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Native Languages of the Americas:
Gluscabi Stories and other Penobscot Legends

This is our collection of Penobscot 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, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot Indians), since the traditional stories of those tribes are very similar.

Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Penobscot legend for this page or think one of the ones on here should be removed, please let us know.

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Important Penobscot Mythological Figures

Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Penobscot mythology.

Gluscabi: Gluscabi is the benevolent culture hero of the Penobscot tribe, who taught the people the arts of civilization and protected them from danger. Like other Penobscot names, "Gluscabi" has many spelling variants (Gluskabe, Glooscap, etc.) The correct Penobscot pronounciation is glue-skaw-buh. Gluscabi shares some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Anishinabe Manabus, Blackfoot Old Man, and Cree Wisakechak, and many of the same stories are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing.
Gici Niwaskw: This means "Great Spirit" in the Abnaki-Penobscot language, and is the Penobscot name for the Creator (God.) Gici Niwaskw is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is never personified in Penobscot stories. Pronounced similar to gih-chee nih-wahsk.
Molsem: This name, which simply means "wolf" in Abnaki-Penobscot, is sometimes said to belong to an evil wolf who is Gluscabi's twin brother. However, some Wabanaki elders have been adamant this is not a real Wabanaki myth. It may be an Anglo corruption of Great Lakes Algonquian legends-- their culture hero does have a twin brother who is a wolf (though he is not evil.) In any case, "Molsem" is pronounced mawl-sum in Penobscot.
Woodchuck (Nokemes Agaskw.) Gluscabi's wise old grandmother, who raised him. Pronounced noh-kuh-muss ah-gah-skw in Penobscot, which literally means "grandmother woodchuck."
Medawisla (Loon): Gluskabe's faithful companion, messenger, and tale-bringer. Pronounced muh-dah-wee-lah.
Podab (Whale): Another animal spirit that serves Gluskabe, by carrying him across the ocean. Pronounced po-dub.
First Mother: The first woman, created by Gici 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.
Azeban: Raccoon, a light-hearted Penobscot trickster figure. Pronounced ah-zuh-bun.
Mikew: Squirrel, a Penobscot troublemaker character. Pronounced mee-koo.
Giwakwa: Evil man-eating ice giants of Penobscot Indian legends, similar to the Windigos of the Anishinabe and Cree tribes. Pronounced gee-wock-wah.
Badogiak: The Thunders, a group of seven supernatural warrior brothers who cause thunder and lightning. Pronounced puh-dawn-gee-uck.
Bemola: A 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.
Mikum-wasus: Little people like sprites or dwarves. They are generally benevolent forest spirits in Penobscot stories, but can be dangerous if they are disrespected. Pronounced mee-kum-wuh-suss.
Manogemasak: 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.
Pohkecinskwehso: A notorious witch. Her Penobscot name literally means Jug Woman and is pronounced poke-dzeen-skwuss-oh. She is also sometimes known as Tree-Stump Woman or Toad Woman.
Gwelab'hot (Turn Over): A legendary medicine man born when a Penobscot maiden swallowed a magical herb. Pronounced gwuh-luh-bott.
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.
Gici Awas: A huge, monstrous creature resembling an enormous stiff-legged bear with an oversized head. Some folklorists believe this creature may have been inspired by mammoths. Its name means "great beast" and is pronounced gih-chee ah-wahss.
Gitaskog (also known Tato-skog, Peeta-skog, or Msa-skog): 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." The most common is Gitaskog, pronounced gee-tah-skog.
Aglebemu: A giant lake monster that caused drought, who was defeated by Glooskap and turned into a modern-day bullfrog. Pronounced ah-gluh-beh-moo.

Penobscot Folklore

Gluscabi * Gluskab * Gluskabe:
    Introductions to the Penobscot demigod Gluscabi.
Corn Mother * First Mother, First Father * How First Mother Saved the Penobscot * First People and the First Corn:
    The Penobscot creation myth.
Wa-Ba-Ba-Nal, the Northern Lights:
    Penobscot legends about the Aurora Borealis.
Gluskabe and the Monster Frog:
    Gluscabi fights with a giant frog to end a deadly drought.
The Giant and the Four Wind Brothers:
    Folktale about the adventures of a Penobscot giant.
*Legend of the Bear Family:
    Origin of the Penobscot Bear Clan.
*Arrowhead Finger:
    Legend of a Penobscot girl who bore a medicine child.
*Klouskap and the Origin of the Penobscot:
    Why squirrels are so small.
*Why We Need Wind:
    Gluskabe decides to stop the wind from blowing, and learns a lesson about the world.
*Gluskabe and the Monster Moose:
    Gluskabe defeats a moose-monster and evades the witch Pukadji'nkwes-u.
*Rabbit Calls a Truce:
    Rabbit and Otter team up to save the Penobscots from starvation.
*Cannibal Giants of the Snowy Northern Forest:
    Article about the Giwakwa and other ice monsters of the northern Algonquian tribes.
*The Ktci-awa's and the Witch:
    A young Penobscot hero defeats a night witch and a group of Ktci-awa's.
*Pamola, A Penobscot Legend:
    Penobscot story about a woman who married Pomola.
Indian Summer:
    Penobscot legend about the origins of "Indian summer," the brief recurrence of summer-like weather before the snows fall.
*Of Glooskap's Birth:
    Leland's Nordic embellishments to the Glooscap cycle.

Recommended Books on Penobscot Mythology and Traditions
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Giants of the Dawnland:
    Excellent book of Penobscot legends told by a Penobscot Indian author.
The Algonquin Legends of New England:
    1898 collection of myths and folklore from the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribes.
Turtle Island: Tales of the Algonquian Nations:
    Anthology of legends from the Penobscot and other Algonquian tribes.
Many Hands: A Penobscot Indian Story:
    Picture book about a young Penobscot girl learning a lesson about family and community.
The Penobscot Dance of Resistance:
    Interesting book on the importance of Penobscot legend, dances, and oral traditions to the tribe's survival.

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Additional Resources

 Native American values and beliefs
 Penobscot religious traditions
 Penobscot Indians
 Penobscot language
 Maine Indian history
 Northeastern Indian tribes
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