Nanabozho is the benevolent culture hero of the Anishinaabe tribes. His name is spelled so many different ways
partially because the Anishinabe languages were originally unwritten (so English speakers just spelled the name
however it sounded to them at the time), and partially because the Ojibway, Algonquin, Potawatomi,
and Menominee languages are spoken across a huge geographical range in both Canada and the US, and
the name sounds different in the different languages and dialects they speak.
The differing first letters of his name, however, have a more interesting story: Nanabozho's grandmother, who
named him, used the particle "N-" to begin his name, which means "my." Other speakers-- who are not
Nanabozho's grandmother-- would normally drop this endearment and use the more general prefixes W- or M-.
So if you listen to a fluent Ojibwe speaker telling a Nanabozho story, he may refer to the culture hero as
Wenabozho most of the time, but switch to calling him Nanabozho while narrating for his grandmother!
Stories about Nanabozho vary considerably from community to community. Nanabozho
is usually said to be the son of either the West Wind or the Sun,
and since his mother died when he was a baby, Nanabozho was raised by his grandmother
In some tribal traditions Nanabozho is an only child, but in others he has a twin brother or is the eldest of four brothers.
The most important of Nanabozho's brother figures is Chibiabos or Moqwaio,
Nanabozho's inseparable companion (often portrayed as a wolf) variously said to be his twin brother,
younger brother, or adopted brother. Nanabozho is associated with rabbits
and is sometimes referred to as the Great Hare (Misabooz), although he is rarely depicted as
taking the physical form of a rabbit. Nanabozho is a trickster figure
and can be a bit of a rascal, but unlike trickster figures in some tribes, he does not model immoral and
seriously inappropriate behavior-- Nanabozho is a
virtuous hero and a dedicated friend and teacher of humanity. Though he may behave in
mischievous, foolish, and humorous ways in the course of his
teaching, Nanabozho never commits crimes or disrespects Native culture and is viewed
with great respect and affection by Anishinabe people.