Gluskap and Malsum

Gluskap and Malsum (Glooscap, Glooska, Gluskabe) In North American Indian mythology (Abnaki), twin brothers; Gluskap, a creator god, culture hero, and trickster killed his evil brother Malsum.

Gluskap and Malsum discussed their birth while still in their mother’s womb. “I will be born as others are born,” said Gluskap. But Malsum, being evil, said it was not proper that he should be born as others were. He wished to have an extraordinary birth. Gluskap was born first in the natural manner, but Malsum forced his way out of his mother’s armpit, killing her as a result.

The two brothers grew up together. One day Malsum asked Gluskap how he would be killed, since Gluskap, as well as Malsum, possessed a charmed life. Gluskap, remembering how Malsum had caused the death of their mother, told a lie. “I can be killed by the stroke of an owl’s feather,” he told Malsum. “I can die only by a blow from a large fern root,” replied Malsum.

One day Malsum decided he would kill his brother. He took his bow and arrow and shot Ko-ko-khas, the owl, and with one of his feathers struck Gluskap while he was asleep. Gluskap awoke suddenly and said it was not by an owl’s feather that he would die, but by a blow from a pine root.

The next day Malsum led Gluskap into the deep forest to hunt. After the hunt, while Gluskap slept, Malsum hit him on the head with a pine root. Gluskap awoke and in anger chased Malsum deeper into the woods. Gluskap then came to a brook and said to himself, “Malsum does not know, but only a flowering rush can kill me.”

Beaver, who was hidden among the reeds, heard Gluskap, and rushed to Malsum to tell him the secret. In return for the secret Malsum promised to give Beaver whatever he wanted. When Beaver asked for wings like a pigeon, Malsum laughed at him, and Beaver left in anger. Beaver then went to Gluskap and told him what had happened. Gluskap took a large-footed fern and killed Malsum, driving his evil magic below the earth. Malsum then became an evil wolf.

With Malsum out of the way and evil underground, Gluskap created the world from the body of his dead mother. He then took his bow and arrows and shot at ash trees, and people came out of the bark. Gluskap then made all of the animals and taught humankind the arts. But people were not grateful to Gluskap. This saddened him until he could no longer endure it. One day he made a feast by the shore. All of the beasts came to it. When the feast was over he boarded a great canoe and left. The beasts could hear him sing, but his voice grew fainter as the canoe moved on. Then a deep silence fell on the animals. Until then they could all understand one another’s language, but from that time they could not, so each fled to his home. One day Gluskap will return to restore the earth and make people and animals live together once more in peace and love.


ataensic; iouskeha and tawiscaron

Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante