Glooscap and Winp


- Wabanaki -

In the Old Time of the Wabanaki, a wizard named Winpe ruled over the cold Northern Sea and had his lodge on a rocky island guarded by icebergs.

Winpe was a powerful giant, cheerful but quick- tempered, who delighted in games and tests of magic. Now when his messenger, Gray Gull, brought him tales of another great magician named Glooscap, who ruled over the land of the Wabanaki, Winpe at once sent a challenge.

Glooscap returned word by Gray Gull that all his days were busy caring for his people and he had no time for games. Disappointed and angry, Winpe sent the lord of men and beasts this message: "Accept my challenge, Glooscap, or men will call you coward!"

The Great Chief said to Gray Gull in reply, "Tell your master I know my people and they know me. I care not what fools call me." When Winpe heard this, he smashed his fist against a huge rock and split it end to end, and the sound of his voice echoed around the icebergs. "By all the gods of Sea and Sky, Glooscap shall compete with me before the moon grows full again!"

One evening soon afterwards, the Great Chief returned from hunting, and found his lodge empty. This was unusual, for Marten was always faithful, and Noogumee should at this hour be preparing his evening meal. Then Glooscap noticed that his dish of magic food lay overturned by the fire, as if Noogumee had been suddenly disturbed at her cooking.

Glooscap strode from his lodge to the edge of Blomidon and looked down. Far below, he saw a great canoe slide into the waters of Minas Basin. An Indian as tall as himself, but clothed all in furs, held his paddle high in mocking salute. It was Winpe the Wizard, and in the bottom of his canoe, bound and helpless, lay Noogumee and Marten. Calling his two dogs, Day and Night, Glooscap started down the slope. Leaping ahead, the dogs dashed into the waves and swam after Winpe's canoe, but the wizard reached out and scooped the two dogs into his hands. He breathed on them with his arctic breath and they began to shrink.

Once, twice, three times his breath passed over them, and the great dogs became as little puppies. Then Winpe set them in a wooden dish and floated them back to shore. "Now, O Chief," he shouted triumphantly, "we have had our first contest. Follow if you can, and we will see who has the greater power!" And with one thrust of his paddle, he sent the canoe flying across Minas Basin.

Glooscap sprang into his own canoe and set off in furious pursuit. He was a mighty paddler and crossed Minas Basin before you could say Ableegumooch. Even so, when he reached the far shore, Winpe and his captives were out of sight. The Great Chief looked for the prow mark of Winpe's canoe and, finding it, followed the foot marks that led off into the forest. All that day and all the next, he raced along the trail, leaping fallen trees and tumbling brooks, knowing from the position of a twig or a strip of bark left secretly by Marten that he was on the right track.

On the third day the path opened into a clearing and before him stood a crooked old woman with live toads growing out of her hair. "Kwah-ee, grandmother," cried Glooscap. "Have you seen Winpe the Wizard?" "Yes, indeed," said she. "He passed this morning. Follow me and I'll lead you to him by a shorter way." And lifting her skirts, she ran like the wind. She ran so fast that Glooscap had difficulty keeping her in sight. He ran faster, and still faster, until--just as he caught up with her--she vanished!

Then Glooscap knew he had been fooled. The toad woman had led him far off Winpe's trail. However, Glooscap was not dismayed. Returning to the clearing, he found the trail again and followed it by moon light all through the night. As the sun rose, he heard the roar of the sea and found himself at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. But even the sea could not stop the Wabanaki hero. "Bootup!" he shouted mightily, "Bootup, your Master has need of you!" Out of the sea rolled the great whale with his white plume of pipe smoke streaming behind him. Glooscap leapt upon his back, saying, "Carry me to the Northern Sea, to the home of Winpe the Wizard." As Bootup swam north, the ocean grew colder and colder, and great ice-cakes floated past. At last, Glooscap saw a black island loom up behind a dazzling ring of blue-white icebergs. Slipping between the guardian peaks, Bootup set his master ashore at the mouth of a river which cut its way under the rocks.

"This underground river leads to Winpe's lodge, Master," Bootup said, "but I am too wide to swim through. I shall take a nap here until your return.

" Glooscap sprang off Bootup's back into the icy water, and as he waded into the darkness of the tunnel, the rock roof grew lower and lower, and the sides began to close in. Soon he had to walk sideways to keep from being scraped, and finally it was a struggle to squeeze through at all. Then, suddenly, he stumbled through into a wide cavern--and he and the wizard stood face to face!

The giant grinned broadly. "Welcome, friend. Now we can have our contest." "I came only to take my companions away," said Glooscap coldly, and Noogumee and Marten started forward joyfully. Just then there was the ominous sound of grinding rock, and looking back, Glooscap saw the rock wall close in behind him with a fearful crash. He too was a prisoner!

"Our contest will be in three parts," said Winpe calmly, "and when it is over, you and your friends may go in peace." Glooscap now saw that it would be quicker in the end to agree. "Very well," said he, "but let it be quick, for I have more important things to do." Winpe, pointing to strings of ice-blue sapphires and shining pearls hung about the cave, said that Glooscap might have what he wished for his prize if he won. "If I win," said Winpe, "I claim your amethyst beads."

Glooscap nodded agreement and the first test began. Expanding his great chest, Winpe filled his lungs with the icy vapor of the Arctic and exhaled it in great blasts about the cave. Noogumee and Marten began to shake in the frosty air, but Glooscap did not even shiver. Winpe blew an even colder blast, and ice began to coat their bodies. By now, Noogumee and Marten lay stretched out as stiff as icicles. "Your cave has grown warm," muttered Glooscap, his tongue moving with difficulty between his frozen teeth. "Can't you cool it?" Winpe shrugged and smiled his defeat.

Now it was Glooscap's turn. The Great Chief arose, made a small fire, and touched his magic belt. At once a great supply of firewood and oil appeared and fell upon the fire, and the flames shot up to the top of the cave. Marten and Noogumee, who had revived with the warmth, now wilted under the red-hot blasts of air from the fire. Choked by the fumes they fell back, once more unconscious. But Winpe sat in his place without moving. His beard was singed and great drops of sweat hissed as they rolled down his burning skin, yet he managed to speak through parched lips. "Don't you find it somewhat chilly in here, my friend?" he asked. "Put more wood on the fire." Glooscap saw that his efforts were useless and let the fire die, and Noogumee and Marten came back to life again.

"We are even so far," cried Winpe. "Now for the final test!" He brought forth two long sticks with webbing at the ends, and gave one of them to Glooscap together with a stuffed moose hide ball. "This is a game I call tokhonon. As you see, I have set up two posts at each end of my cave. We must strike the ball back and forth, never touching it with our hands, and who ever first drives it between the other's goal posts, wins!"

Glooscap nodded his understanding, and the match began. Ah, what a game that was! The two great heroes, each so tall and powerful, struck out with such force their sticks tore holes in the rock, and the whole cave trembled and cracked. Outside in the sea, Bootup woke with a start and heard with alarm the awesome rumbling. The black island heaved and shook, causing the waves to rise and sweep over Bootup's head. For the space of three suns, while Noogumee and Marten watched breathlessly, the game continued without pause.

Both players were by now nearly exhausted, yet neither had a single thought of giving in. Suddenly Glooscap thought of the time that was passing. How were his people managing without him? What if Badger were up to some new tricks? The thought gave him fresh energy and, leaping high in the air, he struck the ball with such force it turned into a ball of fire and shot, burning, into Winpe's goal. Winpe stepped back, his jaw falling with dismay.

Then, slowly, he summoned up a grin and came and slapped Glooscap on the shoulder. "You are the winner," he said heartily. "It was a good game. Now choose your prize." Glooscap looked at Winpe's strings of pearls and sapphires and shook his head. He held out his hand for Winpe's webbed stick. "Give me the game," he said. Now in his time, Glooscap had given many good gifts to his people--the forests, the streams, the fish and the animals--but no gift was cherished more than the game he brought back to them from Winpe's island, the game the Indians called tokhonon, the game the white man was one day to copy and call lacrosse. And, with this last adventure, kespeadooksit--the story ends.

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