New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Glooscap and His Four Visitors

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From the blog at

This is another in a series of occasional Mi’kmaq stories from Legends of the Micmacs by Silas T. Rand, Wellesey Philological Publications, New York, 1894. This edition presents a story of four Mi’kmaq who visit Glooscap and have their wishes granted. One of the four likely regretted his request.

There is a short introduction to these Mi’kmaq stories in the first blog posting entitled Robbery and Murder Revenged

 010 Mikmaq family

 An unidentified Mi’kmaq family near Newcastle, 1890-1910 – N.B. Museum


Glooscap and His Four Visitors

Soon alter Glooscap had left the Indians, four men agreed to go in search of him. They did not know where he was, and therefore they did not know which way to go; but they knew that while he was with them he was never very far away, and that he could always be found by those who diligently sought him. This encouraged them to undertake the search, and continue it for many months; their diligence was in the end crowned with success.

They started from their home in the spring of the year, and continued their journey and their search until winter. Nor did they stop then, but persevered until spring, and on through the ensuing season, until midsummer.

The first indication of success was the discovery of a small path in the forest. They did not know whither it led, but they followed it. It brought them out to a beautiful river; the path continued to wind along the bank of this river, until the river spread out into a broad, beautiful lake. Still following the path, which was marked by blazed trees, they at length reached an extensive point of land running far out into the lake. Looking on from the top of a hill, they saw smoke ascending through the trees, and soon came up to a large, well-constructed wigwam. They entered, and found seated on the right a man apparently about forty years old, who looked healthy and hale; on the other side a very aged woman was seated, doubled over with age, as though she were about an hundred years old. On the part of the wigwam opposite the door, and on the left-hand side, a mat was spread out, as though a third person had a seat there. [Rand noted that the blazing on the trees “was, as is always the case among the Indians, on the side directly opposite the direction in which the wigwam lay; so that the mark can be seen as you go toward the wigwam, but not as you go from it.”]

The visitors were welcomed in, and invited to seat them selves. They were not asked whence they had come, or whither they were going; the man was affable, pleasant, and evidently well pleased (wěledaasit keseg’ooŭ). [Rand noted that it was almost unheard of not to ask.]

After a while they hear the plash of a paddle in the water, and the noise of a canoe. Then they hear approaching footsteps; and soon a young man enters, well clad and of fine form and features, bringing in his weapons, and showing that he has been hunting. He addresses the old woman, calling her Keejoo (Mother), and tells her that he has brought home some game. This is, according to Indian custom, left outside for the woman to bring in, dress, and cook. The old woman, weak and tottering, rises with great difficulty, and makes her way out for the game; she manages to bring in the four or five beavers which have been killed, and commences operations upon them. But she makes slow and feeble progress; then the more aged man addresses the younger, calling him Uchkeen (“My younger brother”), and tells him to take the work out of her hands and finish it himself. He does so; and in a short time a portion is cooked and set before the weary and hungry guests, who do ample justice to the repast.

There they remain and are hospitably entertained for about a week. They rest and recruit themselves after their long and tiresome journey. Time and travel have made sad work with their wardrobes; their clothes are torn to pieces, and their skin is peeping out in all directions.

One morning the elder man tells the younger to wash their Mother’s face. (They had concluded that the old woman was the mother of these two men.) He proceeds to do as directed. As soon as he washes her face, the wrinkles vanish, and she becomes young-looking and very fair. Her hair is then combed out, braided, and rolled up and fastened in a knot on the back of her head. It is no longer white, but black and glossy. He arrays her in a beautiful dress; and now, instead of being old, bent down, and decrepit, she becomes straight, active, and young. The men look on at the transformation in utter bewilderment. They perceive that whoever their host is, he is possessed, in a high degree, of supernatural powers. He has given them an illustration of what he is able to do. They are invited to walk around and survey the place. The situation is seen to be delightful in the extreme. Tall trees with luxuriant foliage, and covered with beautiful, fragrant blossoms, extend in all directions; they are so free from limbs and underbrush, and they stand in rows so straight and so far apart, that the visitors can see a long distance in every direction. The air is balmy and sweet, and everything wears the impress of health, repose, and happiness.

The owner of this blissful domain now inquires from whence they have come, and they tell him. He inquires the object of their journey, and they tell him that they are in search of Glooscap; he informs them that he himself is Glooscap. He next inquires what they want him to do for them; and one by one they tell him. One says, “I am a wicked man, and have an ugly temper. I wish to be pious, meek, and holy.” “All right,” says Glooscap. The next says, “I am very poor, and find it difficult to make a living. I wish to be rich.” “Very well,” is the answer. The third says, “I am despised and hated by my people, and I wish to be loved and respected.” “So be it,” says Glooscap. The fourth says, “I am desirous of living a long time.” Glooscap shakes his head at this. “You have asked a hard thing.” he tells him. “Nevertheless, we will see what we can do for you.”

The next day they prepare a festival, and all four are feasted and sumptuously entertained. They are then taken to the top of a hill which is very high and difficult of access. The ground is rocky, broken, and totally unfit for cultivation. On the very apex of this hill, where the sun would shine from morning until night, they halt; and Glooscap takes the man who had desired to live a long time, clasps him around the loins, lifts him from the ground, and then puts him down again, passing his clasped hands up over the man’s head, and giving him a twist or two as he moves his hands upwards, transforms him into an old gnarled cedar-tree, with limbs growing out rough and ugly all the way from the bottom. “There!” says he to the cedar-tree; “I cannot say exactly how long you will live, — the Great Spirit alone can tell that. But I think that you will not be likely to be disturbed for a good while, as no one can have any object in cutting you down; you are yourself unfit for any earthly purpose, and the land around you is of no use for cultivation. I think that you will stand there for a good, long while.”

The three companions are horror-stricken at the scene; they mourn the loss of their comrade, and shudder at their own fate, expecting that something no less terrible awaits them. But their fears are soon dispelled. Returning to the lodge, he opens his upsākŭmoode (medicine-bag), and taking out three small boxes, gives one to each, and furnishes all three with new suits of apparel, all beautifully finished and ornamented; they doff their old clothes, and put on the new ones.

He now inquires of them when they intend to go home, and in what direction their home lies; they inform him that they wish to return immediately, but are utterly ignorant of the way, — it took them one whole summer, a whole winter, and half another summer to come; their home must be very far away, and the prospect of ever again finding it is small. He smiles, and tells them that he knows the way well, having often travelled it. They request him to be their guide; he agrees to do so, and bright and early the next morning they prepare to start.

Morning dawns; Glooscap puts on his belt and leads off and they follow. About the middle of the forenoon they reach the top of a high mountain, from thence they can discern another mountain away in the distance, the blue outlines of which are just in sight above the horizon; the men conclude that it will take them at least a week to reach it. They push on; and to their astonishment, at about the middle of the afternoon they have reached the top of this second mountain. From the top of this they are directed to look around; and lo! all is familiar to them. They are perfectly acquainted with hill and forest, lake and river; and Glooscap says to them, “There is your own native village.” Then he leaves them, and returns. They go on, and before sunset are at home.

When they arrive no one knows them, their new and splendid robes have so changed their appearance for the better. They tell who they are, however, and are soon surrounded by old and young, male and female, who listen with amazement as they recount their adventures.

They now open their boxes, which, according to Glooscap’s directions, they have kept carefully closed till they reached their homes. The boxes contain a potent unguent; this they rub over their persons, and each one’s desire is accomplished. The one who had been despised, hated, and shunned is now rendered beautiful, well-beloved, and withal so fragrant from the perfume of the “divine anointing,” that his company is sought after by all. The one who had desired abundance is blessed in that line; success attends him in the chase, and plenty daily crowns his board. And, best of all, the man who had sought for durable riches and righteousness, and the honor that cometh from above, was not disappointed in this respect; he was ever after meek and devout.

[Related to me by Benjamin Brooks, Oct. 14, 1869, and written down the same day.]

A note by Silas Rand:

[Here seems clearly to be a parable: —

  1. All who seek divine help will find it. We may not know where God is; but let us search after him, and we shall find him.
  2. Truth is disclosed to the mind gradually; we first find a small, dim path, but it becomes plainer; the Divinity is often found before he is known.
  3. Here are four of the chief objects of human pursuit: religion, fame, wealth, and long life.
  4. Those who diligently pursue after these things will, ordinarily, find them.
  5. Sometimes an answer to an unreasonable request is given, but it proves to be a curse instead of a blessing; long life is granted, but at the expense of enjoyment and usefulness. Better a short and useful life than a long and useless one, like the gnarled and twisted cedar, not worth the cutting down.]

A note by johnwood1946:

[The lessons are plausible, but were very influenced by Rand’s culture. Also, Glooscap was not a god. He was a culture hero; a super-hero.]


Written by johnwood1946

November 24, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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