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Glooscap (variant forms and spellings Gluskabe, Glooskap, Gluskabi, Kluscap, Kloskomba, or Gluskab) is a legendary figure of the Wabanaki peoples, native peoples located in Maine and Atlantic Canada. He is primarily known as the Creator. The stories were first record by Silas Tertius Rand and then by Charles Godfrey Leland in the 19th century.
In his role as creator, Glooscap is similar to that of the Ojibwa Nanabozho and the Cree Wisakedjak. His name, Kloskabe, means "Man who came from nothing" or literally, "Man [created] from only speech". There are variations to the legend of Glooscap as each tribe of the Wabanaki adopted the legend to their own region. At the same time, there are consistencies in the legend with Glooscap always portrayed as "kind, benevolent, a warrior against evil and the possessor of magical powers".
The Abenaki people believe that after Tabaldak created humans, the dust from his body created Glooscap and his twin brother, Malsumis. He gave Glooscap the power to create a good world. Malsumis, on the other hand, is the opposite, and seeks evil to this day.
Glooscap learned that hunters who kill too much would destroy the ecosystem and the good world he had sought to create. Frightened at this possibility, Glooscap sought Grandmother Woodchuck (Agaskw) and asked her for advice. She plucked all the hairs out of her belly (hence the lack of hair on a woodchuck's belly) and wove them into a magical bag. Glooscap put all the game animals into the bag. He then bragged to Grandmother Woodchuck that the humans would never need to hunt again. Grandmother Woodchuck scolded him and told him that they would die without the animals. She said that they needed to hunt to remain strong. Glooscap then let the animals go.
Later, Glooscap decided to capture the great bird that Tabaldak had placed on a mountain peak, where it generated bad weather in the flapping of its wings. Glooscap caught the eagle and bound its wings and the winds ceased. Soon, the air was so hot and heavy that Glooscap could not breathe, so he loosened the bird's wings, just enough to generate enough weather so humanity could live.
Modern Abenaki believe Glooscap is very angry at the white people for not obeying the rules he set down.
In one version of the Mi'kmaq creation myth, Glooskap lay on his back, with arms outstretched and his head toward the rising sun, for 365 days and nights, then Nogami, the grandmother, was born as an old woman from the dew of the rock. The next day, Nataoa-nsen, Nephew, was born from the foam of the sea. On the next day was born the Mother of all the Mi'kmaq, from the plants of the Earth.
Glooscap was said by the Mi'kmaq to be great in size and in powers, and to have created natural features such as the Annapolis Valley. In carrying out his feats, he often had to overcome his evil twin brother who wanted rivers to be crooked and mountain ranges to be impassable; in one legend, he turns the evil twin into stone. Another common story is how he turned himself into a giant beaver and created five islands in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia by slapping his huge tail in the water with enough force to stir up the earth. His home was said to be Cape Blomidon. Yet another legend says that when Glooscap finished painting the splendor of the world, he dipped his brush into a blend of all the colours and created Abegweit, meaning "Cradled on the Waves" — his favorite island (Prince Edward Island).
When Glooscap slept, Nova Scotia was his bed, and Prince Edward Island his pillow.
Glooscap is remembered for having saved the world from an evil frog-monster, who had swallowed all the Earth's water. Glooscap killed the monster and the water was released. Some animals, relieved at the resurgence of water, jumped in, becoming fish and other aquatic animals. Of course, this legend, like many others did have some basis in fact. A massive earthquake converted a mountain on the east side of the Penobscot river into a new channel through a split in that mountain. The eastern side of this mountain became Verona island, and the new river channel passed in-between. Later, when explorers asked where the stone fort Norumbega was, they were told that it lay on the eastern side of the river (which it did prior to the earthquake), and so could never find the new location. It is now located in the north-west corner of the Sandy Point Animal Enhancement Area in Sandy Point, Maine.
Gluskabe created the first humans from the mud of the banks of the biggest, longest river in the area, the Penobscot River. There are many stories that relate to how different animals were created and how they attained their physical characteristics. Gluskabe also had run-in with a trickster spirit, Pomola, until Gluskabe tired of his antics and banished Pomola to the western valley of Mount Katahdin, a holy place. Gluskabe is thought to currently reside in this mountain, protector of the people of this land.
Gluskabe created the Penobscot River, the headwaters of which are located at the base of Mount Katahdin, when he fought a greedy giant toad that had swallowed all of the water in the land. Gluskabe killed the toad, and thus created the Penobscot watershed, largest on the northeast coast of what is now known as New England. Of course many stories are based partly in fact. A massive earthquake did change the local geography.
After the earthquake, the old temple was claimed by the Penobscot, being previously on the Passamaquoddy side of the river. The "king" of the Penobscot turned it into a royal castle. Formerly called the Temple of Umglebemu, it was renamed Norumbega by the Penobscots, whose name for the defeated Amphibian God was "Kei Checqwalis". The mountain itself is today called Mt. Tuck; Fort Knox, built following the border dispute with Canada called the Aroostook or "Pork and Beans" War of 1838-1839, occupies its extreme northeast flank at the river's edge. Another interesting feature is the "Gondola Cove" in Sandy Point. Early Italian explorers supposedly once saw a ships prow sticking out of the mud during a spring ice-out. They described it like a gondola they had seen in Venice (Viking Longboat?).
One story tells of a massacre at the castle. Miqmac natives, with muskets traded by the French, invaded the stronghold, killed or captured everyone, looted what they could find and left. They had been told that the place contained gold jewelry and stockpiles of pearls and jewels. But the invaders found nothing like that. Are they still there? One clue is a row of Standing stones on the mountaintop. They appear to be placed there. The largest is over 40 tons and egg shaped. Only the Penobscot Nation knows for sure. David Ingram described it as being like one of the cities of El Dorado.
In addition to being a spiritual figure, Glooscap also became a major figure of regional identity for the Bay of Fundy region with everything from steam locomotives, the ship Glooscap, schools, businesses and the Glooscap Trail tourism region named after the heroic figure.
- The Penobscot stories were transcribed by Joseph Nicola in The Red Man.
- Stanley T. Spicer
- Stanley T. Spicer
- The North American Review 112: 13. Missing or empty
- Kay Hill. Glooscap and his magic : legends of the Wabanaki Indians. 1963.
- Kay Hill. Badger, The Mischief Maker. McCulland & Stwart. 1970.
- Charles Leland. Algonquin Legends. 1884.
- Nowlan, Alden (1983). Nine Micmac Legends, Nova Scotia: Lancelot Press ISBN 0-88999-196-0.
- Robertson, Marion (1998). Red Earth: Tales of the Micmacs, Halifax: Roseway Publishing Company Ltd.
- Silas Tertius Rand A short statement of facts relating to the history, manners, customs, language, and literature of the Micmac tribe of Indians, in Nova-Scotia and P.E. Island (Halifax, 1850)
- Joseph Nicola. The Red Man.
- Silas Tertius Rand Legends of the Micmacs edited and with a foreword by Helen L. Webster, (New York and London, 1893). Online version with preface by publisher Jacob Rabinowitz: Volume 1 Volume 2.
- Stanley T. Spicer. “Glooscap Legends” . Lancelot Press
- Whitehead, Ruth Holmes and McGee, Harold (1983). The Micmac: How Their Ancestors Lived Five Hundred Years Ago, Halifax: Nimbus Publishing Ltd ISBN 0-920852-21-1.
- Whitehead, Ruth Holmes (1989). Six Micmac Stories, Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum/Nimbus Publishing ISBN 0-919680-35-6.
- Whitehead, Ruth Holmes (1988). Stories from the Six Worlds, Halifax: Nimbus Publishing Ltd ISBN 0-921054-06-8.