Myths & Legends


Haida: The Devil-Fish's Daughter

Haida is the language of the Haida people, spoken in the Haida Gwaii archipelago of the coast of Canada and on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.

An endangered language by the book of UNESCO, Haida currently has about 20 native speakers, though revitalization efforts are underway. At the time of the European arrival at Haida Gwaii in 1774, it is estimated that Haida speakers numbered about 15,000.

The tale that follows features a magic canoe, a motif that reflects the maritime connection of the Haida.
— Orly

A Haida Indian was sailing in his canoe with his two children and his wife at low tide. They had been paddling for some time, when they came to a place where some devil-fish stones lay, and they could discern the devil-fish's tracks and see where its food was lying piled up. The man, who was a shaman, landed upon the rocks with the intention of finding and killing the devil-fish, but while he was searching for it the monster suddenly emerged from its hole and dragged him through the aperture into its den. His wife and children, believing him to be dead, paddled away.

The monster which had seized the man was a female devil-fish, and she dragged him far below into the precincts of the town where dwelt her father, the devil-fish chief, and there he married the devil-fish which had captured him. Many years passed, and at length the man became home-sick and greatly desired to see his wife and family once more. He begged the chief to let him go, and after some demur his request was granted.

Devil FIsh

The shaman departed in one canoe, and his wife, the devil-fish's daughter, in another. The canoes were magical, and sped along of themselves. Soon they reached his father's town by the aid of the enchanted craft. He had brought much wealth with him from the devil-fish kingdom, and with this he traded and became a great chief. Then his children found him and came to him. They were grown up, and to celebrate his home-coming he held a great feast. Five great feasts he held, one after another, and at each of them his children and his human wife were present.

But the devil-fish wife began to pine for the sea-life. One day while her husband and she sat in his father's house he began to melt. At the same time the devil-fish wife disappeared betwixt the planks of the flooring. Her husband then assumed the devil-fish form, and a second soft, slimy body followed the first through the planks. The devil-fish wife and her husband had returned to her father's realm.

This myth, of course, approximates to those of the seal-wives who escape from their mortal husbands, and the swan- and other bird-brides who, pining for their natural environment, take wing one fine day and leave their earth-mates.



Source:  LS [1]

Culture:  Haida

Language:  Na-Dené language family and others arguing that it is a language isolate.


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