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Myths & Legends

Rising of Gouverneur Morris

The Rising of Gouverneur Morris

    Gouverneur Morris, American minister to the court of Louis XVI, was considerably enriched, at the close of the reign of terror, by plate, jewels, furniture, paintings, coaches, and so on, left in his charge by members of the French nobility, that they might not be confiscated in the sack of the city.

    Scraping the Clouds: An Inuit Legend

    Scraping the Clouds

      Long ago, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, two Inuit boys were walking from their own home to a far-away village. While they were going along, a terrible storm overtook them, and they had to hold each other by the hand to keep from falling.

      Ghost of Sunrise Rock

      The Ghost of Sunrise Rock

        Some years before the outbreak of the Civil War, a man with his wife and daughter took up their residence in a log cabin at the foot of Sunrise Rock, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. It seemed probable that they had known better days, for the head of the household was believed to get his living through “writin’ or book-larnin’,” but was fairly useless at hunting and farming.

        Storm Man Brings the Summer

        Storm Man Brings the Summer

          Long, long ago, on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, there lived an old woman with her little grandson. They were very poor, so poor that the old woman had a hard time to feed and care for the boy. It was always cold and stormy, and sometimes they had almost nothing to eat for days at a time, because the wind blew so hard that the little boy could not stay out to catch tom-cods.

          The drummer--Nunivak. Nunivak native playing a very large drum.

          The Giant’s Drum

            Long ago, in a village in Alaska, there lived a man with his wife and five sons, of whom they were very proud.
            One day the oldest son came to his father and said, “Father we have always been in the same place, and seen the same kind of people. I think it is time for me to go in search of another village and see something of the world.”

            The Giant's Cave

            The Giant’s Cave

              Long ago, near the mouth of the Copper Mine River, which flows into the Arctic River, there lived an enormous giant. His cave was not far from an Inuit village, and he kept the people of that village in constant terror because when he could not get enough whale meat, or seal to eat, he would capture the little children and eat them up.

              Shooting the moon

              Shooting the Moon

                Long ages ago, when the first people roamed the land, a little yellow moon floated across the sky in the wake of the bigger one that is still shining. Melgasoway, a boy who – like other boys his age – would rather practice with his bow and arrows, go fishing and swimming, climb trees and pick berries than gather firewood and do errands, was sent by his mother to fetch a pumpkin out of a cornfield, for supper.

                Der Belznickel

                Der Belznickel

                  My sisters and my baby brother danced about the house, whispering to each other excitedly about the coming of der Belznickel on that snowy December 5th evening, the day before the Feast of Saint Nicholas. According to the stories, the good Saint Nicholas chains up the Devil on the eve of his Birthday – December 6th — and makes him visit all of the children in the village to see if they have been behaving themselves and deserved the attention of Kirstkindel.

                  Coyote and Wishpoosh

                    Now Wishpoosh the monster beaver lived in the beautiful Lake Cle-el-lum which was full of fish. Every day, the animal people would come to the lake, wanting to catch some fish, but Wishpoosh the giant beaver drove them away with many threats and great splashing. If they refused to leave, Wishpoosh would kill the animal people by dragging them deep into the lake so that they drowned.

                    Wampus Cat

                    The Wampus Cat

                      They say that the Wampus cat used to be a beautiful Indian woman. The men of her tribe were always going on hunting trips, but the women had to stay home. The Indian woman secretly followed her husband one day when he went hunting with the other men. She hid herself behind a rock, clutching the hide of a mountain cat around her, and spied on the men as they sat around their campfires telling sacred stories and doing magic…

                      Wraith of the Creek

                        When he left his tribe to work with the white lumbermen, he changed his name to William Cloud, and the lumberjacks started calling him “Cloudy.” They liked to hear Cloudy tell the story of the wraith that lived in the creek that powered the local log chute. The wraith was an evil creature that desired nothing more than to wrap its long arms around humans or animals and pull them down into the water to drown.

                        Vampire Hermit

                          She was nervous when her husband said they were to stay in the abandoned house, for it contained the corpse of the hermit who once lived there, enshrined in a coffin in the loft. It was an old custom and one no longer popular among the Iroquois people, but the hermit had insisted upon it before his death. There was good hunting in this place, her man had declared, and so they moved in and she unpacked their few belongings in the front room, refusing to go up into the loft where the hermit’s body lay.

                          The Salt Witch

                          The Salt Witch

                            A pillar of snowy salt once stood on the Nebraska plain, about forty miles above the point where the Saline flows into the Platte, and people used to call it the Salt Witch.

                            The Banshee of the Badlands

                            Banshee of the Bad Lands

                              “Hell, with the fires out,” is what the Bad Lands of Dakota have been called. The fearless nomenclature fits the place.

                              The Heart of a Monster

                              The Heart of the Monster

                                There was during the time of the Watetash a monster living in the country of Kamiah in Central Idaho. This monster had the peculiar property of an irresistible breath, so that when it inhaled, the winds and grass and trees and even different animals would be sucked into its devouring maw.

                                Ogopogo the Lake Monster

                                Ogopogo the Lake Monster

                                  His mind was full of dark thoughts and the demons spoke to him. His wild eyes and words frightened his people, and he became an outcast, shunned by all. One day in a fury of rage and pain, he attacked old Kan-He-Kan, a local wise man.

                                  The First Tears

                                    Once long ago, Man went hunting along the water’s edge for seals. To Man’s delight, many seals were crowded together along the seashore. He would certainly bring home a great feast for Woman and Son.

                                    Crow Brings the Daylight

                                    Crow Brings the Daylight

                                      Long, long ago, when the world was still new, the Inuit lived in darkness in their home in the fastness of the north. They had never heard of daylight, and when it was first explained to them by Crow, who traveled back and forth between the northlands and the south, they did not believe him.

                                      Dueling fiddlers

                                      Dueling Fiddlers

                                        There was once a man named Joost who was plodding home on Saturday night, his fiddle under his arm. He had been playing for a wedding in Flatbush and had been drinking schnapps until he saw stars on the ground and fences in the sky; in fact, the universe seemed so out of order that he seated himself rather heavily on this rock to think about it.

                                        The Snow Maiden

                                        The Snow Maiden

                                          Once upon a time there lived a peasant named Ivan and his wife, Marie. They were very sad because they had no children. One cold winter day the peasant and his wife sat near a window in their cottage and watched the village children playing in the snow. The little ones were busily at work making a beautiful snow maiden.

                                          The Ice King

                                          The Ice King

                                            Once upon a time there was a village built on the bank of a wide river. During the spring, summer, and autumn the people were very happy. There was plenty of fuel and game in the deep woods; the river afforded excellent fish. But the Passamaquoddy dreaded the months when the Ice King reigned.

                                            Saint Nicholas and the Children

                                            St. Nicholas and the Children

                                              Two little children lived with their old grandmother in a remote place in the Canadian forest. They were twin children—a boy and a girl, Pierre and Estelle by name—and except for their dress it was not easy to tell them apart. Their father and mother had died in the springtime, and in the summer, they had left their old home because of its many sad memories and had gone to live with their old grandmother in a new home elsewhere.

                                              The First Christmas Tree

                                              The First Christmas Tree

                                                At the time when the Christ Child was born all the people, the animals, and the trees, and plants were very happy. The Child was born to bring peace and happiness to the whole world. People came daily to see the little One, and they always brought gifts with them.

                                                No Room: A Christmas Legend

                                                No Room

                                                  Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, on the night before Christmas, a little child was wandering all alone through the streets of a great city. There were many people on the street, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, and even gray-haired grandfathers and grandmothers, all of whom were hurrying home with bundles of presents for each other and for their little ones. Fine carriages rolled by, express wagons rattled past, even old carts were pressed into service, and all things seemed in a hurry and glad with expectation of the coming Christmas morning

                                                  Legend of Babouschka

                                                  The Legend of Babouscka

                                                    It was the night the dear Christ-Child came to Bethlehem. In a country far away from Him, an old, old woman named Babouscka sat in her snug little house by her warm fire. The wind was drifting the snow outside and howling down the chimney, but it only made Babouscka’s fire burn more brightly.

                                                    Eavesdropper

                                                    Eavesdropper

                                                      There is an old tale which claims that at midnight, on Christmas Eve, the cattle will kneel in the barn and speak with one another. Once an old Maryland man decided to test the tale by hiding in the barn at midnight to listen. So he climbed a rope to the window in the hayloft. He lay down on the rough gray boards, covered himself with hay and waited…

                                                      The Street of the Jewel

                                                      The Street of the Jewel

                                                        What this street was called, in very old times, Señor, no one knows: because the dreadful thing that gave to it the name of the Street of the Jewel happened a long, long while ago.

                                                        Armadillo’s Song

                                                          There once lived an armadillo who loved music more than anything else in the world. After every rainfall, the armadillo would drag his shell over to the large pond filled with frogs and he would listen to the big green frogs singing back and forth, back and forth to each other in the most amazing voices.

                                                          La Llorona

                                                          La Llorona

                                                            Once there was a widow who wished to marry a rich nobleman. However, the nobleman did not want to raise another man’s children and he dismissed her. The widow was determined to have the nobleman for her own, so the widow drowned her children to be free of them…

                                                            Llorona, Omen of Death

                                                            Llorona, Omen of Death

                                                              They say that the Llorona was once a poor young girl who loved a rich nobleman, and together they had three children. The girl wished to marry the nobleman, but he refused her. He told her that he might have considered marrying her if she had not born the three out-of-wedlock children, which he considered a disgrace.