Native Languages of the Americas: Gluskabe Stories and other Abenaki Legends
This is our collection of Abenaki mythology and traditional stories that can be read online.
We have indexed our Native American legends section
by tribe to make them easier to locate; however, variants on the same
legend are often told by American Indians from different tribes, especially if those tribes are kinfolk or neighbors to
each other, so you may also want to visit our page comparing
the stories from the Wabanaki tribes (which
include the Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Abenaki Indians), since the traditional stories of these
New England and eastern Canadian tribes are very similar to Abenaki tales.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend an Abenaki legend for this page or think one of the ones on here
should be removed, please contact us and let us know.
Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Abenaki mythology.
Gluskabe is the benevolent culture hero of Abenaki mythology, who taught the people the arts of civilization
and protected them from danger. Like other Abenaki names, "Gluskabe" has many spelling variants (Glooscap, Kluskap, etc.)
The Abenaki pronounciation is glue-skaw-buh. Gluskabe shares some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Anishinabe
Old-Man, and Cree
Wisakejak, and many of the same stories
are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing.
This means "Great Spirit" in Abenaki, and is the Abenaki name for the Creator
(God,) who is sometimes also referred to as Dabaldak. Gichi Niwaskw is a divine spirit who is never personified in Abenaki folklore.
Pronounced similar to gih-chee nih-wahsk.
This name, which simply means "wolf" in Abenaki, is sometimes said to belong to an evil wolf who is Gluskabe's twin brother. However, some
Abenaki elders have been adamant this is not a real Abenaki myth. It may be an Anglo corruption of Great Lakes Algonquian
legends instead-- their culture hero does have a twin brother who is a wolf (though he is not evil.)
In any case, "Malsum" is pronounced mawl-sum in Abenaki.
In other Abenaki legends, Glooskap's brother is Rabbit, who died and became the ruler of the land of the dead.
Like Glooskap, Mateguas is helpful and good, and gives his brother spiritual guidance from beyond the grave. Pronounced mah-tuh-gwoss.
Nokemes Agaskw (Grandmother Woodchuck):
Gluskabe's wise old grandmother, who raised him. Pronounced noh-kuh-muss ah-gah-skw.
Loon, Gluskabe's faithful companion, messenger, and tale-bringer. Pronounced muh-dah-wee-lah.
Whale, another animal spirit that serves Gluskabe by carrying him across the ocean. Pronounced boo-dup.
The first woman, created by Gichi Niwaskw and Gluskabe. Details about her life vary greatly from telling to telling, but the constant is that
she ultimately sacrifices herself to bring corn to the people.
Tolba and Moskwas (Turtle and Muskrat):
These two animals team up in the Abenaki myth of the creation of the Earth, with Muskrat diving to retrieve mud from beneath the water and Turtle
volunteering to carry the new land on his back. Their names are pronounced tawl-buh and mos-kwuss.
Raccoon, a light-hearted Abenaki trickster figure. Pronounced ah-zuh-bahn.
Squirrel, an Abenaki troublemaker character. Pronounced mee-ko.
Ojihozo (or Odzihozo):
A mythological being, sometimes known as the Transformer, who created himself from nothing and formed Lake Champlain and its
surrounding landscape. His name literally means "he makes himself from something unknown or unspecified" and is pronounced ood-zee-hoh-zoh.
Giwakwa (male) or
Evil man-eating ice giants of Abenaki Indian legends, similar to the Windigo of the
Anishinabe and Cree tribes. Pronounced gee-wock-wah or gee-wock-ways-kwah.
The Thunderers, a group of seven supernatural warrior brothers who cause thunder and lightning.
Bemola (also spelled Pamola, Pomola, etc.)
A snow bird spirit that lived on Mt Katahdin and made cold weather. Pronounced buh-moh-lah.
Wuchowsen: Another mountain
bird spirit, whose wings make the wind. Pronounced wuh-dzo-sen.
Little people of Abenaki mythology, resembling dwarves or fairies. They are generally benevolent forest spirits but can be dangerous
if they are disrespected. Pronounced book-wuh-dzee-mun in Abenaki, usually Anglicized to puck-wudd-jee.
Another race of legendary little people, manogemasak are river-elves who are usually good-natured but may sometimes capsize canoes, tear fishing nets, or
cause other mischief. Pronounced mah-nawn-guh-mah-sock.
A huge, monstrous creature resembling an enormous stiff-legged bear with an oversized head. Some folklorists believe Abenaki legends about this creature may have been
inspired by mammoth fossils. Its name means "great beast" and is pronounced gih-chee ah-wahss.
Mskagwdemos (Swamp Woman):
A female ghost that lives in the swamps and makes mournful cries. Anyone who tries to follow the sound of her crying is lost in the swamp. Pronounced muh-skog-day-moose.
A malevolent undead monster created by the death of an evil sorcerer, which returns to life by night to kill and devour humans.
Tatoskok (also known as Gitaskog, Msaskog, or Pitaskog):
An underwater horned serpent said to lurk in lakes and eat humans. All of its names are variants on the meaning "great serpent" or "big serpent."
Pronounced tah-toh-skog or gee-tah-skog.