Legendary Native American Figures: Glooskap (Glooscap)
Name: Glooskap Tribal affiliation:Abenaki, Penobscot,
Micmac Alternate spellings: Glooscap, Glooskap, Gluskabe, Gluskap, Koluscap, Kuloscap, Kluskap, Gluskabi,
Gluskonba, Gluskôba, Gluskoba, Kloskabe, Kuluskap, Klouskap, Glousgap, Gluskab, Klosgab, Glouscap, Gluskape,
Glusk8ba, Klosk8ba, Gluskoba, Glous'gap, Gloosekap, Gloskap, Gluskap, Kloskap, Kloskurbeh Pronunciation: klue-skopp or kuh-loo-skopp in Micmac, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy; glue-skaw-buh in Abenaki and Penobscot Type:Culture hero,
Transformer, trickster Related figures in other tribes:Nanabozho (Anishinabe),
Glooscap is the benevolent culture hero of the Wabanaki tribes of northeast New England.
His name is spelled so many different ways for two reasons: first, these tribes spoke slightly different languages, and second, the languages
were traditionally unwritten, so English speakers just spelled the name however it
sounded to them at the time. Although some people have said "Glooscap" means "Man From Nothing" (or "Man who made himself from nothing,")
that is incorrect-- it is a different Abenaki character, Odzihozo,
whose name has that meaning. Glooscap actually means "liar" (the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy word for "to tell lies" is koluskapiw, and in Mi'kmaq, it is
kluskapewit.) According to legend, Glooscap got this name after lying about his secret weakness to an evil spirit (in some stories, his own
brother) and therefore escaping from a murder plot.
Since stories about Glooskap have been told in so many different communities, details about his life tend to vary a lot.
In most accounts Glooskap is said to have been created directly by the Great Spirit,
but in others, he was born to a mother who died in childbirth. Glooskap has
a grandmother Woodchuck
in most tribal traditions (usually his adopted grandmother, but sometimes his natural grandmother),
and sometimes also had a brother
(either an older brother Mikumwesu or
Mateguas, a younger brother
Malsum, or an
adopted brother Marten.)
In some legends, Glooskap created the Wabanaki tribes
himself, while in others, it was the Great Spirit who created them and Glooskap
stepped in to teach them the arts of civilization.
In any case, Glooskap is always portrayed as a virtuous hero
and a good caretaker and teacher of the Wabanaki people. Sometimes he plays the role of a transformer,
into harmless animals and adapting the landscape to be more favorable to the people.
Glooskap sometimes also plays the role of a trickster, but only
in the mischievous/humorous sense, never the antagonistic/culturally inappropriate sense.
Glooskap does not commit crimes or chase
women (in fact, he is a confirmed bachelor in most legends.) In many traditions, Glooskap leaves the land of the Wabanakis at the end
of the mythic age, promising to return one day if they have need of him.