Onniont

Onniont

The Onniont is a huge serpent of Huron folklore that looks like an armored fish. When it travels, it breaks through everything in its path. Rocks, trees, and bears are all grist to its mill. An onniont is unstoppable. Any small part of it would make a potent talisman.

Nobody ever saw an onniont. According to Jesuit missionaries, however, neighboring Algonquin merchants claimed to sell pieces of onniont, and publicized the legend themselves.

References

Vimont, B. (1858) Relations des Jésuites, v. II. Augustin Coté, Quebec.

Rumptifusel

Variations: Villosus sumptuosus (Tryon), Rumtifusel (Tryon)

Rumtifusel

There is a common misconception that “owl pellets” are left behind by owls. This belief, spread by highfalutin scientists, is a load of hooey. Any lumberjack can tell you that those pellets are wadded-up clumps of clothing, the only remains of unfortunate greenhorns who approached a Rumptifusel.

Rumptifusels are big, vicious animals covered in a fine pelt not unlike mink. They are flat and very flexible and not too fast. Much like the anglerfish and the alligator snapping turtle, the rumptifusel lures prey within reach by appealing to greed. A rumptifusel catches its prey by draping its thin body over a stump or log in plain sight, looking for all the world like an abandoned expensive fur coat. When a greedy tenderfoot approaches for a better look, the rumptifusel – moving with deceptive speed – engulfs its victim. The underside of the critter is lined with tiny sucking pores, and its prey is thoroughly drained off its bones.

References

Brown, C. E. (1935) Paul Bunyan Natural History. Madison, Wisconsin.

Tryon, H. H. (1939) Fearsome Critters. The Idlewild Press, Cornwall, NY.

Issitôq

Issitoq

Issitôq, “giant eye”, is a gloomy helping spirit that appeared to the Iglulik Inuit mystic Anarqâq. As Anarqâq had just lost his parents, Issitôq consoled him. “You must not be afraid of me; I, too, struggle with sad thoughts, so I will go with you and be your helping spirit”.

Issitôq has short bristly hair that stands straight up. Each of its eyes is in two sections. Its mouth is vertical, with a single long tooth at the top and two shorter ones at the side. It specializes in finding taboo-breakers.

References

Rasmussen, K. (1929) Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos. Glydendalske Boghandel, Nordisk Forlag, Copenhagen.

Wingoc

Variations: Wing (obsolete), Wingocak (pl.), Wingwak (pl.)

Wingoc

The Wingwak are the Algonquian spirits of sleep. A wingoc appears as a somniferous fly or butterfly, with greater numbers appearing to bedevil people into sleep (they typically show up five per person). The term wingoc is also used for sleep; compare ingwac, to be sleepy, and ingwam, to sleep.

A man playing in the sky once fell through a hole to land on Earth. There he found people sleeping, and one man sleeping more than the others. The heavenly visitor fashioned himself a small bow and arrows and started shooting at the clouds of flies above the sleeper. With some of the wingwak killed and others set to flight, the sleeper awoke. The celestial man then imparted his wisdom to the Algonquians, warning them of the arrival of the bearded men who would be the end of their race.

Expressions include ni nisigok wingwak (“the wingwak kill me”, i.e. “I am overwhelmed with sleepiness”) and wingwak ondjita manek (“there are so many wingwak”, i.e. “everyone’s asleep”).

References

Chamberlain, A. F. (1900) Some Items of Algonkian Folk-Lore. The Journal of American Folklore, 13(51), pp. 271-277.

Cuoq, J. A. (1886) Lexique de la Langue Algonquine. J. Chapleau et Fils, Montreal.

Lemoine, G. (1909) Dictionnaire Francais-Algonquin. G. Delisle, Chicoutimi.

Hugag

Variations: Rythmopes inarticulatus (Cox), Reclinor rigidus (Tryon)

hugag

The Animal That Cannot Lie Down is a near-universal tale arrived at independently by multiple cultures and commonly attached to accounts of the moose. The Hugag is another permutation of this theme repackaged for the whimsical world of backwoods tall tales. Whether it came spontaneously into existence, was derived from native tales of the Stiff-Legged Bear, or is a bit of Classical jokery from Cox, none can say for certain.

Hugags are found in lumberwoods territory, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada, and are the largest beasts of the lumberwoods. Cox describes them as looking like enormous moose, with the chief difference being jointless legs and overdeveloped upper lips. The head and neck are hairless, covered by a leathery skin. The ears are corrugated and floppy. The feet have four toes, and the coat and long tail are shaggy. Tryon adds more detail, giving it a warty snout, a bald, lumpy head, and pine needles for hair. It stands 13 feet tall and weighs up to 6,000 pounds. Pitch oozes from its pores.

A hugag is completely incapable of lying down. It is constantly on the move, browsing from trees by wrapping its upper lip around branches, and occasionally stripping bark. Pine knots are its favorite food. It sleeps by leaning against a tree. Bent trees, posts, and cabins are signs of a hugag’s passing. Hugag hunters can easily bag their quarry by sawing almost completely through a tree, so that when a hugag leans against it the tree collapses, leaving the animal helpless on the ground. Most of the time it is difficult to find hugags, mainly because they disguise themselves as piles of pine slash. Fortunately hugags are quite harmless, barring cases when they lean on houses.

Mike Flynn is the current record-holder hugag hunter, having killed a massive 1,800-pounder on the Turtle River, Minnesota. It was a juvenile.

References

Beck, H. P. (1949) The animal that cannot lie down. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 39(9), pp. 294-301.

Cox, W. T. (1910) Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods with a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts. Judd and Detweiler, Washington D. C.

Dorson, R. M. (1982) Man and Beast in American Comic Legend. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Tryon, H. H. (1939) Fearsome Critters. The Idlewild Press, Cornwall, NY.

Númhyalikyu

Variations: Númhyělekum

Numhyalikyu

Númhyalikyu, “one chief one”, is an enormous, monstrous halibut of Pacific Northwest Kwakwaka’wakw folklore. Its back looks like a beach, complete with ripples left behind by the waves. It has the head of a seal, with a shining spot that gleams like fire.

If a númhyalikyu is killed, its head can be stabbed and its gleaming ornament extracted, revealing it to be a hard and shiny crystalline object. This is known as tlúgwi, and it is highly valuable. It is hard to pinpoint the location of a númhyalikyu, however, as it makes a deep humming sound that reverberates through water and air and rumbles through the trees, seeming to come from everywhere at once.

Númhyalikyu brings bad weather and storms. When it comes to the surface, it creates treacherous shallows that wreck canoes. Its rippled back, often just below the surface of the water, can be easily mistaken for a small island.

Númhyalikyu’s dance is númkahl, “personification of númhyalikyu”. The initiate playing the part of númhyalikyu wears a face mask, and is caught on the beach after metaphorically leaving the sea.

References

Curtis, E. S. (1915) The North American Indian, v. X. The Plimpton Press, Norwood.

Tsemaus

Variations: Tsemaus, Chemouse, Narhnarem-tsemaus, Snag, Supernatural Snag, Tsem’aus, Tcamaos, Tca’maos, Tidewalker, Ts’um’os, Tsamaos, Kanem Ktsem’aus; Weegyet, Wi’git

Tsemaus

The Tsemaus (“Snag”) or Narhnarem-Tsemaus (“Supernatural Snag”) is the personification of river snags., floating logs, and other hazards of the water. It is found in the folklore and art of the Pacific Northwest, notably in Tsimshian and Haida culture around the mouth of the Skeena River.

One of its names, Wi’git or Weegyet, connects it to Raven the trickster, and it is one of his many forms. The creator and trickster Nanki’islas also assumed the form of a tsemaus after he was done.

A tsemaus can vary a lot in appearance, much like the driftwood it imitates, but it almost always has a snag for a dorsal fin – or is itself a snag. It can be as simple as a dead log with a tail that can swim against the current. It can be a huge sea lion with dorsal fins and blowholes, or an enormous grizzly bear with a downturned mouth like a dogfish and two sharp snags protruding from its back, with or without one or more sharp fins of a killer whale. It can be a hybrid of bear and killer whale, or raven and killer whale, with multiple bodies. It can be a large frog covered in seaweed with a snag sticking out of its back, and can even be a canoe or a schooner. Meurger states that it can cleave swimmers with its fin.

The tsemaus uses its fin to destroy boats. It has no problem swimming upstream and plowing through log jams. If angered it breaches and lands on canoes, smashing them to bits, or makes huge waves to capsize boats. It drowns people, who then become killer whales.

It is found as a crest on the totem poles of the coastal clans.

References

Barbeau, M. (1950) Totem poles. Bulletin No. 119, Anthropological Series No. 30, National Museum of Canada, Ottawa.

Barbeau, M. (1953) Haida Myths Illustrated in Argillite Carvings. Bulletin No. 127, Anthropological Series No. 32, National Museum of Canada, Ottawa.

Boas, F. (1951) Primitive Art. Capitol Publishing Company, New York.

Deans, J. (1893) Totem Posts at the World’s Fair. The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal, Vol. XV, No. 4, pp. 281-286.

Meurger, M. (1988) Lake Monster Traditions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Fortean Tomes, London.

Swanton, J. R. (1909) Contributions of the Ethnology of the Haida. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. VIII.