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Le Loup-Garou

There is a creature that has terrorized many villages across Europe before it made its way over the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. This creature hides among regular humans during the day and most nights but on the nights of the full moon, it cannot hide any longer. It attacks livestock and takes the form of a giant humanoid wolf. In English it is the Werewolf, in French it is called Le Loup-Garou. In 1700s Québec le Loup-Garou was considered a very real fear and now it is considered an old French legend.


On the Saint-Laurent River – James Pattison Cockburn, crédit: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, no d’acc 1934-39

            Le Loup-Garou terrorized the area of Québec for years but 21 July 1766 the Québec Gazette reported a werewolf attack at St. Rock, near Cap. Mouraska. Le Loup-Garou took the form of a beggar, asking for work and promising to do things that he could not do. Then at night a loup-garou would terrorize the village, destroying livestock all around the area. 2 December 1767 le Loup-Garou had returned, this time in Kamouraska and Québec City. Le Loup-Garou allegedly caused considerable destruction to the city and when the citizens attacked it and hurt it, le Loup-Garou just came back angrier.

            What happened after that? Did le Loup-Garou die? Were the citizens victorious?

            No one seems to know. It was as if the creature just disappeared. It was never reported again in a major newspaper but rumours of it surrounded the province of Québec.

            Now le Loup-Garou has become a folktale in Québec and there a two popular stories involving a Loup-Garou. Interestingly enough, both versions involve a man named Hubert who ends up being the werewolf.

            The first tale of le Loup-Garou comes from a small unknown village. In this village there was a miller by the name of Joachim Crête. Crête hired a stranger, who had shown up at his door, named Hubert. Hubert was a reliable hard-worker who did not ask for too much. After work every night the two of them would drink and play checkers, they were known for being too excessive in their drinking. Afterwards, Hubert would leave the house into the dead of night. Crête wasn’t suspicious of the behaviour, but he did think it was a little odd.

            Then a loup-garou began mauling sheep around the town. Hubert asked the miller what he thought of these stories and Crête just laughed, calling them silly rumours. It couldn’t be more than a pack of wolves.

            But one night the mill broke. The miller and Hubert went to fix it but the mill just wouldn’t budge. The miller lost track of Hubert and went back inside, deciding to fix the mill in the morning when they had light. Then a huge black dog, the size of a human, with massive fangs and glowing red eyes entered his house. Crête called for Hubert and the dog responded. It was at that moment that the miller believed his worker to be le Loup-Garou.

Crête fell to his knees to pray and that is when Hubert sprang on him. The miller grabs a sickle from the wall and cut off le Loup-Garou’s ear, as this is considered one way to kill a loup-garou. The beast disappeared and Hubert reappeared moments later, but he was missing an ear. The miller was hit with realization and Hubert fled from the area, never to be heard from again.

The second tale begins with a hunter and trapper named Hubert Sauvageau (French for savage) and his apprentice André. The two of them make a camp in the woods with a stranger name Léo. Rumours of a loup-garou were prominent at the time and Hubert asks André if he knows how to spot one and what to do if faced with one. Hubert tells him what he should do and gives him a good luck charm. If a werewolf attacks, André is to throw the good luck charm at the white spot in the middle of his head. The three of them tuck into their beds to go to sleep. Hubert leaves the camp when he believes the other two are asleep, but André is woken by Hubert’s movements.

There is howling and rustling in the forest around the camp and a massive white wolf appears. It drags a deer passed André and the sleeping Léo. It begins to eat the deer near the camp. As dawn comes, the wolf gets up and goes into the forest with Hubert reappearing moments later, instantly going to sleep in his bed.

André is convinced that his mentor is le Loup-Garou and wakes up Léo, telling him everything he had seen. He shows Léo the carcass of the deer but there are no tracks around it. It is said that a loup-garou never leaves tracks behind. Léo becomes convinced and they discuss what to do.

When Hubert awakens, the other two of them confront him. He admits that he is le Loup-Garou but he would never hurt them, they had proof of that last night. But Léo is not convinced and says Hubert can’t make any promises. Hubert asks them not to tell but Léo says he cannot keep it a secret and that he would kill a loup-garou if necessary.

The next night le Loup-Garou comes back and goes to attack Léo. André throws the good luck charm at the spot on le Loup-Garou’s forehead, drawing blood. It turns back into Hubert who thanks André for freeing him of the curse.

Le Loup-Garou – credit: Library and Archives Canada; Copyright: Canada Post Corporation

What do the Quebecois believe makes a person a loup-garou?

Well, it is said that anyone who misses their Easter duties seven years in a row is immediately cursed to be a loup-garou. In some cases, the only way to save this cursed person is to know who they are in their human form and draw its blood when they are a loup-garou. Or as previously stated, cutting off an ear of a loup-garou will destroy. A loup-garou can be very dangerous if it is not saved or killed.

In the area of Québec, it was truly believed that a loup-garou was terrorizing them and mauling the livestock. Whether it was a loup-garou or just a pack of wild animals is unknown for people who believe in the supernatural. Now le Loup-Garou lives as a folk legend in Québec culture. So when you go out in the wilds of Québec always be aware of the natural and supernatural dangers that lurk in the trees.

Bibliography

DStaff. “Werewolf-Legend of Quebec.” DME: Documystere (July 25, 2012). Updated February 12, 2014. Accessed April 11, 2019. documystere.com/monstres-creatures/loup-garou-legende-du-quebec/

Friedman, Amy and Johnson, Meredith. “The Loup Garou (A French Canadian Tale). Uexpress (February 28, 1999). Accessed April 11, 2019. www.uexpress.com/tell-me-a-story/1999/2/28/the-loup-garou-a-french-canadian

Langlois, Hubert. “Beware the ‘loup-garou’.” CBC Archives: Quebec Now (December 25, 1973. Radio Show. Accessed April 11, 2019. www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/monsters-and-myths-beware-the-loup-garou

Schmitz, Nancy. “Loup-Garou.” The Canadian Encyclopedia (March 12, 2007). Edited January 21, 2015. Accessed April 11, 2019. www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/loup-garou

Summers, Ken. “Beastly Burdens: Investigating the Menacing Loup-Garou, Quebec’s Werewolf.” Week in Weird (November 8, 2011). Accessed April 11, 2019. weekinweird.com/2011/11/08/beastly-burdens-werewolf-quebec/

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Glooscap and Winpe

Oral traditions are important and our ability to listen, truly listen, to another person as they talk to us is something that is incredibly valuable. It can be respectful to truly listen to someone as it means you are learning about the person who is talking, their worldview and the wisdom they contain about topics you may never think about.

            Words and writing contain a wisdom as well and there is a lot that can be learned from written stories. An oral story is different. It is personal. It is someone in front of you, someone real, who has feelings and lives as you do. To hear someone tell a story is to be a part of their life, their teaching and to provide them with an open, listening mind. It is in this way that oral traditions are important.

            There is time, effort and care put into telling and listening to stories. A person can copy what is written and place it in another book or on the Internet. A voiced story cannot be truly copied. It is personal, it holds nuances specific to that person. It is not something that can be duplicated.

            Before Europeans colonized Canada the tribes that lived across the land told their legends orally. They had writings, drawings, pictograms, but the heart of the culture was the spoken word. It was important to listen to the Elders and take in every word. It was spiritual and it was respectful. The tales told were told with a reason and were part of the life. While tales were changed from tribe to tribe, maybe just in the spelling or in a critical part of the legend, they still held a significant weight for the tribe it was being told in. Stories change but the feeling, the spiritual emphasis and the cultural importance remains.

            It was during the process of colonization, and later assimilation, that Native tribes lost stories. Being punished for speaking their mother tongue or being stolen from their tribes and lands, legends could not always be passed down to the next generation. Now, in the age of the Internet and an emphasis on academia, to fit in we read, write, type and regurgitate information from one site to the next. It is difficult to just sit down and listen to a story when reading alone is easier. Is it better? I cannot answer that as it would be hypocritical of me as I type and share a story online, but it is a thoughtful question.

            The Beothuk was a tribe that was wiped out from disease and killing. They are now extinct. Almost all of their legends and culture is gone. Finding a religious or spiritual legend from the Beothuk is next to impossible. It is as if they have been erased and that is devastating. It is due to this that I have chosen a story from the Mi’kmaq. What had happened to the Beothuk should never happen to any other people or culture.

Demasduit, reputed to be the last Beothuk who died in 1820 from Tuberculosis – original portrait by Lady Henrietta Martha Hamilton, Library and Archives Canada / acc. no. 1977-14-1

            So now, I want to tell a legend from the Mi’kmaq, specifically the Loon People of Newfoundland and urge us to go and listen to the people living around us so memories and culture are not lost. To hear from them is to not speak for them, but to listen. Listen to the culture around us and open ourselves up. There is a lot to learn. I write this now, not to take the story from them and to tell it my own way, but because I feel the importance of it and I want to share what I have learned in my own research. However, seek out primary sources, what I share is not exact and the memories are much more precise coming from a primary source.

The Story of Glooscap and Winpe

In Mi’kmaq culture, the hero of many stories is The Great Chief – Glooscap. Glooscap was brought to life by Creator, a being who transcends the binary of man and woman, Creator is all. Creator struck the land of Wabanaki – the Atlantic Seaboard and home to the Mi’kmaqs, Malecites, Penobscots and Passamaquoddies – with lightning. Glooscap was formed, in the shape of a male human, out of the sand. Creator sent a second bolt of lightning and Glooscap was given life. He could see the world around him but he could not move, so he asked Creator to allow him to learn about his new world. Creator sent a third bolt of lightning down and freed Glooscap, allowing him to move. In another tale he is said to have come to Wabanaki on the back of a turtle. In any tale he comes to Wabanaki to watch and learn about the world around him.

            Glooscap relied on the respect and wisdom from his relatives and Elders. In doing so, they gave him great spiritual strength. He passes this knowledge onto the Mi’kmaq and becomes the central figure and hero in their legends. From tribe to tribe stories of Glooscap are told.

           Winpe on the other hand was a being of evil. In the majority of tales Winpe is portrayed as a man, however sometimes she is a sorceress. He is a sorcerer and the ruler of the Northern Sea. Winpe is most likely a giant. Winpe left suffering wherever he went and he was jealous of Glooscap who was more powerful than he was. Winpe either challenges Glooscap to a battle and then steals Glooscap’s family or just kidnaps his family outright. In the beginning of this tale, Winpe puts Grandmother and Marten in a large canoe and paddles away with his two captives, luring Glooscap into a challenge.

Icebergs off Cape Race, Newfoundland in 1894 – original drawing by Henry Ash

            Glooscap calls out for his dogs, who Winpe has now shrunken down to the size of mice, and Grandmother sets them in a dish and floats them back to Glooscap. Glooscap waits, it is unsure for how long, before he is able to go after his family. He goes to the water and chants for a whale. The largest one, Bootsup, comes to the surface and Glooscap gets on top. Bootsup carries him across the bay where there is a teepee with a man and a woman. They tell Glooscap of Winpe’s evil doings and tell him to eat cranberries around Winpe as it will help him to see a trail of Winpe’s magic.

            Glooscap gets off Bootsup’s back and continues on his journey. He comes across an old camp of Winpe where an old woman is now camping. She complains of Winpe and the cold and begs Glooscap to help her make a fire. Before he sets down to help her, he eats a cranberry. Seeing that she is one of Winpe’s witches, he puts her in a deep sleep. After, he continues on his way.

            He meets two beautiful women. The two of them try to seduce him and slip a magic noose around his neck. This noose would take away his power and strength. While his dogs were still the size of mice, they could grow as large as bears. The two dogs magically grew and protected Glooscap from the maidens.

            Glooscap may have met many more obstacles along the way, it is not really certain. When he finally got to Winpe’s camp he was angry to see how his family had been treated. Winpe was cruel. Grandmother and Marten sat in tattered clothes and Winpe has starved them. Glooscap tries to free his family without the sorcerer seeing him but he is unsuccessful. When Winpe sees him the two of them begin a battle, or a game of tokohon. Glooscap wins and destroys Winpe to not allow evil onto the world and his people. Glooscap takes tokohon to teach his people, later it is renamed lacrosse.

            The people of K’Taqmkuk – Newfoundland – rejoice as Winpe is finally gone and they are freed from his cruelty. They serve a large feast to Glooscap and his family, treating them royally. As Glooscap and his family leave he tells the people of K’Taqmkuk to call him if he is needed. The call is the call of a loon. This is why the Newfoundland people are called the “Loon People” and how the Mi’kmaq learned lacrosse.

The Great Speckled Loon of Newfoundland, 1735 – original picture by Eleazar Albin – Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-2523 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana

Bibliography

Arcturus Publishing. “How Glooscap Conquered his Enemies (Mi’kmaq).” In Native American Myths and Legends. London, Ontario: Arcturus Holdings Limited, 2017. Accessed April 3, 2019. Google Books Edition.

Augustine, Stephen. “Mi’kmaq Knowledge in the Mi’kmaq Creation Story: Lasting Words and Deeds.” Micmaw Spirit, (April 8, 1977). Accessed April 3, 2019. www.muiniskw.org/pgCulture3a.htm

“Legendary Native American Figures: Winpe.” Native Languages of the Americas, (2015). Accessed April 3, 2019. www.native-languages.org/winpe.htm

Partridge, Emelyn Newcomb. “How Glooscap Conquered His Enemies.” In Glooscap the Great Chief and Other Stories: Legends of the Micmacs, 247-256. New York: Sturgis and Walton, 1913. Accessed April 3, 2019. archive.org/details/glooscapgreatchi00part/page/247

Spicer, Stanley T. “Legend of Glooscap.” Glooscap Legends – St. George’s Indian Band, (2019). Accessed April 3, 2019. www.sgibnl.ca/legend-of-glooscap/

Welker, Glenn. “Glooscap and Winpe.” American Indian Heritage Foundation, (1996). Accessed April 3, 2019. www.indians.org/welker/winpe.htm

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Nanabijou – The Tale of The Sleeping Giant

The Sleeping Giant from the The Bluffs in Thunder Bay March 2018 – original photo by Piercing Moon Creations

Whenever you take a trip to Northern Ontario, the main hub is Thunder Bay. This city is made out of two older cities: Fort William and Port Arthur, amalgamated in the 1970s. Fort William is one of the oldest and first fur trading posts in Canada and North America, and it has only grown since that time. Before colonization began, Thunder Bay was home to many tribes of Algonquin people.

Sitting at the most Northern part of Lake Superior, it serves a beautiful view of the largest Great Lake. The most impressive sight that can be seen from any hill in Thunder Bay it that of The Sleeping Giant. A formation of land that looks like a giant who laid down in the water and fell asleep. Now, rocks, trees and other life live upon this giant who has never gotten up. It is a wonderful sight to behold.

            The tale of this giant is old and if one has been to Thunder Bay, they have likely heard of Nanabijou and the silver mine resting at his feet. There are variations to the tale but this is one of the popular ones. The legend tells how this particular formation of land came to be.

            There was a powerful and benevolent god, Nanabijou (or Nanna Bijou or Nanabozho) who loved the Ojibwa tribe of the Great Lakes region. He watched over them and helped them in their times of need. One of these times was the arrival of Europeans, whitemen, in the area who had begun setting up trading posts and seeing what resources could be gleaned from the land. With them, the Europeans, brought disease and alcohol, both having long-lasting and detrimental effects to the native population of Canada. It was during this difficult time that Nanabijou offered a gift to the Ojibwa tribe, a gift that the Europeans must never learn about or it would turn to a curse and Nanabijou would turn it to stone.

            The gift was silver.

            The Ojibwa people began mining the silver. They produced such finely crafted items with the silver better than all of the Algonquin tribes in the area. Others began to be envious of this. The ones who were the most envious were the Sioux.

            The Sioux went to the Ojibwa camp and began to torture and kill the Ojibwa but the Ojibwa refused to give up Nanabijou’s gift. Figuring that they could not get the information by force, the Sioux decided on a different tactic. They sent a scout, disguised as an Ojibwa tribesman, into the camp. He sat and listened, finally learning the location of the mine. Once he had found out what he had come for, he left, stopping at a trading post on his way.

            Having nothing to pay with, the scout traded a piece of silver which excited the two Europeans working the trading post. To find out where the scout had gotten the silver, and where they could get more, the Europeans gave him alcohol. Once drunk, the Sioux scout divulged all of the secrets and immediately the two Europeans set off to find the silver mine.

            Nanabijou was not blind and he knew exactly what was happening. As soon as the Europeans knew where his gift was located he sprang into action. Angry and disappointed Nanabijou created a massive storm from Lake Superior. Waves became taller than hills and the wind whipped trees from the ground. Water filled the Europeans boat, killing them. Then, Nanabijou laid down, arms crossed over his chest and the mine under his feet away from everyone. There, Nanabijou lays to this day, protecting his gift.

The Sleeping Giant from Waterfront Park Thunder Bay, May 2018 – original photo by Piercing Moon Creations

            The Ojibwa knew what had happened instantly and gave their thanks at being allowed to access what silver they had. The “whitemen,” however, still try mining to this day.

            To mine Silver Islet is a massive undertaking as the mine is 384 metres deep and beneath the dangerous and cold waters of Lake Superior.

            In 1870 the Montreal Mining Company sold it to Alexander Sibley of Silver Islet Mining Company. They had a rough start but once William B. Frue became lead engineer they knew to build a breakwall to protect the islet and had pumps that were to continue running at all times, pumping water out of the mine.

            The mine became so deep that the timber supports could not handle the rock weight and they had to leave a thick silver vein running down the mine leading to the roof to help drag the rocks up. After thirteen years mining came to a halt. The mine needed coal badly to keep the pumps going and a shipment of coal needed did not arrive. The pumps ceased and the mine flooded. After that, other attempts were never really made to reopen the mine. So, the mine closed and Nanabijou still rests with the mine at his feet.

Resting Under Our Feet, March 2018 – original photo by Piercing Moon Creations

            While this legend also holds some fact to it and artifacts from this tribe have had silver, there does not seem to be any from the stated islands themselves. The story of The Sleeping Giant is possibly just a version of a much older story that can no longer be traced to its origins. It is an incredibly important tale of the area and it is part of the history. There is no denying that the Sleeping Giant is a beautiful sight and it lays protecting a silver mine and the tribes of Lake Superior.

Bibliography

Kerry, Sullivan. “The Native American Legend of the Sleeping Giant and the Whiteman.” Ancient Origins: Reconstructing the Story of Humanity’s Past (July 19, 2016). Accessed March 25, 2019. www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/native-american-legend-sleeping-giant-and-whiteman-006302

Oades, Will. “The Surprising, Shocking, Startling, Astonishing Story of Silver Islet.” Ontario Parks (August 30, 2018). Accessed March 25, 2019. www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/sleeping-giant-silver-islet-mine/

Reid, Stephanie. “Nanabijou – The Sleeping Giant.” Northern Ontario Travel (March 24, 2017). Accessed March 25, 2019. www.northernontario.travel/thunder-bay/legend-of-the-sleeping-giant

“Sleeping Giant (Ontario).” Wikipedia. Accessed March 25, 2019. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Giant_(Ontario)

“The Sleeping Giant: An Ojibwa Legend.” First People – The Legends (2016). Accessed March 25, 2019. www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TheSleepingGiant-Ojibwa.html

Looking Towards a Giant, March 2019 – original photo by Piercing Moon Creations