Native Languages of the Americas: Koluskap Stories and other Maliseet Legends
This is our collection of Maliseet folktales 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, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, Penobscot, and Maliseet Indians), since the traditional stories of those
tribes are very similar.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Maliseet 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 Maliseet mythology.
Kluskap is the benevolent culture hero of the Maliseet tribe, who taught the people the arts of civilization
and protected them from danger. Like other Maliseet names, "Kluskap" has many spelling variants (Glooscap, Gluskabe, etc.)
The correct Maliseet pronounciation is klue-skopp. Kluskap shares some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Anishinabe
Old-Man, and Cree
Whiskey-Jack, 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 the Maliseet language, and is the Maliseet name for the Creator (God.)
Kci Niwesq is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is rarely personified in Maliseet folklore.
Pronounced kih-chee nih-wehsk-w.
In some Maliseet legends, this is the older brother of Kluscap, a tiny man who accompanies the hero on his adventures and is the progenitor of the Mikumwesuk race of little people (see below.)
This name, which simply means "wolf," is sometimes given as belonging to an evil wolf who is Kluskap's twin brother. However, this is probably not an
original Maliseet myth -- the character does not appear in older Maliseet texts, and the wolf is not a malevolent figure in Maliseet tales.
Early folklorists may have confused Maliseet stories with those from neighboring Iroquois and Anishinabe tribes.
In any case, "Malsom" is pronounced mawl-sum in Maliseet.
Grandmother Woodchuck (Nuhkomoss Munimqehs):
Kluskap's wise old grandmother, who raised him. Pronounced noo-kuh-muss moo-nim-kwass in Maliseet.
Glooskap's faithful companion, messenger, and tale-bringer. Pronounced kwee-moo.
Bootup (Whale, also spelled Putup):
Another animal spirit that serves Glooskap, by carrying him across the ocean. Pronounced boo-dup.
Loks (or Lox):
Wolverine, a malevolent Maliseet animal spirit, sometimes referred to by storytellers as the "Indian Devil." Rhymes with "blokes."
A light-hearted Maliseet trickster figure who is constantly playing pranks. Pronounced mah-tuh-gwass.
Squirrel, a Maliseet troublemaker character. Pronounced mee-koo.
Bear, one of the most prominent animal spirits of Maliseet stories. He is powerful and honorable but gullible. Pronounced moo-win.
Wildcat, an aggressive and dangerous animal in Maliseet folklore. Sometimes he is conflated with Loks (see above.)
Kewahqu: Cannibal ice monsters, similar to the
Windigo of the
Anishinabe and Cree tribes. The name "Chenoo" comes from the neighboring Micmac tribe and is pronounced cheh-noo.
"Kewahqu" is the Maliseet name for this monster, which is pronounced keh-wah-kwoo.
A kind of man-eating ogre, usually (but not always) female. Pronounced koo-goo.
There are several different groups of little people in Maliseet and Passamaquoddy folklore:
Mihkomuwehsok are forest gnomes,
Wonakomehsok are rock dwarves who live
along riverbanks, Lampeqinuwok
are water sprites or small mermaids, and
Kiwolatomuhsisok are fairies who live in
Maliseet villages and sometimes help with chores. All of them can be dangerous if they are disrespected,
but are generally benevolent nature spirits. Their names are pronounced mee-kuh-moo-weh-suk,
wuh-nah-guh-mess-uck, lahm-beh-gwin-oo-wuck, and gee-wuh-lah-duh-moo-sis-uck, respectively.
A notorious witch. Her Maliseet name literally means Jug Woman and is pronounced book-cheen-squass.
Hero of the Fisher or Black Cat cycle of myths, it was Pogumk who finally defeated the witch Pukcinsquehs. Folklorists sometimes
identify Pogumk as an alter ego of Glooskap, but Maliseet elders have maintained that they are two different heroes. Pronounced poh-gomk.
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 skweah-goh-tuh-moose.
An underwater horned serpent, common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes. It is said to lurk in lakes and eat humans.
Its Maliseet name literally means Great Serpent and is pronounced kih-chee ott-hoo-suss.
This creature is often misidentified as a "vampire" by non-Native Americans. But in actual Maliseet legends, the Apotamkin is
not a vampire but a sea serpent with long fangs that drags people, especially incautious children, into the water and eats them.
The Thunders, a group of supernatural winged warriors who cause thunder and lightning. Pronounced peh-dah-gee-yick.
Another sea monster, said to resemble a giant snail or slug. Pronounced wee-will-uh-meck-w.
A giant bird of prey, said to eat humans and be large enough to carry off a child in its talons. Pronounced kuh-loo.
A dangerous bird spirit, also known as the "Spirit of the Night Air." It appears in stories told to scare children into obeying their parents.
It has an unearthly cry and resembles a large diving owl, with only its head and talons visible. Pronounced
A malevolent undead monster created
by the death of an evil sorcerer, which returns to life by night to kill and devour humans.
A legendary mountaintop bird whose wings cause the wind. Pronounced wuh-chow-sun.
An invisible forest spirit responsible for the felling of trees. Pronounced ah-too-wuss-kuh-nee-gass.
Heroine of a French-Wabanaki fusion myth loosely based on the Cinderella folktale. Pronounced woo-jig-eese.
A giant lake monster that caused drought, defeated by Glooskap and turned into a modern-day bullfrog. Pronounced ah-gluh-beh-moo.
Tales From Maliseet Country:
Maliseet legends and folktales presented both in the Native language and in English.
Classic 1914 collection of Maliseet folklore.
Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Maliseet and other Algonquian tribes.
Great collection of traditional tales about little people from the Maliseet and other tribes.