

"Trembles Yggdrasil's Ash yet standing, groans that aged tree…. and the Wolf runs…. The monster's kin goes all with the Wolf…. The stony hills are dashed together, The giantesses totter. Then arises Hlin's second grief When Odin goes with the wolf to fight."

Word for word, ash-tree, giantesses, the supreme god fighting with a wolf, and falling hills, are given in the Indian myth. This is not the Christian Day of Judgment, but the Norse.

In this myth Glooskap has two wolves, one black and the other white. This is an indication of day and night, since he is distinctly stated to have as an attendant Kulpejotei, who typifies the course of the seasons. In the Eddas (Ragnarok) we are told that one wolf now follows the sun, another the moon; one Fenris, the other Moongarm:—

  "The moon's devourer   In a troll's disguise."

The magic arrows of Glooskap are of course worldwide, and date from the shafts of Abaris and those used among the ancient Jews for divination. But it may be observed that those of the Indian hero are like the "Guse arrows," described in Oervarodd's Saga, which always hit their mark and return to the one who shoots them. [Footnote: The Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia. By Svent Nilsson. Edited by Sir John Lubbock, 1868.]

It is important here to compare this old Algonquin account of the Creation with that of the Iroquois, or Six Nations, as given by David Cusick, himself an Indian:—