Native Languages of the Americas: Munsee Delaware Indian Legends
This is our collection of links to Munsee 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. In particular, though these legends come from the Munsee Delawares, the traditional stories of
related tribes like the Lenape and
Nanticoke are very similar.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Munsee 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 Munsee mythology.
(also spelled Kitanituwit and other ways.)
This means "Great Spirit" in the Delaware language, and is the Delaware name for God, who is sometimes also referred to as
Kiisheelumukweengw ("the Creator") or Kaanzhu Pahtamawaas ( "the great god.")
Unlike most other Algonquian folklore, Delaware stories sometimes personified the Great Spirit
as a human interacting with the Lenapes; other Delaware myths treated Kihtanutoowet as a divine spirit with no human form or attributes.
Kihtanutoowet is pronounced similar to kih-tah-nuh-too-wit, and Kiisheelumukweengw similar
to kee-shay-luh-mook-kwang, with a slight whistle at the end.
Matantoow (also spelled Matanto and other ways.)
The manutoo (spirit) of death. A destructive, often evil being usually in opposition to Kihtanutoowet. After the introduction of Christianity, Lenape people
frequently identified Matantoow with the Devil. Pronounced muh-tun-too.
(also spelled Moskim and other ways.)
Rabbit, the benevolent culture hero of the Lenape tribes (sometimes referred to as a "transformer" by folklorists.) Not many stories about Mooshkiingw
are still told today, but he seems to have shared some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Wabanaki
Nanapush, and Cree
Wisagatcak. "Mooshkiingw" is pronounced similar to moash-keeng or moosh-keeng.
Msiingw (also spelled Mesingw and other ways.)
This is the Delaware Mask Spirit, a powerful medicine spirit who appears to Delaware men in dreams and is the focus of certain traditional Delaware
religious rituals. Some non-Delaware people have recently been claiming Msiingw has something to do with Bigfoot for some reason. This is a total fabrication
as far as any of us know. Many Native American tribes do have bigfoot/sasquatch/hairy man legends but the Mask Spirit is not one of them.
The name is pronounced in between muh-seeng and muh-seeng-wuh.
Underwater horned serpent common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes. It is said to lurk in lakes and eat humans.
Powerful storm spirits that live in the sky and cause thunder and lightning. They are usually depicted as giant birds, although
sometimes they have human heads or other attributes. Thunder Beings are dangerous spirits who sometimes kill people with their
powers, but they are also sworn enemies of the horned serpents and sometimes rescue people from those monsters.
Magical little people of the forest, like sprites or dwarves. They are mischievous but generally benevolent creatures,
although they can be dangerous if they are disrespected. Their name is pronounced weh-mah-teh-guh-neese.
Mhwee (also spelled Mhuwe and other ways.)
A man-eating giant monster, like the Windigo of the Ojibway and Cree tribes or the Chenoo of the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet.