An Introduction to Mythology
Page: 121The fourth portion of the epic contains Glooscap's adventures[Pg 274] with the beasts—the loons, beaver, serpent, turtle, frog, and eagle. Very curious are the tales which describe the origin of the turtle, Glooscap's uncle, or relate how that crafty being endeavoured to overthrow the Master and make himself lord over beasts and men; and those that paint in picturesque language the binding of the Great Eagle, the Bird-who-blows-the-winds. Many of these stories are legendary, and purport to explain the existence of certain islands, streams, and other geographical features, as well as the physical structure and peculiarities of various animals. Thus the blowing of a whale is ingeniously explained by the fact that Glooscap at one time gave the animal a pipe and tobacco; it is smoking!
The fifth part of the epic treats mainly of the god's encounter with witches and sorcerers, and of his final departure from the earth. Toward the close of the poem a beautiful nature myth recounts how Glooscap found the Summer. Long years ago the deity travelled northward till he came to the lodge of the giant Winter. He entered and sat down, and his host told him tales of enchantment which cast him into a death-like sleep. Six months elapsed ere he awoke and proceeded homeward. With every step the air grew warmer, the earth greener and more beautiful. At length he came to a shady dell, where fairies were dancing joyfully, and, seizing their queen, whose name was Summer, he hid her in his bosom. Then he retraced his steps northward. The giant Winter still sat in his lodge, and at the coming of Glooscap he determined to throw the deity into a sleep that would last for ever; but this time the hidden presence of Summer spoiled the enchantments; tears of melting ice ran down the cheeks of the giant, and soon both he and his dwelling were changed to water, while signs of returning life and vegetation were everywhere apparent. Once more Glooscap turned his face southward, but the summer-elf he left behind him in the northern country.
Finally Glooscap abandoned the world, because of the evil that was in it. For long years he bore with the sinful ways of man, for whom he had cleared the land of evil demons and monsters, but at length his patience was exhausted. He made a great farewell feast, and afterward sailed away in his great[Pg 275] canoe. And now he dwells in a splendid wigwam, continually making arrows. When the lodge is full of them he will make war on all mankind, and the world will pass away.
How have the written myths we have just reviewed reflected upon the literature of our own race? Poetry and mythology are connected by an indissoluble bond. By mythology phenomena are endowed by the barbarian mind with all the attributes of life and reason. The process is clearly a poetical one, and by it the savage intelligence is brought very near to nature. Poetry, in some of its earliest and perhaps purest forms, is the direct outcome of a series of natural impressions on the mind; and both poetry and mythology are thus emanations from nature. In a barbarian state of society the one great theme of poetry is the story of the divine beings who sway the destinies of humankind. Thus the odes of Pindar, the epics of the Iliad and