The lore of the New England Indians centres chiefly round the figure of Kuloskap, or Glooscap. His brother Malsum the Wolf probably typifies the power of evil. We first read of the birth of Glooscap and the death of Malsum the Wolf, his twin brother. Malsum, having slain his mother, desired also to slay Glooscap, but a supernatural power guarded him, and Malsum's attempts were frustrated. He asked Glooscap several times what would slay him, but Glooscap invariably told him a falsehood, until at length, sitting by a stream, Glooscap muttered that a rush would cause his death. The beaver, hearing this, acquainted Malsum of the fact and asked as a reward to be provided with wings; but the Evil One, amused at his request, insulted him so outrageously that at last he betook himself to Glooscap, who, plucking a fern, sought Malsum, and having found him smote him with it so that he fell dead.
The creation of man and the animals is then sung of. First were born the fairies of the forest, the elves, the little men who dwelt in rocks (the red man's equivalent for elves and gnomes), the small animistic spirits which swarm through nature, lending her life and animation and filling up her crevices. Then Glooscap took his bow and arrows and shot at an ash-tree. From the hole made by the arrow men came forth, the first of the human kind. Then Glooscap created animals. At first he made them of colossal size, but seeing that they were too strong he made them smaller and weaker in order that man might be able to hunt them. In the beginning the beaver was the enemy of Glooscap, having on one occasion disobeyed the Master by drinking from a stream which was taboo. The god tore up a rock and hurled it at him from a distance of many leagues, but the beaver dodged it and ran into a mountain, where he has remained unto this day.
The third part of the epic of Glooscap tells how at one time the rattlesnakes were Indians. When the great flood was coming Glooscap gave them fair warning of it, but they answered that they did not care, and mocked him, shaking their rattles, which were made of turtle-shell containing small pebbles. The rain began to fall, the thunder roared, and the lightning flashed, but still the rattlesnakes jeered. Glooscap had not the heart to drown them, but he changed them all to serpent form. Glooscap then named the animals and found that man was the lord of all. He was extremely kind to the creatures he had made. To begin with all was in darkness, so that men could not even see to slay their enemies. But Glooscap brought light into the world, and taught mankind the arts of life, the noble art of hunting, how to build huts and canoes, how to net the salmon and to make weapons. He showed to men the hidden virtues of plants and roots and blossoms, taught them the names of the stars, and acted throughout as a beneficent father to them.
By and by Glooscap withdrew himself from the haunts of men, yet he did not quit the earth for many years, but dwelt in a remote and almost inaccessible place. And he made it known to men that whoever should find him might have one wish granted, whatever that wish might be. For this reason many Indians sought his abode, though the way was long and arduous, and not all who set out reached their destination. Some of the wishers were wise and some foolish. The foolish wishers, or those who disobeyed the Master, found that the fulfilment of their wishes brought them no good, but the gifts which the wise ones received were generous in the extreme. This befell three Indians who visited the abode of Glooscap. One was a simple, honest Indian, who desired to excel in the chase. Another was a vain youth who wished to win the hearts of many maidens. The third was a buffoon whose only care was to create laughter; he therefore desired the power to utter an unusual cry, known to sorcerers in old time, which gladdened the hearts of all who heard it. The first received a magic pipe which would attract all animals to his nets, and the fulfilment of his wish brought him wealth and content. The second received a bag, tightly tied, which he was warned not to open till he reached home. Curiosity overcame him, however, and on the homeward journey he opened the bag, wherefrom issued a host of witches in the form of beautiful women, who strangled him with their embraces. The third received a magic root, and Glooscap warned him not to eat it till he reached his dwelling. He likewise disobeyed the command, and found himself gifted with the power to utter the magic cry; but, to his discomfiture, he could not always restrain it. The people of the town, at first delighted with the sound, soon tired of it, and avoided him who uttered it. This so preyed upon his mind that he betook himself to the woods and committed suicide.
The fourth portion of the epic contains Glooscap's adventures with the beasts—the loons, beaver, serpent, turtle, frog, and eagle. Very curious are the tales which describe the origin of the turtle, Glooscap's uncle, or relate how that crafty being endeavoured to overthrow the Master and make himself lord over beasts and men; and those that paint in picturesque language the binding of the Great Eagle, the Bird-who-blows-the-winds. Many of these stories are legendary, and purport to explain the existence of certain islands, streams, and other geographical features, as well as the physical structure and peculiarities of various animals. Thus the blowing of a whale is ingeniously explained by the fact that Glooscap at one time gave the animal a pipe and tobacco; it is smoking!
The fifth part of the epic treats mainly of the god's encounter with witches and sorcerers, and of his final departure from the earth. Toward the close of the poem a beautiful nature myth recounts how Glooscap found the Summer. Long years ago the deity travelled northward till he came to the lodge of the giant Winter. He entered and sat down, and his host told him tales of enchantment which cast him into a death-like sleep. Six months elapsed ere he awoke and proceeded homeward. With every step the air grew warmer, the earth greener and more beautiful. At length he came to a shady dell, where fairies were dancing joyfully, and, seizing their queen, whose name was Summer, he hid her in his bosom. Then he retraced his steps northward. The giant Winter still sat in his lodge, and at the coming of Glooscap he determined to throw the deity into a sleep that would last for ever; but this time the hidden presence of Summer spoiled the enchantments; tears of melting ice ran down the cheeks of the giant, and soon both he and his dwelling were changed to water, while signs of returning life and vegetation were everywhere apparent. Once more Glooscap turned his face southward, but the summer-elf he left behind him in the northern country.
Finally Glooscap abandoned the world, because of the evil that was in it. For long years he bore with the sinful ways of man, for whom he had cleared the land of evil demons and monsters, but at length his patience was exhausted. He made a great farewell feast, and afterward sailed away in his great canoe. And now he dwells in a splendid wigwam, continually making arrows. When the lodge is full of them he will make war on all mankind, and the world will pass away.