Published on January 27, 2013 by Carol
Tribal affiliation: Alabama, Creek, Coushatta, Natchez
Native names: Atipa-Tcoba, Isti-Papa
Also known as: Big Man-Eater, Elephant, Cannibal Monster
Type: Monster, stiff-legged bear
Related figures in other tribes: Naked Bear, Katcheetohuskw, Ya’kwahe, Hairless Bear
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Man-Eater was a mythological monster of the Southeastern tribes, a huge carnivorous creature that preyed on humans. Its appearance varied greatly from tribe to tribe– in some tribes Man-Eater was described as being bearlike, similar to Naked Bear monsters of the northern tribes. In others, such as the Creek and Seminole tribes, Man-Eater was described as a feline monster similar to a giant mountain lion. In the Alabama and Koasati tribes, many modern people associate Big Man-Eater with elephants. Some folklorists believe this creature may have been inspired by mammoths or mastodon fossils. You can visit our stiff-legged bear site to read some opinions about that.
In any case, although the monster’s name is translated as “Cannibal” or “Big Cannibal” in some texts, that is a slight error in translation. The name literally means simply “man-eater.” This creature is not human or humanoid in any story that we know of, but is always a giant four-legged animal.