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The Wind Eagle

Source: Abenaki legend

Read this and other stories in the book, Noticing Nature, by Chuck Bonner. Also available in e-book format for Amazon Kindle.

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This is the story of how Gluskabe learned an important lesson from one of his mistakes.

Prologue: "The Wind Eagle" is quite typical of the Gluskabe stories. Gluskabe sees something not right with the world and sets out to fix it. Afterward, he discovers that his attempt has actually made things worse. Through the wisdom of Grandmother Woodchuck, he realizes the error of his ways. While never acknowledging his guilt (and, indeed, attempting to conceal it), he corrects the new problem he has created, then arrives at a compromise that fixes the original problem without the unexpected side effects of his impetuous first attempt. Gluskabe is not a god, but a culture hero of the Abenaki and related Algonquian cultures. He has been likened to Prometheus, making the world a better place for human beings. However, Gluskabe does not act in antagonism to Tabaldak, the Owner, he just makes a few innocent blunders. Prometheus, on the contrary, frequently defies and tricks Zeus, and he is punished for it. In Abenaki tradition, Gluskabe is contrasted to Tabaldak and likened to the human beings in that he, like us, has the power to create something from something, while only Tabaldak has the power to create something from nothing. Some Abenaki and other Algonquian stories have Gluskabe creating the first human beings, while some have Tabaldak creating everything directly. In any case, human beings are called the children and grandchildren of Gluskabe.

One day, Gluskabe (say "GLOOSE-kah-BAY") decided it was time to go hunting ducks. He took his bow and arrows and got into his canoe and began paddling across the lake. A strong wind was blowing, and it pushed his canoe back to the near shore of the lake.

He paddled harder, and began to get close to the ducks. But the wind-driven waves slapped against his canoe. The noise alerted the ducks, and they flew away.

Gluskabe returned home empty-handed. He asked Grandmother Woodchuck, "Where does the wind come from?"

Grandmother Woodchuck replied, "The Wind Eagle stands on top of the tallest mountain, flapping his wings and making the wind blow over all the world."

"How can I find the Mountain of the Wind Eagle?" Gluskabe asked.

"Walk with your face always toward the wind, and you will come to the Mountain of the Wind Eagle."

So Gluskabe set out to find the Mountain of the Wind Eagle. He walked for many, many days, always with his face to the wind. Days turned to weeks and months, but still Gluskabe walked on.

Eventually, Gluskabe came to the Mountain of the Wind Eagle. He could see the Wind Eagle high atop the mountain, flapping his great wings and sending a driving wind down the flanks of the mountain and out across the whole world.

Gluskabe began to climb the mountain. As he got higher and closer to the Wind Eagle, the wind grew stronger and stronger. Gluskabe had to hang on to the rocks and climb with his hands and feet, but still he kept climbing. The wind was so strong, it blew Gluskabe's shirt off, but he kept climbing higher. Soon, the wind blew his pants off, but Gluskabe kept climbing. As he got even closer, the wind blew all the hair off his head, and even blew his eyebrows off, but Gluskabe climbed higher.

When he reached the top of the mountain, Gluskabe spoke to the Wind Eagle. "Grandfather," he shouted over the roar of the wind, "You do an excellent job making wind for all the world."

"Thank you," answered the Wind Eagle. "That is what I do. I am the Wind Eagle."

"Grandfather," Gluskabe said, "Maybe you could make the wind even better if you stood on that mountain over there."

"Maybe so," said the Wind Eagle, "but how can I get there?"

"I will help you," Gluskabe said. "I can carry you over to that mountain. Let me tie these ropes around you so I can get a grip to carry you."

Gluskabe tied ropes around the Wind Eagle and picked him up. He found a deep crack in the rock near the mountaintop, and dropped the Wind Eagle into it.

Then Gluskabe began to walk home. "Now it is time to go hunting ducks!" he said to himself.

It was a long walk back home. Along the way, Gluskabe made a new pair of pants and a new shirt for himself, and his eyebrows and his hair grew back.

Gluskabe returned to the lodge of Grandmother Woodchuck, got his bow and arrows and his canoe, and set out to go hunting ducks.

As he paddled out into the lake, Gluskabe noticed that it was very, very hot. The water of the lake was covered with a thick, brown foam that smelled very bad, and the ducks were nowhere to be seen.

Gluskabe returned home empty-handed again. He asked Grandmother Woodchuck, "Why is it so hot? And why is the lake covered with that smelly brown foam? And where have the ducks gone?"

Grandmother Woodchuck replied, "The wind has not blown for many, many days. The wind cools the air. It stirs the surface of the lake with waves to keep the water clean and fresh. But now the wind is not blowing anymore. The air has become hot, the water in the lake has become foul, and the ducks have gone away. I fear that something has happened to the Wind Eagle."

Gluskabe set out at once for the Mountain of the Wind Eagle. There was no wind to guide him, but this time he knew the way. After many days walking, he arrived at the mountain and found the Wind Eagle, still tied up in the bottom of the crack in the rock.

"Grandf - uh - Uncle, what has happened to you? How did you come to be tied up in that crack in the rock?" Gluskabe asked.

The Wind Eagle replied, "An ugly, naked man with no hair tricked me and threw me down here."

"Let me help you," Gluskabe said. He climbed down into the crack in the rock and lifted the Wind Eagle out and untied him.

"Uncle," Gluskabe said, "You do a wonderful job making the wind for all the world. Maybe it would be good if you did not make the wind all the time. Maybe it would be good if you made the wind for a while, then rested for a while."

"That is a good idea," said the Wind Eagle. "I will do that."

And once again, Gluskabe walked home to the lodge of Grandmother Woodchuck. As he walked, the wind refreshed the air and made it cooler. When he returned home, the water of the lake was fresh and clean.

Gluskabe waited for a time when the wind was not blowing, then took his bow and arrows and paddled his canoe out into the lake to go hunting ducks.

Epilogue: In the story as presented here, pretty much the way I first heard it, the Wind Eagle is a sympathetic character, a benevolent creature who is the innocent victim of Gluskabe's trickery. In other versions, the Wind Eagle or Pamolai is an evil monster who creates all manner of destructive weather. In these stories, Gluskabe ties up Pamolai, but loosens the ropes a little to allow Pamolai to make just enough wind to keep the air cool. Grandmother Woodchuck is an active participant in binding Pamolai, pulling hairs from her belly from which Gluskabe makes the ropes, and thus all woodchucks today have no fur on their bellies.

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