Native Languages of the Americas: Gluskap Stories and other Wabanaki Legends
This is our collection of links to Wabanaki 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. On this page, we have included myths and legends from the five tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy:
the Abenaki Tribe,
Maliseet Tribe, and
These five related tribes of northeast New England and the Canadian Maritimes speak similar languages
and share many cultural similarities, including much of their folklore.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Wabanaki 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 Wabanaki mythology.
Gluskabi is the benevolent culture hero of the Wabanaki tribes, who taught the people the arts of civilization
and protected them from danger. Like other Wabanaki names, "Gluskabi" has many spelling variants (Glooscap, Koluskap, etc.)
The correct pronunciation in Abenaki and Penobscot is similar to glue-skaw-buh, and in Mi'kmaq,
Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy it sounds more like klue-skopp (but with very soft k and p sounds.)
Gluskabi 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.
The Creator or Great Spirit:
These are English translations of the names for God in the various Wabanaki languages (Dabaldak or Gici Niwaskw in Abenaki-Penobscot,
Keluwosit or Kci Niwesq in Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, and Kisúlkw in Mi'kmaq.)
In Wabanaki traditions, the Creator/Great Spirit is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender), and is almost never personified in
Nokomes (or Nokemes, Nukumi, etc.):
Gluskabi's wise old grandmother (her name, pronounced no-kuh-muss, noo-guh-muss, or noo-goo-mee, simply means "grandmother" in the Wabanaki languages.)
In the Abenaki, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet tribes, Nokomes is often associated with a woodchuck (and sometimes called Grandmother
Woodchuck.) In the Mi'kmaq tribe she is a more abstract elder figure who was created specifically to be Gluskap's grandmother.
Many Wabanaki folktales feature clever animal heroes playing tricks on each other or on Wabanaki people. Usually these are lighter, less sacred stories,
and like modern cartoon animals, the tricksters sometimes die and spontaneously come back to life. Raccoon, Rabbit, and Otter are the most common
Wabanaki trickster characters.
Lox (or Loks, Luks, etc.):
Wolverine, a malevolent figure in Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy folklore. Sometimes he merely models uncivilized behavior, such as gluttony,
rudeness, and sexual impropriety. Other times he plays the role of a dangerous and violent villain who may kill incautious people.
Malsum: This name,
which simply means "wolf" in Abenaki, is sometimes said to belong to an evil wolf who is Gluskabi's twin brother. However, this may not
be a genuine Wabanaki myth: the name does not appear in older texts,
wolves do not play a malevolent role in any other Wabanaki legend, and some Abenaki and Mi'kmaq
elders have stated that this story has foreign origins. Perhaps it may have been a corrupted form of a
Great Lakes Algonquian story (their culture hero, Nanabozho, does have a wolf brother, though still
not an evil one,) or a fusion of such a story with native Wabanaki stories about the evil
wolverine Lox (see above.) Whatever its origins, some modern Wabanaki storytellers do tell tales about
the character today (though Micmacs often say that it came from the
Abenakis, and Abenakis that it came from the Micmacs or Maliseets!)
The first woman, created by Gluskabi and/or the Creator. 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.
Wabanaki folklore includes many horror stories
about man-eating monstrous ice giants (most commonly known as Chenoo in Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy, and Giwakwa
in Abenaki and Penobscot.) They are similar to the Windigo of the
northern Algonquian tribes. In most stories, the Giwakwa/Chenoo was once a human being who either committed a terrible crime or became
possessed by an evil spirit, causing his heart to turn to ice.
Little People (Mikumwesuk, Wunagmeswook, Geow-lud-mo-sis-eg, etc):
Known by a variety of names, the Little People of the Wabanaki tribes can be dangerous if they are disrespected but are generally
benevolent nature spirits.
Horned Serpent (Kitchi-Athusis, Chipitchkam, Gita-skog):
An underwater horned serpent, said to lurk in lakes and eat humans. Its name means "Great Serpent" in the three languages of the Wabanaki
Thunders (or Thunderers):
A group of supernatural winged warriors who shoot lightning from their eyes and cause peals
of thunder when they fight.
A legendary giant bird of prey, said to eat humans and be large enough to carry a child off in its talons. Pronounced kuh-loo.
A snow 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.