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.
Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Penobscot mythology.
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
Old-Man, and Cree
Weesageechak, 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 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.
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.
Grandmother Woodchuck (Nokemes Agaskw.)
Gluscabi's wise old grandmother, who raised him. Pronounced noh-kuh-muss ah-gah-skw in Penobscot.
Gluskabe's faithful companion, messenger, and tale-bringer. Pronounced muh-dah-wee-lah.
Another animal spirit that serves Gluskabe, by carrying him across the ocean. Pronounced boo-dup.
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.
Raccoon, a light-hearted Penobscot trickster figure. Pronounced ah-zuh-bun.
Squirrel, a Penobscot troublemaker character. Pronounced mee-koo.
Evil man-eating ice giants of Penobscot Indian legends, similar to the Windigo of the
Anishinabe and Cree tribes. Pronounced gee-wock-wah.
The Thunders, a group of seven supernatural warrior brothers who cause thunder and lightning. Pronounced puh-dawn-gee-uck.
A bird spirit that lived on Mt Katahdin and made cold weather. Pronounced buh-moh-lah.
Another mountain bird spirit, whose wings make the wind. Pronounced wuh-dzo-sen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A giant lake monster that caused drought, who was defeated by Glooskap and turned into a modern-day bullfrog. Pronounced ah-gluh-beh-moo.