Native American Time Legends: How Glooskap found the Summer

Published on January 17, 2013 by Casey

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How Glooskap found the Summer
How Glooskap found the Summer

Native American Time Legends: How Glooskap found the Summer

The Algonquin Legends of New England, by Charles G. Leland, [1884]

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In the long ago time when people lived always in the early red morning, before sunrise, before the Squid to neck was peopled as to-day, Glooskap went very far north, where all was ice.

He came to a wigwam. Therein he found a giant, a great giant, for he was Winter. Glooskap, entered; he sat down. Then Winter gave him a pipe; he smoked, and the giant told tales of the old times.

The charm was on him; it was the Frost. The giant talked on and froze, and Glooskap, fell asleep. He slept for six months, like a toad. Then the charm fled, and he awoke. He went his way home; he went to the south, and at every step it grew warmer, and the flowers began to come up and talk to him.

He came to where there were many little ones dancing in the forest; their queen was Summer. I am singing the truth: it was Summer, the most beautiful one ever born. He caught her up; he kept her by a crafty trick. The Master cut a moose-hide into a long cord; as he ran away with Summer he let the end trail behind him.

They, the fairies of Light, pulled at the cord, but as Glooskap ran, the cord ran out, and though they pulled he left them far away. So he came to the lodge of Winter, but now he had Summer in his bosom; and Winter welcomed him, for he hoped to freeze him again to sleep. I am singing the song of Summer.

But this time the Master did the talking. This time his m’téoulin was the strongest. And ere long the sweat ran down Winter’s face, and then he melted more and quite away, as did the wigwam. Then every thing awoke; the grass grew, the fairies came out, and the snow ran down the rivers, carrying away the dead leaves. Then Glooskap left Summer with them, and went home.

This poem–for it is such–was related to Mrs. W. Wallace Brown by an Indian named Neptune. It appears to be the completer form of the beautiful allegory of Winter and Spring given in the Hiawatha Legends as Peboan and Seegwum (Odjibwa). The struggle between Spring and Winter, Summer and Winter, or Heat and Cold, represented as incarnate human or mythic beings, forms the subject of several Indian legends, as it does a part of the Hymiskvida, in the Edda. The German J. B. Friedreich (Symbolik der Natur, Würzburg, 1859) remarks that in the Bible, Job xxxviii. 28, and in the Song of the Three in the Fiery Furnace, Ice and Snow are spoken of as intelligences.

Heat and cold, in classic times, were supposed to be united, yet in conflict, in the lightning and hail (Virgil, Æn. VIII. 429), the symbol for this being a twisted horn. In the legend of the Culloo the frost giantess can only be killed by a crooked horn thrust into her ear. The horn darts out at once into incredible, irregular length, and evidently means lightning. In the Edda the he-goat is, on account of his horns, the symbol of lightning, and storm. (Schwenk, Sinnbilden der alten Volker.) The Giala-horn of the Edda (Nyer up. Diet. Scan. Mythol.) is the thunder which summons the Elves. “Miolner, the hammer of Thor, with which he kills frost giants, is the lightning.” (Kirchner, Thor’s Donnerkeil, Neu Strelitz, 1853, p. 60.) The coincidence of the symbols in the Edda with that of the lightning horn in the Indian legend is vary curious, if nothing more.

The cord which Glooskap unrolls, and with which he deceives the fairies, who think they have him fast, while he is escaping, means delusive speech or plausible talk. To “talk like paying out rope” is an old simile.

“Speech runes thou must know,
If thou wilt that no one
for injury with hate requite thee.
Those thou must wind,
Those thou must wrap round (thee),
Those thou must altogether place
in the assembly,
where people have
into full court to go.” (Sigrdrifumâl.)”

This is a merely accidental coincidence, but it illustrates the meaning of the myth. In both cases it is “wound or wrapped around” and rapidly unrolled, and the same simile.

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